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Concordia falls in return to action at holiday classic

Concordia falls in return to action at holiday classic
Courtesy/Concordia Athletics.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – After a layoff of 12 days without a game, a matchup in the desert with 12th-ranked Arizona Christian University did not exactly provide a soft landing for the Concordia University men’s basketball team. The Bulldogs were kept at arm’s length all second half by the host Firestorm, who handed the Bulldogs an 85-71 defeat in Phoenix, Ariz., on Friday (Dec. 28).

Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad is hoping to pick things up in the second semester. Concordia has dropped four in a row and has slipped to 7-8 overall.

“We wanted to slow them down in transition. They were averaging 99 points per game,” Limback said. “We had to make them score in the half court. Overall defensively I thought we did okay. After we settled in they didn’t get as many open looks from three. No. 1 (Shane Carney) for them had a tremendous game. He was tough to stop.

“Where we really lost the game was in the turnovers. We had 19 turnovers and a lot of those led to transition points that we knew we couldn’t afford to give them.”

A member of the Golden State Athletic Conference, the Firestorm (12-1) are now 9-1 at home following an offensive performance that actually fell below their standards this season. The work of Carney (27 points on 9-for-21 shooting) and Callum Lawson (20 points, 13 rebounds) proved to be enough to keep down a Bulldog squad that has struggled offensively.

Concordia used an 11-0 run fueled by a trey apiece from Grant Wragge, Carter Kent and Brevin Sloup to take a 25-22 lead nearly midway through the opening half. Carney and company rebounded with a big 19-6 spurt to take control and a 49-40 halftime advantage. The Bulldogs never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.

The contest on Friday featured the Concordia debut of transfer Sammy Adjei, a 6-foot-7 native of Accra, Ghana. He got the call as part of the starting lineup and delivered 10 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes of action. Adjei’s addition provides hope for a turnaround in conference play in the new year.

“He did a great job tonight,” Limback said. “He’s an inside presence and has the ability to score one-on-one in the post. He’s a great passer. He’s going to continue to come along with his rhythm and conditioning. He gave us a nice to start to the game. He can play above the rim and do some things at both ends.”

Sloup led the Bulldog offensive attack with 18 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the floor. Tanner Shuck (14) and Kent (12) also reached double figures. Concordia shot 40 percent (24-for-60) from the floor. The outside stroke is still a work-in-progress. The Bulldogs went 7-for-25 (.250) from 3-point range.

The Firestorm got a double-double off the bench from Anton Ivy (10 points, 10 rebounds) and 12 points from Shea Garland. Arizona Christian shot 45.5 percent (30-for-66) from the field – well below its season percentage of 51.0.

The Bulldogs will conclude their two-day swing at the Arizona Christian Holiday Classic on Saturday when it will take on MacEwan University (0-12) of Canada. The Griffins compete as a member of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. MST / 1 p.m. CST from Phoenix.

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