SEWARD, Neb. – A slow offensive start was forgotten by the time 40 minutes of gnats-at-a-picnic defensive smothering left another downtrodden opponent in its wake. While thriving on 42 Briar Cliff turnovers, the second-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team did more than enough on the offensive end in walking away with an 87-58 victory over the visiting Chargers on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 12).
Thirteenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad forced exactly 42 turnovers in both regular-season meetings with Briar Cliff. The Bulldogs have moved to 17-2 overall and to 11-2 in conference play.
“I thought the biggest thing in this game was just how hard we played,” Olson said. “We understood how to execute with our press and did a great job of that. The hard part about playing Briar Cliff is they do such a nice job of taking away post touches. Our guards were open and thankfully in the second half they knocked down shots.”
It took Briar Cliff more than five-and-a-half minutes before it finally cracked the scoreboard with a Logan Ehlers basket. The Chargers were lost in the face of Concordia’s zone press. The Bulldogs were so thoroughly dominant in that aspect of their game that they built a 40-20 halftime lead without even a single point from All-American Philly Lammers. Briar Cliff’s 2-3 zone opened the door for a wealth of 3-point looks. Concordia went 15-for-46 from beyond the arc.
The advantages at the 3-point arc and in the turnover battle made for the lopsided final score. Concordia had only a modest edge in overall field goal percentage (41.6 to 40.0). At the point, Grace Barry again served as a steadying force. She dished out eight assists while helping find the open shooters on the perimeter. Backcourt mate Taylor Cockerill provided needed scoring punch in slashing her way to a team high 15 points to go along with six rebounds and five steals.
The bench added some juice. Efficient performances were turned in by the likes of Elsie Aslesen (six points, 4-for-4 from the free throw line), Delani Fahey (12 points, 4-for-6 from 3-point range) and Taryn Schuette (10 points, 2-for-5 on 3-pointers). Though MacKenzie Helman went only 1-for-8 from the field, she dropped nine dimes and plucked a steal. Eleven Bulldogs had at least one steal, led by the six thefts from Riley Sibbel. Concordia even outdid its NAIA leading average of 20.2 steals per game with 29 takeaways.
Fahey is shooting a cool 50 percent from 3-point territory this season. Said Fahey of her experience as a rookie, “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been way better than I expected it to be. It’s exceeded all my expectations and I’m really excited for the rest of the season.”
Quinn Wragge added 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the floor. Lammers was held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting. Post play was limited by Briar Cliff’s zone although Concordia did manage to outscore the Chargers in the paint, 30-24.
The Chargers (11-10, 5-8 GPAC) have proven capable of hanging with ranked foes. They entered the day having beaten three top 25 opponents. They struggled to get out of their own way on this particular day. Briar Cliff had just one player in double figures: Taylor Vasa (10 points, seven rebounds).
The Bulldogs will remain home to host Midland (11-7, 6-6 GPAC) on Wednesday. Tipoff from Walz Arena is slated for 6 p.m. CST. In the first meeting this season between the two sides, Barry and Wragge put up 17 points apiece in an 83-65 Concordia win in Fremont. The Warriors received votes in this week’s NAIA coaches’ poll.