Bulldogs fall in top-20 battle

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 5, 2015 in Women's Basketball

MITCHELL, S.D. – After putting on an offensive display in the third quarter, the well ran dry in the final stanza for the ninth-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team. Cold fourth-quarter shooting contributed to Saturday afternoon’s 73-66 loss at No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs had hoped to emerge from The Corn Palace with their third win of the season over a ranked opponent.

Instead, 10th-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad slipped to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in conference play. The loss snapped a four-game series win streak versus the Tigers.

“I thought we played really well,” Olson said. “To beat a great team you have to step up and make plays and hit shots. We go up eight going into the fourth quarter, I just didn’t think we had the attention to detail and the focus we needed to beat a great team at their place. We start the quarter and we had a little confusion with who was on the top of the zone and who was on the bottom.

“I thought our kids did a decent job of staying with it. You just have to do the little things to beat a great team.”

The Bulldogs executed beautifully out of the halftime locker room, putting itself in position for an impressive road win. Jade Gottier’s driving baseline layup at the third-quarter gun pushed Concordia’s lead to 56-48 heading into the final 10 minutes. But Dakota Wesleyan quickly cut its deficit to two with back-to-back treys from Kristin Sabers and Rylie Osthus.

After outscoring the Tigers 27-17 in the third quarter, Concordia saw its fortunes reversed. The Bulldogs went five-and-a-half minutes between field goals as they missed eight-consecutive shots during the fourth quarter. Finally the drought ended when Becky Mueller splashed in a three that cut a six-point deficit to three (66-63) with 1:05 left in the game.

Dakota Wesleyan (10-1, 4-1 GPAC) took the lead for good when Amber Bray drilled a 3-pointer with 4:23 left in the game. On their next possession, the Tigers got a back-breaking 3-pointer from Osthus to provide a 64-60 advantage. Dakota Wesleyan managed to keep a lead of three points or more the rest of the way while going 7-for-12 from the free throw line over a drawn-out final minute.

Concordia’s inability to finish inside plagued it throughout the affair. The Bulldogs shot a significantly higher percentage from 3-point range (.393) than from inside the arc (.293). Seven different players made at least one triple for Olson’s squad. Mueller connected on four 3-point field goals, all of which came during the second half.

Osthus tallied a game high 17 points for the Tigers, who own two victories over top-10 opponents. Dakota Wesleyan shot 26 fewer times (69-43) from the field than Concordia, but made up for it from the free throw line. The Tigers were 22-for-34 from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs were 9-for-11.

Junior guard Shelby Quinn was held scoreless by Dakota Wesleyan in the second half. Quinn, who went 4-for-5 from 3-point range in Wednesday’s win over Nebraska Wesleyan, made her first two 3-point attempts in the first quarter and finished with eight points. Mueller topped the Bulldogs with 12 points. Freshman Quinn Wragge added eight points and nine rebounds.

Defensively, the Bulldogs mixed in both man and zone defenses to try to slow down a Tiger team that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the GPAC in scoring. Dakota Wesleyan shot 48.8 percent from the field. Concordia’s three losses have come against teams currently ranked No. 1 (Morningside), No. 3 (Hastings) and No. 16.

“I know that we’re getting better. We’re making progress,” Olson said. “We’re building that toughness and eventually we’re going to break through.”

The Bulldogs will return to Walz Arena on Wednesday when Dordt (4-7, 1-4 GPAC) invades Seward for a 2 p.m. tipoff. The Defenders’ lone conference victory came over Northwestern on Nov. 18. Concordia has won six-straight meetings with Dordt.