MEQUON, Wis. – While channeling the electricity of CIT, underdog Concordia University, Chicago hung tough through the opening quarter before talent and depth won out. The potent trio of Dani Hoppes, Philly Lammers and Quinn Wragge overwhelmed the Cougars in an anticlimactic CIT championship game. The top-ranked Bulldogs claimed the program’s 28th CIT title all-time by winning on Saturday evening (Jan. 27), 102-56.
Head coach Drew Olson has steered CUNE to CIT championships in nine of his 12 seasons at the helm of the program. The Bulldogs will carry a 24-0 overall record into the stretch run of conference regular-season play.
“It’s always fun to win CIT, even though we came in expecting to do what we did,” Olson said. “It doesn’t get old and it’s something we don’t take for granted. It’s one of our goals every season. It’s a good thing that we accomplished.”
Hoppes (tournament MVP) picked up where she left on Friday, when she nailed six 3-point shots, and Lammers and Wragge seemed capable of scoring in the lane just about any time they felt like it. They inflicted significant destruction upon a CUC program enjoying one of its best seasons in many years. A day earlier, the Cougars (16-4) halted a CIT drought by toppling conference rival Concordia University, Wisconsin, 71-61.
No team has the horses to keep up with CUNE so far this 2017-18 season. As long as the Bulldogs did not look past their CIT opponents, a perfect weekend was close to a given. The way Hoppes and company performed at R. John Buuck Field House, it was no contest. In Saturday’s championship, Hoppes (14), Lammers (16) and Wragge (24) combined for 54 points while going a collective 23-for-34 from the floor.
In Olson’s eyes, Hoppes’ contributions defensively were every bit as important as her prolific shooting (10-for-19 from 3-point range on the weekend). Among this group of gnat-like defenders, Hoppes stands out as one of the peskiest.
“Dani was phenomenal in both games,” Olson said. “This game tonight she didn’t score as much as she did yesterday, but defensively she was awesome again. She still hit double figures. She just gets us going early in games and I think our team feeds off that.”
As the clock ticked down to zeroes on Saturday, one photographer was heard saying, “I was waiting for the rush.” There were no wild celebrations for a team that expected to retain the massive CIT trophy. However, members of the team appreciate what it feels like to have earned a championship. They hope there are more of those to come.
“It was a lot of fun. It really doesn’t get old,” Wragge said. “At the beginning of the season Coach asks what our goals are. Every single time, winning CIT is on that goal list. It’s an incredible atmosphere. Game-by-game, we scouted them and knew what we had to do. We executed the game plan.”
CUC trailed just 27-23 at the conclusion of the first quarter. The rest of the game was completely one-sided. CUNE outscored the Cougars by double-digit margins in each of the second, third and fourth quarters. The Bulldogs were underwhelming shooting the three (10-for-41), but they owned enormous advantages in turnovers (26-14) and rebounding (56-37).
No player was more valuable off CUNE’s bench during CIT than Colby Duvel, who had 12 rebounds on Friday and then 10 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday. Though she did not score, Sydney Feller chipped in five rebounds and four assists. On the other side, Cougar standout Taylor Jacobsen paced her squad with 16 points (4-for-14 from the field).
CUNE has now won 10 CIT games in a row. Over the past two events, the Bulldogs’ average margin of victory has been 38.3 points per game.
The remaining six games left on the regular-season slate will all be played against conference opponents. The Bulldogs will head to Fremont on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. CT battle with Midland (11-14, 6-9 GPAC). In this season’s first meeting, CUNE toppled the Warriors, 85-63, in Seward on Nov. 15.
CIT All-Tournament Team
MVP: Dani Hoppes, CUNE
Kari Borowiak, CUAA
Taylor Jacobsen, CUC
Philly Lammers, CUNE
Audrey Scharmer, CUW