SIOUX CITY, Iowa – As the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team found out on Saturday (Dec. 12), Morningside may possess as much talent as any squad in the GPAC. The 24th-ranked Mustangs made 14 of their first 17 shots from the floor while striding to an 86-67 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday (Dec. 12) afternoon. Concordia was also plagued by its 22 turnovers.
Fifteenth-year Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has dropped back-to-back Saturday trips to Sioux City, Iowa, following a six-game win streak. The Bulldogs slipped to 6-5 overall and to 5-3 within the GPAC.
“We changed some things up (after a rough start) and I thought Kayla Luebbe provided a nice spark with her interior scoring,” Olson said. “I felt like that start put us in too big of a hole. We fought – we battled and got within 11 or 12 going into the fourth. I felt like we fought and we played hard, but we weren’t good enough defensively and in that fourth quarter we had way too many turnovers. You just can’t do that stuff against a good team.”
After trailing by as many as 20 points, Concordia crept back within 11 in the second half with the help of a surprise performance from sophomore and Seward High School product Kayla Luebbe. She entered the contest with eight career points, but totaled 20 points on Saturday on perfect 10-for-10 shooting from the floor. The Bulldogs appeared to gain momentum heading into the fourth quarter before Morningside regained full control with an 8-0 run (led 67-47) to open the final period.
The star power of Sophia Peppers (24 points and nine rebounds) and Sierra Mitchell (21 points) paved the way for a big early advantage for the Mustangs (7-2, 5-1 GPAC). Head Coach Jamie Sale’s side opened up a 29-16 lead at the close of the first quarter. Morningside eventually cooled off (50.8 percent shooting for the game), but had Concordia playing catch up all afternoon. The home team maintained a double-digit lead for the final 32-plus minutes of the contest.
Only one other Bulldog joined Luebbe in double figures. Freshman Taysha Rushton poured in 11 points while knocking down 3-of-6 shots from 3-point range. Taylor Cockerill (team high eight assists) was limited to seven points on 3-for-13 shooting. Concordia shot respectable percentages of 47.4 (27-for-57) from the floor and 32.1 (9-for-28) from beyond the arc. It just wasn’t enough to make up for margins of minus-seven in turnovers and minus-nine in rebounding.
Both teams regularly employ zone defensive looks. The Bulldogs switched things up after being burned early on, especially by Mitchell from the perimeter. Chloe Lofstrom chipped in with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field. The Mustangs had been beaten by Concordia in eight of the previous nine series meetings. The result snapped the Bulldogs’ four-game win streak inside the Rosen-Verdoorn Sports Center.
On a positive note, Luebbe put together a performance to build upon. Said Olson, “She’s been playing well and continuing to work really hard. You can see her game developing a little bit more. She took advantage of the size she had over Morningside’s post players. We needed more of that from others and needed more defensively. Hopefully she can keep giving us an inside presence.”
A couple of road matchups are coming up next week, beginning with Tuesday’s short trek to Midland (9-2, 6-2 GPAC) for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff in Fremont, Neb. The Bulldogs will attempt to avenge the 91-79 home loss they suffered at the hands of the Warriors on Nov. 10. Midland earned a quality victory over Briar Cliff on Saturday.