Fifth-ranked Bulldogs show off depth in season-opening win

Fifth-ranked Bulldogs show off depth in season-opening win

DES MOINES, Iowa – A staple of past national tournament teams for head coach Drew Olson, a deep roster will again be an important ally. That became evident on Friday as 11 different players registered in the scoring column to help the fifth-ranked Concordia women’s basketball team pull away late for a 79-65 season-opening win over Mount Mercy University (Iowa). The game was the first of two that the Bulldogs will play this weekend at the Grand View Classic in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I was really happy with our second half,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “We made some great adjustments and kept our composure. With the new rules (increased emphasis on calling touch fouls to enhance freedom of movement), it’s going to be ugly at times. It changes our style of play. It’s a totally new game so I’m really proud of how they stepped up.”

Concordia used big runs at the beginning of both halves to deter the upset bid of a hot first-half shooting effort from the Mustangs. Trailing by a single point entering the final 20 minutes, junior guard Bailey Morris (13 points and five assists) and company stepped up on the defensive end to rebuild a double-digit lead.

Seemingly every time the Bulldogs threatened to run away, Mount Mercy roared back to stay within striking distance. On the heels of a 6-0 Mustang run that cut Concordia’s lead to 52-48, a pair of freshmen came up big. Forward Becky Mueller drilled a 3-pointer in the corner prior to a triple from Shelby Quinn that made it 58-50.

It continued to rain 3s as senior forward Britney Birtell drained a couple of 3-pointers midway through the second half. The second one pushed the advantage up to 12 at 67-55. Birtell also had two blocks in a great effort off the bench.

“I’m proud of our bench,” Olson said. “Britney knocked down a couple big shots and made some blocks on the other end. Taylor Wissing made some plays and our freshmen made some shots. They really stretched the lead for us.”

Junior Jericca Pearson proved tough to handle on the inside as she went for a team high 15 points and game high 13 rebounds. Despite foul trouble that limited her to 13 minutes, junior guard Tracy Peitz contributed 12 points.

The Bulldogs scored the game’s first eight points and led 15-2 following junior Ashley Kuntz’s three-point play coming after rebounding her own miss. The lead grew as large as 17 points as Olson’s squad used its signature full-court pressure defense to wreak havoc and force Mount Mercy into 26 total turnovers.

But the Mustangs were not ready to give in. They went on a 31-13 run and took a 40-39 halftime lead by burying 4 of 7 shots from deep in the first half.

Star senior guard Kristen Conahan sat out Friday due to injury. She is expected to return to the lineup soon. With Conahan out, Olson used a starting lineup of guards Morris, Kelsey Hizer and Peitz and forwards Mueller and Pearson.

Concordia is now 6-2 in season openers under the direction of Olson.

The Bulldogs will remain in Des Moines on Saturday to take on No. 17 Grand View University at 6 p.m. The two teams last met on March 10, 2012, in the quarterfinals of the NAIA national tournament. Concordia won 80-68. The Vikings, who went 22-7 in 2012-13, opened their season on Friday night against Avila University (Mo.).

1 November 2013

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Junior Jericca Pearson