MITCHELL, S.D. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team dug itself a 15-point hole, eventually rallied to take a late lead and just couldn’t close it out on Saturday (Feb. 19) at the Corn Palace. The Bulldogs missed out on a chance at hosting in the GPAC quarterfinals while falling to Dakota Wesleyan, 71-67. The Tigers held off Concordia despite a career high 20 points from Rylee Pauli.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad wrapped up the regular season with an overall record of 16-12 (13-9 GPAC). Concordia played one of its best games all season when it routed Dakota Wesleyan, 90-58, on Jan. 8. This time, it went down to the wire.
“I thought it was a great game, great battle,” Olson said. “Dakota Wesleyan did an awesome job against our zone and hit some shots we didn’t expect them to hit, so we had to get out of it. I was really proud of our team for how hard we fought. We got into our press and caused them some problems and allowed us to get back into the game. Ultimately, we had a one-point lead with about 2:30 left and just didn’t make the plays to win it.”
The Bulldogs took their first lead (65-64) of the night when Taysha Rushton banked home a trey with just over three minutes remaining. Three empty Concordia possessions in a row and 7-for-8 free throw shooting down the stretch by the Tigers made the difference. Rushton helped lead the comeback charge by totaling eight of her 19 points in the final quarter.
Meanwhile, Pauli was steady throughout the contest in putting up her 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the floor. She also made all four of her free throw attempts and collected eight rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. Several statistical markers pointed in favor of the Bulldogs, who shot a higher percentage from the field (39.1 to 36.8) and were plus-eight in turnover margin. In addition, Sadie Powell contributed 12 points and four rebounds and Mackenzie Toomey (four steals) and Abby Krieser added eight points apiece.
The Tigers (23-7, 15-7 GPAC) did own a 41-33 advantage on the boards and they got a game high 21 points from Matti Reiner. Kaylee Kirk and Isabel Ihnen posted 15 points apiece. Not normally a strong 3-point shooting team, DWU went 9-for-27 (.333) from long range.
In the paint, Pauli put forth the type of effort that has become to be expected of the gritty veteran. She enjoyed one of the best games of her career while up against a strong opposing frontcourt.
Said Olson of Pauli, “She’s phenomenal. She’s such a smart, heady player that fights like crazy. She’s usually undersized as a post, but she just finds a way to get it done. She’s a winner and that’s why she’s playing the way she is.”
Saturday’s result means that Concordia will be the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament and will be right back at the Corn Palace on Wednesday. Tipoff from Mitchell, S.D., is set for 7 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs have advanced to the GPAC tournament championship game in each of the past five seasons.