Sixth-ranked Dawgs push No. 1 Dordt for full 40 in clash of GPAC's top two squads

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 5, 2024 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – It was the first of two prize fights this season between the top two squads in the GPAC. Rarely pushed for all four quarters this season, top-ranked Dordt likely learned something more about itself as it came away from Friedrich Arena with an 84-79 victory on a unique Monday (Feb. 5) evening clash. The Defenders managed to escape despite scoring outbursts in the first half from Mackenzie Toomey and in the second half from Taysha Rushton.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had its 12-game win streak snapped by perhaps the only team in the conference that could have beaten the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team at the level it played at on Monday. The Bulldogs now stand at 19-3 overall (13-3 GPAC).

“We showed a lot of toughness, heart and grit. It was two really good teams going at it,” Olson said. “Unfortunately, we came out on the short end. I thought we played really well at times. There are definitely things we can correct and get better at, but I’m really proud of our team’s effort. We were right there. It’s nothing to be ashamed of our hang your head about. It was a hard-fought game between two of the best teams in the country, and man it had to be really entertaining for the fans.”

Concordia did many of the things it needed to do to pick off Dordt – other than make shots from the perimeter (4-for-22 from 3-point range). Down the stretch, the Bulldogs were essentially a play away from making the upset a very real possibility. Trailing 82-79 in the closing 30 seconds, Concordia squandered an offensive possession and the Defenders’ Janie Schoonhoven later grabbed a back breaker of an offensive rebound. The 45-31 rebound advantage Dordt enjoyed made up for the Bulldogs’ advantage in turnovers (17-8).

Neither side led by more than seven points at any juncture in a contest that showcased the speed and athleticism of both sides. Concordia hadn’t played anyone this season quite like the Defenders, who are long and fast everywhere on the court. The 6-foot grad student Karly Gustafson made her presence known with a game high 21 points (15-for-16 from the foul line). She teamed up with the Schoonhovens (Janie and Gracie) as part of a lengthy frontcourt. The Schoonhovens grabbed a combined 17 rebounds and backcourt standouts Macy Sievers (11) and Bailey Beckman (10) both reached double figures.

The Bulldogs countered admirably with their mix of veterans and quicks in the backcourt. Toomey wound up with a season best 16 points, including 12 in the first half. Her line also included eight rebounds, five steals and three assists. Meanwhile, Rushton and Sadie Powell got it going in the second half. Rushton finished with a team high 19 points and four assists (and moved up to No. 7 on the program’s all-time scoring list). Powell put home 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting and swiped six rebounds and three steals. Abby Krieser chipped in with nine points and three boards. Off the bench, Abby Heemstra posted seven points and three boards.

Said Olson, “Toomey was phenomenal. That’s probably the best game she’s played – just complete on both ends of the floor. I’m really proud of her. I thought overall we had some really good defensive possessions as a group. We just needed more of those and to hold them in transition a little bit better. It’s one of those games where we’ve got to learn from and grow from it. I’m loving our team. I love where we’re at, and I’m excited about them.”

Gustafson did her damage while playing through some foul trouble. She was whistled for a fourth foul in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Defenders (21-1, 16-0 GPAC) have moved a step closer to a GPAC regular season title while remaining unbeaten in conference play.

As part of a three-game week, the Bulldogs will stay at home to host College of Saint Mary (1-20, 0-16 GPAC) at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Concordia has won each of the past 23 series meetings over the Flames, who are winless within conference play. The first meeting this season between the two sides resulted in a 119-54 Bulldog win in Omaha.