Cockerill scores 33 in down-to-the-wire loss at DWU

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 6, 2021 in Women's Basketball

MITCHELL, S.D. – After falling behind by 20 points in the first half, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team rallied to make Wednesday (Jan. 6)’s clash at the Corn Palace a barn-burner down the stretch. Ultimately, Haidyn Pitsch and host Dakota Wesleyan’s hot shooting was too much to overcome. The Tigers shot 52.5 percent from the floor and won, 85-80.

The defeat snapped a four-game win streak for Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad. Olson had led his program to wins in nine of the previous 10 meetings with the Tigers. The Bulldogs stand at 10-6 overall and at 9-4 in GPAC play.

“We got in too big of a hole,” Olson said. “It took us too long to settle in and fight. Once we did you saw that we could be right there. We crawled back into the game and got ourselves in a position to win. When you get down 20 you have to do all of the little things right. We have to do the little things to beat a good team on the road and we just didn’t do that today.”

Concordia star guard Taylor Cockerill enjoyed a monster night that saw her pour in 33 points (equaling a season high). Her offensive outburst nearly succeeded in leading Concordia all the way back from a 42-22 hole in the opening half. Cockerill and company got within two points on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but never could grab a lead.

Entering the final minute, the Bulldogs trailed just 78-75. In the closing stretch that followed, Dakota Wesleyan went 7-for-8 from the foul line to put the game away. In crunch time, the Tigers had an answer every time they were threatened. Cockerill kept faint hopes alive with a deep trey in the final seconds, prior to more free throws for DWU.

Pitsch went 4-for-7 from long range on her way to a team high 25 points. Known more for their work on the defensive end, the Tigers (7-5, 5-5 GPAC) put together their second highest single-game point total of the season. Additional double-figure scorers were Matti Reiner (17), Isabel Ihnen (14) and Kaylee Kirk (13). Reiner and Jada Campbell helped DWU own a 39-22 advantage in rebounding. Kirk and Reiner played 36 minutes apiece.

Cockerill made 12-of-19 shots from the floor on Wednesday. Mackenzie Koepke filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, four assists, four blocks and three steals as the team’s only other player to score 10 points or more. Bailey Conrad chipped in with nine points (all in the second half). Meanwhile, Rylee Pauli produced seven points and six rebounds and reigning GPAC Player of the Week Taysha Rushton was limited to six points on 2-for-12 shooting.

On the plus side, Concordia committed only nine turnovers (compared to 16 by the Tigers). In addition, transfer Chaise Pfanstiel made her Bulldog debut on Wednesday. The Millard West High School alum began her collegiate career at Northwest Missouri State University.

“TC had a great game,” Olson said. “Koepke kept us in it with plays on both ends. I thought Pauli played well and Bailey stepped up in the second half. Offensively we were fine. Our defense early on wasn’t there in that first quarter. Then you have the little things at the end of the game with us missing layups and free throws. We needed all of those points to come back.”

The Bulldogs will be at home for the first time in 2021 when Jamestown (9-4, 6-4 GPAC) visits Friedrich Arena for a 2 p.m. CT tipoff on Saturday. The two sides met in North Dakota on Dec. 18 with the result being a 55-50 Concordia victory in a defensive battle. The Bulldogs have beaten the Jimmies in all five meetings since Jamestown joined the GPAC.