Bulldogs reassert control of GPAC title race

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 3, 2018 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The perfect season may have fallen by the wayside in a stunner on Wednesday, but the top-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team has reasserted control of the GPAC regular-season title race. The Bulldogs rebounded on Saturday (Feb. 3) with an 80-67 win over No. 10 Northwestern in a battle between the top two teams in the conference standings. The sky is not falling.

The victory gave 12th-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad some breathing room atop the GPAC. At 25-1 overall and 15-1 in conference play, Concordia owns a two-game lead over two teams tied for second, the Red Raiders (18-6, 13-3 GPAC) and Dakota Wesleyan (22-4, 13-3 GPAC).

The Bulldogs did not let the loss at Midland beat them twice. Concordia got back to being the elite team it has proven to be.

“Just their mindset and their focus going into the game,” Olson said of what differed from three days ago. “They did a phenomenal job executing the game plan. Then they had confidence in that second half to step up and hit big shots.”

Still feeling under the weather, All-American Philly Lammers did not start. Her status gave reason for concern considering Northwestern’s talented frontcourt features 6-0 Haley Birks, 6-1 Darbi Gustafson and 6-1 Anna Kiel. They didn’t have an answer for Lammers in the second quarter when she tallied 10 of her 15 points and helped the Bulldogs build a double-digit lead. At a height disadvantage while standing 5-9, Concordia’s Colby Duvel played taller, checking in with 13 points and nine rebounds.

The game’s defining stretch came during the third quarter when a nine-point Concordia halftime lead morphed into a two-point deficit. Dani Hoppes got loose. Like a microwave oven, Hoppes seared to the sizzle of eight points in a one-minute span. Suddenly, the Bulldogs had regained an eight-point lead (59-51). Northwestern failed to hold another advantage the rest of the way.

Duvel and her teammates never panicked after Wednesday’s surprising result in Fremont. Said Duvel, “We have two big quotes this year. We win, we lose, we go home, we get ready for the next game. The next one is to get better every day. Come Thursday’s practice, this team really focused in and that’s what we needed to win this game.”

Olson’s fears of being outplayed in the paint were discredited by Duvel and company, who outrebounded the Red Raiders, 42-33. The bulk of Northwestern’s offensive output came from the duo of Renee Maneman (23 points, six assists) and Kassidy De Jong (16 points, four rebounds). Few buckets came easy for the Red Raiders (36.4 percent shooting), who faced zone heavy looks from Concordia.

Northwestern’s two most recent losses have both come at the hands of the Bulldogs, who also earned an 84-80 win in Orange City, Iowa, on Dec. 15. Between defeats, the Red Raiders went on a 10-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, Concordia bumped its home win streak to 31 and greatly improved its chances of claiming a GPAC regular-season title for the fourth time under Olson. On Saturday, Hoppes led the way with 17 points (5-of-9 from 3-point range). She was joined by Lammers, Duvel, Quinn Wragge (11) and Taylor Cockerill (10) in double figures in scoring. They collaborated on the team’s 11th win this season over opponents currently included in the national top 25 poll.

“That’s a big-time effort from Philly and Quinn,” Olson said. “They are not well and they stepped up to the challenge. We had a lot of kids step up. Dani hit the big shots. Colby was phenomenal throughout the whole game. Just really proud of our defensive effort.”

The Bulldogs begin a two-game swing in Sioux City, Iowa, on Wednesday (Feb. 7) with a contest at Briar Cliff (9-17, 6-10 GPAC). Tipoff from the Newman Flanagan Center is set for 6 p.m. CT. In this season’s first meeting that took place in Seward, Concordia routed the Chargers, 95-57, on Jan. 10.