SEWARD, Neb. – This contest plodded along for the better part of the opening half. Eventually the Concordia University men’s team found ways to crack the 3-2 zone of Doane. On the other end, the Bulldogs’ man-to-man proved up to the task in what ended with a happy 70-53 final score for the host team playing inside Walz Arena on Wednesday night (Jan. 23).
Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad effectively avenged its 65-52 loss at Doane that occurred on Dec. 5. Concordia has won four of its last five GPAC games to move to 12-11 overall and to 5-10 in GPAC play.
“It’s tough to not look forward to CIT, but this was a huge game and the guys knew it,” Limback said. “I felt like defensively we came out and played really hard. It was a huge confidence game and we needed to get this win first. Now we get to go to Michigan and hopefully it’s a little warmer there but I doubt it.”
A grinder of a first half saw both sides shoot in the 35 percent range, but eventually the Bulldogs found their groove. In the latter stages of the second half, Concordia busted open what was a tight 49-45 advantage with a 12-2 run capped with back-to-back treys dropped in by Carter Kent and Justin Wiersema. The Bulldogs had it in hand at that point, up 61-47. Just for fun, Tanner Shuck drilled a triple in the closing seconds.
In addition to playing steady defensively, Choul Biel always seems to produce at least one major highlight reel play each time out. Biel gave the fans not one, but two such moments on Wednesday. The first came during the aforementioned game winning push when Biel surfaced with a crowd pleasing rejection in transition and then sprinted the floor to lay the ball in on the other end. A few minutes later, Biel emphatically threw down the alley-oop off the feed from Wiersema.
Kent (14), Brevin Sloup (13) and Shuck (12) each reached double figures for the victors. Sloup also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists. Wiersema added nine points, four assists and four rebounds. Tanner Wubbels also threw down a two-handed jam during an eight-point effort. Biel chipped in with six points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot.
Overall, this was a much better performance than the one Concordia put forth at a month-and-a-half ago. In that instance, the Bulldogs struggled mightily against the 3-2 zone.
“We were struggling early but I thought we got in a decent rhythm towards the end of the first half,” Limback said. “In the second half, offensively, we were a little bit better with our movement and being more aggressive. Chuol had a huge play with the block and the layup at the other end. I’m also proud of the guys off the bench who gave us a lift.”
This is not the season Doane (6-17, 3-12 GPAC) anticipated. Things have been made worse by the absence of big man Trace Tupper, who sat sidelined with a boot on his foot. Nick Kornieck led all Tigers with 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the floor. Without Tupper, Doane was outrebounded, 41-27. It shot just 36.4 percent (20-for-55) for the game.
Now the Bulldogs can focus their attention on the 68th annual Concordia Invitational Tournament, which will be hosted by Concordia University, Ann Arbor. In the first men’s contest on Friday, CUNE will clash with Concordia University, Wisconsin (11-5) at 2 p.m. CST / 3 p.m. EST. The Bulldogs will aim for their 28th CIT title all-time.