Bulldogs storm through Arizona tour with balanced performance

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 19, 2023 in Women's Basketball

GLENDALE, Ariz. – A 9-9 tie midway through the first quarter gave way to a second-straight rout as part of the Arizona tour for Concordia University Women’s Basketball. The pace, tenacity and talent of the 11th-ranked Bulldogs took over in the process of running away from host Arizona Christian University, 86-61, in Glendale, Ariz., on Tuesday (Dec. 19). Concordia’s smothering defense limited the Firestorm to 36.4 percent shooting inside the intimate confines of the ACU Events Center.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has improved to 9-2 overall at the conclusion of a trip that included a 94-70 win over Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) on Monday.

“I think we’re figuring a few more things out and getting our rotation down better,” Olson said. “In both games here, we had great fight from the beginning and showed that competitiveness we want to play with. Today was a dominant four quarters. We were relentless and just played a lot harder. Great things happen when you do that. I felt like this was a really good win over a team that is deserving of being rated.”

It was an 11-2 run to begin the second quarter that allowed the Bulldogs to put this one on cruise control. Five Concordia players scored during the surge that was capped by one of Megan Belt’s four treys for the afternoon. At that point, the Bulldogs owned a 32-16 advantage. The lead eventually ballooned to as many as 31 points (86-55) in the fourth quarter. Concordia won big on the strength of a plus-11 turnover margin (22-11) and 11 3-point field goals. The visitors shot 41.8 percent (33-for-79) from the floor.

A comfy 42-23 halftime lead allowed the Bulldogs to balance out playing time once again. In her 19 minutes of action, Taysha Rushton tallied 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Belt (12 points) was the only other Bulldog to reach double figures. Teammates with at least seven points were Kendal Brigham (nine), Juliana Jones (eight), Abby Krieser (eight), Abby Heemstra (seven) and Sadie Powell (seven). Though she notched only two points, Mackenzie Toomey stuffed the stat sheet with 11 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Krieser also added four steals and freshman Raelyn Kelty grabbed seven rebounds.

The margin of victory for Concordia was especially impressive considering Arizona Christian entered the contest at 9-2 with a victory over No. 5 Carroll College (Mont.) to its credit. The Firestorm have Concordia connections with Head Coach Rusty Rogers having previously served that same role at Concordia Chicago and assistant coach Taylor Jacobsen having been a graduate assistant on Olson’s staff. ACU got a team high 12 points from Halle Payne on Tuesday. Emily Till recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The journey to the Phoenix area allowed Olson and his program to reconnect with alums such as former All-American Philly Lammers, as well as Rebecca Higgins and Sara Sauceda. Pregame devotions the past two days were delivered to the team by Sauceda and a former Concordia teammate of Olson’s, Mark Duitsman.

Said Olson, “It was fun. Sauce had a great pregame devotion today and Ryan Bredow helped us get into Grand Canyon’s gym for a shootaround yesterday. It’s been a really good time to see them and connect with them and also to have our team see that pride for Bulldog Nation.”

The Bulldogs plan to go on a hike on Wednesday morning before later getting on a plane and making a return to Nebraska. They can take a breather knowing that’s it for the 2023 calendar year. Concordia will resume GPAC play on Jan. 3, 2024, with a trip to Jamestown (6-6, 3-4 GPAC) for a 6 p.m. CT clash. The Bulldogs will attempt to avenge the 71-61 home loss to the Jimmies on Dec. 2. Jamestown showed well for the GPAC in its visit to Hawaii in upsetting No. 16 University of Providence (Mont.).