SEWARD, Neb. – Following a short break to celebrate Christmas, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team is back to work readying to travel south for a pair of nonconference games. The Bulldogs will look to learn from their 79-74 loss to fifth-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan University at Pinnacle Bank Arena last week. Concordia is set to play road games at Texas Wesleyan University on Wednesday and at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma on Friday. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad stands at 9-4 overall (6-3 GPAC).
Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Texas Wesleyan (6-5), 8 p.m.
--Live Webcast | | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Sid Richardson Center (Fort Worth, Texas)
Friday, Dec. 30 at Science & Arts (8-4), 7 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Drover Fieldhouse (Chickasha, Okla.)
By the numbers
· Concordia just missed out on a signature nonconference win in last week’s unique opportunity to play at Pinnacle Bank Arena. As of Dec. 14, the Bulldogs slipped just outside of the NAIA coaches’ top 25 poll, appearing as the first team among “others receiving votes.” In previous editions of the coaches’ poll, Concordia landed at No. 23 (Nov. 16) and at No. 19 (Nov. 30). Currently, the Bulldogs are listed as the GPAC’s third-ranked team behind Jamestown and Morningside. Nationally, the Jimmies are ranked No. 9 while the Mustangs are ranked No. 23. In addition, Dordt is also receiving votes. According to Massey Ratings, Concordia is the No. 18 team in the NAIA and has played the nation’s 26th most challenging schedule to this point.
· It went wire-to-wire at PBA in the Battle in the Vault. The Bulldogs led by as many as five points in the second half while up against an Oklahoma Wesleyan squad that featured lightning quick guard Derrick Talton Jr. and star post player Jaden Lietzke. Those two standouts played a major role in the Eagles owning a 56-34 advantage in points in the paint. OKWU overcame its 9-for-22 foul shooting by shooting 58.6 percent (34-for-58) from the floor. Concordia got strong performances from Noah Schutte (23 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Gage Smith (17 points, 15 rebounds). Two others scored in double figures: Payson Gillespie (12) and Tristan Smith (10). Gillespie made 4-of-8 attempts from 3-point range. The Bulldogs’ 10-for-33 shooting from 3-point range helped keep them close all the way through.
· The high shooting percentage for Oklahoma Wesleyan was a departure from the norm for Concordia opponents. By most measures, the Bulldogs rank as the top defensive team in the GPAC. Among league squads, Concordia ranks first in scoring defense (66.2), field goal percentage defense (.409), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.270) and defensive efficiency (.905). Seven foes have been held to less than 45 percent shooting. A starter for all 13 games this season, Garrett Seagren has made his mark as a defensive stopper in the backcourt. Gage Smith has been productive in all areas and is averaging 1.53 blocks and 1.15 steals per game.
· Gage Smith has also moved up a rung on the program’s all-time rebound list. In last week’s action, he surpassed Jon Ziegler (762) for No. 4 on the list with 773 career boards. The top three in school history are Matt List (928), Chandler Folkerts (868) and Scott Beck (781). This marks year five in the program for Smith, a native of Elizabeth, Colo. Currently the GPAC leader with an average of 10.7 rebounds per game, Gage has accumulated 1,134 career points and has 21 career double-doubles to his credit. He’s been part of two separate GPAC championship teams (2019-20 and 2021-22).
· Schutte has pushed his career collegiate totals to 766 points and 313 rebounds in 65 games as a Bulldog. He’s one of five Concordia players averaging in or very near double figures: Schutte (17.8), Tristan Smith (14.7), Gage Smith (12.9), Brad Bennett (10.6) and AJ Watson (9.4). In terms of team scoring average, Concordia ranks fourth among GPAC teams with an average of 79.2 points per game – behind Dordt (95.3), Jamestown (93.1) and Northwestern (84.8). Expanding upon Schutte, his 23-point outing at Pinnacle Bank Arena marked the 12th time in his collegiate career that he scored at least 20. Schutte’s career high remains the 27 points he scored last season in a win over Jamestown.
· The Bulldogs are now 3-1 outside of conference play with wins coming over Tabor College (Kan.), Ottawa University (Kan.) and Waldorf University (Iowa). As part of the 28-game regular season slate, four contests remain outside of league play – the two on the road this week and then two at home at the Concordia Invitational Tournament (Jan. 27-28). As part of the 70th CIT, CUNE will take on Concordia Chicago and then either Concordia Ann Arbor or Concordia Wisconsin on day two of the event.
Texas Wesleyan moved to 6-5 overall this season after it claimed a 119-67 win over North American University on Dec. 20. The Rams missed out on the national tournament in 2022, but the program has been a regular on that stage with 18 all-time national qualifications and won a national title as recently as 2017. Head Coach Brennen Shingleton’s squad likes to play up-tempo, as evidenced by its scoring average of 91.8, a figure that ranks No. 4 nationally. In the scoring department, Texas Wesleyan has been led by guard Akili Vining and his average of 17.5 points per game.
Science & Arts is not far removed from its 106-89 home win over Texas Wesleyan (Dec. 14). The Drovers received votes in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll and have qualified for the national tournament in five of the past six seasons. Head Coach Chris Francis’ team also likes to run and gun while averaging 90.6 points through the season’s first 12 games. Despite its frenetic pace, USAO turns it over only 10.9 times per contest on average. The team’s leading scorer has actually come off the bench more often than not. Samkelo Cele is averaging 21.7 points per game and has notched at least 27 points in each of the past six outings.
Concordia (9-4, 6-3 GPAC)
G – AJ Watson (9.4)
G – Garrett Seagren (3.6)
F – Noah Schutte (17.8)
F – Gage Smith (12.9)
F – Tristan Smith (14.7)
Head Coach: Ben Limback (288-275, 19th season overall; 173-117, 10th season at CUNE)
Texas Wesleyan (6-5)
G – Keyaun Hoskin (14.6)
G – Micale Mee (8.3)
G – Peyton Sallee (12.4)
G – Akili Vining (17.5)
F – Lamine Komara (15.2)
Head Coach: Brennen Shingleton (11th season)
Science & Arts (8-4)
G – Cade Allen (9.2)
G – Logan Dolan (6.4)
G – Langston Gaither (15.4)
G – Gerard Makuntae (16.6)
G – Cejay Mann (11.3)
Head Coach: Chris Francis (8th season)
It will be back to conference play as the calendar flips to 2023. Concordia will travel to play at Mount Marty on Jan. 4 and will then host Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 7.