Rushton drops career high 28, Dawgs fend off Red Raiders

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 2, 2021 in Women's Basketball

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Big-time shot making down the stretch lifted the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team to a nail-biter of a road victory at Northwestern on Saturday (Jan. 2) afternoon. Budding freshman Taysha Rushton rang in 2021 with a career high 28 points in another starring performance. After having led by as many as 18 points, the Bulldogs hung on for an 81-76 victory inside the Bultman Center in Orange City, Iowa.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won four in a row to move to 10-5 overall (9-3 GPAC). Concordia has improved to 6-2 in GPAC road games.

“What an awesome game that was and what toughness and grit we are showing on a game-to-game basis,” Olson said. “I love this group. They are buying into what we are doing and it’s been a lot of fun.

“Northwestern is a tough matchup. Their post is really, really good and we had to help a lot on her. Then their 3-point shooters get open. They play well in transition and caught us a couple times. They’re a tough team, but I’m really proud of our group.”

Rushton is becoming a star before our very eyes. She followed up a 23-point outing in Wednesday’s win with another inspiring outing. The young Bulldogs showed toughness down the stretch after watching the Red Raiders (5-8, 5-5 GPAC) take a one-point lead (73-72) on Sammy Blum’s bucket with under two minutes remaining. Mackenzie Koepke followed with a triple before Rushton knocked down a cold-blooded trey of her own.

Outside shooting was a theme once again. Concordia drained 16-of-40 shots from 3-point range on Saturday. Rushton (6-for-13) accounted for a half-dozen of them while backcourt mate Taylor Cockerill went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Cockerill posted 14 points while leading the team with seven rebounds. Rebecca Higgins also poured in a trio of treys on her way to 11 points.

Molly Schany (12 points on 5-for-9 shooting) is the post player Olson referred to. Her work inside helped open things up on the perimeter for the likes of Taylor VanderVelde (18 points) and Blum (12 points). A Bulldog squad that continues to vary its defensive looks from game-to-game emerged with critical stops in crunch time, including a couple of them immediately after the daggers by Koepke and Rushton.

Northwestern made this a white-knuckler with a 24-5 run that began in the third quarter and spanned a good portion of the final period. While Rushton grabs the headline, plenty of her teammates had a hand in building the advantage. Koepke finished with eight points (and four steals) while six points apiece were contributed by Taylor Farrell, Rylee Pauli and Mackenzie Toomey.

“She’s ultra-aggressive, which we love,” Olson said of Rushton. “She’s shooting the ball really well. I also like how she creates a lot of things for other people. She stepped up and hit a big-time shot at the end to give us a cushion. I felt like a lot of people had big games for us. Koepke hits the big three. I thought Mackenzie Toomey and Taylor Farrell were really big for us off the bench, especially in the second quarter.”

Concordia has shown it can win in different types of games. Its win streak has included road grinders over Midland, 67-59, and Jamestown, 55-50, and a home rout of Mount Marty, 98-53. The Bulldogs have now won five meetings in a row with the Red Raiders.

Concordia will be back on the road on Wednesday for a matchup with Dakota Wesleyan (6-5, 4-5 GPAC). Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT from the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. The Bulldogs have taken five-straight series meetings and nine of the past 10 matchups with the Tigers. DWU has won three of its last four contests heading into next week.