Second quarter dominance fuels season sweep of Morningside

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 31, 2024 in Women's Basketball

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The second quarter of Wednesday (Jan. 31)’s clash with Morningside exemplified Concordia University Women’s Basketball at its finest. The sixth-ranked Bulldogs erased a six-point deficit with a 19-0 run on their way to a workmanlike 79-67 triumph over the Mustangs in Sioux City, Iowa. The likes of Sadie Powell, Taysha Rushton and Mackenzie Toomey sliced and diced their way to buckets in the paint as Concordia shot an efficient 55.2 percent from the floor.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won for the 11th-straight time while moving to 18-2 overall (12-2 GPAC). The Bulldogs polished off a spotless 9-0 record for the month of January.

“I thought it was a great win,” Olson said. “Morningside is a good team and they’ve been playing really well. I thought we had a great full-team win. So many players stepped up and played well at certain times. Defensively – I’m a perfectionist – we did have a few breakdowns, but overall that was a really, really good defensive effort from our team.”

It would have been difficult to expect Concordia to throttle an improving Morningside team the way that it did (86-62) in Seward back in the conference opener. The Bulldogs forced only 16 turnovers in the latest meeting (compared to 32 on Nov. 15) between two perennially powerful programs. In making up for the lack of turnovers, Concordia shot a season best percentage and made use of its array of weapons. Five Bulldogs notched at least nine points while faced with the Mustangs’ usual zone defense.

The lead for the visitors stretched to as many as 18 points (61-43 in the fourth quarter) in exerting control. The game was defined by the second quarter surge that saw Concordia turn a 25-19 deficit into a 38-25 lead. As part of the miserable second period for the home team, Morningside went 2-for-12 from the floor and turned it over six times. Toomey was especially active during the run with six points and three of her steals coming during the second quarter.

The closest the Mustangs got over the second half was 10. When they managed to get within 49-39 midway through the third quarter, Olson called timeout and the Bulldogs promptly responded with a Megan Belt trey that sparked a 7-0 run. Off the bench, Belt (3-for-4) and Sammy Leu (2-for-3) teamed up to stick in the dagger from long range whenever Morningside threatened to make it a ballgame.

The four Concordia double-figure scorers were Powell (16), Rushton (14), Toomey (12) and Belt (11). It was another night of stuffing the stat sheet for Toomey, who added eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Powell moved past 900 career points as she treks closer to 1,000. In addition, Kristin Vieselmeyer supplied nine points and four rebounds and CIT MVP Kendal Brigham tallied seven points, five assists and four steals. The starting five was especially effective offensively in going a combined 24-for-40 (.600) from the field.

Said Olson of the team’s defensive performance, “A lot of it had to do with our team understanding how we wanted to defend them. Offensively, we made a couple adjustments. Players stepped up. Mackenzie Toomey was phenomenal in that first quarter. Taysha got going a little bit in the second quarter and got some stuff off steals. Sadie Powell was incredible in the second half. I would also include Megan Belt. They cut the lead down to 10 and Megan hits a three to settle us down. Awesome team effort.”

There were some positive takeaways for Morningside (11-9, 8-7 GPAC), which owned a plus-three turnover margin and handled the Bulldog press admirably. Lily Vollertson topped the Head Coach Jamie Sale’s squad with 16 points off the bench. Alexis Spier posted 14 points and Ella Wragge contributed 12 points. Ella is the younger sister of former Concordia All-American Quinn Wragge.

The Bulldogs will be at home for their next three GPAC outings. That stretch will begin on Saturday when Northwestern (13-8, 9-6 GPAC) visits town for a 2 p.m. CT tipoff. Concordia won this season’s first meeting, 77-69, in Orange City on Nov. 18. In Wednesday night's action, the Red Raiders routed College of Saint Mary, 91-43.