SEWARD, Neb. – After winning ugly in the two outings prior to Christmas, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team ramped up its offensive production last week. The Bulldogs moved their win streak to four by defeating Mount Marty, 98-53, and Northwestern, 81-76. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad currently resides in second place in the GPAC standings (9-3 league mark) as it looks forward to playing at Dakota Wesleyan on Wednesday and then hosting Jamestown on Saturday.
Concordia (10-5, 9-3 GPAC) at Dakota Wesleyan (6-5, 4-5 GPAC)
Wednesday, Jan. 6 | 6 p.m.
Corn Palace | Mitchell, S.D.
Webcast/Live Stats: Dakota Wesleyan Stretch Portal
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Parker Cyza
Concordia (10-5, 9-3 GPAC) vs. Jamestown (8-4, 6-4 GPAC)
Saturday, Jan. 9 | 2 p.m.
Friedrich Arena | Seward, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentator: Parker Cyza
*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 172 of 235 NAIA women’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.
Scoring Offense: 78.2 (33rd)
Scoring Defense: 67.2 (82nd)
FG% Offense: .380 (110th)
FG% Defense: .383 (T-76th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .319 (58th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .311 (T-104th)
Rebound Margin: -0.27 (96th)
Turnover Margin: +7.00 (T-20th)
Scoring Offense: 67.8 (100th)
Scoring Defense: 62.8 (51st)
FG% Offense: .397 (T-78th)
FG% Defense: .369 (T-51st)
3-pt FG% Offense: .329 (T-43rd)
3-pt FG% Defense: .312 (T-107th)
Rebound Margin: +4.90 (48th)
Turnover Margin: +1.50 (T-73rd)
Scoring Offense: 70.6 (81st)
Scoring Defense: 62.1 (43rd)
FG% Offense: .420 (43rd)
FG% Defense: .356 (T-29th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .315 (T-63rd)
3-pt FG% Defense: .246 (20th)
Rebound Margin: +0.67 (T-84th)
Turnover Margin: +1.58 (71st)
Protocols for fans
At Dakota Wesleyan: Visiting fans must be on a “guest list” in order to be admitted into games at the Corn Palace. The guest list is intended for family use only.
Concordia home games: Consistent with state directed health measures, Concordia will allow up to 50 percent capacity for its home games. Fans are encouraged to purchase advance tickets online (https://www.cune.edu/athletics/tickets). Tickets will also be sold at the door, provided capacity limits have not been reached via online sales.
--NOTE: All GPAC events require fans to wear face coverings. To review specific COVID-19 protocols for the GPAC and its member institutions, visit: http://www.gpacsports.com/gpac-covid19-fan-protocols.
From an offensive perspective, it’s been an up-and-down first 15 games of the season. The Bulldogs turned it back on last week in their victories over Mount Marty and Northwestern. Concordia opened up the home game versus Mount Marty with a 21-0 lead while making seven-straight 3-point field goals. In that blowout win, four Bulldogs reached double figures in scoring: Taysha Rushton (23), Bailey Conrad (15), Kayla Luebbe (11) and Taylor Farrell (10). In the triumph at Northwestern, Rushton achieved a new career high with 28 points. Concordia turned a one-point deficit (73-72) in the final two minutes into a five-point lead after Mackenzie Koepke and Rushton nailed back-to-back treys. The Bulldogs had led the Red Raiders by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.
Longhorn State star
Lubbock, Texas, native Taysha Rushton is emerging as a star. In both of last week’s games, the 5-foot-4 freshman guard reached double figures in scoring in the opening quarter. She compiled a combined 51 points while shooting 11-for-19 from 3-point range. She’s already one of the GPAC’s most exciting offensive playmakers. Among GPAC players, Rushton ranks first in free throw percentage (.881), tied for fourth in scoring (15.0), fifth in assists/game (3.40), ninth in 3-point field goal percentage (.364) and 12th in steals/game (1.87). Rushton is the first player from Texas on the program’s roster in more than a decade.
