CRETE, Neb. – The offense looked stagnant and the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team struggled to contain prolific scorer Mak Hatcliff – for three quarters anyway. Time to unleash the press. The Bulldogs went full-blown gnats at a picnic while turning a 13-point second half deficit into a 74-63 road win over Doane on Wednesday (Feb. 9). Concordia forced 28 turnovers on the night and enjoyed a 28-10 scoring advantage in the final period.
In terms of national tournament prospects, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad needed this one. The Bulldogs moved to 14-11 overall (11-8 GPAC) and have swept a tight season series with the Tigers.
“Doane’s a really tough team,” Olson said. “They’re a weird matchup because they have five guards out there. They spread you out and Mak Hatcliff is so good, but I was really impressed with our team’s ability to fight. We kept our composure – and the press paid off. We haven’t been able to press like that a whole lot this year. I think we’re starting to get better at it and it showed tonight. It was a huge part of our comeback.”
Taysha Rushton’s scoring in the first half kept Concordia afloat, but it was Kendal Brigham who tore Doane’s heart out in the second half. Brigham nailed a trey that tied the game, 59-59, with 6:29 left before she then drove for a layup that put the Bulldogs up for good. In the final three minutes, Brigham dropped in another triple that added the exclamation mark. The Wahoo, Neb., native totaled 17 of her team high 19 points after halftime.
Concordia’s full-court pressure turned the tide. The frustrations from Doane showed in the form of a rash of Bulldog steals in the backcourt, a five-second violation on an inbounds and a 10-second timeline violation. In the process of outscoring the Tigers 33-13 in points off turnovers, Concordia swiped 15 steals, including four by Sadie Powell. Brigham and Abby Krieser notched three thefts apiece.
In a span of roughly 15 minutes of game time, the Bulldogs had turned a 13-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Brigham sparked her side in the clutch. Said Olson, “I thought in the first half we got a lot of really good looks. We just couldn't make a shot. We had to keep spreading them out and eventually we were going to hit some threes. The pressure was able to get us some turnovers and some layups, which grew our confidence. Kendal was awesome.”
Rushton backed Brigham with 18 points and three assists while Powell posted 14 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Before fouling out late, Rylee Pauli collected five points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Concordia managed to pull this one out despite a decided disadvantage on the boards, 45-29. It made 11-of-21 (.524) shots from the field in the fourth quarter.
Like the rest of the GPAC, the Bulldogs have bore witness to the star power of the freshman Hatcliff (who saw a wave of different Concordia players try their hand at guarding her). She piled up 31 points and 10 rebounds while going 12-for-15 from the floor. She didn’t quite get enough help offensively as Maddie Davis (10) was the only other Tiger to reach double figures. Doane (10-17, 4-15 GPAC) shot 45.7 percent (21-for-46) from the floor in its bid to knock off the Bulldogs for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
The Bulldogs will stay in state for another short road trip as they look ahead to Saturday’s 2 p.m. CT tipoff at College of Saint Mary (12-13, 6-13 GPAC). The two sides met inside Friedrich Arena on Jan. 12 with the result being an 87-58 Concordia win (19th-straight series victory). On Wednesday, the Flames earned an 82-72 road win over Midland.