Schutte, Smith too much for Falcons as Bulldogs win another CIT crown

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 28, 2024 in Men's Basketball

MEQUON, Wis. – At the end of the line, it was a hard-earned Concordia Invitational Tournament championship for the Concordia Bulldogs Men’s Basketball team. Late fireworks in the form of emphatic dunks from the likes of Noah Schutte and Tristan Smith helped punctuate Saturday (Jan. 27)’s 75-69 victory over Concordia University Wisconsin. The Bulldogs won their two CIT games in Mequon by a combined 11 points while following the lead of Schutte, now back-to-back CIT MVP award winner.

The CIT title marked the sixth for the Bulldogs during Limback’s tenure and the 30th in the history of the program. Limback also won three CIT titles as a player and two as the head coach at Concordia Ann Arbor. CUNE moved to 15-5 with its three-win week.

“In the first half, I thought they outplayed us in a lot of hustle plays – on the glass and loose balls,” Limback said. “They hit some big shots that you see at CIT when you’re at home. I thought we weathered the storm for the most part. Second half, their pressure bothered us. It was back and forth. We took a little bit of a lead. Noah and Tristan were good down the stretch with all the dunks and that stuff, but I thought Brad Bennett made some big plays and this was a big weekend for Hayden Frank. You come here to win – and I’m so proud of our guys for doing that.”

The outcome hung in the balance for the majority of the 40 minutes amidst the charged-up CIT atmosphere. It was a tenuous 55-54 CUNE lead until Schutte’s layup at the 6:40 mark initiated a dizzying 14-4 spurt that decided the game. The surge thrilled the Bulldog faithful, which watched Schutte throw in a dunk prior to a Zac Kulus trey and a pair of thunderous Smith throwdowns. By the time the spurt concluded, CUNE led 69-58 with fewer than three minutes remaining.

CUW found out what many other Bulldog opponents already knew – Schutte and Smith are stallions in the frontcourt. Schutte finished with a line of 22 points (8-for-11 from the floor) and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, the high flyin’ Smith posted his third double-double of the week, racking up 16 points and 12 rebounds. The one other CUNE player in double figures was Zac Kulus with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The team’s leading scorer on Friday, Frank chipped in with seven points off the bench on Saturday.

The Laurel, Neb., native Schutte keeps adding to his remarkable career. Said Schutte, “It’s a great experience. We have a lot of freshmen this year, and they’ve handled the situation really well. It really paid off. We were together this whole weekend and I think we really grew our bond. It showed on the court.”

CUW (8-11) won a CIT championship as recently as 2019 under Head Coach Shawn Cassidy. The Falcons’ CIT All-Tournament representative was Sam Meerstein, who notched 21 points and eight rebounds on Saturday. Other double figure scorers were Gabe Pruss (14) and Freeman Jackson (10). CUW shot only 36.8 percent overall but managed to go 10-for-27 from 3-point range. On the other side, the Bulldogs shot 47.1 percent (24-for-51) and had a 39-35 rebound advantage. The largest lead for the Falcons was six points during the first half.

The weekend triumphs saw CUNE come out on top through ebbs and flows in the first road CIT experience for all players on the roster. Said Limback, “I thought we grew up a lot. The environment’s good for us. We’re going to have a lot of GPAC road games coming up. That’s really important. Our ability to execute down the stretch has to improve. To be in those situations is good. We talked about having the opportunity to go to the locker room and hoist a trophy and celebrate with Concordia Nebraska fans. I’m happy for the guys to be able to experience this at CIT.

The Bulldogs will return to GPAC action on Wednesday with a trip to Morningside (14-5, 9-3 GPAC), which plays its home games at the Rosen Verdoorn Sports Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Tipoff is slated for 7:45 p.m. CT. The two sides met in the conference opener in Seward on Nov. 15 when the Mustangs emerged with a 101-89 victory.

2024 CIT All-Tournament Team

CUNE - Noah Schutte - MVP

CUAA - Devyn Jones

CUW - Sam Meerstein

CUNE - Tristan Smith

CUC - Emmanuel Wilson