SEWARD, Neb. – In a matchup between two teams that qualified for the 2023 national tournament, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team got the season started in winning fashion. The frontcourt of the Bulldogs proved too difficult to handle in what amounted to an 88-73 victory over Mayville State University (N.D.) on day one (Nov. 3) of the 24th annual Cattle Classic. Noah Schutte piled up a game high 25 points and Tristan Smith nearly notched a double-double.
Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad passed the first test as part of a challenging opening weekend of the 2023-24 season. Concordia always had an answer for every Comet surge.
“That’s a good team,” Limback said of Mayville State. “They’re going to win a lot of games this year, and their defense bothered us a lot in the first half. We had too many turnovers, but I thought our defense hung tough and we rebounded pretty solid. There are a lot of things we can clean up. Certainly Noah Schutte had a great game. Lukas Helms did some great things in the second half and Brooks Kissinger too – a couple freshmen. We have some defensive adjustments we’ll have to make, but I liked our effort tonight.”
Behind Schutte, the Bulldogs pushed the lead to 20 in the latter stages of the contest in finishing emphatically. Concordia had regained control on the heels of a 12-1 run by the Comets. Midway through the half, Mayville State closed to within four (55-51) while spurred by returning All-American Thomas Gieske (team high 20 points). The Bulldogs followed with an 11-4 spurt highlighted by a tip slam from the freshman Helms.
The 6-foot-6 Helms out of Lincoln Southwest High School will make this frontcourt even more of a bear to deal with. Helms got the start alongside Schutte and Smith while the backcourt featured Joel Smith and Brad Bennett. In notching 25 points, eight rebounds and two steals, Schutte moved to No. 25 on the program’s all-time scoring list. In the second half, Smith got rolling and finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He brought the crowd to an uproar with a tip slam of his own.
Concordia enjoyed a 39-32 rebound advantage and shot 50.8 percent from the floor, compared to 41.3 percent for Mayville State. Both teams struggled a bit with turnovers (18 apiece), but it was an overall solid first outing from the Bulldogs’ perspective.
Said Limback, “They had a couple momentum plays where they cut our lead to six or seven. I felt like we answered it with some toughness plays. The goal is to not allow teams to come back. To see some adversity is a good thing. I liked how we stuck with it. Our leadership is really strong right now, which I feel like is going to be a key the rest of the year.”
Off the bench, Kissinger chipped in with 11 points and three rebounds. He’ll be a major factor in a backcourt that has some youthfulness to it. Helms collected six points, seven rebounds and three steals. Baker canned both of his 3-point attempts while Bennett added five points and five assists.
Mayville State (2-1) fell for the first time this season. The Comets received votes in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll. Gieske was joined in double figures by teammates Jamison Kramer (16) and Jr. White (11).
On day two of the Cattle Classic, Concordia will be challenged by 19th-ranked William Penn University (Iowa). In Friday’s action, the Statesmen were upset, 88-77, while up against another GPAC opponent in Hastings. Tipoff on Saturday is set for 4 p.m. CT.