Luebbe-powered rally falls short in OT battle with No. 8 Morningside

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 19, 2022 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – On an evening when neither team was at its best on the offensive end, the 19th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team let an opportunity slip through its fingers. The Bulldogs rallied from a deficit as large as 15 points to eventually force overtime while up against No. 8 Morningside. In the end, Sierra Mitchell and the Mustangs left Friedrich Arena with a 68-62 victory on Wednesday (Jan. 19).

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had already won two overtime home games this season. The defeat on Wednesday dropped Concordia to 12-8 overall and to 9-5 in league play.

“I thought we fought really hard,” Olson said. “We didn’t just let down when we got down big early in the game. We continued to fight, but I think we know we have to perform better. That was the difference. They stepped up and hit some big shots in overtime – and we’ve got to be able to do the same throughout the game.”

Considering all that went wrong with an early rash of turnovers and inept outside shooting (1-for-17 from 3-point range at one point), the Bulldogs felt fortunate to force the extra session. In the closing seconds of regulation, Kayla Luebbe tied the game with a put-back bucket and Concordia got a stop on the other end. The Seward High School product Luebbe made her first career start and responded by equaling a career high with 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the floor. She added seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.

The overtime did not start well as Mitchell and Sophia Peppers went back-to-back with corner treys and a 10-0 run gave Morningside a 64-54 lead. Mitchell started slow but eventually caught fire and led her side with 16 points. In addition, McKenna Sims burned Concordia with four 3-point field goals. On their end of things, the Mustangs (16-3, 12-1 GPAC) likely felt like they didn’t slam the door when they had their chances in the second half. Head Coach Jamie Sale’s squad shot only 33.3 percent for the game.

About a month and a half earlier, the two sides played a much different game that resulted in an 89-83 victory for Morningside. Said Olson, “Both teams are really good shooting teams. Tonight both of us really didn’t have it. We had our moments – Morningside hit a couple threes to start overtime and we make a couple at the end of overtime. Some days you shoot it well and some days you don’t.”

The Mustangs seemingly had control of this clash of perennial GPAC titans when they went on a 16-0 surge that supplied a 15-point lead. The Bulldogs still trailed by nine (43-34) to begin the fourth quarter. In helping lead the comeback effort, Taysha Rushton got going late and finished with 13 points and three steals. After missing back-to-back games, Bailey Conrad returned to the lineup and posted six points, six rebounds and five assists. Off the bench, Mackenzie Toomey recorded eight points and Sadie Powell contributed six points, five rebounds and four steals.

Luebbe’s 20 points tied the career high that she also notched last season against Morningside. Luebbe has become a tremendous low post scorer. Said Olson, “She’s a great player and I think she’s starting to figure that out.”

The Bulldogs will be on the road on Saturday for a trip to No. 14 Northwestern (18-3, 10-3 GPAC). The contest will tip off at 2 p.m. CT from Orange City, Iowa. Concordia will attempt to earn a season sweep of the Red Raiders after having edged them in overtime, 84-82, on Dec. 4. The Bulldogs have won each of the past seven series meetings.