New Year brings return to GPAC play vs. Mount Marty, DWU

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 2, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Following a road trip down south just prior to New Year’s, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team has returned to the GPAC landscape for a resumption of conference action. In terms of results, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad came up empty last week while falling on the home courts of two Sooner Athletic Conference foes – Texas Wesleyan University, 73-71, on Dec. 28 and No. 17 University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, 77-64, on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs, now 7-6 overall (5-4 GPAC), had entered the road trip on a three-game win streak.

NOTE: Inclement weather is expected to impact the area this week. Please follow @CUNEathletics on Twitter and be sure to check the website schedule for potential changes to game dates and/or times.

This Week

Thursday, Jan. 5 at Mount Marty (4-11, 1-8 GPAC), 5 p.m.
--Live Webcast | | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Cimpl Arena (Yankton, S.D.)

Saturday, Jan. 7 vs. No. 21 Dakota Wesleyan (10-3, 4-3 GPAC), 2 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

By the numbers

·        There have been some ups and downs as the season nears the halfway point of the regular season. As usual, Concordia hasn’t shied away from playing a challenging schedule (currently ranked top five nationally by Massey Ratings). When a new NAIA national poll is released next week (Jan. 11), it’s very possible that last week’s foes will both be ranked inside the top 25. Texas Wesleyan has moved to 11-1 while Science & Arts has pushed its record to 12-1. The six teams that have defeated the Bulldogs own a combined record of 67-11. On paper, Concordia’s highest quality wins came over Dakota State University (10-5) and Morningside (8-5). The Bulldogs still have a three-game GPAC win streak intact with wins during that stretch over Mount Marty, 91-48, Hastings, 70-57, and Doane, 72-55.

·        A spirited fourth quarter rally at Texas Wesleyan nearly lifted Concordia to a potential big-time road win. The Bulldogs faced separate deficits of 14 points in the third quarter and 13 points in the fourth quarter. Kendal Brigham notched five points as part of a 12-0 fourth-quarter run that slashed the deficit to one (65-64) with just over four minutes remaining. In the final few seconds, the Rams missed a pair of free throws, providing Concordia (down 73-71) an opportunity to tie or even win the game. Taysha Rushton was fouled driving to the basket. She missed two free throws and Texas Wesleyan hung on to the victory. Off the bench, Brigham paced the Bulldogs with 17 points to go with three assists. Sadie Powell (12) and Rushton (10) also reached double figures. Zarria Carter poured in 23 points in a starring performance for the Rams.

·        Science & Arts was looking to make amends for the 80-56 home loss it had suffered to Texas Wesleyan on Dec. 14. The 17th-ranked Drovers struggled early on with the Concordia press as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 16-6 lead. USAO made the necessary adjustment and wound up possessing a double-digit lead for the entirety of the final quarter. The Drovers shot 50 percent from the floor while limiting the Bulldogs to 32.3 percent shooting. The home team also owned a 47-36 advantage on the boards. Powell notched 17 points and eight rebounds and Rushton added 16 points.

·        Still in just her third collegiate season, Rushton is going to continue to rise up the program’s all-time charts. Her 1,152 career points have pushed her to No. 23 in program history (seven points behind Mary Janovich for No. 22). She’s also eighth on the program’s list for most career 3-point field goals (170). Just above her at No. 6 is Mackenzie Koepke (192). Rushton is on a trajectory that could have her challenging for 2,000 points before her college career ends. Only two players in school history have ever reached 2,000 points: Bailey Morris (2,054) and Philly Lammers (2,033).

·        Forcing turnovers and shooting a high volume of 3-point field goals have been trademarks of many of Olson’s most successful teams. Concordia is gaining steam in those areas. Nationally, the Bulldogs rank fifth for both 3-point field goals made per game (9.6) and for 3-point field goals attempted per game (29.2). Through 13 games, the Bulldogs have forced 275 turnovers while committing 191, making for an average margin of plus-6.5 per game. The team’s best 3-point shooters in terms of percentage have been: Brigham (.422; 19-for-45), Rushton (.357; 25-for-70), Megan Belt (.333; 26-for-78), Powell (.333; 16-for-48) and Koepke (.324; 11-for-34).

·        Among GPAC teams, Concordia ranks first in turnovers forced per game (21.2), second in free throw percentage (.736), sixth in 3-point field goal percentage offense (.329), seventh in defensive scoring average (65.2), eighth in offensive scoring average (70.3), ninth in field goal percentage offense (.393) and 11th in field goal percentage defense (.418). Individually, Rushton is the league’s seventh leading scorer with an average of 14.8 points per game.

The opponents

Mount Marty will be attempting to snap a 13-game series losing streak versus Concordia. In this season’s first meeting, the Bulldogs won by a 91-48 score in Seward while knocking down 21 treys. Head Coach Allan Bertram’s squad managed to pick up a win out of conference, just before New Year’s, 64-49 over Presentation College. The Lancers’ most recent GPAC victory came on Nov. 30 over Midland, 67-60. Eve Millar leads Mount Marty in scoring at 10.8 points per game. As a team, the Lancers average 56.6 points while allowing 68.9 per outing.

Dakota Wesleyan and Concordia will meet up for the first time this season. The Tigers won two of last season's three matchups with both of their wins coming in Mitchell, S.D. After advancing to the NAIA national tournament round of 32 last season, DWU rose all the way up to No. 7 in the national poll in mid-November (now ranked 21st). The Tigers and Bulldogs are at opposite ends of the spectrum in rebounding. DWU leads the GPAC with a rebound margin of plus-11.6 per game. That’s not surprising considering the team’s top players in the frontcourt: Jada Campbell and Matti Reiner, a pair of All-GPAC performers in 2021-22. Before venturing to Seward, the Tigers will host No. 22 Briar Cliff on Wednesday.

Probable starters

Concordia (7-6, 5-4 GPAC)
G – Abby Krieser (7.5)
G – Taysha Rushton (14.8)
G – Mackenzie Toomey (7.4)
F – Abby Heemstra (3.9)
F – Sadie Powell (9.9)

Head Coach: Drew Olson (430-127, 17th season at CUNE)

Mount Marty (4-11, 1-8 GPAC)
G – Kiara Berndt (6.6)
G – Kaity Hove (5.3)
G – Emma Jarovski (5.4)
F – Briona Jensen (1.0)
F – Eve Millar (10.8)

Head Coach: Allan Bertram (1st season)

Dakota Wesleyan (10-3, 4-3 GPAC)
G – Morgan Edelman (6.6)
G – Aspen Hansen (5.0)
G – Isabel Ihnen (10.9)
F – Jada Campbell (15.7)
F – Matti Reiner (13.2)

Head Coach: Jason Christensen (13th season)

Next week

Concordia will host College of Saint Mary on Jan. 11 and then will make the trek up to North Dakota to play Jamestown on Jan. 14.