SEWARD, Neb. – After surviving a scare on New Year’s Day, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team returns to a full week of conference action. The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs will go for a season sweep of Mount Marty on Wednesday before hosting Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday. Head Coach Drew Olson’ squad has moved to 9-6 overall (6-3 GPAC) while having won four conference games in a row. The latest was a 76-70 overtime squeaker over Doane.
By the numbers
· Concordia went 12 days without a game between the Hoop N Surf Classic (Dec. 18-19) in Hawaii and the New Year’s Day home clash with Doane. The Bulldogs had dominated recent matchups with the Tigers, but nothing came easy in this particular meeting. Without Taysha Rushton, Sadie Powell emerged in a big way and produced career highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Concordia managed to edge Doane while holding it to 31.3 percent shooting and forcing 21 turnovers. Other Bulldogs to crack double figures in scoring included Taylor Farrell (11), Bailey Conrad (10) and Rylee Pauli (10). In addition, Mackenzie Toomey (started in place of Rushton) posted nine points, nine rebounds and four steals and Kendal Brigham notched nine points.
· The four-game win streak within the league includes victories over Northwestern, 84-82 in OT, Mount Marty, 88-53, Hastings, 91-69, and Doane. Three of those four wins have come at home, pushing Concordia’s home record to 7-1 on the season. Entering the week, the Bulldogs are one of five teams in the GPAC with three or fewer conference defeats. The others are Morningside (7-1), Dakota Wesleyan (6-2), Northwestern (5-3) and Briar Cliff (5-3). The Mustangs are the reigning GPAC regular season and postseason champs.
· Rushton had started each of the first 45 games of her collegiate career and is expected back in the lineup soon. The native of Midland, Texas, leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game. After Rushton, Concordia finds ways to score with a whole lot of balance. Nine of her teammates average 5.0 or more points per game: Pauli (8.7), Powell (8.1), Lauren Baker (7.1), Abby Heemstra (7.0), Farrell (6.7), Kayla Luebbe (6.5), Conrad (5.9), Toomey (5.7) and Brigham (5.0). Seven different players have led the Bulldogs in scoring in at least one game this season.
· A theme that has held consistent from year-to-year has been Concordia’s affinity for shooting the three. Nationally, the Bulldogs currently rank 19th in 3-point attempts per game (26.5), 21st in made 3-point shots per game (8.6) and 54th in 3-point field goal percentage (.325). Seven players have knocked down at least 10 treys so far this season: Rushton (28/100), Baker (22/41), Farrell (20/54), Brigham (16/45), Conrad (13/51), Toomey (11/41) and Powell (10/25). Rushton figures to heat up from long range. She shot 34.3 percent (73-for-213) from beyond the arc during the 2020-21 season.
· Halfway through the regular season, Concordia has played one of the NAIA’s most challenging schedules. Based on the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll (released on Dec. 15), the Bulldogs have gone up against eight top 25 opponents: No. 1 Campbellsville (Ky.), No. 3 Thomas More (Ky.), No. 6 Wayland Baptist (Texas), No. 9 Sterling (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 17 Dakota State (S.D.) and No. 23 Briar Cliff. The Bulldogs have collected three wins against those opponents, including the road victory over Wayland Baptist, which was ranked No. 3 at the time.
· Among GPAC teams, Concordia ranks second in scoring offense (76.2), fifth in field goal percentage defense (.403), fifth in turnovers forced per game (17.7), sixth in field goal percentage offense (.411), seventh in rebound margin (+0.4) and 10th in scoring defense (71.6). On the individual conference leaderboard, Baker ranks first in 3-point field goal percentage (.537), Conrad ranks first in assists per game (4.8), Pauli ranks fourth in field goal percentage (.571) and eighth in rebounds per game (6.9) and Rushton ranks seventh in scoring (15.6).
Mount Marty has struggled to a 2-14 record and fell by a lopsided final score, 72-48, versus Dordt on New Year’s Day. The Lancers rank last in the GPAC in both scoring offense (50.9) and field goal percentage offense (.351). Head Coach Todd Schlimgen’s squad picked up its lone GPAC win back on Dec. 1, triumphing over Midland, 74-67. The team’s top scorer has been Eve Millar, who averages 9.9 points per game. With Concordia’s win over Mount Marty on Dec. 8, it extended its series win streak to 11.
If Dakota Wesleyan can protect its home court against No. 23 Briar Cliff on Wednesday, it will bring a 12-game win streak to Seward on Saturday. Head Coach Jason Christensen led the program to five-straight national tournament appearances (including a national title in 2018) from the 2015-16 through 2019-20 seasons. This year’s edition has plenty of balance in the scoring department with post players Matti Reiner (13.1) and Jada Campbell (12.9) leading the way. The Tiger frontcourt is a handful. DWU tops the GPAC in rebound margin at plus-10.2 per game. The Tigers haven’t dropped a regular season game since their 78-75 overtime defeat at Jamestown on Nov. 17. Concordia has managed to win 11 of the past 13 matchups with Dakota Wesleyan.
Conference play will continue as the Bulldogs are set to host College of Saint Mary on Jan. 12 and then play at Jamestown on Jan. 15.