SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The mismatch that appeared on paper played out in reality on Wednesday afternoon. The second-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team, one of four No. 1 seeds, breezed past Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament champion and eighth-seeded Bryan College (Tenn.), 101-66, in the first round of the NAIA Division II national tournament.
Eleventh-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad will be one of 16 teams left dancing by the time the first round concludes on Thursday evening. Wednesday’s winning formula included 12 3-point field goals and 32 turnovers forced.
“I thought we started off a little sluggish,” Olson said. “I don’t know if it was jitters or what. We just needed to calm down and just play hard.
“With our depth and athleticism, we want the game to be at a really good pace. We might give up some stuff like we did today. They did a nice job throwing it deep at times, but I think that feeds into what we’re trying to do.”
The only real frustration was a quick 5-0 lead for the Lions (18-15) right out of the gate. Olson promptly called timeout and his team responded. Juniors Dani Andersen and Brenleigh Daum both knocked down three treys apiece during an impressive first half shooting display. At one point during the first quarter, Daum threw in eight points in less than a 50-second stretch.
Concordia (32-2) was making its 16th all-time appearance, but it was the first career national tournament game for Andersen, a transfer from Midland. She looked perfectly comfortable on the big stage, making 7-of-16 shots (four treys) on her way to a team high 18 points.
“It was pretty fun,” Andersen said. “People were able to find me on the court and I was able to put those shots in.”
The Lions, led by the game high 21 points and 11 rebounds from Megan Billingsby, did their best to hang around. They went on a 6-0 first half run and got within five (27-22) early in the second quarter. But it was evident that Bryan was out of its league. The Bulldogs quickly built the lead back up to double digits and led, 53-35, at halftime while deploying its usual wave of substitutes.
The Lions shot 41.4 percent (24-for-58) from the field. They managed to get some easy buckets by tossing the ball over the top of the press, but it just wasn’t nearly enough. The 40 minutes of relentless pressure were too much.
“My teammates are awesome,” said senior point guard Shelby Quinn. “We just have tremendous pressure on defense. Today it worked in our favor.”
Senior guard Laurel Krohn got the start in place of Mary Janovich, who sat out as a precaution. Krohn made 3-of-5 shots from 3-point range and posted a career high 13 points. There was also plenty of productivity off the bench. Carissa Gutz added eight points and six rebounds. In eight minutes of action, Erin Vieselmeyer had nine points, five rebounds and one crowd pleasing blocked shot in which simply picked the ball right out of the shooting hand of a Lion player. Concordia outscored Bryan, 51-12, in bench points.
The Bulldogs shot 44.6 percent (37-for-83) from the floor and 34.3 percent (12-for-34) from beyond the arc. Five different players made at least one 3-point field goal, including Aubri Bro and MacKenzie Helman.
In the second round, the Bulldogs will take on fifth-seeded Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) (25-6) at 10:15 a.m. CT on Friday. The Wolves defeated fourth-seeded IU Northwest (Ind.), 71-57, in the opening round on Wednesday morning. Friday’s game can be seen live via NAIAnetwork.com (fee required). It can also be heard live via 104.9 Max Country radio.
Cardinal Stritch has been a common national tournament opponent for Concordia. The two programs have met three previous times on the national stage. The Bulldogs have won two of those three, although the most recent matchup resulted in a 66-60 first-round Wolves win in 2013.
“Cardinal Stritch is a great defensive team and really well-coached,” Olson said. “They’re really good in the half court. We have to make it more of a transition game. If we’re just playing in the half court, then it’s going to favor them, but hopefully we can keep the pace going how we want.”