GPAC win streak to be put to the test by CSM, Jamestown

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

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team will put its five-game GPAC win streak on the line this week against the likes of College of Saint Mary and Jamestown. The Bulldogs are coming off wins last week over Mount Marty, 85-62, and No. 21 Dakota Wesleyan, 59-58. Those results moved Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad to 9-6 overall (7-4 GPAC). Concordia will host CSM on Wednesday before hitting the road to play at Jamestown on Saturday.

This Week

Wednesday, Jan. 11 vs. College of Saint Mary (4-12, 1-9 GPAC), 7 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

Saturday, Jan. 14 at Jamestown (12-4, 7-3 GPAC), 2 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Newman Arena (Jamestown, N.D.)

By the numbers

·        The five-game GPAC win streak has featured triumphs over Mount Marty twice, 91-48 and 85-62, Hastings, 70-57, Doane, 72-55, and Dakota Wesleyan, 59-58. The victory over DWU marked the second time this season the Bulldogs have defeated a team ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game. They also won at then No. 25 Morningside on Nov. 30. As usual, Concordia has played a challenging schedule, one that ranks as the fourth toughest in the NAIA, according to Massey Ratings. The six teams that have beaten the Bulldogs are now a combined 80-13. Both foes Concordia lost to on its southern road trip – University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (14-1) and Texas Wesleyan University (14-1) – stand a good chance to be ranked in the new NAIA poll this week.

·        It was a bit of a ho-hum win at Mount Marty (5-12, 2-9 GPAC). The Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never felt seriously challenged. The pressure helped result in 28 Lancer turnovers and the home team went just 6-for-28 (.214) from 3-point range. Three Concordia players scored in double figures: Sadie Powell (18), Megan Belt (14) and Kendal Brigham (12). Eleven Bulldogs registered in the scoring column. That group included Taylor Farrell, who made her first appearance of the season. She nailed a trey in her first shot attempt while making her way back from offseason surgery. Concordia has won each of the past 14 meetings over Mount Marty.

·        Chalk up another down-to-the-wire hair-raiser of a finish in the series between the Bulldogs and Dakota Wesleyan. The Tigers came close to erasing a four-point deficit in the final minute of the game thanks to a trey from Jada Campbell. With 1.7 seconds left on the clock and Concordia leading 59-58, DWU in-bounded from halfcourt. A potential game-winning three from Morgan Edelman came after the buzzer and was waived off. The Bulldogs were able to get it done with defense and grit – they held the Tigers (10-5, 4-5 GPAC) to 34.4 percent shooting from the floor. The top performers for Concordia were Powell (16 points and eight rebounds), Taysha Rushton (15 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Abby Krieser (eight points and four steals). Olson also commended Abby Heemstra for her post defense on Campbell.

·        When the shots aren’t falling, Concordia can level the playing field with its full-court press. With the press being unleashed on full blast this season, the Bulldogs are forcing 21.1 turnovers per game (most in the GPAC), up from the 18.0 turnovers they forced per outing last season. Furthermore, Concordia has limited opponents to 64.5 points per game and to 41.0 percent shooting. Five Bulldogs average at least one steal per game: Mackenzie Toomey (2.1), Abby Krieser (2.0), Taysha Rushton (1.7), Sadie Powell (1.4) and Mackenzie Koepke (1.1). The national championship team of 2018-19 devasted opponents while forcing 29.4 turnovers per game and more than 1,000 for the season.

·        Consistent offensive production from Powell in recent action has been an important factor for the Bulldogs. Over the past five outings, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native has posted respective scoring totals of 12, 12, 17, 18 and 16 points. The 6-foot third-year player has grown into more of a starring role while improving her scoring averages from 3.2 in 2020-21 to 9.4 in 2021-22 and to 10.9 currently in 2022-23. This season, Powell is also averaging career highs for rebounds (5.1), assists (1.9) and steals (1.4) per game.

·        The victory last week at Mount Marty marked career GPAC league victory No. 250 for Olson (that number does not include GPAC tournament wins). Now in his 17th season as head coach, Olson owns a career GPAC record of 251-81 and is 432-127 overall (.773). Only one coach (in any sport) in Concordia Athletics history has more career wins. Grant Schmidt went 445-276 during his 23-year tenure leading the men’s basketball program. Olson guided the Bulldogs to a national championship in March of 2019 and his squads have reached the national semifinals five times.

The opponents

College of Saint Mary showed progress last season in finishing at 13-15 overall (7-15 GPAC), but it has started out just 1-9 in league play this season. The Flames are the lowest scoring team in the GPAC with an average of 54.5 points per game. Head Coach Kirk Walker’s top scorer has been Kenzi Hoit (9.1). CSM picked up its lone GPAC victory back on Nov. 22 when it won at Hastings, 61-58. The Flames will be attempting to end a 20-game series losing streak to Concordia. That stretch dates back to before the Flames joined the GPAC starting with the 2015-16 season.

Despite two losses last week, Jamestown just might be ranked by the time a new poll is released. The Jimmies started out 12-2 before falling at No. 15 Northwestern and at No. 5 Dordt this past weekend. Head Coach Thad Sankey (CUNE alum) leans upon two primary stars in forward Hannah DeMars and guard Kia Towers, both battle-tested seniors. Jamestown emerged from Friedrich Arena with a 66-49 win on Nov. 22 with the help of 19 points and 12 rebounds from DeMars. Concordia shot only 30.2 percent from the floor. Strong defensive play is a pillar of who the Jimmies are – they are limiting opponents to 57.8 points per game and to 37.5 percent shooting. DeMars averages 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds. Jamestown appears on a path to reaching the national tournament for the first time since 2018.

Probable starters

Concordia (9-6, 7-4 GPAC)
G – Abby Krieser (7.5)
G – Taysha Rushton (14.2)
G – Mackenzie Toomey (7.1)
F – Abby Heemstra (3.8)
F – Sadie Powell (10.9)

Head Coach: Drew Olson (432-127, 17th season at CUNE)

College of Saint Mary (4-12, 1-9 GPAC)
G – Kenzi Hoit (9.1)
G – Allisa Schubert (4.9)
G – Bailey White (8.6)
G/F – Madelyn Turner (8.3)
F – Clare Lewandowski (5.6)

Head Coach: Kirk Walker (5th season)

Jamestown (12-4, 7-3 GPAC)
G – Kate Busek (4.7)
G – Kia Tower (13.6)
F – Hanna DeMars (18.5)
F – Jailyn Martinson (3.8)
C – Audrey Rodakowski (9.3)

Head Coach: Thad Sankey (5th season)

Next week

The Bulldogs will host Morningside on Jan. 18 and then will play at No. 15 Northwestern on Jan. 21.