Extended break to end with holiday trip south

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 26, 2022 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team will escape the cold of the Midwest this week while heading south for a pair of games over the holiday break. Idle since defeating Doane, 72-55, on Dec. 15, the Bulldogs are getting set to take on Texas Wesleyan University on Wednesday and then 17th-ranked University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma on Friday. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad stands at 7-4 overall (5-4 GPAC) on the strength of a three-game win streak.

This Week

Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Texas Wesleyan (8-1), 6 p.m.
--Live Webcast | | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Sid Richardson Center (Fort Worth, Texas)

Friday, Dec. 30 at No. 17 Science & Arts (11-1), 5 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Drover Fieldhouse (Chickasha, Okla.)

By the numbers

·        Concordia’s growth and persistence through a challenging slate to begin nonconference play is showing in the results. The Bulldogs enter the holiday trip with a three-game win streak that includes victories over Mount Marty, 91-48, Hastings, 70-57, and Doane, 72-55. During that stretch, Concordia is averaging 77.7 points per game while allowing 53.3. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have enjoyed major advantages in turnover margin (78-51), 3-point field goals (40-8) and in field goal percentage (.407 to .327). Star guard Taysha Rushton has been incredibly efficient during the streak in averaging 15.3 points per game on 16-for-29 (.552) shooting from the floor, 9-for-18 (.500) shooting from 3-point range and 5-for-6 (.833) shooting from the foul line.

·        The Concordia full-court press just might be rounding into form. It devasted Doane to the tune of 33 turnovers. The press played a significant role in turning a competitive game into a runaway for the Bulldogs, who opened the fourth quarter on a 24-4 run. The Tigers (7-5, 3-5 GPAC) shot just 3-for-19 (.158) from 3-point range and GPAC leading scorer Mak Hatcliff was limited to 10 points (roughly 13 below her season average). Mackenzie Toomey was again a catalyst in the press and filled the stat sheet with 12 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Rushton led all scorers with 16 points. Two other Bulldogs reached double figures: Kendal Brigham (12) and Sadie Powell (12). Concordia has won each of the last 13 meetings with Doane.

·        Still in just her third collegiate season, Rushton is going to continue to rise up the program’s all-time charts. Her 1,126 career points have pushed her to No. 23 in program history. She’s also eighth on the program’s list for most career 3-point field goals (168). Just above her at No. 6 is Mackenzie Koepke (189). Rushton is on a trajectory that could have her challenging for 2,000 points before her college career ends. Only two players in school history have ever reached 2,000 points: Bailey Morris (2,054) and Philly Lammers (2,033).

·        A native of Midland, Texas, Rushton will have the opportunity to play in her home state for the second season in a row. Rushton and company picked up a significant nonconference win last season when they upset No. 3 Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, on Nov. 27, 2021. Rushton notched 15 points and five assists in that victory while Taylor Farell led the way with 17 points on 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Challenging road trips are nothing new for Drew Olson’s program, which has always had the willingness to play anyone anywhere. The 2021-22 slate was rated as the best in the country and saw the Bulldogs play teams ranked Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, at the Surf N Hoops Classic in Hawaii.

·        Forcing turnovers and shooting a high volume of 3-point field goals has been a trademark of many of Olson’s most successful teams. Concordia is gaining steam in those areas. Nationally, the Bulldogs rank fifth for both 3-point field goals made per game (9.7) and for 3-point field goals attempted per game (29.5). Through 11 games, the Bulldogs have forced 229 turnovers while committing 148, making for an average margin of plus-7.4 per game. The team’s best 3-point shooters in terms of percentage have been: Brigham (.425; 17-for-40), Rushton (.383; 23-for-60), Koepke (.333; 8-for-24) and Megan Belt (.328; 22-for-67).

·        Concordia notched its first win this season over a top 25 opponent when it won at then 25th-ranked Morningside, 71-64, on Nov. 30. According to the current top 25, the Bulldogs have played other ranked or receiving votes teams in No. 5 Dordt, No. 15 Northwestern, No. 22 Briar Cliff and RV Dakota State University (S.D.). Concordia will take its shot at No. 17 Science & Arts on Friday.

The opponents

Texas Wesleyan reached the national tournament last season and went 25-7 overall under Head Coach Brenita Jackson. The Rams are looking like another national tournament qualifier in 2022-23 having just come off an 80-56 win at Science & Arts, handing the Drovers their first defeat of the campaign. Texas Wesleyan brought back Honorable Mention All-American guard Kertisa Amos and features a star post player in 6-foot-1 Zarria Carter, who averages 17.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Rebounding is a major strength for the Rams, who lead the nation in rebound margin (plus-16.2). Up-tempo Texas Wesleyan ranks ninth nationally in scoring average (81.7).

Science & Arts is the alma mater of former Concordia graduate assistant coach Kaitlyn Hodgins. The Drovers went 23-10 overall last season and advanced to the NAIA national round of 32. Head Coach Darrick Matthews’ squad is led by returning Honorable Mention All-American forward Zaria Dorsey, who is averaging 12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Science & Arts raced out to an 11-0 start this season before running into Texas Wesleyan on Dec. 14. The Drovers average 73.0 points per game and allow 59.1. Sophomore forward Lainey Morrow paces the team with an average of 14.0 points per game.

Probable starters

Concordia (7-4, 5-4)
G – Abby Krieser (7.6)
G – Taysha Rushton (15.2)
G – Mackenzie Toomey (7.9)
F – Abby Heemstra (4.0)
F – Sadie Powell (9.1)

Head Coach: Drew Olson (430-125, 17th season at CUNE)

Texas Wesleyan (8-1)
G – Na’Teiona Cole (3.3)
G – Taryn Willis (11.9)
F – Kertisa Amos (14.3)
F – Zarria Carter (17.1)
F – Makayla Coy (12.6)

Head Coach: Brenita Jackson (2nd season at Texas Wesleyan)

Science & Arts (11-1)
G – Diaka Berete (11.3)
G – Jessica Palmer (6.7)
G – Brayanna Polk (7.8)
F – Zaria Dorsey (12.9)
F – Lainey Morrow (14.0)

Head Coach: Darrick Matthews (8th season)

Next week

It will be back to conference play as the calendar flips to 2023. Concordia will travel to play at Mount Marty on Jan. 4 and will then host Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 7.