ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A solid offensive performance from Concordia University, Wisconsin pushed the top-ranked Concordia University, Nebraska women’s basketball team, but the Bulldogs still had far too much firepower to fall victim to an upset. Taylor Cockerill sparked CUNE with a big first half while leading her side to a 102-74 victory on day one (Jan. 25) of the 68th annual Concordia Invitational Tournament. Concordia University, Ann Arbor serves as this year’s host.
Thirteenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad has now won 11 CIT games in a row. The Bulldogs are 21-2 overall.
“I thought the bench group came in and did a great job,” Olson said. “Delani Fahey came in and hit a bunch of threes and so did Mack Koepke. The whole group did a really nice job overall. I will credit Wisconsin. They played well and made a lot of shots.”
This wound up being a more competitive contest than the previous CIT meeting between the two sides that occurred in 2017 and resulted in a 107-65 CUNE win. This edition of the Falcons has a bit more in the tank offensively. With the help of 17 points off the bench from Camryn Szolyga, CUW got within 14 points in the opening minute of the third quarter. The Falcons actually shot a higher percentage from the field (46.0 to 43.2) than the Bulldogs.
CUNE fought back with the three ball (12-for-33 for the game). Cockerill made a trio of triples as part of her game high 21-point performance. In reserve roles, Fahey (4-for-6 from beyond the arc) and Koepke (3-for-8 from 3-point range) were instrumental in widening a lead that grew to as many as 34 points. In the post, Philly Lammers did what she does. She recorded 17 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals.
Things were called a bit tighter than the Bulldogs would prefer. They were whistled for 32 fouls, which partially negated the effectiveness of the press. CUNE still managed to swipe 18 steals (four by Koepke) and force 30 turnovers.
Many teams have had trouble containing Cockerill, who can score in a variety of ways. Now oozing with confidence, Cockerill has made a jump to stardom in her sophomore season.
“It’s just game-by-game with what the team needs,” Cockerill said. “I try to provide what the team needs, whether it’s energy, points, passing or whatever.”
CUW (13-5) competes as a member of NCAA Division III’s Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. The Falcons last won the CIT title in 2007. Emily Hafemann (12) joined Szolyga in double figures in the defeat. While CUW shot the ball efficiently, it got outrebounded, 48-34.
At the point guard spot, Grace Barry totaled 12 points, five assists and three steals. Barry was one of eight Bulldogs who experienced CIT for the first time on Friday. CUNE deployed 14 players, including Elle Luehr and Jayda Lyon, who were recently added to the varsity roster. A two-time CIT MVP, Quinn Wragge contributed five points, six rebounds and three assists.
The Bulldogs now get set for the CIT championship game slated to tip off at 4:30 p.m. CST / 5:30 p.m. EST inside Cardinal Field House in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday. CUNE is looking for its sixth CIT title in a row and 29th all-time.
The Bulldogs are again in the role of heavy favorite, but it’s something they have become accustomed to. Said Cockerill, “We just want to keep getting better every day. We’re focusing on one game at a time and how we can get better individually and as a team. We just take the games as they come.”