Trip to first-place Hastings, home clash with BCU on this week's docket

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

SEWARD, Neb. – The weather outside’s been frightful, but the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team’s performance last week versus Doane was delightful. The Bulldogs hope to bottle up the offensive efficiency they displayed in the 106-69 rout of the Tigers as they look ahead to two outings within the GPAC this week. Concordia will be headed west to take on first-place Hastings on Wednesday before returning home to host Briar Cliff on Saturday. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad stands at 11-4 overall (6-3 GPAC). The Bulldogs had this past weekend off due to the postponement of their scheduled home matchup with Dordt.

This Week

Wednesday, Jan. 17 at Hastings (12-4, 7-1 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Lynn Farrell Arena (Hastings, Neb.)

Saturday, Jan. 20 vs. Briar Cliff (9-7, 3-5 GPAC), 3:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

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By the numbers

·        Most of the GPAC went idle this past weekend due to poor travel conditions caused by the recent winter snowstorm. There were no games on Saturday, however, Doane and Morningside managed to play in Sioux City, Iowa, on Sunday with the result being a 99-75 Mustang win. The Bulldogs currently stand in fourth place with still more than half the conference slate to be played. The current top three in the GPAC are Hastings (7-1), Morningside (7-2) and Northwestern (6-2). There were two GPAC squads that appeared in the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll (released Dec. 13): No. 13 Northwestern and No. 17 Morningside. Concordia may draw some national votes when the new poll comes out on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are listed at No. 12 nationally in the Massey Ratings. Massey puts Concordia’s strength of schedule at No. 25 in the NAIA.

·        Concordia has now won seven of the past eight meetings with rival Doane. The latest Bulldog-Tiger clash came with little drama as the home team built a double-digit lead less than eight minutes into action and owned a commanding 58-36 halftime advantage. Junior guard Brad Bennett wowed the crowd by making all six of his 3-point field goal attempts in the first half. He finished with 19 points and Concordia scorched the nets by shooting 60.3 percent overall and 46.2 percent (12-for-26) from 3-point range. It was an ultra-efficient evening for Noah Schutte, who piled up 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the floor. Schutte also added six rebounds and five assists to his stat line. Off the bench, Jaxon Stueve drained four treys and chipped in with 12 points. Doane slipped to 7-10 (2-7 GPAC) and had its three-game win streak snapped. The 106-69 win for the Bulldogs marked the fourth time this season that they have hit the century mark.

·        Currently the GPAC’s top scoring team, Concordia ranks 13th nationally with an average of 89.8 points per game. If that average holds up, it would make the 2023-24 squad the new program record holder for single season scoring average, eclipsing the 2016-17 team (88.7 ppg) led by All-American Chandler Folkerts. Nationally, the ’23-24 team also ranks 17th in field goal percentage (.507). Individually, the Bulldogs boast two of the GPAC’s top 10 scorers with Schutte ranked fifth (22.0) and Tristan Smith ranked 10th (18.3). Concordia has reached the 90-point mark in seven of its first 15 outings of the season.

·        The Elkhorn, Neb., native Bennett boosted his 3-point percentage to .397 (31-for-78) thanks to his 6-for-7 performance versus Doane. Now in his second season as a starter, Bennett has provided a consistent long range threat having sank 89-of-222 (.401) attempts from beyond the arc in 49 career varsity games. Bennett has produced six or more 3-point field goals in a game four times over the past two seasons. He went 8-for-9 from the perimeter in a win over Ottawa (Kan.) in November 2022 and also drained seven treys in contests last season against Waldorf (Iowa) and Concordia University Wisconsin. Bennett averaged 10.8 points per game last season and is averaging 9.8 points so far in 2023-24.

·        Schutte climbed to No. 10 on the program’s all-time scoring list this past week thanks to his 27-point effort versus Doane. His career point total now stands at 1,487, putting him on the cusp of becoming the 10th Bulldog to in school history to hit the 1,500-point mark. Among GPAC players, the Laurel, Neb., native ranks third in rebounding (8.4), fourth in field goal percentage (.600) and fifth in scoring (22.0). The contest with Doane marked the 33rd time in Schutte’s career that he’s totaled 20 or more points. The 27 points were the second highest total for Schutte this season, trailing only his 34-point outburst in the overtime win at Briar Cliff.