3-point shooting stroke returns
It's difficult to begin a game any better than Concordia did versus Mount Marty. The Bulldogs drained their first seven 3-point field goal tries and opened up a 21-0 lead. Rushton and company finished 17-for-39 from beyond the arc for the game. Three days later, Concordia went 16-for-40 from 3-point range while defeating Northwestern. Over the two games, the Bulldogs combined to shoot 41.8 percent (33-for-79) from long range. Olson’s teams have always shot a high volume of 3-pointers. Concordia currently ranks No. 2 nationally for made 3-point field goals (153). It averages 10.2 per game.
Conrad fills starting role
With Averie Lambrecht sidelined last week, Olson inserted freshman Bailey Conrad into the starting lineup for both outings. Conrad delivered with a career high 15 points (3-for-4 from beyond the arc) in the win over Mount Marty. After employing virtually the same starting five the entire 2019-20 season, the Bulldogs have regularly tweaked the lineup as this team continues to grow. Nine different Bulldogs have started at least one game this season. Taylor Cockerill and Taysha Rushton are the lone two players to start each of the first 15 games.
More than a scorer
Now at 1,128 career points (22nd in program history), junior guard Taylor Cockerill does more than score points. At times she has deferred to her teammates when the situation has called for it. Cockerill leads the team in rebounding at 6.9 per game and is averaging 3.3 assists per contest. In the blowout of Mount Marty, Cockerill took only one shot and scored three points. She then ramped things up with 14 points at Northwestern. The Waverly High School product has picked her spots well when it comes to 3-point shooting. Over the past six games, Cockerill has gone a combined 12-for-27 (.444) from beyond the arc.
Most of the conference is either at or near the halfway point of the GPAC regular season schedule. To this point, Morningside (9-1 GPAC) has established itself as the frontrunner with just one league loss. There’s plenty of parity after the Mustangs with seven teams sporting between three and five GPAC defeats: Concordia (9-3), Briar Cliff (8-3), Dordt (7-4), Jamestown (6-4), Midland (6-5), Northwestern (5-5) and Dakota Wesleyan (4-5).
Scouting Dakota Wesleyan
The stars of the 2017-18 national championship team have all graduated. Dakota Wesleyan lost plenty of firepower from last season when it was led by seniors Kennedy Cheeseman, Sarah Carr and Makaela Karst. Head Coach Jason Christensen’s current edition leans upon solid defense and rebounding. Those strengths were on full display in the Tigers’ 61-38 win over Midland on Dec. 19. In that contest, DWU held the Warriors to 17.7 percent shooting and owned a 57-34 rebound advantage. The Tigers also rely on a freshman as their leading scorer – Haidyn Pitsch (13.8) of Prior Lake, Minn.
Jamestown has won four of its last five games with the only loss during that stretch being the 55-50 grinder versus Concordia on Dec. 18. Also during that spurt, the Jimmies have held each of their opponents to 62 points or less. Last week Jamestown claimed a 66-55 win over Hastings. Sophomore Hannah DeMars has been on a scoring tear and is the GPAC leader at 20.4 points per game. Head Coach Thad Sankey, a Concordia alum and former teammate of Drew Olson, appears to have his best team since arriving in North Dakota prior to the 2018-19 season.
Next week features another Wednesday road trip and Saturday home game. The Bulldogs will be at Mount Marty on Wednesday, Jan. 13 before hosting 14th-ranked Morningside on Saturday, Jan. 16. Once the Mount Marty game is in the books, Concordia will be at home for six of its final seven regular season games.
Concordia (10-5, 9-3)
G – Taylor Cockerill, Jr. (14.0)
G – Bailey Conrad, Fr. (3.3)
G – Taysha Rushton, Fr. (15.0)
F – Mackenzie Koepke, Jr. (7.4)
F – Rylee Pauli, Jr. (7.3)
Dakota Wesleyan (6-5, 4-5)
G – Kaylee Kirk, Jr. (5.2)
G – Rynn Osthus, So. (5.5)
G – Haidyn Pitsch, Fr. (13.8)
F – Matti Reiner, So. (11.8)
C – Jada Campbell, Jr. (9.4)
Jamestown (8-4, 6-4)
G – Emma Stoehr, Sr. (5.8)
G – Kia Tower, So. (13.3)
F – Hannah DeMars, So. (20.4)
F – Noelle Josephson, Jr. (10.5)
C – Audrey Rodakowski, Fr. (10.6)