HASTINGS, Neb. – The combo of Gage Smith and Justin Wiersema served as a two-man wrecking crew after halftime of Wednesday (Dec. 2)’s clash with Hastings. A closely contested matchup early in the second half became a runaway for the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team, which continued its mastery of the Broncos. The Bulldogs won, 86-77, after leading by as many as 19 points on the road.
Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad is finding out it does not have to be perfect every time out. Concordia (8-1, 5-0 GPAC) seems to always have a soul-crushing second half run in response to the push from its opponent.
“I thought we settled in a little bit in the second half,” Limback said. “They hit some threes early but after halftime I thought our effort defensively was much better … Justin is just kind of a machine. He scores inside, on threes and with free throws. If he wasn’t in foul trouble, I think he would have had even more – tremendous effort again. He continues to elevate his game when we need him the most.”
Wiersema finished with a career high 29 points with 15 of them coming in the first 6:14 of the second half. During the splurge, Wiersema curled in two treys and notched three more points the old fashioned way. In addition, Smith went off for 18 of his career best 20 points (to go with nine rebounds) over the final 20 minutes. Smith feasted in the paint while scoring most of his points from close range. Carter Kent also added 11 points two days after a 17-point outing in the win at Doane.
With just under 16 minutes remaining in the game, the Bulldogs trailed, 45-44. Roughly 10 minutes later, Concordia had built a 19-point advantage (79-60) with a run capped by Jackson Hirschfeld’s corner 3-point field goal. In one sequence, a blocked shot by Ryan Holt led to a runout featuring a perfect pass from Sam Scarpelli to Smith for an uncontested layup. A late run by the Broncos made the game appear more competitive.
Hastings (3-5, 0-4 GPAC) entered the night averaging 88.7 points per game. The Broncos were hot early, starting out 7-for-11 from the floor in grabbing a five-point first-half lead. Hastings has also suffered conference losses to Midland, Dakota Wesleyan and Jamestown.
Two additional streaks continued for the Bulldogs, who have won 12 games in a row against GPAC opponents. They have also taken 10-straight meetings with Hastings.
Life on the road will continue on Saturday when the Bulldogs will be at Briar Cliff (3-5, 1-3 GPAC) for a 4 p.m. CT tipoff from the Newman Flanagan Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The Chargers were beaten at home, 98-90, by Northwestern on Wednesday. Briar Cliff won the GPAC regular-season title as recently as the 2016-17 season.
Said Limback, “They shoot the ball and they spread you out. It will be very similar to tonight. We’re going to have to get off to a better start than we did in this game. I expect us to have great fight and look forward to that game on Saturday.”