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SEWARD, Neb. – Tanner Shuck caught fire and the Concordia University men’s basketball team put the clamps on host Peru State in the second half while completing a successful Thanksgiving week on the road. Behind Shuck’s game high 29 points, the Bulldogs toppled the previously unbeaten Bobcats, 77-71, in Peru, Neb., on Saturday (Nov. 24).
Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad also defeated Waldorf University (Iowa), 75-72, on Monday before falling in an exhibition game at NCAA Division I University of North Dakota on Tuesday. Concordia is 5-0 in nonconference play and 6-3 overall.
“This is a good team,” Limback said of Peru State. “They have nice athleticism, they run good stuff and are really long – just a tough team. I’m really proud of our guys for being able to come on the road and do what we did during Thanksgiving week. I really felt like we grew in a lot of areas. I loved our toughness and grit down the stretch.”
This turned into a closely contested, seesaw battle for most of the afternoon. The game featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes with a nine-point Bulldog lead representing the largest spread all day. While equaling a career high point total, Shuck played a large role in helping Concordia mount that lead in the final minutes. The Grand Island native also swatted a shot in the closing minute to help the Bulldogs put the win in the bank.
It was a consistent day for Shuck, who put up 14 points in the first half and 15 in the second half. He went 10-for-17 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. He also grabbed five rebounds, blocked three shots and dished out three assists.
“He was big at both ends,” Limback said. “I was really proud of the way he was patient offensively. I thought our guys were really looking for him and our screeners did an outstanding job of getting guys open. And Chuol Biel was huge down the stretch. He did a good job on their big guy.”
Indeed, Biel’s matchup with Peru State standout Lyle Hexom, a 6-foot-8 senior, was a key storyline in Saturday’s clash. Hexom entered the game averaging 22.2 points per game but was held to 13 on 5-for-14 shooting by the Bulldogs. As a team, the Bobcats shot only 38.0 percent (27-for-71) – 33.3 percent (12-for-36) in the second half.
Biel finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot after coming off the bench. Crafty point guard Brevin Sloup found a way to make a big impact despite going 6-for-17 shooting from the floor. He nailed all four free throw attempts, collected 18 points and added nine rebounds and six assists. Carter Kent pitched in with nine points for a Concordia squad that shot 46.4 percent (26-for-56) from the field.
Brandon Jones paced Peru State (5-1) with 18 points and 10 rebounds, though he went only 5-for-17 shooting. Hexom (13 points, 10 rebounds) also posted a double-double and DeMon Hyler notched 11 points. The Bobcats advanced to the second round of the 2018 NAIA Division I national tournament.
Peru State had been 4-0 at home, but it was the Bulldogs who made the big plays down the stretch. It started with a triple delivered by Kent to push a one-point lead to a 67-63 advantage with three minutes left. The Bobcats went just 3-for-10 from the field the rest of the way and Concordia iced it by making all eight of its free throw attempts in the final minute.
The Bulldogs will return home to host fourth-ranked Morningside (6-0, 4-0 GPAC) at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Concordia hopes to end a four-game series losing streak against the Mustangs, who pummeled Bellevue University, 97-75, on Saturday.