SEWARD, Neb. – The first full week of conference action will showcase the ninth-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team at home versus Midland and on the road against Dordt. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad hopes to rebound from a 74-68 loss at Briar Cliff this past weekend. Concordia is 2-2 thus far with victories over Bellevue University and No. 13 Dakota State University (S.D.). The Bulldogs moved back to No. 4 in the official GPAC ratings released on Monday.
By the numbers
· Concordia has yet to fire on all cylinders, but that was also the case early last season when it started out 0-3 before regrouping and eventually reaching the NAIA national quarterfinals. Through the first four games of this season, the Bulldogs are averaging 74.0 points per game while shooting 37.9 percent from the floor, 27.1 percent from 3-point range and 65.6 percent from the foul line. In contrast, opponents have averaged 76.5 points and have shot 47.7 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from beyond the arc and 72.7 percent from the free throw line. Concordia possesses a plus-7.0 average turnover margin.
· Through four games, Rushton ranks 23rd nationally in scoring average at 21.0 points per game. Her shooting percentages figure to rise from where they currently stand – 32.4 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. Rushton’s 32 points in the season opener versus Bellevue represented a career high. Rushton could challenge for the highest single season scoring average during Olson’s tenure (which began with the 2006-07 season). Bailey Morris’ average of 19.3 points in 2013-14 is the current high during Olson’s time leading Concordia.
· A key offensively is to continue to develop scoring options beyond Rushton. So far, there’s been plenty of balance. Five Bulldogs other than Rushton are averaging 6.5 points or more, including Abby Heemstra (10.5), Rylee Pauli (9.0), Kayla Luebbe (7.8), Sadie Powell (6.8) and Taylor Farrell (6.5). Perimeter shooting has always been a component of the program’s success. Last season’s team ranked eighth nationally with an average of 10.1 treys per game. Concordia has missed out on having another dependable option with Mackenzie Koepke sidelined.
· Four GPAC conference games took place over the weekend. Winning teams included Briar Cliff, College of Saint Mary, Doane and No. 6 Morningside. The reigning GPAC champion Mustangs have suffered two defeats already, but they began league play with a 73-63 win over Dakota Wesleyan. Under Olson’s direction, the Bulldogs have won a combined 12 GPAC titles over the past 10 seasons. Most impressively, Concordia swept GPAC regular season and postseason titles from 2016-17 through 2019-20. No other program in conference history has achieved a four-year GPAC sweep such as that one.
Midland sits at 3-1 and is coming off a 73-65 win over Dickinson State University (N.D.). The Warriors also played an exhibition at the University of Nebraska. Head Coach Shawn Gilbert is in his ninth season at the helm of the program. The team’s top scorer so far this season has been Erin Prusa (12.3 ppg). Midland is averaging 73.3 points and allowing 58.8 points per game.
Dordt has been on a nice run that features wins over No. 13 Dakota State University (S.D.) and No. 4 Marian University (Ind.). Former Nebraska Cornhusker Ashtyn Veerbeek is a GPAC Player of the Year candidate and is averaging 19.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. Head Coach Bill Harmsen led the program to its first-ever national tournament appearance in 2018-19. The Defenders also qualified for nationals in 2019-20 before missing out last season. Currently ranked second in the GPAC, Dordt could crack the NAIA top 25 on Wednesday.
As part of Thanksgiving week, the Bulldogs will host Jamestown on Nov. 23 before venturing to Plainview, Texas, to play No. 8 Wayland Baptist University on Nov. 27.