SEWARD, Neb. – It’s been a 10-game gauntlet to open the season for the 25th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team, which is coming off an 84-82 overtime win over No. 12 Northwestern. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will look to build upon that victory as it hosts Mount Marty on Wednesday and then travels to play Hastings on Saturday. The Bulldogs enter the week at 6-4 overall and at 3-3 in conference play. They are 5-1 at home.
By the numbers
· Few teams in the country have played a more challenging schedule to this point than Concordia, which has gone up against seven opponents currently ranked in the NAIA top 25: No. 6 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 8 Sterling College (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 12 Northwestern, No. 18 Dakota State University (S.D.), No. 20 Briar Cliff and No. 22 Dordt. The Bulldogs have captured wins over three of those opponents, including a road triumph over Wayland Baptist (ranked No. 3 at the time). Concordia has taken care of business against the three currently unranked foes it has played: Bellevue University, Midland and Jamestown.
· There has been some inconsistency offensively in the early going, but the last three outings have been encouraging from that standpoint. In matchups with Wayland Baptist, Morningside and Northwestern, the Bulldogs averaged 81.0 points while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor. Concordia is learning it has options besides leading scorer Taysha Rushton, who is averaging 16.9 points per game. Rushton and her fellow second-year teammates have further potential for growth. The sophomore group (from an academic standpoint) includes key figures in Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad, Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey.
· Powell picked an opportune time to emerge in the win at Northwestern. During the overtime session alone, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native totaled nine points and two steals. She hit two critical 3-point field goals – one that put her side up 77-74 at the 4:22 mark and another that made it 80-78 with 3:11 left. Rushton also heated up after halftime. Each of her 15 points came during the second half. Her trey in the final minute tied the game, 74-74, and forced overtime. Bailey Conrad also added 13 points and eight assists.
· In the post, Rylee Pauli has been a steadying force. In last week’s action, Pauli posted 16 points and nine rebounds at Morningside and then added 17 points, five rebounds and two steals versus Northwestern. The Millard South High School product is averaging career bests of 9.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. She has made 36-of-63 (.571) shots from the floor. Named an Honorable Mention All-GPAC choice last season, Pauli averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 2020-21 while helping Concordia reach the national quarterfinals.
· Rushton led the Bulldogs in scoring in six of the first seven games, but someone new has emerged over the past few contests. The leading scorers over the last three games have been Taylor Farrell (17 at Wayland Baptist), Lauren Baker (24 at Morningside) and Rylee Pauli (17 versus Northwestern). Baker enjoyed a breakout performance at Morningside, where she knocked down 6-of-9 attempts from 3-point range. She also made her only try from beyond the arc versus Northwestern and is 11-for-19 (.579) on 3-point attempts this season.
Mount Marty broke into the win column last week when it defeated Midland, 74-67, at home. Other than that outing, the Lancers have struggled this season. Each of their four conference losses have come by margins of 23 points or more. Mount Marty is coming off a 2020-21 season that saw it go 4-21 overall (2-20 GPAC). Head Coach Todd James Schlimgen is in his fourth season as head coach and 13th season overall inside the program. He previously served as the assistant coach for his father Tom Schlimgen. The Lancers have averaged only 52.2 points per game this season. Concordia has won 10 meetings in a row over Mount Marty.
Hastings will attempt to end a four-game slide when it plays at Midland on Wednesday. The Broncos will be playing a ranked opponent for the first time when they host the Bulldogs on Saturday. Now in her seventh season at Hastings, Jina Douglas guided the program to a 30-3 record in 2019-20. A number of players remain from that team, including seniors Taylor Beacom (11.2 ppg) and Ali Smith (12.6 ppg). Hastings is averaging 72.7 points and allowing 69.2. The Bulldogs own a four-game series win streak versus the Broncos.
Concordia will dip outside of league play for action in Honolulu, Hawaii, where it will take on top-ranked Campbellsville University (Ky.) on Dec. 18 and No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.) on Dec. 19.