For the second time in three days, the defending NAIA National Champion Concordia Eagles are flexing some late season muscle. The latest top-10 victim was No. 6 CSU San Marcos on Thursday night, February 21, inside CU Arena, 85-78, becoming the only team to beat the Cougars in the last three months.
Peter Smith was absolutely outstanding, scoring a career high 33 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while playing 36 minutes and carrying the Eagles offensively for certain stretches. Brandon Hucks made a huge push off the bench with 15 points and six boards. Dakota Downs started slow, but dominated for the Eagles as they took the lead late, and finished with 14 points and one rebound short of the double-double with nine. Tim Harris fought foul trouble all night, but hit two huge second half threes to bring CU back, and he finished with eight points. Alex Rudd was great off the bench, grabbing four boards. Jywrell Wilson was in late playing fantastic defense, as Concordia coach Ken Ammann tried to balance foul problems.
San Marcos came out and took control early, but Concordia hung tough, and CSUSM led 16-10 seven minutes in. A fastbreak dunk from the Cougars four minutes later put them up 25-12. The teams traded buckets, but then the Eagles scored 13 of the next 16 points, with a three-point play from Wilson and six points from Smith, to trail 30-27 with 5:09 left. CSUSM finished the half on a 9-2 run to lead 39-30 at half.
The Cougars came out hot again and took a 12-point lead, 44-32, just two minutes into the second half. CU scored six straight, capped by a jumper from Hucks, to pull within 44-38 at the 16:56 mark. The game was back and forth until Hucks converted a layup and Downs made two free throws to pull within two, 48-46. The Cougars pulled back ahead, living at the free throw line, and led 60-49 with ten minutes left. CU scored eight straight in response on two threes from Harris, their biggest push of the game. CU then hung tough, not allowing another CSUSM run. They tied the game twice, on a tip-in from Wilson and a free throw from Smith. CU finally took the lead for good, 70-68, on two free throws from Hucks with 5:53 left. They gave themselves a little breathing room, 79-73, on a floating jumper from Smith with 2:30 remaining. CSUSM scored a free throw, got a stop, and made a layup to pull within three. CU turned the ball over on the inbounds play, but the Cougars' Danny Redmon missed a reverse layup. Hucks grabbed the rebound and made two foul shots at the other end. CSUSM missed a three, but got the rebound and was fouled. After making both, Concordia turned the ball over two more times on inbounds plays, leading to two more Cougar threes to tie it, both missing. Concordia finally found the stripe and Smith and Rudd finished the game.
"We are just trying to figure out how we won that game," Concordia assistant coach Brett Lauer said. "We just kept competing, getting stops, and got a great team effort.
Concordia improved to 18-10, while the Cougars dropped to 22-5, losing their first game since Concordia beat them on December 8th, snapping their 16-game winning streak. The Eagles look to finish the regular season strong, hosting Arizona Christian on Saturday night at 7:30 pm for Senior Night. Watch the live stream at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/cui.portal#.