DES MOINES, Iowa – There are few situations that will faze seasoned veterans like Concordia star guards Bailey Morris and Kristen Conahan. Facing a 15-point hole on the road against a nationally-ranked opponent, the Bulldogs stormed back for an 87-82 victory over No. 17 Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday evening. That give the Bulldogs a perfect 2-0 season-opening weekend at the Grand View Classic.
“I called timeout when we were down 15 and got after them pretty good,” head coach Drew Olson said. “I said we needed to cut it to eight by halftime and we did that. Then we came out of the gates and exploded.
“Grand View is a really good basketball team. Our kids are tough. They’ve been in situations like that before. They showed a lot of character again tonight.”
Morris, named the Grand View Classic MVP, got four of her game high 23 points in a 22-second stretch in the final three minutes to tie the game at 76. With the 5-foot-4 native of Roseland, Neb., leading the charge and directing the offense, the Bulldogs were not going to be denied on this night.
“In the first two games she’s been the definition of a bulldog,” Olson said. “She’s relentless. She’s fearless. She really led our team.”
Concordia did not take the lead for good until freshman Becky Mueller stepped up and drilled a 3-pointer to break the 76-all tie. Appropriately, Morris assisted on the Mueller trey that highlighted the Bulldogs’ 15-6 run to close the game.
Morris also got a hand from her running mate, Conahan, who returned to the lineup after sitting out Friday’s win over Mount Mercy due to injury. Despite being somewhat limited in her movements, the Omaha native poured in 21 points and made 5 of 11 attempts from downtown while playing a team high 33 minutes.
Conahan was also part of a defensive effort that fueled the comeback. The Bulldogs got on a roll when they tightened the screws on their halfcourt defense and took advantage of the Vikings’ 26 turnovers.
“Our defense always dictates what we do,” Olson said. “We kind of figured out what we needed to do in the halfcourt to take away what they do well. We played much smarter in the second half.”
Grand View (1-1) led by 15 at the 5:51 mark of the first half when Pee Wee Porter’s layup made it 34-19. Concordia chipped away at the deficit and tied the game at 49 on a Mueller layup with 16:33 left in the game. The Vikings would go on one more run before the Bulldogs made their game-winning push.
Junior Jericca Pearson joined Morris on the Grand View Classic all-tournament team. Pearson backed up her 15-point, 13-rebound effort on Friday night with 14 points and four boards on Saturday. Mueller and Tracy Peitz also reached double figures in scoring with 14 and 11 points, respectively. In addition, Peitz contributed seven steals, five rebounds and four assists.
Morris finished with totals of 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists on the weekend.
The Bulldogs face another big early season test on Tuesday when they take their act on the road against No. 23 College of Saint Mary. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. from Omaha, Neb. Last season Concordia defeated the then No. 23 Flames 81-51 inside Walz Arena.