Game preview: defending champs to play Wilberforce on Wednesday

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 9, 2020 in Women's Basketball

Bracket | National Tournament Press Guide

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University women’s basketball program finds itself in a familiar position as the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship gets underway this week at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The top-seeded and top-ranked Bulldogs will take on Wilberforce University (Ohio) in a matchup set to tip off at 10:15 a.m. CT on Wednesday. The same two programs also met in the first round a year ago when head coach Drew Olson’s squad began its run to a national title.

Wednesday, March 11 | 10:15 a.m.
NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship (First Round)
(1) Concordia (31-1) vs. Wilberforce (19-11)
Sioux City, Iowa | Tyson Events Center
Webcast: NAIA Network
Radio: 104.9 Max Country (Tyler Cavalli)
Live stats: Dakstats

This will mark the 19th all-time national tournament appearance for Concordia (12th in 14 years under Olson). The class of seniors has already accomplished incredible things having advanced to at least the national semifinals in each of the previous three years (including national title game appearances in 2018 and 2019). Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Bulldogs have gone 136-10 overall, 78-6 in GPAC regular-season games, 63-1 at home, 12-0 in GPAC tournament games and 12-2 in national tournament action. Olson has led the program to the final four five times (2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019). Concordia also reached that point in 2003 and 2005 under Coach Todd Voss.

This 2019-20 edition has been about as dominant as any team in school history. Among all NAIA Division II teams, the Bulldogs rank first in steals per game (20.6), first in turnover margin (+14.7), second in scoring margin (+29.2), third in points per game (89.0), sixth in 3-point field goals per game (10.1), 12th in field goal percentage (.449) and 13th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.13). Concordia owns 12 wins over the 2020 national qualifying field. It has beaten two fellow No. 1 seeds in third-ranked Southeastern (Fla.) and Hastings (twice). The Bulldogs will carry a 17-game win streak into the national tournament. Their only losses this season were on the road at Southeastern and at Hastings.

Concordia is loaded with national tournament experience. Lammers has played in each of the program’s last 14 national tournament games and has averaged 15.7 points per game with a high of 28 versus Northwestern in last year’s national semifinals. Lammers (2,019 career points) needs 36 more points to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. Meanwhile, point guard Grace Barry is the reigning national tournament MVP. Over the five 2019 national tournament games, Barry averaged 14.2 points, 4.8 assists, 3.4 steals and 2.6 rebounds while going 25-for-48 (.521) from the floor. Twelve of the 15 players on the postseason roster have played in the national tournament.

A third-place finish in the Association of Independent Institutions tournament netted Wilberforce an automatic berth and a second-straight trip to the national tournament. At the 2019 tournament, Concordia pummeled Wilberforce, 100-62. Head coach Derek Williams is hoping for a better showing this time around. Williams told the Xenia Dailey Gazette, “Last time was the first time for us going there, and a lot of these kids they were amazed by the experience. For a lot of them, their eyes were just wide open. It was the first time they’d ever played in a venue of that size.” The team’s top scorer is junior guard Nia McCormick (14.8).

The winner on Wednesday will advance to the play in the second round at 12 p.m. CT on Friday against either fourth-seeded Kansas Wesleyan or fifth-seeded Mayville State (N.D.).

Projected Lineups

Concordia (31-2)
G – Grace Barry, Sr., 5-7 (13.9)
G – Riley Sibbel, Sr., 5-9 (6.1)
G – Mackenzie Koepke, So., 6-1 (8.4)
F – Colby Duvel, Sr., 5-9 (8.3)
F – Philly Lammers, Sr., 5-11 (13.9)

Wilberforce (19-11)
G – JaVannah Jackson, Sr. 5-5 (8.9)
G – Nia McCormick, Jr., 5-5 (14.8)
G – Malika Wildon, So., 5-6 (8.9)
G – Alexandra Shealey, Sr., 5-8 (8.0)
F – LaTryah Beasley, Sr., 5-10 (11.5)