Posted by: Sports
In a wacky week of NAIA Division II women's basketball, the top three teams in the national poll all fell victim to upsets. Second-ranked Concordia could not overcome its offensive woes on Sunday on the way to a 72-61 defeat at Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs remain in first place in the GPAC with an 11-2 league mark and 18-2 overall record.
"I knew it was going to be a tough battle. Dakota Wesleyan is a real good defensive team in the half court," Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. "I knew we were going to need to score. We just didn't make a lot of shots. The thing that killed us was that we didn't make our free throws."
Concordia shot only 29.6 percent (21-for-71) from the field and 23.1 percent (6-for-26) from 3-point range in one of the team's most frustrating offensive performances of the season. Both teams went through prolonged periods of ineptitude on offense in a rough and tumble GPAC battle that saw plenty of physical play.
The Bulldogs' deficit swelled to as many as 14 points after the Tigers' Celeste Beck nailed a long two-point jumper. That's when Concordia flipped the switch and used a boatload of turnovers to come roaring back thanks to an 11-0 run initiated by five-straight points from Jericca Pearson. The Bulldogs used 18 second half turnovers to eventually tie the score at 58 with 3:12 left in the game.
"I didn't even feel like we started playing until we got down 14 in the second half," Olson said.
But the gutsy Dakota Wesleyan squad kept on coming. Back-breaking 3-pointers delivered by the Tigers' Amanda Hart and Beck helped push the lead back up to eight with just over the minute to play. All Concordia could manage in the final few minutes was a Kristen Conahan triple that proved too little, too late.
For head coach Jason Christensen's club, it's the signature win it has been looking for. The Tigers are 10-1 at home and nearly knocked off then No. 10 Northwestern at the Corn Palace before falling 69-66 on Jan. 9. Star forward Kim Johnson led the way for Dakota Wesleyan with 18 points and eight rebounds. Elizabeth Lamb notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Tigers shot 46.3 percent (25-for-54) while hoisting 17 less shots than Concordia, mainly due to turnovers. However, Dakota Wesleyan took advantage of its 18 attempts from the free throw line where it drilled 16 shots. The Bulldogs were an uncharacteristic 13-for-21 from the charity stripe.
"Really all of our makes came off of turnovers in the press," Olson said. "We didn't run our half-court offense well. We were sloppy and then we would end up forcing a shot."
Conahan finished with 16 points to top the Bulldogs, but she was unable to find a rhythm as she went 5-for-21 from the field. Making her first start of her career, Pearson fell just short of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Bailey Morris added eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists while senior guard Katie Rich piled up 12 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Concordia senior Dawn Martin also started on Sunday, marking the first start of the season for the Rockford, Ill., native. Junior Lori Laboda (7.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) did not travel with the team after coming down with the flu.
Olson's Bulldogs are now 5-2 on the road this season. They entered the day with wins in 10 of their last 11 GPAC road contests.
The Bulldogs are back on the road on Wednesday when they visit Doane (5-16, 0-13 GPAC) for a 6 p.m. game. Concordia defeated the Tigers 66-53 on Dec. 21 in a contest played in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Bulldogs will then return home Friday and Saturday for the Concordia Invitational Tournament.