Fourth quarter run lifts Briar Cliff in top 10 clash

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 9, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A slow start and a struggle to get stops in the closing minutes doomed the seventh-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team in a clash between top 10 teams in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday (Dec. 9). The Bulldogs went from down 17 points in the second quarter to leading by five in the final period. Ultimately, Konnor Sudmann and No. 9 Briar Cliff came through in the clutch and won, 74-66, inside the Newman Flanagan Center. Concordia was limited to 34.8 percent shooting for the afternoon.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad slipped to 7-2 overall (5-2 GPAC) in what amounted to the first road defeat of the 2023-24 season.

“We started off tentative and slow. It took us a while before we started to fight and compete,” Olson said. “Once we did, we saw the team that we are. In those 20-25 minutes in the middle of the game, we were competing and fighting and were able to crawl all the way back. In that fourth quarter, we had some really good chances. We just didn’t make enough plays to beat a good team on the road. We need to make the plays down the stretch.”

After an ugly first 12 minutes or so, the Bulldogs righted the ship and appeared poised to earn a significant road victory. The sharpshooting Taysha Rushton spearheaded the rally from a 27-10 deficit. By the 8:11 mark of the fourth quarter, Concordia enjoyed a 56-51 lead on the strength of a triple from Rushton. The host Chargers responded by finishing the game on a 23-10 run with 10 of their points coming from Kennedy Benne.

The experienced Briar Cliff squad leaned upon the dynamic trio of Sudmann (23 points, 15 rebounds), Benne (16 points) and Rachel Langel (16 points). Each starter played at least 32 minutes while showing there was plenty of gas left in the tank down the stretch. The Chargers (10-1, 6-1 GPAC) committed only 13 turnovers while faced with a mixture of defensive looks from the Bulldogs, who went with the full-court press at strategic moments.

Rushton equaled Sudmann for a game high 23 points. The Midland, Texas, native made 8-of-18 shots from the floor and added nine rebounds, three assists and two steals to her stat line. She was joined in double figures by teammates Abby Krieser (11) and Sadie Powell (10). Powell and Mackenzie Toomey (seven points) snared seven rebounds apiece as Concordia held a slight edge on the boards, 40-39. Off the bench, Bree Bunting and Sammy Leu both chipped in six points while seeing minutes in crunch time.

The showing was an improvement from the previous two outings for the Bulldogs, who put forth performances that fell below the standard in recent outings versus Jamestown and Mount Marty. Said Olson, “The way we competed was a good sign after the last two games. That was a good sign that we’re getting back to ourselves. We have a really good team. We’ll figure some things out. I like our team. I don’t like the way we lost, but I do think we did some good things.”

Briar Cliff (10-1, 6-1 GPAC) responded to its first loss of the season, which came versus No. 2 Dordt earlier in the week. It was an 8-1 run by the Chargers that turned a one-point game into a 72-64 lead for the home team. That spurt was initiated by a bucket from Sudmann, a fifth-year collegiate player.

The Bulldogs will have a break from game action as final exams become the focus of next week. Next on the docket will be a trip to The Grand Canyon State. In action on Dec. 18-19, Concordia will take on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., and Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Ariz. This will be the program’s first trip to Arizona since December 2018.