Smith drops 24 as Bulldogs surrender tight one at No. 18 Northwestern

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 18, 2023 in Men's Basketball

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team hung tight on the road all Saturday (Nov. 18) evening, giving itself a chance to steal one on the road at No. 18 Northwestern. Sharpshooting guard Dillon Carlson delivered the dagger, and the game’s final tallies, while launching a trey with the Red Raiders then nursing a one-point lead. Northwestern held off the Bulldogs for a 78-74 win inside the Bultman Center in Orange City, Iowa. Concordia fell despite a game high 24 points from Tristan Smith.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad (3-2, 0-2 GPAC) fell both times during the season’s first week of conference play as the Bulldogs went up against the top two teams in the GPAC preseason poll. The goal will be to eventually turn these types of close calls into wins as the season wears on.

“That was a really, really big shot Carslon hit,” Limback said. “I thought he was really good in the second half. Some of the looks we gave him were really contested. We just kept turning the ball over in moments where it led to their offense. We just aren’t good enough right now. We have to be more disciplined with the ball. To turn it over 16 times and have a chance to win shows how good we can be. We can’t keep doing that and expect results. That’s the frustrating part.”

On a positive note, Concordia didn’t flinch when it got down 75-68 with less than two minutes to play. The ensuing 6-0 run featured a basket in the paint apiece from Jaxon Stueve, Smith and Noah Schutte. Suddenly, in the closing 30 seconds, the Bulldogs were a stop and a bucket away from leaving Orange City victorious. That’s when Carlson stepped up and drained his fifth trey of the night.

Smith and Schutte (20 points) combined for 44 points as they gave Concordia a fighting chance, even as it shot 42.6 percent (26-for-61) as a team. The Bulldogs did their best work on the glass in out-rebounding Northwestern, 37-26. Red Raider All-American big man Alex Van Kalsbeek was limited to two rebounds. In his starring performance, Smith notched seven rebounds and made 9-of-14 attempts from the floor. Schutte added seven rebounds and four assists to his stat line.

Said Limback of what his team can build upon, “I thought Kaxon Stueve off the bench gave us some great stuff in the second half. Tristan fought hard defensively on their big fella. I liked a lot of what we did defensively, especially in the second half. To hold them to three offensive rebounds is good work. Obviously, Noah and Tristan had good games. It’s frustrating because I think we have more.”

Brad Bennett helped keep Concordia close in the first half with three triples. He finished with 11 points on Saturday. Off the bench, Brooks Kissinger recorded eight points and five rebounds. Out for the season’s first three games due to injury, sophomore Jaxon Weyand got the start and dished out four assists.

This was the season opener for Northwestern, which is now 5-0 overall. Head Coach Kris Kover’s squad was paced by the 17 points apiece from Carlson and Van Kalsbeek. The Red Raiders didn’t have many second-chance opponents, but they shot well enough (29-for-56 from the floor) to avoid falling victim to the late push from Concordia. The two sides also met in Orange City in the 2023 GPAC quarterfinals in what amounted to a Bulldog win.

The Bulldogs will take the entire week of Thanksgiving off from game action while looking ahead to their Nov. 29 road trip to Fremont, Neb., where they will clash with Midland (1-3, 0-2 GPAC). Tipoff is set for 7:45 p.m. CT at the Wikert Event Center on that date.