SEWARD, Neb. – Two teams that like to let it fly from long range will get together on Saturday afternoon inside Friedrich Arena. The Concordia University Men’s Basketball hopes to avenge a loss from earlier this season as Briar Cliff comes to town. At the same time, the Bulldogs are ready to put behind last week’s defeat that came at the hands of 15th-ranked Morningside. Now 7-1 at home this season, Concordia has work to do if it is to earn another top four placement in the final GPAC standings.
*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 192 of 229 NAIA men’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.
Scoring Offense: 81.6 (66th)
Scoring Defense: 73.5 (64th)
FG% Offense: .460 (T-72nd)
FG% Defense: .455 (T-120th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .331 (T-117th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .355 (T-126th)
Free Throw%: .698 (T-92nd)
Rebound Margin: +4.50 (54th)
Turnover Margin: +2.00 (T-49th)
Scoring Offense: 77.7 (91st)
Scoring Defense: 76.4 (99th)
FG% Offense: .470 (T-50th)
FG% Defense: .477 (T-159th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .387 (T-25th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .320 (T-53rd)
Free Throw%: .764 (18th)
Rebound Margin: -7.40 (167th)
Turnover Margin: +1.30 (68th)
Protocols for fans
Concordia home games: Consistent with state directed health measures, Concordia will allow up to 50 percent capacity for its home games. Fans are encouraged to purchase advance tickets online (https://www.cune.edu/athletics/tickets). Tickets will also be sold at the door, provided capacity limits have not been reached via online sales.
--NOTE: All GPAC events require fans to wear face coverings. To review specific COVID-19 protocols for the GPAC and its member institutions, visit: http://www.gpacsports.com/gpac-covid19-fan-protocols.
In two outings decided by double digits last week, the Bulldogs won at Mount Marty, 86-76, before falling at the hands of hot shooting Morningside, 95-77, at home. Concordia then had the middle of this week off from game action. In the victory at Mount Marty, junior Carter Kent piled up 20 of his career high 29 points in the second half. Kent had a contrasting week that saw him go 10-for-17 from the floor at Mount Marty and then 1-for-11 versus Morningside. In the victory, Bulldog double figure scorers also included Justin Wiersema (20), Gage Smith (15) and Ryan Holt (13). Three days later, Concordia struggled to contain the Mustangs, who shot 60.7 percent from the floor (season high for opponents this season). Wiersema continued his consistent ways and 18-point outing. Off the bench, Grant Wragge collected 10 points (5-for-5 shooting) and four steals. Meanwhile, Smith posted 19 points (8-for-8 on free throws) and eight rebounds.
Wiersema ranks among GPAC elite
Only one GPAC player ranks among the top five of the conference in scoring, field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and steals per game. That would be budding star Justin Wiersema, one of the nation’s most consistent performers. Wiersema is currently averaging 17.3 points and 1.70 steals per game while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent from 3-point range. All of those figures represent career bests for the native of Loveland, Colo. Wiersema learned of Concordia in the recruiting process through a connection with his high school club team, the Colorado Titans. Wiersema has scored in double figures in 22 straight games (including all 20 this season).
Digging in on D
This week will be about shoring up a perimeter defense that allowed Morningside to make its first seven attempts from 3-point range in last week’s clash inside Friedrich Arena. The Bulldogs must avoid a repeat of the first meeting with Briar Cliff when the Chargers rained in 18 treys in action at the Newman Flanagan Center. Concordia has been trending the wrong way on the conference leaderboard for field goal percentage (currently seventh at 45.5 percent). Last season’s GPAC tournament championship team held opponents to a 42.3 field goal percentage (tied for best in the conference). The Bulldogs have allowed nine straight opponents to shoot 46.0 percent or better from the floor. The Chargers will test Concordia on the perimeter once again. They lead the GPAC with an average of 12.1 triples per contest.
It's rare for an opponent to outshoot the Bulldogs from the perimeter – in terms of volume. On the season, Concordia is 207-for-625 (.331) from 3-point range while its opponents are 166-for-467 (.355). In other words, the Bulldogs shoot an average of 7.9 more 3-point shots per game than their foes. The team’s 207 3-point field goals ranks third among all NAIA squads. As part of last season’s thrilling run, Concordia set a new school record by knocking down 382 treys (in 34 games). Six different Bulldogs have drained at least 19 3-point field goals this season. Wiersema leads the way with 46, followed by Kent with 41.
Home streak snapped
The Bulldogs will try to start a new home win streak after having a 12-game string snapped last week by Morningside. Concordia had been 7-0 at home before slipping up against Morningside. The Mustangs are actually the only team to beat the Bulldogs inside Friedrich Arena over the last 17 games played there (15-2). During the course of the 12-game home win streak, Concordia defeated Northwestern (three times), Hastings (twice), Mount Marty (twice), Emmaus Bible College (Iowa), Manhattan Christian College (Kan.), Midland, Dordt and Jamestown. The Bulldogs have four games remaining on this season’s home slate: Briar Cliff (Jan. 23), Dakota Wesleyan (Feb. 6), Hastings (Feb. 10) and Doane (Feb. 20).
Morningside (12-2 GPAC) currently sets the pace in the GPAC. The Mustangs picked up a quality road win on Wednesday by edging Dordt, 84-80. Dakota Wesleyan (10-3) lost its grip at the top and has fallen in three of its past four outings. The pack that follows includes Jamestown (9-4), Dordt (10-5), Concordia (10-5) and Northwestern (9-5). The Bulldogs are a combined 4-1 against the likes of Jamestown, Dordt and Northwestern with the only loss coming in overtime up in North Dakota. The Bulldogs have an advantage in playing four of their last five games at home.
Scouting Briar Cliff
Concordia must find a way to contain Briar Cliff’s perimeter shooting. The Chargers rank third in the nation with an average of 12.1 made 3-point field goals per game. Four Briar Cliff marksmen have drained at least 40 treys this season, led by the 55 from Nick Hoyt. Head Coach Mark Svagera led the program to the national quarterfinals in 2018 and 2019 before the Chargers slipped to a 16-14 overall record in 2019-20. Briar Cliff is 6-2 over its last eight outings with the losses coming at Morningside and at Northwestern. This will be the final road game of the regular season for the Chargers, who will host four in a row after Saturday’s contest.
After playing once this week, the Bulldogs will wait until Saturday, Feb. 3 (at Dordt) to return to action. The break is partly due to the cancellation of the 2021 Concordia Invitational Tournament, which had originally been scheduled for Jan. 29-30 in Seward.
Concordia (12-6, 9-4)
G – Carter Kent, Jr. (14.8)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr. (6.3)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr. (17.3)
F – Ryan Holt, Sr. (8.3)
F – Gage Smith, Jr. (12.3)
Briar Cliff (11-9, 8-7)
G – Conner Groves, So. (8.3)
G – Nick Hoyt, So. (11.7)
G – Jaden Kleinhesselink, Jr. (14.8)
G – Quinn Vesey, So. (11.1)
F – Quinten Vasa, Jr. (11.0)