It was a battle of top-10 teams in the championship of the 2012 Concordia Invitational Tournament. The matchup certainly lived up to expectations, and the 5th-ranked Bulldogs picked up a 72-68 win over the 6th-ranked Cardinals in a game that went right down to the wire. The victory secured the fourth CIT title in five years for the Bulldogs. Looking back even further, CU-Nebraska has now won 15 of the last 17 women’s championships in the tournament. The Bulldogs won their ninth straight game to move to 22-2 with the win. The Cardinals dropped to 20-4 with the loss.
CU-Ann Arbor built an early lead in the opening three minutes of the contest. The Bulldogs came back to tie the score at 8-8, but the Cardinals built a 13-8 lead. The Bulldogs quickly responded with a run to claim their first lead. A layup by Tracy Peitz (Hartington, Neb.) pulled the Bulldogs within one (13-12). A free throw and 3-pointer by Kristen Conahan (Omaha, Neb.) gave the Dogs their biggest lead of the half (16-13) with 10:45 remaining. CU-Ann Arbor controlled the rest of the half, however, and a 3-pointer by Catherine Herriman gave CU-Ann Arbor their biggest lead of the half at 28-20. The Cardinals took a 37-30 lead into halftime.
Foul trouble and offensive struggles plagued the Bulldogs in the opening half. Conahan (Omaha, Neb.) picked up her third foul with over seven minutes remaining in the half. Backup point guard Bailey Morris (Roseland, Neb.) and starting post Lori Laboda (Parker, Colo.) also had three fouls, and CU-Ann Arbor was in the bonus for the final 14 minutes of the first half. The Bulldogs were just 9-of-28 from the field (32.1 percent) and 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) from the foul line in the opening half. CU-Ann Arbor was 12-of-25 from the field (48 percent) and 12-of-15 at the foul line for 80 percent.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a big run fueled by defense. CU-Ann Arbor had four quick turnovers, and the Dogs took full advantage. The Dogs grabbed a 39-37 lead in the first two minutes of the half. The Bulldogs built the lead to five (51-46), but the Cardinals rallied over the next six minutes. A 17-4 run gave CU-Ann Arbor a 63-55 lead with 7:20 remaining.
Trailing by seven (64-57), Beth Kohmetscher (Deweese, Neb.) hit a big 3-pointer to pull the Dogs within four. Following multiple missed opportunities by both teams, the Bulldogs pulled within one with a 3-pointer by Amber Kistler (Minatare, Neb.). After another CU-Ann Arbor turnover, Kohmetscher gave the Dogs the lead (65-64) with a layup. The Bulldogs would lead the rest of the way, but the game was tightly contested right until the end.
Solid free throw shooting by Kistler kept the Bulldogs in front. Kistler knocked down a pair from the charity stripe to increase the lead to 67-64. The Cardinals responded with a layup by Hannah Sabol. Following a turnover and two missed shots by CU-Ann Arbor, Kistler connected on two more free throws to push the lead back to three (69-66). Made free throws by Kelly Cieslak again cut the lead to one, but Kistler again hit a pair from the line to give the Bulldogs a 71-68 lead with just four seconds remaining. The Bulldogs fouled to keep CU-Ann Arbor from a potential game-tying 3-pointer. The free throws were missed, and a free throw by Conahan secured the 72-68 win for the Bulldogs.
Defense and rebounding were keys to the Bulldog win. The Bulldogs forced 25 CU-Ann Arbor turnovers on the night. Nebraska held a slim 41-36 rebounding advantage, but the Dogs had 20 offensive rebounds in the win. The Dogs won despite a tough night shooting from the field. Nebraska was just 20-of-61 from the field overall for 32.8 percent and 7-of-23 from deep for 30.4 percent. The Bulldogs were 25-of-36 from the line overall, but a 15-of-19 performance from the line in the second half helped secure the victory.
Kistler had a huge night to lead the way. The senior guard scored a game-high 26 points. Kistler was just 6-of-17 from the field, but her 12-for-12 performance at the free throw line proved to be huge. Katie Rich (Tilden, Neb.) added 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Conahan and Tracy Peitz (Hartington, Neb.) added eight points apiece. Both Kistler and Rich were selected to the CIT All-Tournament Team. Kistler was named Tournament MVP.
CU-Ann Arbor was balanced offensively. The Cardinals also put together a solid shooting performance (11-of-22) in the second half, but it was not enough. Kortni Elsworth scored a team-high 16 points. Sabol added 12 points and nine rebounds, while Brittany Simmons delivered a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. Cieslak also reached double figures with 10 points.
The Bulldogs return to GPAC play at Nebraska Wesleyan (Feb. 1) and vs. 9th-ranked Northwestern (Feb. 4).