SEWARD, Neb. – Head Coach Ben Limback referred to Tuesday’s high intensity clash between the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team and 10th-ranked Jamestown as a “title fight.” The Bulldogs absorbed some haymakers from an imposing Jimmie frontcourt but bounced back to deliver the knockout punch in the form of a 22-6 blitz to close out the game. In one of the program’s most significant regular-season triumphs in many years, Concordia sent Jamestown packing, 92-76, on Tuesday (Nov. 23).
Limback’s program is now 21-1 over its last 22 home games (including eight wins in a row inside Friedrich Arena). This was the type of signature win the Bulldogs (8-1, 3-1 GPAC) needed to legitimize hopes of a potentially special season.
“It was a title fight,” Limback said. “It was two teams that could really score it. I didn’t know if we would ever get rebounds there. We kept giving them second and third opportunities. When we started giving up threes to them in the first half, that really changed the momentum. We made our run in the last eight minutes – Gage (Smith) got some rebounds and we started to get some turnovers and breakaway layups. And how about Noah Schutte? He continues to make some big plays.”
Schutte is developing into a star before everyone’s very eyes. There’s no fear in the Laurel, Neb., native, who finished the game with a tissue wedged in his right nostril. During the 10-0 spurt that gave Concordia an 80-70 lead with just under 4:30 remaining, Schutte buried two cold-blooded treys. The second one even prompted a rare fist pump from Limback. The Bulldogs wanted this one, bad.
While dropping in 27 points on Tuesday, Schutte managed to surpass his previous career high (21) from the win at Dordt three days earlier. This time around, Schutte curled in four treys and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul line. He struck for three-point plays three separate times.
“We knew we had to bring the energy today,” Schutte said. “Really tough team, really physical. I think our toughness was great today down the stretch. Holding them to 31 points in the second half was the key to our victory … Coach wants me to shoot rhythm threes. My teammates always tell me at halftime – just let it fly. Down the stretch you just have to shoot it with confidence and see it go in.”
In terms of physical, man-to-man action, this one lived up to the billing. The Jamestown towers of Mason Walters and Devon Schultz were a lot to handle on the interior. Walters is almost always going to get his. He notched 28 points and 11 rebounds while Schultz powered his way to 16 points and 12 rebounds. As a team, the Jimmies held a commanding 43-27 advantage on the boards while grabbing 20 that were of the offensive variety.
That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of energy plays for Concordia, which forced many more one-and-dones down the stretch. AJ Watson came through with a momentum-building steal and the likes of Carter Kent, Gage Smith and Justin Wiersema supplied their typical offensive production. Kent got loose for a couple of late buckets to help grow the lead as part of his 15-point, four-assist outing. Smith added 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals while Wiersema collected 12 points and eight rebounds.
The well ran dry for Jamestown (8-1, 2-1 GPAC), which suffered its first defeat of the season. The Jimmies were just 1-for-8 from 3-point range after halftime. They finished with an overall shooting percentage of 45.1 (32-for-71), falling short of the 50.8 percent clip (32-for-63) posted by the Bulldogs. Concordia was also a spotless 17-for-17 from the foul line.
Said Limback, “You knew they were going to have size. We didn’t want them to score the offensive rebounds, and that’s easier said than done. I think we saw what happens when we do get rebounds – we can score. We knew we were going to have to beat them from the perimeter and get out in transition. Thankfully in the second half we started to pull away.”
Up next, the Bulldogs will head to Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday for an exhibition contest with NCAA Division II Rockhurst University. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CT. Concordia will return to GPAC play next week.