SEWARD, Neb. – A chance to place as high as second in the final GPAC regular season standings is at stake during the closing week of the 2022-23 regular season. Fresh off two road wins this past week, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team is looking ahead to Wednesday’s home clash with No. 23 Briar Cliff and Saturday’s road trip to Dakota Wesleyan. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad enters the week at 18-8 overall (14-6 GPAC). The Bulldogs are currently situated in fourth place in the conference behind Dordt (19-1), Briar Cliff (15-5) and Jamestown (15-5). Dordt has clinched the regular season title.
By the numbers
· In the process of defeating Doane, 92-80, and College of Saint Mary, 99-76, last week, the Bulldogs went a perfect 9-0 against in-state opponents this regular season. That mark includes regular season sweeps of College of Saint Mary, Doane, Hastings and Midland and a nonconference victory over Bellevue. Dating back to last season, Concordia has won 12 contests in a row against Nebraska foes. The average margin of victory in 2022-23 versus in-state foes has been 20.1 points. Also last week, the Bulldogs extended series win streaks to 22 over College of Saint Mary and to 14 over Doane.
· Taysha Rushton and Abby Krieser were the ringleaders in the win at Doane (13-13, 7-13 GPAC). Concordia found itself trailing at halftime, 46-36, before getting white hot during a third quarter that saw it outscore the Tigers, 33-17. Rushton finished with a game high 27 points on the strength of 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. In addition, Krieser came through with a new career high of 23 points and went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. As a team, the Bulldogs drained 15-of-32 (.469) shots from 3-point range and went a healthy 15-for-18 (.833) from the foul line. Two other Concordia players reached double figures: Kendal Brigham (12) and Sadie Powell (10). Another player who has grown considerably, Brigham dished out eight assists and had only one turnover in 30 minutes of action. Off the bench, Mackenzie Koepke contributed six points and eight rebounds.
· Lincoln Southeast High School alum Mackenzie Toomey enjoyed one of her better games this season while totaling 16 points, four assists and three steals in the comfortable win at College of Saint Mary (5-21, 2-18 GPAC). Toomey made all six of her shot attempts from the floor (two from 3-point range) and both of her free throw tries. The Bulldogs again shot the ball well, going 15-for-28 (.536) from beyond the arc and shooting 54.5 percent (36-for-66) overall. A competitive first quarter (25-22 Concordia lead) gave way to a blowout as the visitors pushed the lead to as many as 30 points. Toomey was joined in double figures by Powell (14), Rushton (14) and Brigham (10). Eleven Bulldogs posted at least five points and eight players made at least one 3-point field goal.
· The last four games have been especially impressive for Rushton, who leads the team with an average of 14.7 points per game. Over the last two weeks, the Midland, Texas, native has averaged 21.0 points per game while making 27-of-42 (.643) shots from the floor, 17-of-25 (.680) attempts from 3-point range and 13-of-14 (.929) tries from the foul line. Nationally, Rushton ranks 17th in both made 3-point field goals (65) and 3-point field goal percentage (.439) on the season. An NAIA Honorable Mention All-American last season, Rushton has produced collegiate career totals of 1,342 points, 242 rebounds, 237 assists and 141 steals in 86 games.
· The offensive efficiency numbers are also on the rise from a team perspective. Concordia went a sizzling 30-for-60 (.500) from 3-point range last week, raising the team’s 3-point percentage to 35.0 for the season. Nationally, the Bulldogs rank fourth in 3-point field goals made per game (10.3), fourth in 3-point field goal attempts per game (29.5) and 15th in 3-point percentage. In addition, Concordia has shot 78.2 percent from the foul line, which ranks No. 3 in the NAIA. The Bulldogs’ top 3-point shooters from a percentage standpoint are Rushton (.439), Brigham (.417), Megan Belt (.352), Powell (.346) and Krieser (.342).
· The program will honor its lone senior, Taylor Farrell, on Wednesday night. Farrell is the only fourth-year player on the roster. Now in her fifth season in the program, Koepke took part in senior day festivities a year ago. As for Farrell, she’s played in 88 career games and has totaled 579 points while making 118-of-305 (.387) 3-point attempts as a Bulldog. Unfortunately, Farrell was slowed to begin this season due to an injury she suffered late in the 2021-22 campaign. One of Farrell’s finest moments on the court came at the 2021 national tournament when she tallied 14 points (3-for-4 from 3-point range) in a 71-54 come-from-behind win over Loyola University New Orleans. That victory sent Concordia to the national tournament final site in Sioux City, Iowa.
Briar Cliff trots out a starting five about as talented as any in the GPAC. The Chargers will be vying for the GPAC’s No. 2 seed this week as they finish the regular season with trips to Concordia and Doane. Head Coach Brian Ortmeier’s squad won twice this this past weekend, defending the home court against Hastings and No. 19 Jamestown. Briar Cliff boasts two stars in particular in wing Konnor Sudmann and center Madelyn Deitchler. Ranked 23rd in the most recent coaches’ poll, the Chargers landed at No. 31 in the official RPI released in late January. Briar Cliff averages 75.4 points per game and shoots 44.5 percent from the floor while holding opponents to 62.2 points per game and 40.8 percent shooting. The Chargers defeated Concordia in Sioux City, 87-76, on Nov. 12.
Dakota Wesleyan has won five of its last six GPAC outings entering this week. Before hosting the Bulldogs on Saturday, DWU will welcome Morningside to Mitchell, S.D., on Wednesday. The Tigers could still climb into the top four of the league standings and host in the GPAC quarterfinals if things break right for them this week. Led by frontcourt standouts Jada Campbell and Matti Reiner, DWU owns an average rebound margin of plus-8.3, good for 21st in the NAIA. Head Coach Jason Christensen’s squad plays strong defense, as evidenced by its GPAC rankings of first in scoring defense (57.6) and second in field goal percentage defense (.384). Offensively, the Tigers average 73.0 points and shoot 44.5 percent from the floor. DWU will be aiming to even up the season series after it dropped a nailbiter, 59-58, in Seward on Jan. 7.
Concordia (18-8, 14-6 GPAC)
G – Abby Krieser (9.6)
G – Taysha Rushton (14.7)
G – Mackenzie Toomey (6.5)
F – Abby Heemstra (4.9)
F – Sadie Powell (10.2)
Head Coach: Drew Olson (441-129, 17th season at CUNE)
Briar Cliff (19-7, 15-5 GPAC)
G – Kennedy Benne (11.0)
G – Payton Slaughter (9.2)
G – Konnor Sudmann (17.7)
F – Peyton Wingert (7.8)
C – Madelyn Deitchler (14.0)
Head Coach: Brian Ortmeier (1st season)
Dakota Wesleyan (19-7, 13-7 GPAC)
G – Morgan Edelman (7.6)
G – Isabel Ihnen (9.7)
G – Rylee Rosenquist (7.4)
F – Jada Campbell (14.8)
F – Matti Reiner (13.4)
Head Coach: Jason Christensen (13th season)
The GPAC tournament will get started with the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The semifinals will be held on Feb. 25 with the championship game to follow on Feb. 28. Conference tourney pairings will be announced on Saturday after all league games are completed.