SEWARD, Neb. – The press ratcheted up to doggone tenacious levels on Thursday (Dec. 15) as the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team turned up the heat on Doane. The increasingly nasty press resulted in 33 Tiger turnovers and a 72-55 Bulldog victory inside Friedrich Arena. Notably, Concordia owned a 35-11 advantage in points off turnovers and limited Doane star Mak Hatcliff to a grand total of one point in the second half.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s program pushed its series win streak to 13 versus the Tigers while moving the active win streak to three. The Bulldogs are now 7-4 overall (5-4 GPAC).
“I felt like we got a little grittier,” Olson said of the second half adjustments on Thursday. “We showed a lot more toughness. We didn’t give up as many rebounds and our press continued to be effective, but we were able to capitalize on it a little bit more. We started hitting some shots and just kind of broke it open.
“I feel like this group continues to figure out how to press better and better. Last year we didn’t do it a whole lot, so we’re getting more experience in it and more confidence in it.”
A rising Doane team led by Hatcliff managed to make a run at the end of the third quarter, but the final 10 minutes were utterly dominated by Concordia. On several possessions, it was a chore for the Tigers to simply get the ball beyond halfcourt. The Bulldogs feasted on eight Doane turnovers during a 24-4 run to open the fourth quarter. The always pesky Mackenzie Toomey did some of her best work during that splurge in putting up seven points, including a three-point play.
The work of the likes of Toomey, Kendal Brigham, Taysha Rushton and Abby Krieser in the backcourt had the opposition flustered and worn out. One sequence in the middle of the fourth quarter went: Sadie Powell steal – Rushton layup, Brigham steal – Toomey layup, Rushton steal – Toomey layup. To cap the exhilarating run, Rushton called game when she nailed a trey to make it 69-46 at the 4:22 mark of the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s really fun,” Rushton said of the relentless press. “All of us are good athletes, so we get after it and it causes a lot of turnovers for the other teams.”
Rushton led all scorers with 16 points while adding four assists and four rebounds. Three other Bulldogs reached double figures: Brigham (12), Powell (12) and Toomey (12). No one played harder than Toomey, who added eight rebounds, five steals and four assists to her stat line. In addition, Mackenzie Koepke put home nine points off the bench and Abby Heemstra contributed six points and five rebounds. Concordia shot a modest 39.1 percent (27-for-69) overall, but it took 22 more shots than Doane.
Doane (7-5, 3-5 GPAC) took a 34-30 lead to the half before eventually faltering. The 10 points for Hatcliff were the second lowest of the season for the Beatrice star. She also pulled down 10 rebounds. Not only did the Tigers turn the ball over at an excessive rate, they also went only 3-for-19 from 3-point range.
This was exactly the way Olson would have hoped for his team to enter a stretch of nearly two weeks before the next game. Said Olson, “The growth we’ve had since the Thanksgiving break has been awesome, and I just know we’re going to keep getting better. It’s a long break – I think it’s good for us – but hopefully we come back even more charged.”
The Bulldogs will wait until Dec. 28 for a return to action. On that date, Concordia will be in Fort Worth, Texas, to take on Texas Wesleyan University as part of a two-game swing down south. The Bulldogs will also play at No. 17 University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma on Dec. 30. Conference play will resume after New Year’s.