ORANGE CITY, Iowa – In its bid to win at Northwestern for the third-straight year, the Concordia University men’s basketball team charged back from an 18-point second half deficit, but ultimately couldn’t dig all the way out. Prolific scorer Colton Kooima and the host Red Raiders narrowly held off the late Bulldog charge, 89-87, in Orange City, Iowa, on Wednesday night.
Fourth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad now sits at 3-2 overall. This was the team’s first action since sweeping a pair of games at last weekend’s Cattle Classic.
“We dug ourselves a hole both halves,” Limback said. “First half we fought back. Our defense led to some transition buckets. But both halves we turned it over too many times against a good offensive team. You’re not going to win a lot of games on the road in the GPAC turning it over 19 times.
“I was proud of our guys. There was a moment in the second half where they had us down by a lot and we came out of the timeout fighting. Our guys put us in position to at least have some shots to make it interesting.”
Wednesday’s GPAC opener looked a lot like many of the offensive gunfights that occurred throughout the conference last season. Three Bulldogs recorded 20 points or more for a team that shot 60 percent (33-for-55) from the field. But even that outpouring wasn’t enough to overcome Kooima and the Red Raiders (4-1), who entered the night as one of the most efficient teams in the nation on the offensive end.
On the floor where he hit a game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer two seasons earlier, Eli Ziegler pumped in a trey in the waning seconds to cut Concordia’s deficit to three (87-84). He then nearly stole the inbounds before Northwestern chucked the ball down court for an easy layup that put the game to rest.
Sophomore guard Chris Johnstone put up more than 20 points for the second-straight outing. He led Concordia with 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting while adding five assists and four rebounds. Ziegler, who made 5-for-7 shots from beyond the arc, went for 21 points and four assists. Chandler Folkerts knocked home 9-of-10 attempts from the floor and recorded a double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds).
A 24-7 Concordia run late in the contest slashed a 75-57 deficit to just one (82-81) with 2:13 left. However, Northwestern never did relinquish the lead. Jordan Baker followed with two free throws and Kooima then drilled three of his game high 27 points to help stave off Concordia.
The Bulldogs hope they can build off the run they made down the stretch on Wednesday.
“I think the mindset changed,” Limback said. “We went zone and that caught them off guard a little bit, but No. 5 (Kooima) had a great game. He’s a tremendous player. He had a great offensive game tonight.”
The Bulldogs will be back at home on Saturday to host 17th-ranked York College (3-0), which advanced to the national quarterfinals last season. Tipoff from Walz Arena is set for 3 p.m. CT.