Impressive week capped with road upset of No. 15 Northwestern

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 21, 2023 in Women's Basketball

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Fundamental team basketball coupled with an increasingly effective press has the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team surging towards the stretch run of the conference schedule. The backcourt play of Abby Krieser and Taysha Rushton allowed the Bulldogs to dictate the terms of Saturday (Jan. 21)’s game in what amounted to a 65-55 upset at No. 15 Northwestern. The host Red Raiders were held to nearly 20 points below their season scoring average.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad put together an impressive week that also included a 74-60 home win over Morningside. Concordia has won eight of its last nine GPAC contests while moving to 10-5 in league play (12-7 overall).

“I thought defensively we were really good throughout the game,” Olson said. “It shows the toughness we've developed over the course of the season. We have players who are confident and stepping up and hitting big shots when we need them. That was a really good win.”

This might not be the type of Bulldog squad that will run up 80-90 points with consistency, but it’s found an identity that leans upon a pesky backcourt, budding young frontcourt players and offensive balance. The growth has been evident since Concordia fell at home, 72-56, to Northwestern on Dec. 3. This time around, the Bulldogs shot better than 56 percent in the first half and wound up forcing 21 Red Raider turnovers. Then when Northwestern made a push, cutting it to a four-point game (50-46) entering the fourth quarter, Concordia had its response.

Rushton and Krieser teamed up to score all seven points as part of a 7-0 blitz to begin the final period. The lead ballooned to as large as 14 (65-51) when freshmen Megan Belt and Kristin Vieselmeyer made a trey apiece. The Red Raiders never really knew where it was going to come from – eight Bulldogs notched at least five points. The double-figure scorers were Krieser (12), Abby Heemstra (10) and Rushton (10).

Said Olson, “It shows our players love each other and are willing to share the ball. The trust they have goes a long way. They've developed that over the past 15-20 games. They are really believing in each other.”

Rushton’s stat line included four assists and four rebounds and Krieser pilfered three steals. Sadie Powell chipped in with eight points and five rebounds, while Kendal Brigham and Vieselmeyer notched seven points apiece. Additional contributions were made by Belt (six points; 2-for-4 3-pt FGs) and Mackenzie Koepke (five points, two blocks and two steals). Concordia shot 50.0 percent (26-for-52) for the game while overcoming a 39-24 disadvantage on the boards.

Noticeably, good things are happening when Krieser goes into attack mode. Her offensive game is clearly expanding. Said Olson, “She had a couple baskets where our team needed the bucket and she was like, 'I can take my opponent, and I'm going for it.' The last three or four games, she's had that swagger. She knows now she's capable of doing that. It's awesome to see.”

Northwestern (14-5, 9-4 GPAC) had won four straight games in January before running into Briar Cliff and Concordia this week. Two Red Raiders reached double figures on Saturday: Maddie Jones (14) and Emilee Danner (13). Star post player Molly Schany (nine points and 11 rebounds) just missed a double-double. Northwestern made only 16 field goals for the game and shot 31.4 percent from the field.

A jampacked week at home is coming up as the Bulldogs will welcome Hastings (8-12, 4-10 GPAC) to Friedrich Arena for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff. Once that game is in the books, focus will shift to the 70th Concordia Invitational Tournament set for Jan. 27-28. As for the matchup with the Broncos, Concordia will shoot for a season sweep having defeated the GPAC rival on the road, 70-57, on Dec. 10.