Defensive pressure wilts Bobcats

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 16, 2020 in Women's Basketball

PERU, Neb. – While making the program’s first trip to Peru, Neb., since 2007, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team put to use its athleticism and pressure in the process of running away from Peru State College. The Bulldogs forced 24 turnovers and held the Bobcats to just 25.4 percent shooting in an 80-58 victory on Monday (Nov. 16) evening. The Heart of America Athletic Conference member went ice cold after a quick early start.

Fifteenth-year Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has earned a shot of confidence with back-to-back victories. Concordia (2-3, 1-1 GPAC) also defeated Northwestern two days earlier.

“I thought our team did a great job of handling adversity,” Olson said. “I felt like any time Peru made a run, we did a really good job of responding with composure and with focus and finding ways to get easy baskets. I was really happy with how we played.”

They may be young, but the Bulldogs can still give opponents fits with the relentlessness and tenacity of their full-court pressure. In one sequence in the second quarter, Concordia pilfered back-to-back steals in the backcourt, leading to back-to-back layups. A dominant second period (21-10 scoring advantage) and the 7-0 run to begin the third quarter put Peru State in a 19-point hole.

The hustle and active defensive play of the Bulldogs helped overshadow their own shooting struggles (5-for-30 from 3-point range). Concordia got sufficient scoring production thanks to four double-digit scorers: Taylor Cockerill (15), Mackenzie Koepke (14), Taylor Farrell (12) and Chloe Schumacher (11). Cockerill (13 rebounds) and Koepke (10 rebounds) both notched double-doubles and Schumacher (eight rebounds) was not far off. Taysha Rushton (nine points, five rebounds, three steals) and Rylee Pauli (seven points, seven rebounds) also contributed significantly.

Schumacher emerged with a timely three-point play to help stamp out Peru State’s hopes of an upset. Koepke (four treys) and Schumacher provided sparks off the bench and a mixture of zone defenses did the trick.

“That was probably our best defensive effort in terms of talking and making sure we don’t lose their best shooters,” Olson said. “We did a really good job rebounding (52-38 advantage) … it’s a little bit different (defensive alignment) than last year. We’re trying to cater to our personnel so we’re doing things a little different. It’s a work-in-progress and it’s going to be a little bit situational.”

The Bobcats (2-2) are an improved squad compared to the one that the Bulldogs saw at home in November 2018. The result in that meeting was a 100-55 Concordia win. After trailing by 19 early in the third quarter on Monday, Peru State managed to whittle its deficit down to 10. The Bulldogs then responded with a game-finishing punch. Bobcat leading scorer Alyssa Marsh-Contreras put up 23 points with most of her production coming from the foul line.

Concordia can be even more dangerous once it combines this type of defensive outing with more efficient shooting. However, the intensity on the defensive end earned Olson’s approval. Elsewhere on the stat sheet, the Bulldogs got the better of the Bobcats in bench points, 43-18, and points in the paint, 40-18.

The Bulldogs will resume GPAC play on Wednesday with a visit to Doane (3-1, 1-0 GPAC) for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff in Crete. Concordia has won eight-straight series matchups, including each of the last four by margins of 40 points or more.