No. 11 Northwestern uses defense, rebounding to cut down No. 3 Concordia

Posted by: Sports

Three early Kristen Conahan 3-pointers kept No. 3 Concordia close, but 11th-ranked Northwestern used a physical effort defensively and manhandled the Bulldogs on the boards. With reigning GPAC Player of the Year Kendra De Jong having her way on the glass, the Red Raiders upset Concordia 63-51 in Orange City, Iowa, on Saturday. The Bulldogs fell to 21-4 overall and 13-3 in the GPAC.

Concordia put forth a solid defensive effort of its own by forcing 25 Northwestern turnovers while allowing just 33.9 percent shooting from the field. It marked the 11th time this season that the Bulldogs held an opponent below 35 percent, however, it simply was not enough to overcome 26.1 percent shooting and a 61-32 disadvantage on the boards.

“It was a physical game and they were a lot more physical than us,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “Offensively we couldn't get the shots we needed.”

The Red Raiders' inside combo of De Jong (15 points, 17 rebounds) and Samantha Kleinsasser (seven points, 10 rebounds) overmatched the Concordia frontcourt. While De Jong struggled from the field, she helped limit the Bulldogs to one-and-dones and then made critical free throws and a layup late in the game to pull away from Concordia.

“She played hard and we didn't match it,” Olson said. “She killed us on the glass.”

The Bulldogs led only briefly early in the first half but never in the second half. Concordia seemed to seize control of momentum at the outset of the second half when senior Katie Rich scored back-to-back layups, including a nifty reverse after an offensive board, to pull even at 32-32. Northwestern called timeout, regrouped, scored the next five points and did not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.

The Red Raiders' physical play on the interior also resulted in foul trouble for two of the Bulldogs' most reliable post players. Sophomore Jericca Pearson picked up her fourth foul at the 16:47 mark of the second half and junior Lori Laboda was whistled for her fourth about 10 minutes later, allowing the rebound discrepancy to grow larger.

Conahan looked like she may have another big day when she drilled a trio of triples from almost the exact same spot on the left wing in the first 10 minutes of the game. She, like the rest of the team, eventually went cold.

Conahan, who led Concordia with 14 points on Saturday, now has at least one 3-pointer in 23 of 25 games this season and three or more treys in 14 games. She entered the weekend 10th in NAIA Division II with 66 3-point field goals.

Although Morningside (14-3 in the GPAC) owns a half-game lead over Concordia in the GPAC standings, the Bulldogs hold the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep over the Mustangs. In other words, Concordia controls its own destiny as it aims for a second-straight GPAC regular-season title.

The Bulldogs return home on Wednesday to take on another highly-ranked opponent as No. 10 Briar Cliff (21-5, 12-4 GPAC) visits Seward for a 6 p.m. contest. Rich's late game defensive dominance helped Concordia to a 72-65 victory at Briar Cliff on Dec. 5. The Chargers sit one game behind the Bulldogs in the standings.