SEWARD, Neb. – Though only two players on the Bulldog roster owned prior CIT experience, the 2022-23 Concordia University Nebraska Women’s Basketball team picked up where the 2019-20 squad left off. In other words, the Bulldogs controlled the Concordia Invitational Tournament in utterly dominant fashion. Behind tournament MVP Taysha Rushton, CUNE suffocated Concordia University Chicago in an 85-33 CIT championship game victory inside a jampacked Friedrich Arena on Saturday (Jan. 28).
Head Coach Drew Olson’s program has won each of the past eight CITs and owns a 16-game winning streak in the tournament. For the 31st time in program history, the CIT trophy remains in Seward.
“It was an awesome defensive effort,” Olson said. “We played so hard on that end and that leads to transition baskets. I’m just really happy for how hard we’re playing and for us to be able to experience CIT again. This is what college basketball should be. It’s so fun to have our players experience something like this – and for our student body. It’s about coming to games, going crazy and cheering for your team and having pride in your university, and we have it here at Concordia.”
The defensive tenacity of the Bulldogs was the story of the contest. CUNE started the game 1-for-11 from the field, but it didn’t matter. Rushton and company ended the first quarter on a 13-3 run (led 20-8) and quickly made the outcome a foregone conclusion. The Bulldogs swiped 14 steals, forced 26 Cougar turnovers and held the opposition to a miserable 18.8 percent (12-for-64) from the floor. CUC (9-10) likely felt like there were six or seven CUNE players on the court when it went on offense.
Just like Friday, Olson used the bench liberally as all 13 Bulldogs who suited up saw action – and all 13 scored. This was a big weekend for freshman Kristin Vieselmeyer, who notched 11 points and seven rebounds on Friday and then followed it up with a career high 21 points and nine rebounds on Saturday. Vieselmeyer was joined in double figures in the title game by teammates in Rushton (13) and Mackenzie Toomey (10). Rushton added four assists and a couple of steals to her stat line. The Midland, Texas, native poured in 15 points in Friday’s win over Concordia Wisconsin.
Said Vieslemeyer, “I enjoyed being able to play with my teammates in such a cool atmosphere and see my whole family be here. You could feel the love from the community.”
Collectively, the Bulldogs shut down star CUC guard Katherine Benes, who had scored 30 points in her team’s Friday win over Concordia Ann Arbor. In the championship, Benes was frustrated into an 0-for-12 performance from the field. She entered the contest average more than 25 points per game. Melia Perry wound up on the CIT all-tournament team after she totaled 13 points against the Bulldogs. No other CUC player had more than seven points.
Said Olson, “I think our team enjoys playing against really good players. Benes is really good. She scores (almost) 28 per game for a reason. Our team is really locked in and they enjoy those challenges. They just did a great job on her.”
Toomey and Mackenzie Koepke collected six rebounds apiece as CUNE enjoyed a 52-42 advantage on the boards. Off the bench, Kendal Brigham posted nine points on 2-for-2 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 shooting from the foul line. The Abbys, Krieser and Heemstra, added six points apiece. The Bulldogs shot 43.1 percent overall and were nearly perfect on free throws (16-for-17).
It will be back to conference play on Wednesday when the Bulldogs are set to venture to Fremont, Neb., for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff inside the Wikert Event Center. CUNE will seek a season sweep of Midland (3-18, 1-15 GPAC) after having defeated the Warriors, 84-59, on Nov. 16. The Bulldogs are 9-1 over their last 10 GPAC outings.
2023 CIT All-Tournament Team
MVP – Taysha Rushton, CUNE
Emily Hafemann, CUW
Taylor Leatherman, CUAA
Melia Perry, CUC
Kristin Vieselmeyer, CUNE