by Luke Stanczyk
Despite slow starts to both the first and second half, the Benedictine Men’s basketball team was able to defeat the Concordia-Chicago Cougars 52-50 on Tuesday night at the Dan and Ada Rice Center.
The Cougars had the ball for the game’s last possession and had two chances to score. However, Eagles senior guard Nate Green would bat a pass out of bounds with six seconds left, and Cougars freshman guard Brandon Johnson would miss a three-pointer as time expired to seal the victory for Benedictine.
“Nate got a great deflection to get us to that six second mark,” said Head Coach Mark Bunkenburg. “We really got good pressure on them, and we gave up an open shot to one of their players who’s not that great of a shooter. I thought we locked down pretty good.”
Things started out slow for BenU, as Concordia-Chicago went on an early 12-2 run behind eight points from senior forward Charles Gordon. They were helped by four Eagle turnovers and seven consecutive missed jump shots.
BenU would then go on a huge run to take the lead. Junior guard Nate Green scored eight straight points to tie the game at 12, and after the teams traded a few baskets, the Eagles would hit four straight three-pointers to take a 27-18 halftime lead. Two of those three-pointers were from Sophomore guard Mike Woolf, who finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, and made four of his five three pointers.
“Mike’s been doing well,” Bunkenburg said. “The nice thing about Mike is that if he’s open, there’s a good chance it’s going in. He’s just got more confidence.”
The Cougars would work to close the gap on BenU’s lead throughout the second half, starting it out on an 8-2 run and going to a 2-3 matchup zone defense that had the Eagles settling for a lot of jump shots. CUC also got Benedictine in foul trouble, getting into the double bonus with five minutes left in the half.
“It was a change,” said junior guard Jamison Montgomery of Concordia-Chicago’s defense. “We practice every day playing man-to-man [defense], and we knew coming into this week that they were going to do a little matchup zone. It’s kind of different because you get different looks, and different people are open that aren’t normally open.”
Statistically, Green led the Eagles with 21 points and tied Montgomery in assists with four. He also played 38 of the games 40 minutes.
“[I was] just taking what they gave me,” said Green of his performance. “I was just getting into any hole I see to create opportunities for myself and my teammates. I just thank the guys for having that confidence in me, as it gives me more confidence.”
For the Cougars, senior forward Issa Avery led the team in both points (18) and rebounds (10). After scoring eight of CUC’s first 12 points, he would only score one more point for the rest of the game.
“Mark [Pace] struggled with him early, and then Raphael Ogelsby really shut him down,” explained Bunkenburg. “He guarded him [Gordon] most of the night, and did a really nice job.”
The Eagles built their lead in the Northern Athletics Conference South division, improving their conference record to 8-4 and knocking the Cougars’ record to 6-6. BenU has a tough test on Saturday, as they travel to Lakeland College to face the Muskies, who are tied for the lead in the North division.
“Offensively they could be the best team in the nation,” said Bunkenburg of Lakeland. “They are that good. Especially with the win tonight, I feel like we can win there with not a whole lot of pressure. They’re going to be the favorite in that game, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us, but I feel good about our team going in there.”