SEWARD, Neb. – The 2016-17 Concordia University women’s basketball team has found a formula that works – and it doesn’t deviate. In front of a packed house inside Walz Arena, the second-ranked Bulldogs annoyed visiting Concordia University-Wisconsin to death in a 107-65 victory on Friday night. CUNE finds itself in familiar territory, ready to vie for yet another Concordia Invitational Tournament championship.
Eleventh-year head coach Drew Olson has guided seven of his first 10 squads to CIT titles. The Bulldogs have now won 22-straight games and stand at 22-1 overall this season.
“I thought Concordia-Wisconsin did a great job early on. They had a good game plan in their press break,” Olson said. “And they hit some tough shots. They had a really good field goal percentage going into the half. We just told our kids they needed to do a better job dictating and being more aggressive. We kind of wore on them with our depth and our energy.”
CUW wore out like almost every CUNE opponent has all season. The Bulldogs mowed down the Falcons with their patented press that helped force 34 more turnovers. CUW never had a chance to settle into any sort of offensive system. In one sequence in the fourth quarter, Quinn Wragge poked away a heavily pressured pass, leading to a trey in the corner for Mary Janovich. Devin Edwards came away with a theft on the next possession that resulted in two more easy points.
It was that kind of night for the Falcons (14-4), who actually shot 59.1 percent (13-for-22) in the first half. CUW, a member of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference of NCAA Division III, slumped to 30.3 percent over the final 20 minutes.
The second half turned into a one-sided track meet with Janovich dashing up the floor for easy scores in transition. The junior from Gretna, Neb., made 7-of-9 shots from the field, including all three attempts from 3-point range. The athleticism of Wragge was also too much for the Falcons to fend off. Wragge attacked for 14 points and six rebounds. She also had five assists and four steals.
Not only that, six Bulldog came off the bench to supply six or more points. Brenleigh Daum topped the reserves with 10 points and senior Devin Edwards chipped in nine points, three assists and two steals.
Edwards was also a role player for the 2014-15 national runner-up team. She believes this team to be similarly special.
Said Edwards, “Just like the past team (2014-15) that had such great chemistry and worked together, this team definitely has that.”
For Edwards and the other five seniors on the roster, CIT in the friendly surroundings of Walz Arena is a beautiful thing. The current class of seniors conquered the other Concordias in Mequon (2014), Ann Arbor (2015) and Chicago (2016). Now they want to do the same in front of the home fans.
“I definitely expected it to be crazy with the atmosphere and everything, but it was over the top,” Edwards said. “Looking out to the crowd and seeing all of our Concordia students there was incredible.”
The Bulldogs shot 52.6 percent (41-for-78) for the game. They dropped in 14 shots from beyond the arc. Freshman MacKenzie Helman canned both of her attempts from long range. She was one of eight Bulldogs to make a 3-point shot.
The Falcons ended up with a shooting percentage of 41.8 (23-for-55). They were topped by the 16 points from Samantha Blissett.
The Bulldogs will shoot for their fourth-straight CIT title and 27th in program history on Saturday evening (5 p.m. CT). Concordia University, Ann Arbor (16-7) will serve as the opponent. It will be a rematch of the 2014 championship game that CUNE won, 70-50. Olson will again match wits with his former graduate assistant coach, Thad Sankey, who is in his fourth season leading the Cardinal women’s basketball program.