Bulldogs weather storm, extend CIT winning streak

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 26, 2024 in Women's Basketball

MEQUON, Wis. – Winner of eight-straight CIT championships, the Concordia Bulldog Women’s Basketball team absorbed Concordia University Ann Arbor’s best shot and shook off a 16-point second half deficit on Friday (Jan. 26) afternoon. There was a sense of relief on the side of eighth-ranked CUNE as the buzzer sounded a 73-64 victory in Mequon, Wis., site of the 71st Concordia Invitational Tournament. The Bulldogs tightened the screws on their perimeter defense and outscored the Cardinals, 46-27, over the final two quarters.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s program has won 17-straight CIT games, mostly without drama. No matter the slow start on Friday, CUNE found a way to bump its overall season record to 16-2.

“I’m just really proud of their effort, their toughness and their composure,” Olson said. “There’s so much to say about this team and what they’re able to accomplish when they really lock down. Ann Arbor’s a great team. They have two kids who are so good, and we told them ahead of time, these two are legit. They’re really good and they showed it today. I’m really proud of our team to fight back and show the team that we are in the second half.”

The battle-tested Bulldog veteran performers emerged just when their side needed it. A driving Kendal Brigham bucket to beat the third quarter horn gave CUNE its first lead of the second half, 53-52. CUAA then went toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs until about midway through the fourth quarter. CUNE responded to a 61-59 deficit with a 12-0 run that made it an anticlimactic final minute. A scoring draught of more than five-and-a-half minutes for the Cardinals allowed the Bulldogs to build a 71-61 lead.

As Olson detailed in his postgame comments, there wasn’t necessarily a magic formula for playing better perimeter defense. CUNE simply executed more effectively in its press and man-to-man defense. CUAA started out 9-for-15 from 3-point range before going 3-for-12 the rest of the way. Abby Long led the upset bid with 27 points as she drained 6-of-9 shots from long range. She and Taylor Leatherman (12 points and nine rebounds) were a handful. The Cardinals (13-6) put together a 13-0 first quarter run and led 43-27 after back-to-back long balls to open the third quarter.

Taysha Rushton then surfaced with a trey that helped calm the waters. Offensively, the Bulldogs roared back by attacking the basket (only took nine 3-point field goals). CUNE shot 56.3 percent in the third quarter and then 45.5 percent in the fourth. Rushton finished with 19 points and was joined by four teammates in double figures: Brigham (15), Abby Krieser (14), Mackenzie Toomey (13) and Sadie Powell (10). Toomey added six rebounds and three steals to her stat line. As a team, the Bulldogs went 19-for-21 from the foul line.

“I think we were not really worried,” Toomey said of facing a 16-point deficit. “Our shots weren’t falling. They were taking incredible shots and they were falling. But we are a second half team and we had composure about it, and we came out and we won.”

Added Olson, “Honestly, we didn’t make any adjustments. We just talked – we’ve got to be better and we’ve got to be sharper. I thought we did a little bit better job in our press. That helped a little bit, but I also think we did a better job focusing in. First half, we had about four or five breakdowns, allowing 11 and 5 to get wide open. Second half, we just didn’t have any of those breakdowns.”

The Bulldogs will take aim at their 32nd all-time CIT title on Saturday when the championship game gets underway at 5:30 p.m. CT in Mequon. In last year’s championship game in Seward, CUNE blew away Concordia University Chicago, 85-33. The Bulldog games will be carried live from Mequon by 104.9 Max Country radio.