SEWARD, Neb. – A relentless second quarter barrage left sixth-ranked Dakota Wesleyan gasping for air in Saturday afternoon’s GPAC tilt between top-10 squads. The ninth-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team drilled 11 3-pointers, swiped 15 steals and withstood every Tiger push on its way to an 81-69 victory inside Walz Arena.
In the process, tenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s bunch continued its dominance at home, where it is 65-8 since the start of the 2011-12 season. The Bulldogs improved to 14-4 overall and 9-4 in conference action.
“I was really proud of our kids for being able to adapt to what we wanted to do defensively against them,” Olson said. “Our kids really bought in. It proved to be the difference that we could get out in transition and run after our steals and long rebounds.”
Concordia used its depth and attacking style to wear out the Tigers (15-4, 8-4 GPAC). Five Bulldogs reached double figures and six made at least one 3-point shot. Freshman Quinn Wragge (16 points, five rebounds) had her way inside and the Bulldogs pitched the ball out to the likes of Sydney Feller (4-for-7 from 3-point range), Mary Janovich and Becky Mueller, who combined for eight triples.
In sticking with its balanced identity, Concordia outgunned the bigger, taller Tigers by going on the run. Dakota Wesleyan struggled to keep the long strides of the 6-foot Wragge out of the paint.
The Bulldogs rolled with the punches in shaking off Tiger rallies. Dakota Wesleyan clawed back within seven (48-41) with an 8-0 third-quarter run. They equaled that spurt to begin the fourth quarter in chipping their deficit down to eight (63-55). But Concordia always had an answer and maintained a double-digit lead for the bulk of the game’s final 25 minutes.
“I think that just shows the maturity of our team and how well we’ve improved from the start of the year until now,” Olson said of the Bulldogs’ ability to snuff out the opposition’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt. “Our kids are really confident. They can really dig in deep and find ways to get stops when we really need it and have the courage to step up and hit some big shots.”
Feller and company built their lead with an 11-0 splurge that began late in the first quarter and spilled into the second stanza. During that stretch, Dakota Wesleyan went more than seven-and-a-half minutes without a field goal before Kristin Sabers poured in a jumper from just inside the free throw line. Mueller sparked the run with a trey and Wragge continued it with six points in a less-than-two-minute span.
Behind an annoying pressure D, nine different Bulldogs recorded a steal. Wragge and Brenleigh Daum had three apiece. Those turnovers helped fuel another outside shooting display (11-for-27) that has become a staple for Concordia, especially when playing at Walz.
“Last time we lost to them (73-66 at Dakota Wesleyan), but that was really the biggest motivation to come out and play awesome in this game,” said junior Erin Vieselmeyer. “We implemented a new defense and we just worked together. It worked out really well. Our offense just rolled awesome.”
Feller finished with 14 points and was followed closely by teammates in Janovich (13), Mueller (10) and Vieselmeyer (10). The Bulldogs shot 44.4 percent (28-for-63) from the field compared to a 36.5 percent (23-for-63) performance by Dakota Wesleyan, which has lost three-straight conference contests.
The Bulldogs get another shot at a ranked opponent on Wednesday when No. 14 Hastings (15-4, 9-3 GPAC) visits Walz Arena for a 6 p.m. tipoff. Concordia will attempt to avenge its 74-67 loss at Hastings on Nov. 18 in what was the GPAC opener for both teams. The Bulldogs are 4-2 versus ranked opponents.