Comeback bid falls just short in Fort Worth

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 28, 2022 in Women's Basketball

FORT WORTH, Texas – In the first of two major road tests against Sooner Athletic Conference opponents this week, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball program started slow and then kept hot on the heels of host Texas Wesleyan University all evening. In the end, the Rams’ size and rebound advantages were just enough to hold off the Bulldogs’ relentless press. Texas Wesleyan eked it out, 73-71, with the help of a 39-23 rebound margin in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday (Dec. 28).

The loss snapped a three-game win streak for Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad, which now stands at 7-5 overall. The outing marked the first action for Concordia since its 72-55 home win over Doane on Dec. 15.

“I was really proud of our team for continuing to compete, giving us a chance to be in the game,” Olson said. “We did have a slow start. Credit to Texas Wesleyan and how they play. Coming off break, I don’t think we were as sharp as we needed to be. It was a great basketball game. In the second half when we went to zone – that was a good adjustment. Maybe we should have done that a little bit earlier just to force them to shoot more from the perimeter.”

There were multiple times when observers may have left the Bulldogs for dead on Wednesday. The visitors trailed 12-2 out of the gate and faced deficits as large as 14 points in the third quarter and 13 points in the fourth quarter. A furious 12-0 fourth quarter Concordia blitz made it a nail-biter in the closing minutes. A baseball-style in-bounds pass from Mackenzie Koepke led to two points for Kendal Brigham, getting the Bulldogs within two (73-71) with 10.5 seconds left. After the Rams then missed two free throws, Taysha Rushton was fouled near the basket. Rushton left the first free throw short and Concordia was unable to tip in the ensuing intentional miss.

Brigham served as a major catalyst in keeping the Bulldogs close despite 23 points and three steals from opposing standout Zarria Carter. Concordia attempted to combat its size disadvantage with its full-court pressure and perimeter shooting. Megan Belt initiated the aforementioned 12-0 run with a trey and Brigham dropped in five points (three on a triple) during the spurt. The Bulldogs went 9-for-26 from long range while the Rams were just 3-of-12 from that territory.

Brigham paced Concordia with 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the floor and 5-for-7 foul shooting. Sadie Powell (12) and Rushton (10) also reached double figures. As for Keopke, it may have been her best outing of the season. She notched eight points, four steals and a blocked shot in 21 minutes. Meanwhile, Abby Krieser produced eight points and four rebounds and Belt sank nine points off the bench.

Said Olson, “I look at this game and I look at going 10-of-18 from the free throw line and our 19 turnovers. We had some lapses here and there that allowed them wide-open baskets. When you’re playing a two-point game, all those little things add up … We competed hard and continue to believe.”

Texas Wesleyan (9-1) will likely push for a top 25 ranking when the next NAIA poll comes out. The rebound contrast was no shock considering the Rams entered the week leading the nation in rebound margin. Carter was joined in double figures by teammates Kertisa Amos (16), Makayla Coy (11) and Taryn Willis (11). Texas Wesleyan effectively overcame its 21 turnovers. Also noteworthy, Concordia got a boost from having a large group of fans present at the Sid Richardson Center.

As part of the road trip, the Bulldogs will head to Chickasha, Okla., for a matchup with No. 17 Science & Arts (11-1) on Friday. Tipoff from the Drover Fieldhouse is set for 5 p.m. CT. USAO has not played since its 80-56 home loss to league rival Texas Wesleyan on Dec. 14. The Drovers finished last season at 23-10 overall. In addition, Olson mentioned that the team will visit Magnolia Market and attend a Dallas Mavericks game on Thursday.