Win streak to be put to the test in week on the road

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 29, 2020 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team has gotten comfortable at home having beaten all five opponents it has met inside Friedrich Arena. Now the Bulldogs will return to action post-Thanksgiving with three road games on the docket. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad will be at Doane, Hastings and Briar Cliff in a six-day span that could help determine its prospects as a GPAC championship contender. Concordia has been off since Nov. 21 when it routed Dordt, 82-59.

This Week

Concordia (6-1, 3-0) at Doane (3-4, 0-2)
Monday, Nov. 30 | 7 p.m.
Haddix Center | Crete, Neb.
Webcast: Doane YouTube Channel
Live Stats:
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones

Concordia (6-1, 3-0) at Hastings (3-4, 0-3)
Wednesday, Dec. 2 | 8 p.m.
Lynn Farrell Arena | Hastings, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Hastings Stretch Internet
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones

Concordia (6-1, 3-0) at Briar Cliff (3-4, 1-2)
Saturday, Dec. 5 | 4 p.m.
Newman Flanagan Center | Sioux City, Iowa
Webcast: Briar Cliff All-Access
Live Stats: Dakstats
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Evan Jones


*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 157 of 231 NAIA men’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.

Scoring Offense: 87.0 (42nd)
Scoring Defense: 65.0 (18th)
FG% Offense: .464 (T-70th)
FG% Defense: .395 (T-23rd)
3-pt FG% Offense: .357 (62nd)
3-pt FG% Defense: .320 (T-64th)
Rebound Margin: +7.1 (41st)
Turnover Margin: +6.1 (11th)

Scoring Offense: 66.9 (148th)
Scoring Defense: 72.6 (T-52nd)
FG% Offense: .393 (144th)
FG% Defense: .469 (T-122nd)
3-pt FG% Offense: .301 (T-129th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .346 (97th)
Rebound Margin: -10.4
Turnover Margin: +6.0 (12th)

Scoring Offense: 88.7 (33rd)
Scoring Defense: 80.9 (110th)
FG% Offense: .477 (53rd)
FG% Defense: .419 (55th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .306 (T-120th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .324 (T-70th)
Rebound Margin: -2.9
Turnover Margin: +5.4 (13th)

Briar Cliff
Scoring Offense: 71.3 (133rd)
Scoring Defense: 72.6 (T-52nd)
FG% Offense: .428 (T-118th)
FG% Defense: .433 (71st)
3-pt FG% Offense: .330 (T-97th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .314 (60th)
Rebound Margin: -8.0
Turnover Margin: +1.0 (T-68th)

Visiting fan policies
Doane: Visiting fans are not allowed to attend games.
Hastings: Visiting teams are allotted 120 slots for fan attendance. Fans must be on the pre-approved list in order to be admitted into the game.
Briar Cliff: Tickets must be purchased online at the following URL in order to ensure entry:

Rising to the top
The next official GPAC poll is scheduled to be released on Dec. 14, but at least one source now lists Concordia at No. 1 in the conference. The NAIA Hoops Report (not affiliated with the NAIA National Office) moved the Bulldogs to the top of its GPAC power poll this past week. Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan (3-0 GPAC) are the only teams in the league without a conference defeat. Limback’s squad was placed sixth in the GPAC preseason poll. Said junior guard Justin Wiersema after the team’s latest win, “I feel like we’re always the underdogs. It makes us play better and play stronger, and we just play for each other. That’s all that really matters.” Dating back to last season, the Bulldogs have won 10-straight games against GPAC opponents.

Wiersema takes off
Justin Wiersema’s game has taken off. The native of Loveland, Colo., is the pulse of a team that has been noted for its never-stop-hustling style on the court. Among GPAC players, Wiersema ranks third in steals per game (1.86), fourth in scoring (16.6), sixth in field goal percentage (.606) and sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (.450). The 6-foot-3 guard has been incredibly consistent having scored no fewer than 11 points in any one game this season (with a high of 23 versus Manhattan Christian College). Wiersema has improved significantly with his scoring averages jumping from 5.4 as a freshman to 10.8 as a sophomore to 16.6 as a junior this season.

Boarder patrol
Gage Smith is an animal on the boards. He just missed his fifth double-double of the season when he recorded 16 points and nine rebounds versus Dordt. Over the first seven games, Smith has turned in respective single-game rebound totals of 10, four, 11, 19, 12, 18 and nine, respectively. The native of Elizabeth, Colo., is another player coming into his own in year three in the program. Smith is averaging 10.9 points and 11.9 rebounds after comparative averages of 4.7 and 4.5 last season.

Turnovers factor into successful equation
Turnover margin has played a role in the early success of the Bulldogs, who have committed 91 turnovers compared to the 134 turnovers by their opponents. The average margin of +6.1 per game ranks 11th best among all NAIA squads. Last season’s national tournament qualifier sported a turnover margin that was virtually dead even (428 turnovers committed / 433 turnovers forced). Concordia gave the ball away only nine times in the 82-59 win over Dordt on Nov. 21.

Defensive tenacity
The Bulldogs have several offensive options to lean upon, but it may be their defense that makes them one of the GPAC’s top teams. Among conference squads, Concordia ranks No. 1 in field goal percentage defense (.395) and second in scoring defense (65.0). It’s been a continuation of last season when the Bulldogs also ranked at the top of the GPAC in field goal percentage defense (.423). Rather impressively, Concordia has managed to remain a stellar defensive team despite graduating Chuol Biel (GPAC leading shot blocker in 2018-19 and 2019-20).

The opponents
The Bulldogs went a combined 5-2 last season against the likes of Doane, Hastings and Briar Cliff. Concordia has had Hastings’ number having defeated the Broncos in nine-straight series meetings. The Bulldogs and Tigers played two closely-contested matchups last season with the home team winning in both instances. Finally, Concordia was a buzzer-beating 3-pointer away from a regular-season sweep of the Chargers. Each of the opponents will present different challenges. On average, Doane has played the lowest scoring games (factoring in both teams) among GPAC teams while Hastings has played in the highest scoring contests. Dashawn Walker of the Broncos ranks third in the conference in scoring at 18.0 points per game. All three Bulldog opponents enter this week with identical 3-4 overall records.

Projected Starting Lineups

Concordia (6-1, 3-0)
G – Carter Kent, Jr. (12.6)
G – Sam Scarpelli, Sr. (9.9)
G – Justin Wiersema, Jr. (16.6)
F – Ryan Holt, Sr. (10.7)
F – Gage Smith, Jr. (10.9)

Doane (3-4, 0-2)
G – Anthony Laravie, Sr. (14.0)
G – Tyler Sullivan, Jr. (1.9)
G – Zach Witters, Sr. (5.7)
F – Matt Hagedorn, Jr. (2.3)
F – Jaxon Harre, Sr. (8.9)

Hastings (3-4, 0-3)
G – Karson Gansebom, So. (12.3)
G – Mason Hiemstra, So. (15.8)
G – Ben Juhl, Sr. (13.1)
G – Jared Mattley, Fr. (14.9)
F – Dashawn Walker, Jr. (18.0)

Briar Cliff (3-4, 1-2)
G – Ethan Freidel, Sr. (12.9)
G – Nick Hoyt, So. (12.1)
G – Jaden Kleinhesselink, Jr. (15.0)
G – Quinn Vesey, So. (7.7)
F – Quinten Vasa, Jr. (9.7)