SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Wednesday (March 6) noon tilt at the 2019 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship featured a tournament veteran and a newcomer to the national stage – and it looked like it. Tagged with the No. 1 overall seed, Concordia used its devastating press to power a 22-0 first quarter run that quickly dashed Wilberforce University (Ohio)’s upset hopes. The Bulldogs forced 27 turnovers in the first half while running away with a 100-62 victory.
The win marked the 30th all-time at the national tournament for the Concordia women’s basketball program. Thirteenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad will cruise into the second round with an overall mark of 31-3.
“I thought our kids played really, really well,” Olson said. “In that first half we were focused and played with good energy defensively. I didn’t think we shot well early on in the game, but we were finishing layups. As the game went on we started hitting our threes.”
By game’s end, Concordia had just missed out on a program national tournament record for points in a game (101) and came up just short of an Olson-era best for national tournament win margin (41). However, that nasty press moved the 2018-19 squad’s season count of forced turnovers to 1,043 for a new school single-season record (previously held by the 2014-15 national runner up team).
Olson pulled back on the press early and played his starters only sparingly in the second half. Wilberforce had no answer for All-American Philly Lammers, who powered home 16 points (7-for-9 from the field) in only 14 minutes of action. She played a big part in her side’s ability to score in transition and build a halftime advantage of 56-23. Lammers also swiped four rebounds and three steals in a game that saw her become the program’s 11th player all-time to reach 1,500 career points.
All 15 Concordia players got playing time with all but one registering in the scoring column. Point guard Grace Barry (14 points; 5-for-6 shooting) provided more highlight reel plays and Colby Duvel enjoyed a big first half on her way to 12 points.
In the second half, freshman Rylee Pauli gave her best impression of Philly. Pauli’s 11 points and nine rebounds were both career highs. Taryn Schuette (nine points) got hot from 3-point range, at one point nailing back-to-back treys from the same spot in the left corner. Meanwhile, Mackenzie Koepke added nine points and two blocked shots and MacKenzie Helman and Quinn Wragge both pilfered four steals.
The 24 steals by the victors were one of the major themes of the game. As it so often does, the Concordia press overwhelmed another unfamiliar opponent. The lead stood at 87-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
“That’s a team that’s really athletic so to be able to contain the ball and pressure them like we did was awesome,” Olson said. “I thought Grace and Riley (Sibbel) did a great job up front and then our second line did a really nice job of adjusting and adapting to their press break.”
Also nicknamed the Bulldogs, Wilberforce (14-13) earned a bit to the national tournament by placing third in the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Tournament. Wilberforce got a team high 11 points from Mustafa Notter and managed to cause 26 Concordia turnovers.
For the seventh time in Olson’s tenure, the Bulldogs have advanced to at least the second round of the national tournament. Concordia now gets set to take on a familiar postseason foe in 17th-ranked Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.), which defeated No. 15 Sterling College (Kan.), 83-73, in the first round on Wednesday. The Bulldogs and Wolves have gotten together four previous times at the national championships with Concordia winning three of those matchups (most recent in the second round in 2017).
Listen to the game here.