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Concordia holds off late Northwestern push

Concordia holds off late Northwestern push

SEWARD, Neb. – At least for a while, this felt like a repeat of the drubbing the Concordia University men’s basketball team handed Northwestern in Orange City, Iowa, on Jan. 2. However, the Red Raiders did not go quietly while turning a 24-point deficit into a nail-biter. In the end, the Bulldogs breathed a sigh of relief, holding on for an 86-82 win. For the 10th game in a row, Concordia netted 10 or more 3-point field goals.

Head coach Ben Limback’s squad did its part in paying tribute to the 2004-05 squad (honored at halftime) by playing like that particular national runner up team for a majority of the night. The Bulldogs (17-6, 8-5 GPAC) have won 10 of their last 11 games.

“We survived. Give them a lot of credit,” Limback said. “We had a 24-point lead with 13 minutes to go and then I thought we played not to lose. We missed some shots against their zone. They got a little momentum and we couldn’t stop them after that. They fed off of it. They’re a gutsy team. You could see at the free throw line, we played not to lose instead of playing to win like we had the first 30 minutes or so.”

It would have been difficult to forecast the tense finish that ensued at the time when Concordia owned a 64-40 advantage with less than 12 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs stroked the three while outscoring Northwestern 21-7 out of the halftime break. Brevin Sloup capped that run with one of his five treys. Normally when a team makes 18 3-point field goals as Concordia did on Wednesday, it wins handily.

But the Red Raiders (15-8, 7-6 GPAC) nearly crept all the way back with a fine shooting display of their own. That seemingly commanding lead was whittled all the way down to two points when Jay Small made a pair of free throws in the final minute. Trent Hilbrands led the way for Northwestern with 15 points, though he needed 20 shots to get there. The Red Raiders went 14-for-33 from beyond the arc.

The Bulldogs likely could have avoided the last minute drama had they been more efficient than 9-for-18 from the free throw line. Thankfully for the home team, the flurry of 3-pointers helped make up for it. Concordia is a team that now finds ways to win.

“We were clicking offensively from three,” Limback said. “Tanner (Shuck), Brevin and Carter (Kent) – everybody got loose tonight. We have to be able to sustain that for 40 minutes. It gives us a lot to work on.”

Fresh off winning the CIT MVP award, Shuck topped all players with 23 points while going 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Four of the five starters reached double figures with Sloup adding 19 points (and eight assists), Kent 14 points and Justin Wiersema 13 points. Chuol Biel finished with five points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots as an enforcer in the paint. Northwestern went only 16-for-42 on shots inside the arc.

Concordia completed a regular-season sweep of the Red Raiders for the first time since 2016. The Bulldogs have lost only one game since Dec. 21 and have moved all the way up to third place in the GPAC standings (one game behind second-place Dakota Wesleyan).

The Bulldogs have a major road challenge ahead with a trip to Mitchell, S.D., up next. Concordia and No. 10 Dakota Wesleyan (17-5, 9-4 GPAC) will go head-to-head at 4 p.m. CT inside the Corn Palace. The Bulldogs hope to get a much better result than the 77-57 loss they suffered in the first meeting between the two sides.

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