SEWARD, Neb. – There will be no break during Thanksgiving week as the 21st-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team looks forward to hosting Jamestown and then embarking upon a journey down to Texas. As part of a challenging nonconference slate, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will go up against No. 3 Wayland Baptist University on Saturday. It’s been an up-and-down run early this season as the Bulldogs stand at 3-3 overall (1-2 GPAC).
By the numbers
· In the NAIA coaches’ poll released last week, Concordia slid back to 21st after being ranked ninth in the preseason. The GPAC has strong representation with three other conference teams landing in the top 25: No. 12 Morningside, No. 16 Dordt and No. 17 Northwestern. In addition, Briar Cliff is receiving votes. Based on the rankings, the Bulldogs have plenty of major tests coming up before New Year’s Day. Not only will Concordia play at No. 3 Wayland Baptist this Saturday, it also has nonconference matchups scheduled with No. 2 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 4 Thomas More University (Ky.) as part of a trip to Hawaii prior to Christmas.
· The journey to Texas will be a bit of a homecoming for second-year guard Taysha Rushton, a native of Midland, Texas, roughly 165 miles from the campus at Wayland Baptist. The Bulldogs are more than happy that Rushton chose to venture outside The Lone Star State to play college basketball. Rushton is averaging 19.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this season, coming off First Team All-GPAC accolades in 2020-21. Her 32 points in the season opening win over Bellevue University represent a career high.
· There were contributions made up and down the roster in the 93-52 victory over Midland. Six Bulldogs poured in at least nine points: Rushton (17), Sadie Powell (15), Kendal Brigham (14), Bailey Conrad (14), Abby Heemstra (12) and Taylor Farrell (nine). Brigham and Farrell went a combined 7-for-9 from 3-point range as two of six Concordia players to make at least one 3-point basket. Through six games, the Midland win marked the best offensive performance for the Bulldogs, who turned in season highs for field goal percentage (.500), 3-point field goal percentage (.500) and made 3-point field goals (13).
· The 3-3 record is a product of Concordia still struggling for consistency. Following the win over Midland, the Bulldogs were unable to continue their hot shooting. Concordia slipped to 31.4 percent shooting from the floor at Dordt and lost, 69-60. Rushton put up 14 points (6-for-21 from the floor) as the lone Concordia player in double figures. Meanwhile, the likes of Hayden Heimensen (22 points), Ashtyn Veerbeek (20 points) and Karly Gustafson (21 rebounds) were too much to handle. The Defenders were able to keep the Bulldogs at arm’s length while making 23-of-34 attempts from the foul line.
· There’s an adjustment period that has followed life without All-American Taylor Cockerill. While averaging 19.2 points, Rushton has established herself as the clear go-to player. Four others are averaging at least 6.0 points: Heemstra (10.5), Powell (7.8), Pauli (7.3), Farrell (6.5) and Conrad (6.3). Conrad has been the team’s top passer, averaging 5.8 assists per game. Meanwhile, Pauli tops the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game.
Once again, Concordia alum Thad Sankey will be on hand as head coach of Jamestown. Sankey has gone head-to-head with the Bulldogs many times having spent five seasons as head coach at Concordia University, Ann Arbor before heading to North Dakota in the summer of 2018. So far in league play, Jamestown has come up empty on the road with losses at College of Saint Mary and at Midland. The Jimmies did claim a 78-75 overtime home win over Dakota Wesleyan on Nov. 17. The top players for Jamestown are Hannah DeMars (13.6 ppg) and Kia Tower (12.0 ppg). A win at Friedrich Arena is the type of resume builder the Jimmies could use in their efforts to return to the national tournament.
Wayland Baptist will have had a week between games by the time it hosts Concordia on Saturday. The 8-0 start for the Pioneers includes two wins over ranked opponents: No. 19 Clarke University (Iowa) and No. 23 Loyola University (La.). Head Coach Jason Cooper’s program reached the opening round of the national tournament last season. Through eight games, Kaylee Edgemon (19.9 ppg) and Jenna Cooper (18.4 ppg) have paced the team in scoring. Wayland Baptist is outscoring its foes, on average, 79.3 to 66.9.
Two more ranked opponents are coming up on next week’s slate as the Bulldogs will be at No. 12 Morningside on Dec. 1 before hosting No. 17 Northwestern on Dec. 4.