Round of 16 preview: Concordia vs. Marian

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 15, 2021 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Here they are again. New team. New tournament format. Same Concordia University Women’s Basketball program. The Bulldogs will make their way to the Tyson Events Center for the 10th-straight season after toppling Loyola University New Orleans, 71-54, to win the NAIA Park City Bracket B Opening Round. The tournament field has shrunk to 16 teams as play shifts to Sioux City, Iowa, which had been the site of the NAIA Division II tournament since 1998. Thirteenth-seeded Concordia will take on fourth-seeded Marian University (Ind.) on Friday in the round of 16.

NAIA Round of 16

Concordia (21-8) vs. Marian (27-5)
Friday, March 19 | 6 p.m.
Tyson Events Center | Sioux City, Iowa
Webcast: NAIA Network (fee required)
Live Stats: Dakstats
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentators: Parker Cyza / Devin Smith
Buy Tickets: LINK

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*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 204 of 235 NAIA women’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.

(16) Concordia
Scoring Offense: 78.4 (21st)
Scoring Defense: 65.6 (88th)
FG% Offense: .399 (T-89th)
FG% Defense: .376 (T-59th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .328 (T-48th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .295 (T-77th)
Free Throw%: .734 (T-41st)
Rebound Margin: -0.14 (106th)
Turnover Margin: +6.14 (18th)

(5) Marian
Scoring Offense: 80.7 (15th)
Scoring Defense: 58.9 (25th)
FG% Offense: .486 (T-2nd)
FG% Defense: .364 (T-37th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .357 (18th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .324 (T-159th)
Free Throw%: .699 (T-90th)
Rebound Margin: +7.28 (23rd)
Turnover Margin: +5.69 (19th)

Tyson Events Center Info
From 1998 through 2020, the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City served as the host site for the NAIA Division II national tournament. Now it transitions into the final site for the one-divisional format that features a 16-team bracket. Current COVID-19 policies at the Tyson require fans over the age of 2 years old to wear masks. Additional facility information for fans can be found HERE.

NAIA Opening Round
It was a struggle for much of the first half in the NAIA Opening Round matchup with 19th-ranked Loyola University of New Orleans. Concordia started out 3-for-26 from the floor and fell behind by as many as 14 points. Sophomore sharpshooter Taylor Farrell was a saving grace, making a trio of 3-point shots in the first half to keep the Bulldogs within nine (32-23) at the break. Taylor Cockerill took over in the second half when she poured in 18 of her game high 22 points. The Bulldogs also locked down on the defensive end, allowing the Wolf Pack to go only 6-for-35 (.171) from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Farrell finished with 14 points while Taysha Rushton added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Off the bench, Mackenzie Toomey made her first game appearance in more than a month and chipped in seven points, four rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal. Concordia went 18-for-22 from the foul line to help seal the win.

National tournament history
Concordia has won seven-straight national tournament games, a run that includes the entire 2019 NAIA Division II tournament and the first round of the 2020 tournament (before it was cut short by COVID-19). In its first 19 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 35-17 with seven journeys to at least the national semifinals (three national championship game appearances). The Bulldogs are 13-6 in first-round games. All of the program’s national tournament berths have come since 1992 – the same year the NAIA split into two divisions for basketball. The 2019-20 season marked the final one featuring two divisions. Head Coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past 13 national tournament appearances (including 2021). His record at the national tournament stands at 25-10 with five trips to the final four, including three national championship game appearances (2015, 2018, 2019). The program raised its first-ever national championship banner in March 2019. Olson has won more national tournament games than any coach in school history (men’s or women’s programs).

Cockerill moves up school scoring list
Junior guard Taylor Cockerill moved up another rung on the program’s all-time scoring list with her 22-point outing in the opening round. Now having totaled 1,346 career points, Cockerill has passed Elizabeth Rhoden (1,337) for 14th on the school scoring list. The top 10 in school history have all scored at least 1,630 points. Cockerill has piled up 112 of her career points at the national tournament. Her national tournament high was 26 points versus Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) in the second round of the 2019 national title run. Cockerill has now played in 11 career national tournament games. She was part of advancements to the NAIA Division II national title game in 2018 and 2019.

