Smith punishes rim as No. 21 Bulldogs hold off Doane

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 15, 2024 in Men's Basketball

CRETE, Neb. – Finally tagged with an official NAIA national ranking, Concordia University Men’s Basketball held off Doane’s comeback bid on Wednesday (Feb. 14) while Tristan Smith showed little regard for humanity with the way he attacked the basket. The Bulldogs won’t be satisfied with the defensive performance, but they will take the 94-88 road win and won’t apologize for it. Smith finished with a career-high 28 points and fellow star Noah Schutte posted 25 points.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad has kept pace atop the GPAC standings with a 13-4 league mark (20-5 overall). With three games left in the regular season, Concordia controls its own destiny in the race for a conference championship.

“I felt like we took our foot off the gas,” Limback said. “They turned it up a notch midway through (the second half). I didn’t like how we responded to that. I thought we got real tight offensively and then we stopped giving effort on the defensive end. They fed off it. Brady Timm is a heck of a competitor. We talked about it before the game – despite the fact they’re not going to make the conference tournament, they have a lot of pride in that team.

“I think the key down the stretch was we had guys like Tristan and Noah that made the big plays. (Jaxon) Stueve hit a big three and Hayden Frank hit a big three.”

The Bulldogs trounced Doane by a 106-69 score in Seward on Jan. 10 and this one appeared headed towards a similar result. Smith made a poster out of a Tiger defender in the first half when he drove from the right wing and uncorked an emphatic right-handed throwdown. Concordia fed off that energy and led by as many as 21 points, 64-43, early in the second half. Smith and company had shot 71.0 percent (22-for-31) from the floor over the game’s first 20 minutes. Surely Doane wouldn’t keep up.

In a turn of events, the Tigers stormed back behind the 26-point outing from Timm. Doane got all the way back within one, 72-71, via Cooper Sheldon’s trey at the 6:42 mark of the second half. It was a 28-8 run at the time. Not surprisingly, Smith followed with a bucket to steady the ship, and the Tigers failed to grab a lead. Stueve curled in a trey at the 5:12 mark and Frank put one in from long range at the 4:02 mark. The lead grew to nine points as Concordia stamped out a potentially crippling defeat.

The tempo certainly favored the fast-paced Bulldogs, who shot 63.6 percent (35-for-55) for the game. Smith made 12-of-16 shots from the floor and grabbed five rebounds. As part of Schutte’s 15th 20-point outing of the season, he passed Director of Athletics Devin Smith for No. 6 on the program’s all-time scoring list (1,666 career points). Frank also reached double figures with 12 while Stuve notched eight points and a pair of steals and Brad Bennett chipped in seven points and three assists.

Doane (7-19, 2-16 GPAC) has dropped its 10th-straight game. Sheldon added 18 points and River Johnston put up 13. The Tigers shot 53.0 percent for the night and held a 33-22 rebound advantage. Concordia wound up with an advantage at the foul line as it made 17-of-23 (.739).

Said Limback, “All of us would have liked to have seen us go away with an easy 20-point win, but good teams find a way to win. Great teams don’t put themselves in that situation. We’ve got to get better defensively … Tristan is unstoppable when he gets to the rim like that. He made his free throws and was really good offensively. He got us going. Those first five minutes were important to us. He was special tonight.”

The Bulldogs will play Dordt (17-8, 10-7 GPAC) for the second time in a 13-day period when the two sides clash in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 5:45 p.m. CT from DeWitt Gymnasium. The matchup in Seward went to Concordia by an 89-84 final score. The Defenders sit two games out of first place in the GPAC standings.