FREMONT, Neb. – On the opening night of conference play, the Concordia University men’s basketball team fell behind 15-4 and played catch up all evening long. The Bulldogs got as close as two points (74-72) in the closing minute before host Midland salted it away at the free throw line. The Warriors held on for a 78-72 victory on Tuesday (Nov. 6).
Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad had hoped to continue the momentum it built with a 3-0 start at home last week, but Concordia was unable to recover from a 44-29 halftime deficit.
“We couldn’t guard them on the ball,” Limback said. “We were giving up too much in the paint. They did a great job of isolation. They got on a roll in the first half and their guys really started to feel good. We just played on our heels too much tonight. I am proud of our guys for their fight at the end and making a nice comeback. We just can’t come out on our heels defensively and we weren’t good on the glass.”
Consider it a lesson for a team still learning how to incorporate a bevy of new faces. In some ways, Concordia and Midland are going through similar circumstances. The Warriors themselves are relying on multiple newcomers, including transfer DJ Deere, who topped the team with 17 points on Tuesday. Thirteen of his points came during a rough first half for the Bulldogs.
Concordia trailed by as many as 17 points with Midland seeming to have an answer whenever it began to feel threatened. It became a nail-biter in the final few minutes when the Warriors began coming up empty on the offensive end. A driving layup by Brevin Sloup with :26 left got the Bulldogs within two. The rest of the way, Concordia misfired on two attempts from 3-point range while Midland went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
The back breaker for the Bulldogs was a 10-0 Warrior run to end the first half. Just before the buzzer, Midland’s Bryce Parsons slammed home a tip dunk. Another newcomer, Parsons put up 14 points and 10 rebounds. He will be counted upon to pick up some of the slack with star Ryan Williams sidelined by injury.
“There were some guts shown here,” Limback said of the comeback attempt. “It’s really a mindset that we didn’t have most of the night. Midland wanted this game more than we did. They consistently made the plays.”
Junior Tanner Shuck gave Concordia a fighting chance by stroking 6-of-13 tries from long range. He led all players with 23 points. Sloup chipped in 14 points and three assists while Carter Kent (10) also reached double figures in scoring. Off the bench, Ryan Holt went a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor and notched nine points in 11 minutes of action. Chuol Biel blocked three shots.
The Warriors (2-1, 1-0 GPAC) shot 50 percent (29-for-58) from the floor compared to 41.9 percent (26-for-62) shooting by the Bulldogs. Midland held a 37-31 advantage on the boards. Four Warriors accounted for 59 of the team’s points.
Concordia will be back on the road within conference play on Saturday when it will challenge 10th-ranked Briar Cliff (3-0). Tipoff will take place at 4 p.m. CT from the Newman Flanagan Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The Chargers are set to open GPAC action Wednesday at Jamestown.