Rankings surge
Concordia continued to rise in the national rankings when it was seeded 16th in the NAIA heading into the national tournament. The Bulldogs opened up at No. 11 in the NAIA preseason poll. In the first poll of the regular season (Dec. 16), Concordia did not receive a single vote in the coaches’ poll. Since then, Drew Olson’s squad his risen steadily after re-entering the top 25 on Jan. 27. The absence from the mid-December rankings ended the program’s stretch of being ranked for 97-straight polls. As it stands, the Bulldogs have appeared in the top 25 in 101 of the last 103 NAIA coaches’ polls.

2020-21 NAIA Poll Rankings
Oct. 14 – 11th
Dec. 16 – NR
Jan. 13 – RV
Jan. 27 – 25th
Feb. 10 – 22nd
Feb. 24 – 17th
March 4 – 16th (rated by selection committee)

On the big stage
The Tyson Events Center always presents an adjustment in terms of the shooting backdrop that comes with a larger venue. Concordia hopes to have gotten some of that adjustment out of the way after playing at the spacious Hartman Arena in Park City, Kan., last week. In the first half of the opening round game, Taylor Cockerill went 1-for-7 from the floor while Taysha Rushton went 0-for-7. Both players settled in during the second half in combining for 28 points over the final 20 minutes. Of the 15 Bulldogs on the national tournament roster, seven have experience playing at the Tyson Events Center. In the 2020 first round game versus Wilberforce University (Ohio), Chloe Schumacher went 3-for-5 from 3-point range. As noted above, Cockerill put together one of the more memorable games of her career at the Tyson when she posted a 19-point fourth quarter against Cardinal Stritch. Cockerill also tallied 17 points in the 2018 national title game and 13 points in the 2019 national championship contest.

Scouting Marian
Seeded fifth overall to begin the national tournament, Marian will be the highest-rated team Concordia has faced this season. Head Coach Katie Gearlds (now in her eighth season) has elevated the Knights program into powerhouse status. Gearlds led Marian to back-to-back NAIA Division II national titles in 2016 and 2017 and the program has won six-straight Crossroads League regular season championships. The current team is led by Crossroads Player of the Year Imani Guy, who averages 15.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.23 blocks per game. With Guy’s scoring in the post, the Knights have been one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams (ranked second nationally in field goal percentage). Guy was joined by teammates Ella Collier and Abby Downard as first team all-conference selections. Concordia and Marian have never played one another at the national tournament. However, the two programs did meet on Oct. 28, 2016, with the result being a 72-64 Knights victory in Denver, Colo.

NAIA Bracket
The 16-team NAIA bracket can be viewed HERE. The winner between 13th-seeded Concordia and fourth-seeded Marian will advance to the national quarterfinals and take on either No. 5 Morningside or No. 12 University of St. Francis (Ill.) at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The proceeding rounds of the tournament will be held March 22 for the semifinals and March 23 for the national championship game. According to the NAIA’s research, six of the remaining 16 programs have won at least one national title: Concordia, Indiana Wesleyan, Marian, Morningside, MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and Westmont (Calif.).

Projected Starters

Concordia (21-8)
G – Taylor Cockerill, Jr. (14.8)
G – Bailey Conrad, Fr. (4.4)
G – Taysha Rushton, Fr. (14.1)
F – Mackenzie Koepke, Jr. (7.3)
F – Rylee Pauli, Jr. (6.8)

Marian (27-5)
G – Ella Collier, Fr. (13.8)
G – Abby Downard, Sr. (9.4)
G – Macy Willoughby, Sr. (7.9)
F – Imani Guy, Sr. (15.1)
F – Tamia Perryman, Fr. (6.7)