Pesky press punishes Morningside as Olson earns milestone win

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 15, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Eleven days since its most recent outing, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball emerged like a pack of hungry dogs that hadn’t eaten since the upset of No. 5 Marian on Nov. 4. The Bulldogs used their patented full-court press to build a double-digit advantage in less than six minutes while blowing out visiting Morningside, 86-62, inside Friedrich Arena. The Concordia pressure cooker resulted in 32 turnovers forced in the GPAC opener for both sides on Wednesday (Nov. 15).

The win marked No. 446 in the coaching career of Drew Olson. That number carries significant weight in that it made Olson the winningest head coach in the history of Concordia Athletics, regardless of sport, eclipsing the 445 accumulated by former men’s basketball coach Grant Schmidt.

“I felt like we played really hard,” Olson said. “Our defensive pressure was really good as it always is. I didn’t feel like we were in great rhythm offensively. That second quarter we had a little bit of a lull and missed a lot of layups. That 10-day break was kind of tough for us, but I do feel like our energy level was really good. We started figuring things out in that third quarter.”

By the close of the first quarter, there was little doubt that Olson was about to claim another victory. There were 10-second violations and backcourt thefts galore as the Bulldogs pushed the advantage to 24-8 after 10 minutes. The tenacious Mackenzie Toomey plucked seven steals while Concordia eventually capitalized on buckets in the paint. The foot stayed on the throttle in the form of a 12-0 Bulldog run to begin the second half. The Bulldogs led by an even 30 points (54-24) at the time.

The lopsided nature of the contest lent for balanced Concordia scoring. The Bulldogs were running in transition so often that their half-court offense was only a small part of the equation against the combination of mostly zone and some man-to-man looks they saw. Taysha Rushton led all players in scoring with 15 points while Kendal Brigham and Sadie Powell notched 10 apiece. Toomey added nine points and three rebounds to her stat line and four other Concordia players posted at least six points: Bree Bunting (eight), Abby Heemstra (seven), Megan Belt (six) and Sammy Leu (six).

The Papillion, Neb., native Belt saw her first action since going down with an injury at the 2023 CIT. The Bulldogs went 14 deep on Wednesday with 13 of them registering in the scoring column. Nine of them pilfered at least one steal on an active night for the press.

Afterwards, the team celebrated with confetti and cupcakes in the locker room. Olson would never ask for the attention, but it’s been well-earned considering his 18 seasons of running a program built on a foundation of not only winning, but Christian character and togetherness.

“The celebration was fun because I care so much for them,” Olson said. “It’s cool that they care about me. It wasn’t something I really thought about a lot. Coach Schmidt’s an incredible coach. I think of all the different coaching icons and I don’t feel like I’m one of them. You’ve got Coach (Courtney) Meyer and Coach (Eunice) Goldgrabe and Coach (Carl) Everts and all these people. I’ve just been very blessed with incredible coaching staffs throughout my time. It’s all about the players. I’ve been very blessed to have some awesome players.”

Said Toomey, “We knew this was a big game for Coach, so we were extra locked in tonight … It was awesome to see the whole team and his family there and Coach Tae’lor (Purdy-Korell)’s family there. I’m really happy for him. He’s a great guy. An awesome coach. Clearly he’s very successful. I’m just happy for him.”

Morningside (3-2, 0-1 GPAC) has long been a powerhouse while led by Head Coach Jamie Sale. The Mustangs got a team high 12 points from Jaeden Webb on Wednesday. The visitors were outmatched in virtually every category. They went only 3-for-21 (.143) from 3-point range and allowed Concordia to shoot 45.8 percent overall. Morningside did manage a 50-29 rebound advantage.

The Bulldogs will hit the road for the first time this season when they venture to Orange City, Iowa, on Saturday for a clash with Northwestern (4-1, 1-0 GPAC). Tipoff from the Bultman Center is set for 5 p.m. CT (an adjustment from the original schedule). In their GPAC opener at College of Saint Mary on Wednesday, the Red Raiders, routed College of Saint Mary, 77-47.