Schutte shines as Bulldogs hold off Rams in Lone Star State battle

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 28, 2022 in Men's Basketball

FORT WORTH, Texas – It was nothing if not entertaining. Two teams that like to get up and down the floor played to the wire before the star power of Noah Schutte became too much for host Texas Wesleyan University. Schutte muscled home a career high 32 points while helping the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team hold off the Rams and exhale with an 81-74 victory in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday (Dec. 28). Texas Wesleyan had come all the way back to tie the game after it had trailed by as many as 15 points.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad is in the midst of three-straight nonconference games to finish the calendar year 2022. The Bulldogs bumped their overall mark to 10-4.

“That was a fun one. That was a toughness test,” Limback said. “There were a lot of moments in that game where we sustained their run. They turned up the aggressiveness. I thought their point guard was outstanding, but we had a lot of toughness plays. Noah Schutte clearly – amazing performance, and we needed that … I’m so proud of our guys. This is a tough place to win and it’s a very talented basketball team.”

Schutte simply has an incredible feel for how to score when he gets near the basket – and the Rams found that out the hard way. Schutte made his first seven shots from the floor on Wednesday and came to the rescue when the contest was on the brink. The Laurel, Neb., native’s steal and immediate three-point play provided a 71-67 advantage with just over six minutes to play. Schutte also drained two key free throws and put home a layup that essentially iced it, making the score 77-72 late in the contest.

Concordia needed all of those points because the high-flyin’ Rams (6-6) kept on coming. They mounted a 14-1 run in the second half that cut the 14-point Bulldog lead all the way down to one. It was later tied at 71-all and 72-all before Schutte and company pulled it out of the fire. Garrett Seagren put in a key stick-back in crunch time and Concordia locked down defensively just in time.

The Bulldogs were forced to scratch and claw to victory even though they shot 57.7 percent (30-for-52) from the floor. Free throw shooting was roughly even, Concordia enjoyed a 28-24 edge in rebounding and Texas Wesleyan was plus-three in turnover margin. The biggest difference: one team had Noah Schutte and the other did not.

Said Limback, “They’re a big team, a very strong team on the glass. The adjustment we made was making sure we kept four out of the paint. Offensively, we just wanted to keep going to Noah until they brought a double team. I can’t say enough about this team. It takes a lot to come on the road and pretty much control the game, and then finish it at the end. That’s the whole reason you play.”

Schutte totaled his career high on 13-for-17 shooting from the floor (6-for-7 from the foul line). His previous high was 27 in a win last season over Jamestown. Another physical force, Tristan Smith added 17 points, six rebounds and two steals. Meanwhile, AJ Watson chipped in with 11 points and five rebounds and Gage Smith added eight points and five rebounds. Off the bench, Payson Gillespie canned two treys.

Texas Wesleyan played its first official game in more than two weeks. The Rams entered the contest averaging 91.8 points per game. They were led on Wednesday by 20 points from slashing point guard Akili Vining. He was one of four Texas Wesleyan players in double figures. The Rams made 25-of-55 (.455) shots from the floor.

The Bulldogs will track back north for a Friday matchup at Science & Arts, which calls Chickasha, Okla., home. The Drovers (8-4) have been idle since defeating Texas Wesleyan, 106-89, at home on Dec. 14. A national qualifier in five of the past six seasons, USAO is receiving votes in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll.