Seventh win in 17 days completes whirlwind stretch for first-place Bulldogs

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 5, 2024 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – What a whirlwind 17-day stretch it’s been for a Concordia University Men’s Basketball team that has now won seven-straight times since Jan. 20. Fresh off two emotional wins over top 25 opponents last week, the Bulldogs outgunned Dordt, 89-84, in a matchup between the GPAC’s two highest scoring teams. The GPAC combatants entered the evening locked up in first place as part of a five-way tie in the league standings.

At least for now, Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad holds first place by itself at 11-4 in conference play (18-5 overall). The victory marked Limback’s 200th as head coach of his alma mater (315th overall including his tenure at Concordia Ann Arbor).

“I’m so proud of the guys with this stretch,” Limback said. “There was CIT and all those things in there and three huge contests with teams we’re fighting with for position. We’ve had Tristan (Smith) out – next man up. We muddied it up a little bit in the second half. We weren’t sharp at times offensively, but Noah Schutte made some big plays and Hayden Frank hit some big threes. It was a great, gutsy win.”

On any given night in the GPAC, it’s about the art of survival. With no mid-week game, there was no reason for Noah Schutte and company not to empty the tank on Monday. Concordia owned the lead for the entirety of the game’s final 12 minutes, but it got hairy after Brad Bennett went 1-for-2 from the foul line and Dordt’s Bryce Coppock banked in a trey. Suddenly, the Bulldogs led by just one, 85-84, with 14 seconds remaining. Hayden Frank followed with two free throw makes and Concordia forced a critical turnover that resulted in two free throws from Bennett to seal it.

One could understand if Concordia felt like it was running on fumes. And could it keep winning with one of the GPAC’s best post players, Smith, sidelined once again. It sure helps when Schutte is on your side. Now the seventh highest scorer in program history (1,629 points), Schutte powered his way to 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals on Monday night in prime time. Then there’s the matter of that freshman out of Malcolm, Frank, who poured in 17 more points while going 3-for-6 from the foul line.

The Bulldogs shot 44.6 percent (29-for-65) overall), went 11-for-30 (.367) from 3-point range and were near perfect (20-for-22) from the foul line. They are proving they have the weaponry to withstand the absence of a key player.

Said Limback, “They did a great job of pushing him (Schutte) around. Once he got to his spots, he’s hard to stop. That’s a team we played tonight that usually makes more free throws than their opponent attempts. Noah was really good from the line and did some great things in the second half … this team, there’s more in it. We have young guys that we want to see maintain some confidence. This team has bought in and they care about the winning side.”

Schutte and Frank were joined in double figures by teammates in Lukas Helms (12), Jaxon Stueve (12) and Bennett (10). In addition, Zac Kulus added eight points and three assists off the bench. Another of the rising stars in the freshman class, Helms (five rebounds and four assists) simply makes winning plays, as evidenced by his impact on Saturday’s 84-81 win over No. 12 Northwestern.

Like Concordia, Dordt (17-6, 10-5) is a team deserving of more props nationally. The Defenders can flat out score – and they’re always physical. They owned the rebound advantage, 45-37, in this clash. However, it was not their most efficient offensive outing. Dordt shot 43.8 percent from the floor and went 7-for-28 from 3-point range. Coppock led the team with 20 points while Lucas Lorenzen, Connor Millikan and Luke Rankin each added 16. Rankin collected seven assists and Lorenzen pulled down nine rebounds. The Defenders had carried a four-game winning streak into Friedrich Arena.

The reward for the Bulldogs’ success through a recent grueling stretch will be a break in the middle of this week. Next up will be Sunday’s trip to the Corn Palace for a 2:45 p.m. CT tipoff. Concordia will go for a regular season sweep of Dakota Wesleyan (13-10, 8-7 GPAC), an opponent the Bulldogs defeated by a 92-71 score in Seward on Jan. 6.