Bulldogs trump yet another ranked opponent

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – If the fifth-ranked Concordia women’s basketball team has proven anything in the early part of the 2013-14 season, it’s that double-digit deficits on the road are no big deal. The Bulldogs stormed back from of an 11-point deficit to claim its fourth win over a ranked opponent, getting an 80-72 win at No. 12 Briar Cliff on Saturday afternoon. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play.

Junior guard Bailey Morris packed her typical bundle of energy on the road and at one point went on a 7-0 run by herself. She scored in a variety ways in getting a steal and a layup, a deep 3-pointer and then a nifty baseline jumper as part of the Bulldogs’ 27-5 run to close the first half. Concordia led 37-26 at the break.

“The first half was great,” eighth-year head coach Drew Olson said. “When we calmed down and figured out how to play defense without fouling, we were able to do some great things and push the tempo. Bailey was a human highlight film. She really took over. It was fun to watch.”

Morris and company were aggressive on the offensive attack, getting to the line 43 times and converting on 33 free throws for 76.7 percent. Both teams were whistled for plenty of fouls in a closely-called game. Concordia played much of the second half with junior Kelsey Hizer and Tracy Peitz tagged with four fouls.

The Chargers made a run to start the second half and stayed close throughout. When things got tight, Concordia’s stars came through once again. Kristen Conahan drilled a big triple and Morris banked home a long two in back-to-back possessions late. The Bulldogs led 72-67 with 4:17 left.

Morris, who tied for a game high 18 points, also came up with a key steal in the final minutes with Briar Cliff running in transition. She was backed by fellow junior Jerrica Pearson. The Gibbon, Neb., native piled up 18 points and 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season. She made 12 of 14 free throw tries.

Concordia, which also came back to win after trailing by 15 at No. 17 Grand View, raised its record to 4-1 against top 25 teams. In addition, the Bulldogs hold wins over No. 3 Morningside, and No. 23 College of Saint Mary.

Still, Olson feels his team has room for growth.

“It was a good road win. Any win on the road in the GPAC is good,” Olson said. “But we have to learn how to adjust as calls are made. We have to keep our focus for a whole 40 minutes. We lost it for a while today. It was mostly mental fatigue.”

In addition to the 18 points from both Morris and Pearson, Conahan tallied 17 and Peitz recorded 14 before fouling out late in the game. Morris fell just short of a double-double as she added nine rebounds to go along with four assists and three steals.

Briar Cliff (6-2, 2-2 GPAC) got 17 points and five rebounds from Morgan Hansen. Charger standout Slone Masters was held to 11 points while making only 3 of 13 from the free throw line. As a team, Briar Cliff connected on just 13 of 32 attempts (40.6 percent) from the foul line.

Olson entered the day unsure if he would coach the team with his wife M'Leigh readying to give birth to a baby boy. Olson drove to Sioux City separate from the team. He was able to stay for the entirety of Saturday’s game.

The Bulldogs will return home on Tuesday to host Hastings (6-2, 1-2 GPAC) at 6 p.m. before breaking for the Thanksgiving holiday. Concordia will enter play with a seven-game winning streak against the Broncos, who are coming off a 76-49 loss on Saturday at No. 3 Morningside.