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Cockerill drops 38 in season opening win

Cockerill drops 38 in season opening win
Courtesy/Concordia Athletics.

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Cat quick guard Taylor Cockerill hinted at future stardom last season as a freshman. After Friday (Oct. 26)’s season opener, it’s safe to say she has officially arrived. She rang in the new season by dropping 38 points while leading the top-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team to an 81-68 victory over No. 15 Indiana Wesleyan University in the opening game of the Viterbo Invitational in La Crosse, Wis.

Thirteenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad begins a new season with the usual lofty expectations. The Bulldogs are now 58-3 in regular-season games since the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

“Overall we did play well,” Olson said. “Defensively we’re getting better. We’re just not quite where we need to be. Today we were able to take a decent step forward in certain aspects. We’re still trying to figure out who we are. I think we’ll get there.

“We have so much more that we can do. We beat a good team by double digits, but yet Philly (Lammers) fouls out. I know Grace (Barry) has more in her. We had 25 turnovers and we shot terribly. We had wide open looks. We have to have kids step up and knock shots down. Considering we still won by double digits it shows how good we can be.”

Concordia found itself trailing in the second quarter (27-24) after the Wildcats put together a 13-2 run. During which, the Bulldogs went ice cold offensively. They went just 4-for-22 (.182) from 3-point range for the game, but even when the shots aren’t falling they find ways to make an impression. The ‘gnats’ forced 38 Indiana Wesleyan turnovers in another suffocating performance.

Those miscues and an inability to contain Cockerill doomed the Wildcats. This was an outing to remember. She came off the bench to make 14-of-20 shots from the floor and 8-of-11 tries from the charity stripe. Cockerill’s 38 points are second most in school history behind only the 45-point effort from Bailey Morris in 2014. That’s good company to keep.

“She did that against good defensive team,” Olson said. “I thought they did a really nice job. They switched a lot of stuff. Taylor carried us at times. When we were struggling she could get to the rim. A lot of those baskets we generated off of defense. We got a whole bunch of steals.”

And when Indiana Wesleyan made a late push with a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter, Cockerill was there to stamp out the rally. Twelve of her points came over the final 4:09 of game time. In the process, she blew away her previous career high of 20 points in a game.

It was also a nice day for the lone senior on the roster, Quinn Wragge. She totaled 17 points (7-for-11 from the field), five rebounds and three steals. Meanwhile, point guard Grace Barry notched 12 points, dished out seven assists and swiped six steals while making her Bulldog debut. Another five players also donned Concordia uniforms for the first time. Riley Sibbel added five steals.

The Wildcats got double-digit point outputs from two players off the bench: Anne Secrest (14) and Elaina Ededuwa (12). When they weren’t turning it over, they were an efficient 51.1 percent (23-for-45) from the field. Indiana Wesleyan also had the fortune of seeing the All-American Lammers play only 15 minutes. She fouled out with six points.

Olson’s starting lineup in the opener included Barry at the point, junior MacKenzie Helman at off guard and a lengthy frontline of freshman Elsie Aslesen, Lammers and Wragge. Cockerill and junior Colby Duvel logged the most minutes off the bench. A day earlier, the Bulldogs were defeated in an exhibition at NCAA Division I South Dakota State University.

The Bulldogs will remain in La Crosse overnight in preparation for Saturday’s championship game of the Viterbo University NAIA Invitational. In the other matchup at the invite, No. 22 Cardinal Stritch University was upset by host Viterbo, 61-56. Saturday’s game versus Viterbo will tip off at 3:30 p.m. and can be streamed live via Viterbo’s Stretch Internet portal.

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