Post CIT slate ushers in return to GPAC play

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 30, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The final six games of the regular season will all be against GPAC opponents as Concordia University Women’s Basketball turns the page after winning the Concordia Invitational Tournament. The Bulldogs won three home games over a four-day stretch last week, taking care of Hastings, 73-62, Concordia University Wisconsin, 100-49, and Concordia University Chicago, 85-33. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad went 8-1 during the month of January while rounding into form. The Bulldogs enter this week at 15-7 overall (11-5 GPAC).

This Week

Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Midland (3-18, 1-15 GPAC), 6 p.m.
--Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Wikert Event Center (Fremont, Neb.)

Saturday, Feb. 4 vs. No. 3 Dordt (21-1, 15-1 GPAC), 2 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

By the numbers

·        The Bulldogs entered the month of January sitting just barely above .500 at 7-6 overall. Fast forward a month later and CUNE looks like a different, more confident team. During the course of January, CUNE went 8-1 and claimed wins over two ranked teams: then No. 21 Dakota Wesleyan and then No. 15 Northwestern (on the road). Over that stretch, the Bulldogs averaged 76.3 points to their opponents’ 56.9 and outshot their foes, 42.7 percent to 33.3 percent. The offensive balance over those nine games was striking. Five CUNE players averaged at least 8.3 points: Taysha Rushton (11.8), Sadie Powell (9.7), Abby Krieser (9.4), Kristin Vieselmeyer (8.4) and Kendal Brigham (8.3).

·        Before thinking about CIT, the Bulldogs took care of Hastings in the middle of last week and earned a regular season sweep of the Broncos (8-14, 4-12 GPAC). After a 33-33 halftime stalemate, CUNE turned on the jets and outscored Hastings 22-7 in the third quarter. Krieser continued her tear by going for 14 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots while Rushton added 12 points, four rebounds and three assists. Hastings stayed in the game to some degree by making 14-of-29 shots from 3-point range. However, the Broncos were just 6-for-24 inside the arc and committed 17 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs shot a solid 45.9 percent from the field and went 7-for-8 from the foul line.

·        The opening matchup of CIT was no contest as CUNE outscored Concordia Wisconsin (9-10), 25-6, in the first quarter and kept piling on. All 13 Bulldogs who saw action registered in the scoring column with Rushton (15) and Vieselmeyer (11) notching double figures. CUNE stifled the Falcons into shooting only 25.9 percent (14-for-54) from the floor and flustered them into 20 turnovers. The Bulldogs knocked down 15 treys and dominated the boards, 53-33. In the win, Mackenzie Koepke became the sixth player in program history to reach 200 career 3-point field goals. It was also a fine performance for Taylor Farrell, who posted eight points in the opening half. Koepke and Farrell were the lone two Bulldogs with prior CIT experience.

·        It was more of the same in the CIT championship, which saw CUNE’s defense lock down even tighter. The Cougars (9-10) shot a miserable 18.8 percent (12-for-64) from the floor and star guard Katherine Benes went 0-for-12 and was held scoreless. A big weekend continued for Vieselmeyer who totaled 21 points and nine rebounds in the championship and was named CIT all-tournament. Rushton garnered CIT MVP honors and posted 13 points, four assists and two steals versus CUC. Brigham contributed nine points off the bench. Once again, all 13 Bulldogs scored. CUNE also took the rebounding battle, 52-42, and netted 16-of-17 foul shots.

·        This year’s CIT dominance was a continuation from the previous seven events. The Bulldogs have won eight CITs in a row and own an active CIT win streak of 16. Entering this year’s tournament, CUNE had won its previous 14 CIT games by an average margin of 31.6 points per game. In his 17 years as head coach, Olson has a record of 27-3 at CIT with 12 championships. Four other coaches in program history have won CIT titles: Carl Everts (seven), Mark Lemke (four), Micah Parker (four) and Todd Voss (four). CUNE has won 31 all-time CIT titles and has reigned supreme in 30 of the past 35 CITs.

·        As stated, Koepke became the sixth Bulldog to knock down 200 or more 3-point field goals in a career. Now with 202 3-point field goals, Koepke (837 career points) is joined in that club by Kristen Conahan (323), Melissa Tinkham (266), Andrea Janssen (247), Brenleigh Daum (232) and Bailey Morris (201). Rushton will soon add her name to the group. The Midland, Texas, native enters the week with 193 career 3-point field goals to her credit. Speaking of Rushton, she’s made her way to No. 19 on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,258 points. Rushton’s career totals also include 226 assists, 225 rebounds and 135 steals in 82 games.

The opponents

Midland has struggled its way through a winless month of January. Its most competitive outings over the past month were losses by scores of 89-83 versus Doane and 63-55 versus Mount Marty. The most recent win for the Warriors was a 69-57 triumph at College of Saint Mary on Dec. 14. Head Coach Shawn Gilbert’s top two scorers have been Erin Prussa (10.7) and Emma Shepard (10.1). As a team, Midland has averaged 59.9 points per game while allowing 76.8. Concordia has won four straight in the series with the Warriors. The two sides met in Seward on Nov. 16 with the result being an 84-59 Bulldog win.

Dordt has just one blemish on its record – a 71-66 upset loss at Doane on Jan. 11. Since then, the Defenders have beaten No. 21 Briar Cliff, College of Saint Mary, Midland, Dakota Wesleyan and Hastings while keeping their grip on first place in the GPAC standings. Dordt graduated the GPAC Player of the Year, Ashtyn Veerbeek, from last season’s national runner up team, but has made up for it with an experienced and well-rounded roster. The team’s two biggest stars are the likes of Karly Gustafson in the frontcourt and Bailey Beckman in the backcourt. Head Coach Bill Harmsen’s squad leads the GPAC in offensive scoring average (80.0) while ranking third in defensive scoring average (60.1). The Defenders defeated Concordia on Nov. 19, 76-65, and have won each of the past three series matchups.

Probable starters

Concordia (15-7, 11-5 GPAC)
G – Abby Krieser (8.3)
G – Taysha Rushton (13.6)
G – Mackenzie Toomey (6.5)
F – Abby Heemstra (4.5)
F – Sadie Powell (9.8)

Head Coach: Drew Olson (438-128, 17th season at CUNE)

Midland (3-18, 1-15 GPAC)
G – Kennedy Darner (6.7)
G – Lexi Kraft (6.0)
G – Sam Shepard (10.1)
G – Sarah Shepard (4.5)
C – Erin Prusa (10.7)

Head Coach: Shawn Gilbert (10th season)

Dordt (21-1, 15-1 GPAC)
G – Bailey Beckman (16.7)
G – Hayden Heimensen (6.4)
G – Faith Van Holland (6.0)
F – Karly Gustafson (17.0)
F – Janie Schoonhoven (12.4)

Head Coach: Bill Harmsen (5th season)

Next week

The Bulldogs will have two short road trips next week as they will play at Doane on Feb. 8 and at College of Saint Mary on Feb. 11. Concordia beat both opponents at home already this season.