YANKTON, S.D. – Considering the program had fallen in back-to-back trips to Yankton, S.D., the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team wasn’t about to take Mount Marty lightly on Wednesday (Dec. 6). Tristan Smith proved unstoppable in the paint and the Bulldogs cruised to an 82-54 victory over the Lancers in a contest played inside Cimpl Arena. An 11-0 run to close the first half gave Concordia total control that it never relinquished in another dominant outing.
Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad has won three in a row with each decision coming by a margin of 18 points or more. The Bulldogs now stand at 6-2 overall (3-2 GPAC).
“We have great leadership in the locker room, and the guys were locked in,” Limback said. “We set the tone right away with how hard competed. We didn’t shoot well right away, but Tristan was really good tonight – he just played really strong. When you have a guy who can finish like that, it makes a big difference. I thought a lot of guys fed off that. The way we ended the first half was really strong. We had a lot of guys who did the little things. Lukas Helms had another good game. Really good team effort.”
Smith had a lot to do with Concordia dictating the terms of this contest. The Elizabeth, Colo., native stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Smith had poured in 15 points by halftime when the game was well in hand. The Bulldogs shot 58.6 percent in the first half while building a commanding 42-21 advantage. Meanwhile, Mount Marty went scoreless over the half’s final four minutes as the game got away from it at home.
While Smith grabbed the headline, Concordia got contributions from up and down the roster. Twelve Bulldogs registered in the scoring column. A budding freshman, Lukas Helms equaled a season high with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the floor. Superstar Noah Schutte wasn’t needed for a whole lot of scoring on this night, but he still managed 11 points and added five rebounds and four assists. (Schutte’s hometown of Laurel, Neb., is roughly 45 miles from Yankton). Off the bench, Hayden Frank put home seven points and Zac Kulus chipped in with five points. The Bulldogs shot an efficient 53.4 percent from the floor and went 6-for-19 from 3-point range.
On the other end, Concordia clamped down defensively in limiting the Lancers to 37.5 percent (21-for-56) shooting from the floor. Mount Marty standout Tash Lunday got going after it was too late. He finished with 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He was joined in double figures by Cole Bowen (11) while Jared Lopez grabbed seven rebounds. The Lancers owned a 32-28 rebound advantage but struggled with 18 turnovers (compared to nine for the Bulldogs). Concordia ensured this wasn’t going to be like the results of the past two years at Cimpl Arena. Even the 2021-22 GPAC championship team endured a 70-67 overtime loss at Mount Marty.
Said Limback, “They do a great job of playing their pace. They moved it and made us guard for 20-30 seconds. Second half they pressed and gave us a little bit of trouble. We had Noah out here with all his family and friends. He really just makes us calm and poised. I thought our point guards did a solid job too. We forced some key turnovers that led to points in transition, and we took better care of the ball in the second half.”
Another GPAC road trip awaits as the Bulldogs look forward to Saturday's contest at Briar Cliff (9-3, 3-2 GPAC). Tipoff from the Newman Flanagan Center is set for 3:45 p.m. CT. In Wednesday’s action, the Chargers were tripped up at home, 78-59. Concordia won last season’s two matchups with Briar Cliff by an average margin of 24.5 points.