SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Just minted the No. 1 team on Wednesday (Dec. 11) morning, host and defending GPAC champion Morningside got all it could handle from the Concordia University men’s basketball team later that night. The Bulldogs were impossibly hot from 3-point range and held a lead down to the final 10 seconds before falling at Allee Gymnasium, 72-71. It was quite a bounce back after Concordia’s loss to sixth-ranked Dakota Wesleyan over the weekend.
The hurt comes from coming so very close to rocking the NAIA landscape. Head coach Ben Limback’s squad slipped to 7-3 overall (2-3 GPAC), but can take many positives from this performance.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job of having laser-beam focus,” Limback said. “Carter (Kent) and Brevin (Sloup) were great offensively and Justin (Wiersema) got us going early. We fed off that. Chuol Biel was fantastic throughout the game. Defensively he created so many problems for their guards attacking. You have to tip your hat to their big guy, but we did a good job on pretty much everybody else. A lot of that was due to the effort of the team.”
There certainly was no denying the effort the Bulldogs put forward while up against potential national title contender. With the game on the line, Concordia did not allow Morningside (11-0, 6-0 GPAC) a single made basket over the final three minutes. A jumper by Sloup from just outside of the paint gave the visitors a 71-70 lead with under 1:30 remaining. The score stayed that way until Alex Borchers was fouled and drained two free throws with nine seconds left.
On the attempt at a buzzer beater, Sloup just missed on a heavily guarded trey, deep on the left wing. The Mustangs could finally breathe a sigh of relief in a home scare they likely never saw coming. The only regret for the Bulldogs was that they weren’t able to make just one more play.
“There were so many moments where they would make a big shot or we would make a turnover, but our guys really refocused well tonight,” Limback said. “We got tough stops when we needed them. We had some opportunities down the stretch that didn’t go our way. I told our guys that to be in position to win the game multiple times is what we have to feed off of.”
Concordia got its groove back offensively, making seven of its first nine tries from 3-point range. It finished 13-for-21 (.619) from beyond the arc. Kent (5-for-5 on 3-pointers) knocked in 21 points, Sloup (4-for-7 on 3-pointers) poured in 20 and Wiersema (4-for-5 on 3-pointers) netted 14. In the post, Biel was a warrior. He posted a line of eight points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Ryan Holt contributed six points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
A Morningside outfit that went 13-1 at home last season had just enough. Tyler Borchers led the way with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Zach Imig added 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Mustangs shot 46.8 percent from the field compared to a 42.4 percent clip put up by the Bulldogs.
Said Limback, “Tonight should give us confidence. We need to take this and build off of it. Let’s not just settle for playing close. We have to look at what we need to do better and how we could execute certain possessions better. We can be just as good as anybody when we focus on one possession at a time.”
The Bulldogs will play within the conference for the final time prior to Christmas/New Year’s when they head to Yankton, S.D., to take on 23rd-ranked Mount Marty (12-2, 5-1 GPAC) at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday. Concordia has won eight of its last 10 meetings with the Lancers, who have been one of the surprises of NAIA Division II basketball.