Highly rated foes await at Hoop N Surf Classic

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 15, 2021 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team is looking forward to warmer weather, beaches, ocean views – and a little basketball too. The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs will be presented with two major challenges this weekend at the Hoop N Surf Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they will go up against No. 1 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.). This will mark the first time Head Coach Drew Olson has traveled his team to Hawaii since appearing there in December of 2016. Concordia owns an overall record of 8-4 (5-3 GPAC) after winning twice last week within conference play.

Malika Sports Tours Hoop N Surf Classic

Dec. 18 vs. No. 1 Campbellsville (11-0), 10:30 a.m. HST / 2:30 p.m. CST
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | Live Audio Broadcast (Campbellsville)
--Location: Chaminade University | Honolulu, Hawaii

Dec. 19 vs. No. 3 Thomas More (9-1), 12 p.m. HST / 4 p.m. CST
--Live Webcast | Live Stats
--Location: Hawaii Pacific University | Honolulu, Hawaii

By the numbers

·        Trips to Hawaii have come on a semi-regular basis over the past 15 years or so. The Bulldogs also played strong competition in Honolulu in 2016 when they earned wins over No. 17 Indiana Tech, 68-57, and over No. 8 College of the Ozarks (Mo.), 78-68. Previously, Concordia also played in Hawaii in 2012 and in 2005. The ’12-13 Bulldogs emerged from Hawaii with wins over No. 16 University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), 59-53, and over Doane, 66-53. Due to a reduction in travel and regular season games last season, Concordia did not voyage to a luxurious destination over Christmas break. One player on the current roster is a Hawaii native – Abby Aplaca of Waipahu. Unfortunately, Aplaca has been sidelined by injury.

·        Olson’s program has never been one to shy away from top notch competition. Based on the fresh NAIA coaches’ poll released on Wednesday (Dec. 15), the Bulldogs have played six games against the current top 25: No. 6 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 9 Sterling College (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 17 Dakota State University (S.D.) and No. 23 Briar Cliff. Concordia has defeated three of those foes: Wayland Baptist, Northwestern and Dakota State.

·        Improved play on the offensive end has been a major reason for Concordia’s strong results over the past five outings. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have gone 4-1 with two wins over top 25 opponents: then third-ranked Wayland Baptist and then 12th-ranked Northwestern (in overtime). Also over that same timeframe, Concordia has averaged 84.4 points while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 40.4 percent from beyond the arc. Three individuals have averaged in double figures over the last five games: Taysha Rushton (13.4), Lauren Baker (12.0) and Rylee Pauli (10.4).

·        Baker is hitting treys at a percentage that wouldn’t seem possible in a video game. A native of Fremont, Neb., and alum of Archbishop Bergan High School, Baker has knocked down 18-of-25 (.720) tries from long range over the past five outings. On the season, she is averaging 8.1 points while going 20-for-31 (.645) from beyond the arc. While in high school, Baker was a member of state championship teams in both basketball and volleyball.

·        Individual statistical leaders so far this season include Rushton in scoring average (16.9), Pauli in rebounding (7.1) and field goal percentage (.586), Bailey Conrad in assists (5.17) and free throw percentage (.783), Mackenzie Toomey in steals (23) and Baker in 3-point field goal percentage (.645). With the recent offensive surge, the Bulldogs have vaulted to 29th in the nation in scoring average (78.6). Concordia also sports NAIA national ranks of 15th in 3-point field goals per game (9.0) and 3-point field goal percentage (.340).

The opponents
Campbellsville entered last season’s national tournament ranked No. 3 in the NAIA coaches’ poll and wound up advancing to the national quarterfinals before being tripped up by Indiana Wesleyan University. Head Coach Ginger High Colvin (15th season) has been at the helm of a powerhouse program that has won six Mid-South Conference regular season titles during her tenure. The 2021-22 Tigers have raced out to an 11-0 record with two wins over opponents listed as receiving votes in the national poll. Campbellsville employs a high-powered offense that sports national ranks of first in field goal percentage (.525), third in scoring (85.9) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.383). The Tigers have remained one of the nation’s best teams despite graduating two 2020-21 First Team All-Americans (Savannah Gregory and Samantha Rogers). Like Concordia, Campbellsville features plenty of offensive balance. The top scorer is Ashlee McGeorge, who averages 12.6 points per game.

Thomas More was last season’s NAIA national runner up after falling in the national championship game, 72-61, to Westmont College (Calif.). The Saints return First Team All-American Zoie Barth and three players who were named to the 2021 all-national tournament team: Alexah Chrisman, Taylor Clos and Emily Simon. This marks only the third season that Thomas More has competed in the NAIA (formerly a member of NCAA Division III). Eleventh-year Head Coach Jeff Hans led the program to NCAA D-III national titles in 2016 and 2019. The leading scorer for the Saints is Simon (13.8 ppg). As a team, Thomas More scores 74.9 points allows 61.5 points per game. From a ratings perspective, the Saints’ most impressive win was their 83-62 triumph over then 15th-ranked St. Xavier University (Ill.) on Nov. 27.

Returning home
Once the Hoop N Surf Classic is in the books, Concordia will be finished playing for the calendar year 2021. Next up on the slate will be a home GPAC clash with Doane on New Year's Day.