YANKTON, S.D. – As it turned out, the Concordia University men’s basketball team could have fallen on Saturday (Feb. 16) and still would have reached the GPAC tournament. But the Bulldogs did not want to simply back their way in. They avenged a buzzer beater home loss from December by clipping host Mount Marty, 84-79, while closing out the 2018-19 regular season.
Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad returned to an even .500 overall (15-15) while finishing at 7-13 in league play (eighth place). The latest win was supported by improved offensive output.
“We ran an efficient offense. We just turned it over too much in the first half,” Limback said. “We got better in the second half and I thought we had good balance. Carter (Kent) was really good throughout the game and Klay Uher gave us a lift off the bench along with Sammy (Adjei). They both really did some good stuff.
“On the defensive end, their guards really got hot but we got the stops when we needed them.”
The Lancers never let Concordia pull too far away. The Bulldogs moved their lead to its largest margin of eight points when Kent splashed in a trey at the 5:24 mark of the second half. Mount Marty eventually whittled that advantage all the way down to one (78-77) with a Jonah Larson triple with 2:24 left. To its credit, Concordia did not relinquish the advantage.
An Adjei bucket with 25 seconds left made it an 82-79 Bulldog lead. Kent finally iced the contest by netting a pair of free throws with 10 seconds showing on the clock. For the second time in three outings, Kent put exactly 19 points on the board. The freshman from Crete went 6-for-8 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the foul line.
Mount Marty (6-23, 2-18 GPAC) knew its season would end on Saturday no matter what. Jailen Billings (31 points) and Colby Johnson (21 points) tried to make the most of it as a two-man wrecking crew. Johnson had been the arch villain in the 70-69 Lancer win at Walz Arena on Dec. 8 when he nailed the game winner at the buzzer.
Johnson and company just couldn’t match Concordia’s attack. The Bulldogs shot 56.6 percent (30-for-53) from the floor, including 11-for-20 from 3-point range. Adjei and Brevin Sloup notched 16 points apiece and Tanner Shuck (3-for-5 from beyond the arc) added 12 points. Uher chipped in with nine points in his 15 minutes off the bench. Sloup and the Dawgs were plus-four (17-13) in turnover margin.
Concordia made a nice recovery in the second half of the GPAC season. After starting out 1-9 in league play, the Bulldogs went 6-4 over their final 10 conference regular season outings.
“We might as a team after Christmas and tried to give ourselves a fresh start to the season,” Limback said. “We knew we couldn’t win the league anymore but everyone wanted to at least make the conference tournament. Usually you have to get to eight GPAC wins to guarantee it and seven you have a chance. We were able to refocus and some of our young guys have come on.”
Now it’s conference tournament time. As a result of its solid play on the back stretch of the league schedule, Concordia will be headed to top-seeded Morningside (25-2, 18-2 GPAC) for a 7 p.m. CST tipoff in Sioux City, Iowa, on Wednesday. The Mustangs swept the regular season series from the Bulldogs. The two sides just met in Sioux City on Feb. 6.