SEWARD, Neb. – In a matchup featuring two 2018 national semifinalists, the third-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team got the result it had to have in order to keep hopes alive for a third GPAC regular-season title in a row. The Bulldogs played a cleaner game while toppling No. 5 Northwestern, 93-85, inside Walz Arena on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 5). The Red Raiders were plagued by 31 turnovers.
In improving to 15-2 overall and to 9-2 in conference play, 13th-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad avoided what would have been a rare feeling: losing back-to-back games. That hasn’t happened in a season since the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
“I love our toughness and the fight that we had,” Olson said. “Early on it looked like we were on our heels again like how we ended the last game, but our kids really, really fought throughout the game and stepped up and made a lot of big plays.”
Northwestern (15-2, 9-2 GPAC) held a lead as large as seven points, but the game flipped on an 11-0 run at the tail end of the opening quarter. For the second-straight game, Concordia tossed in at least 30 points in the first period. The Red Raiders never held a lead in the second half, though they did manage to slice what had been 12-point third-quarter deficit to five early in the final stanza.
When Northwestern tried to pick itself back up off the mat down the stretch, freshman Mackenzie Koepke would not let it. In cold blood, she buried two 3-point daggers in the final four minutes. There was also the matter of Grace Barry blowing to the rim for two quick buckets that set a tone for the final quarter. ‘Amazing Grace’ served as the maestro for an offense that committed only 13 turnovers in a frenetically paced tilt. Barry dished out eight assists to just one giveaway.
“That was a big key for us and something we talk to our team about,” Olson said of his team’s plus-18 turnover margin. “We do have to fight better on rebounds and try to win the rebound margin. If we are going to be negative in rebound margin then we have to make up for it somewhere and that’s taking care of the basketball.”
Offensive firepower was needed to help combat 51.5 percent shooting and a 47-31 rebound advantage for the Red Raiders. All-American Philly Lammers did her part by doing a little bit of everything. She totaled a game high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and three steals.
To be clear, Lammers has never lost back-to-back games in her Bulldog career and she wasn’t about to let it happen now following Wednesday’s 97-92 double overtime loss at Dordt.
“I think we just went back to our principles in being aggressive,” Lammers said. “We were really looking to get steals out of our press. We just stayed true to our fundamentals, our identity and who we are.”
Lammers was joined in double figures by four teammates: Quinn Wragge (15), Colby Duvel (13), Barry (12) and Taylor Cockerill (11). Wragge opened with a bang, notching nine points in the opening quarter. Koepke and MacKenzie Helman added nine apiece off the bench while providing a spark from long distance. Additionally, four of Concordia’s starters swiped two or more steals.
Northwestern’s only other loss came at the hands of Dakota Wesleyan. The Red Raiders also put five players in double figures, led by 16 from star Kassidy De Jong. But even she was prone to the turnover. Three Northwestern starters turned it over five or more times.
The second go-round through the GPAC will begin on Wednesday when the Bulldogs travel to play 15th-ranked Hastings (10-7, 6-5 GPAC). Tipoff from Lynn Farrell Arena is set for 6 p.m. CT. Concordia extended its series win streak over the Broncos to six with an 82-68 win in the meeting that took place in Seward on Nov. 14.