Northwestern upends Bulldogs in top 10 GPAC semifinal battle

Northwestern upends Bulldogs in top 10 GPAC semifinal battle

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – A razor-sharp Northwestern team greeted seventh-ranked Concordia in a GPAC tournament semifinal game in Orange City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon. For the second-straight season, the top-seeded Red Raiders (26-4) bounced the fourth-seeded Bulldogs from the conference tourney by carving out a 101-80 victory inside the Bultman Center.

With its top 10 national ranking, Concordia is a lock to make the national tournament for the 13th time in program history. Eighth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad will take a 25-7 overall record to the national stage.

“I feel like Northwestern was a lot more prepared for us to play zone (compared to the previous meeting),” Olson said. “We didn’t execute the zone like we did last time. We hugged players as opposed to rotating and being able to guard multiple players.

“We weren’t ready to play.”

It did not take long for Northwestern to exercise control on its home floor. Behind sharpshooter Alli Engebretson, the Red Raiders led 21-7 just over five minutes into Saturday’s contest. Concordia never cut the deficit below 12 the rest of the way as the Red Raiders sizzled – 50.6-percent shooting – while limiting star junior guard Bailey Morris to 10 points.

Saturday’s battle of top-10 ranked teams marked the third meeting of the season between the two GPAC powers. It was a much different game than the one exactly two weeks earlier when Morris went off for a school record 45 points in driving the Bulldogs to an 89-78 win in Seward.

This time around Morris played only 18 minutes and fouled out with 9:10 left in the game. With their star saddled to the bench with foul trouble, the Bulldogs turned to freshman Becky Mueller, who got white hot in the second half. She tied a career high 23 points while going 6-for-10 from beyond the arc. It just wasn’t enough.

The Red Raiders led by as many as 30 points in the second half by busting up the Bulldog zone with big games from Engebretson (26 points, eight rebounds) and Samantha Kleinsasser (23 points, nine rebounds, three blocks). Kleinsasser’s work inside helped the Red Raiders pile up 40 points in the paint compared to only 26 for Concordia.

While Morris struggled to stay on the court, junior Tracy Peitz, who has dealt with foul issues at times this season, committed only one foul. Peitz put up 17 points and nine rebounds.

Off the bench, freshman Devin Edwards contributed eight points and Rachel Royuk added six, including a four-point play in the final minute. A total of 13 Bulldogs saw action.

Concordia shot 37.7 percent for the game. Northwestern, the top rebounding team in the GPAC, grabbed 51 boards compared to 44 for the Bulldogs.

The national tournament bracket will be released by the NAIA on Wednesday. Check back for complete coverage of Concordia’s seeding and opponent.

1 March 2014

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Freshman Becky Mueller