SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – The Concordia University men’s basketball team fought valiantly to rally back from a 20-point deficit, but the comeback attempt eventually ran out of gas. The big push orchestrated by Brevin Sloup and a host of freshmen came up short in a 91-73 loss at Dordt on Wednesday night (Jan. 2). The Defenders ultimately pulled away by outscoring the Bulldogs 28-12 over the game’s final 11-and-a-half minutes.
Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad will have to wait until at least Saturday to snap what is now a six-game skid in conference play. Concordia stands at 8-9 overall and at 1-8 in the GPAC.
“The way we started I didn’t feel like we came out and competed,” Limback said. “Tanner Shuck has been battling the flu and wasn’t able to practice all week. He wasn’t himself so that definitely affects us at both ends of the floor, but I was really proud of the freshmen coming in and raising the intensity. They provided a huge spark. We were just playing harder and more aggressive. That’s how we should play all the time.”
The Bulldogs knew they were going to tip things off on Wednesday a bit short-handed. Starter Ryan Holt missed the game with an injury suffered last week in Phoenix, Ariz., while Shuck played only 13 minutes due to feeling under the weather. That helped open the door for eight freshmen to see action on Wednesday. Carter Kent led the group with 15 points.
The rookies helped shake Concordia (8-9, 1-8 GPAC) out of an early lull. The Bulldogs dug a 32-12 hole midway through the first half before a complete reversal. Nick Cito began the comeback bid with a triple that ignited a stretch that saw Concordia outscore Dordt 40-17. On the tail end of that explosion, Sloup got white hot. He buried a 3-pointer at the 17:05 mark of the second half to suddenly give Concordia a 52-49 lead.
But stops were difficult to come by the rest of the way. The Defenders (12-6, 5-4 GPAC) were able to consistently get good looks inside (50 points in the paint). Off the bench, Zach Bussard (20 points, eight rebounds) enjoyed a big night for the victors. Chad Barkema added 17 points and Garrett Franken chipped in 12. Bussard and company outrebounded the Bulldogs, 35-19, and shot 60 percent (33-for-55) from the floor.
“We just need more consistency,” Limback said. “Dordt is a good team. Their post players outplayed us. We’re lacking depth there right now. Their post players were very aggressive and strong.”
The most encouraging signs for Concordia was the fight shown but its most youthful players. Cito (six), Chance Sterling (seven) and Justin Wiersema (eight) combined for 21 points while making key contributions in reserve roles. Transfer Sammy Adjei also flashed some nifty moves in the post. He finished with 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting. As a team, the Bulldogs shot 44.1 percent from the field.
Sloup equaled Kent with 15 points. Concordia got back into the contest by knocking down perimeter shots. It went 12-for-28 (.429) from beyond the arc with seven different players draining at least one 3-point field goal.
The Bulldogs will make their first home appearance since Dec. 8 when they welcome Northwestern (10-8, 4-5 GPAC) to town for Saturday’s 4 p.m. CT tipoff inside Walz Arena. The Red Raiders won each of last season’s three meetings, including the matchup in the 2018 GPAC quarterfinals.