·        Concordia has been on another level when playing inside Friedrich Arena, where it is 5-1 this season. Not only have the Bulldogs averaged 96.2 points per game at home, they have shot impressively – 52.7 percent from the floor, 38.0 percent from 3-point range and 75.9 percent from the foul line. Meanwhile, the opposition, when playing at Concordia, has averaged 77.7 points and has shot 42.3 percent from the field, 30.1 percent from 3-point range and 72.6 percent from the charity stripe. At home, Schutte is averaging 22.8 points on the strength of eye-popping 65.4 percent shooting from the floor. The lone home loss so far came by a 101-89 decision at the hands of Morningside.

·        Limback has not been afraid to go deep into the bench. The roster includes 11 players who average at least 9.0 minutes per game. Only one player, Schutte (30.3), averages more than 30 minutes per outing. Others who see at least 20 minutes per contest are Smith (28.1), Brad Bennett (28.1) and Lukas Helms (22.9). Freshman Brooks Kissinger (16.2) sees the most action among reserves. Four Bulldogs have started all 15 games: Bennett, Helms, Schutte and Smith.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Brad Bennett, 6-1 (9.8)
G – Jaxon Weyand, 5-11 (3.2)
F – Lukas Helms, 6-6 (6.9)
F – Noah Schutte, 6-4 (22.0)
F – Tristan Smith, 6-5 (18.3)

The opponents

Hastings has quickly reversed its fortunes as compared to the 2021-22 season that saw it finish at 7-23 overall. Veteran head coach Todd Raridon took over the program last season and led the Broncos to a 15-14 mark in 2022-23 and has his side off to a 12-4 (7-1 GPAC) start in 2023-24. Hastings has trended upward thanks in large part to the arrival of dynamic sophomore guard Reggie Thomas, who leads the GPAC with an average of 23.7 points per game. The Broncos possess two particularly notable wins within conference play having beaten 13th-ranked Northwestern (home) and having won at Dordt. Concordia got a look at Hastings at the Cattle Classic in early November – the Broncos went 1-1 at the event. Hastings is averaging 76.5 points per game while shooting 50.2 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from 3-point range. Its opponents are averaging 70.7 points while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. The Bulldogs and Broncos split their two meetings last season. Hastings’ home win over Concordia in 2022-23 snapped what had been a 13-game series win streak for the Bulldogs.

Hastings Projected Starting Five
G – Grady Corrigan, 6-1 (8.3)
G – Nolan Sughroue, 5-11 (3.9)
G – Reggie Thomas, 6-1 (23.7)
F – Danilo Matovic, 6-8 (8.6)
F – Tyrique McMurrin, 6-5 (10.5)

Briar Cliff began this season at 8-0 and was receiving votes nationally before its current struggles – losses in seven of the past eight outings. One of those defeats was an overtime loss to Concordia on Dec. 9. Head Coach Mark Svagera has gone to a lineup that is essentially five guards. Chief among them is senior Matthew Stilwill, who ranks second in the GPAC in scoring at 23.3 points per game. The Chargers aren’t afraid to hoist the three ball as they’ve gone 139-for-404 (.344) from long distance this season. Briar Cliff is averaging 81.9 points while shooting 46.5 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from 3-point range. Its opponents are averaging 80.1 points and shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. The Bulldogs have won each of the past four meetings with the Chargers.

Briar Cliff Projected Starting Five
G – Jamison Helmers, 6-0 (14.1)
G – Wil Lugar, 6-4 (10.8)
G – Blake Sindelar, 6-4 (13.3)
G – Matthew Stilwill, 6-2 (23.3)
G – Quinn Vesey, 6-1 (6.8)

Next Week

It will be a hectic week as the Bulldogs are slated to host Mount Marty on Jan. 24 before quickly turning around and traveling to Mequon, Wis., for the 71st Concordia Invitational Tournament. The event will take place Jan. 26-27 with the Bulldogs matching up with Concordia University Ann Arbor on day one of CIT. CUNE is the defending CIT champion having won it at home in 2023.