Clutch free throw shooting helps Bulldogs prevail

By Hunter Corneliusen on Dec. 18, 2020 in Women's Basketball

Jamestown, N.D. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team’s clutch free-throw shooting played a major factor down the stretch in Friday’s 55-50 victory over Jamestown. The Bulldogs went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 30 seconds of play to fend off any comeback chances Jamestown had in store.

“That was a huge win for us. It was such a long road trip,” Head Coach Drew Olson said. “Jamestown is a really tough team. For us to find a way to win on the road like this was awesome. Obviously, the defense won the game for us because it was rough offensively. Our defense was great. We really focused in on what we wanted to do. We executed it and caused Jamestown some problems.”

Coach Olson’s squad has now won back-to-back games after suffering back-to-back losses last week. Concordia (8-5, 7-3 GPAC) will look to build on this momentum coming out of Christmas break. 

Freshman Taysha Rushton looked like a seasoned veteran when she stepped up to the free-throw line in the contest's final minutes. The Lubbock, Texas, native sank all eight of her free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, including six in the final thirty seconds to ice the game. Overall, the Bulldogs shot an impressive 92.3 percent (12-for-13) from the charity stripe. 

“Taysha (Rushton) is such a gamer,” Olson stated. “Even when she’s not at her best she always comes up with big plays down the stretch. She’s got so much confidence and has great composure. That was big time for us.”

The Bulldogs led for all but 36 seconds in the matchup however the game was tight throughout most of its duration. Concordia led 13-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Bulldogs increased their lead in the second quarter as Bailey Conrad capped the first half with a huge three-pointer right before the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 31-21 lead going into the break. The third quarter was uneventful, to say the least, as both teams scored four points apiece. Jamestown reeled off a ten-point run in the fourth quarter to draw even at 37 with 5:57 remaining. The Jimmies then pulled ahead 43-42 with 3:10 left in the ballgame. However, Concordia answered when Rushton found Rylee Pauli in the paint for a lay-up to put Concordia ahead 44-43. The Bulldogs did not squander the lead as they held off the Jimmies by knocking down seven of their final eight free throws to notch the victory.

Points were at a premium in this matchup as Concordia shot just 28.8 percent (19-for-66) from the floor while Jamestown shot 29.3 percent (17-for-58). Concordia and Jamestown’s field goal percentages were a testament to the gritty defense shown by both squads. The defensive display was most evident in the third quarter when both teams struggled mightily to put points on the board.

Concordia forced 19 Jamestown turnovers and locked down the Jimmies on the perimeter as Jamestown shot a subpar 4.5 percent (1-for-22) from behind the arch. The shooting mark was the lowest Jamestown has put up this season. The Jimmies came into the contest ranked 46th nationally in three-point percentage as they were converting on 33.3 percent of their attempts from downtown.

Rushton led a balanced Concordia scoring attack with 12 points. Mackenzie Koepke just missed out on double figures as she finished with nine points. Pauli (seven points and 11 rebounds) and Taylor Cockerill (seven points, ten rebounds and six assists) also were significant contributors in the win.

The Bulldog bench was the difference-maker, outscoring the Jimmies 20-0. Taylor Farrell led the reserves with six points, while Conrad (five points) and Sadie Powell (six points) also provide a chunk of the scoring off the bench.

Concordia will break for the holidays before returning on Dec.30 as they host Mount Marty (3-6, 1-5 GPAC) for a 7 p.m. CT tipoff from Friedrich Arena. The game was initially scheduled for Dec. 9 but was rescheduled to its current date due to COVID-19 complications.