ST. PAUL, MINN- The No. 23 UMD women’s basketball team took down Concordia 62-34 on the road on Friday by way of a resounding effort on defense supplemented by bursts of strong scoring. With the win, the Bulldogs’ overall record improves to 12-2. UMD still has yet to lose in conference play, sitting at an NSIC record of 9-0. The Bulldogs are the only team in the NSIC that has an unblemished in-conference mark.
Concordia had to operate without Lindsey Becher for this one, one of the nation’s premier blockers who’s also good for 9.3 points a game. Her absence was felt early on Friday.
After some early back and forth between the two teams, UMD was able to break out to a sizable advantage that it would hold for most of the quarter. What was a 7-4 game off of a Leah Dengerud layup with 6:58 remaining became a 13-4 contest on the back of six-uncontested points for the Bulldogs in just over a minute of play. Brooke Olson was an integral part of this early run- she already had seven points on perfect 3-3 shooting from the field at this point. Things would even back up for the remaining 5:15 of the quarter. The Golden Bears would actually outscore the Bulldogs from here until the first frame’s end by a mark of 7-5. It’d helped that Concordia had found some success running a press defense, which gave UMD some trouble. Still, the Bulldogs carried a convincing 17-11 lead into the second quarter. UMD had been lights-out to open the game, shooting 58.3% while going 7-12 from the field throughout the first.
There was a bit of a timid start to the second quarter. Part of the reason the frame struggled to develop any pace was because of an early influx in fouls. UMD already had four new bookings to its name in less than two minutes by the 8:08 mark. Eventually, though, things picked back up. And for much of the quarter, the Golden Bears were right there with the Bulldogs, keeping things interesting. By the 4:26 mark, a Jalyn Shaw free-throw had trimmed Concordia’s deficit down to five at 21-16.
Enough was enough for UMD- here, it pushed things into third gear.
The Bulldogs didn’t just go on to rattle off 15 points in less than five minutes- they did it without letting the Golden Bears score again before the break. UMD took a 36-16 lead into halftime.
Offensively, UMD put on a masterclass in spreading the wealth. Five different Bulldogs scored during the unanswered run, with Madelyn Granica’s four points being enough to lead the pack. Defensively… it was hard for UMD to get much better. Forget taking this scoreless stretch from Concordia in isolation- the Bulldogs held the Golden Bears to just 1-13 shooting from the field across the entire second quarter. That’s a 7.7% shooting percentage.
That figure doesn’t get much better for Concordia when you look at their shooting across the entire half. The Golden Bears went just 6-25 from the field through 20 minutes, a shooting percentage of 24%. Meanwhile, not only was UMD enjoying an impressive defensive outing, but its offense hadn’t been half bad, either. The Bulldogs shot at an efficiency clip of 51.9% in the first half while going 14-27 from the field. Olson already had 12 points on 5-9 (55.6%) shooting to lead the team. She also had seven rebounds and a block to her name.
But things again slowed down on both sides to begin the third quarter, one that started as a bit of a defensive delight. The first five minutes of the frame saw just nine total points of scoring, with the Golden Bears having gotten the edge 5-4 to make the score 40-21. The teams traded baskets to leave things at 42-23 with 3:54 on the clock. Perhaps that wasn’t enough time for the Bulldogs to go nuclear as they’d done to end the second quarter, but with a 19-point advantage already in hand… they’d settle for a bit of a smaller surge. UMD closed the frame on a 9-2 run highlighted by a Taytum Rhoades three-point play that had made it 49-23 with just 1:48 remaining. An Olson hook shot not long after proved to wrap up the hot streak. When the smoke settled at the end of the third, the Bulldogs found themselves up 26 at a score of 51-25.
Ella Gilbertson put together quite the quarter, scoring a team-high six points to go along with a laundry list of contributions elsewhere. The junior guard paired her scoring with two assists, four rebounds and a steal. Meanwhile, it was yet another strong outing from the Bulldog defense as a unit. Concordia scored just nine points on 4-13 (30.8%) shooting from the field in the third.
There were no big scoring surges to be had in the final frame- things stayed pretty mellow most of the way. But that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs had things in cruise control. UMD pushed its lead out to as much as 28 at a score of 57-29 with 5:43 remaining. Down the stretch, it was largely a mix of rotational pieces that were able to make the final stand for UMD. No player that started the game for the Bulldogs played more than Olson’s 3:45 in the fourth. Still, regardless of who found themselves on the court to dictate, the UMD defense was stifling. Concordia shot 3-18 (16.7%) to close out the game. At the final buzzer, UMD held a 62-34 advantage.
It was a quieter half for UMD offensively, but it took care of business when it needed to- particularly at the charity stripe. The Bulldogs were nearly automatic from the line, going 10-11 (90.9%) in the closing 20 minutes. Altogether, Olson and Gilbertson tied for the team lead in points in the half with six on 2-4 and 2-3 shooting respectively. On the other end of the court, it was more of the same for UMD. The Bulldogs locked the Golden Bears to an efficiency clip of 22.6% over the last two quarters, as they shot just 7-31 from the field.
Olson ended the night as the game’s leading scorer with 18 points on 7-13 (53.8%) shooting. The graduate forward also led all players with nine rebounds. Olson did it all on 22:38 of time on the court. Gilbertson was UMD’s other double-digit scorer in the contest. The guard tallied 14 points while going 5-8 (62.5%) from the field. This is Gllbertson’s fifth-straight game finishing in double figures. Maesyn Thiesen had a Bulldog-high four assists while Rhoades led with four steals.
As a team, UMD’s defensive effort was arguably its best yet. The Golden Bears’ 34 points were the least that have been scored on the Bulldogs so far this season. And those points came on just 23.3% shooting from the field, another season-low.
Concordia was led by Ally Gietzel’s 13 points on 4-10 shooting from the field and a 5-6 mark from the line. Raegan Alexander had a team-high seven rebounds.
POST-GAME WITH PEARSON
A monumental touchstone for UMD in this one was its 15-0 run to close out the first half up 20.
When asked about what went so right for the Bulldogs in this stretch, UMD head coach Mandy Pearson highlighted an aspect of their game that certainly earned the praise.
“I thought our intensity was really good on defense, which created some really good energy for our team on both ends of the floor,” Pearson said.
But UMD’s defensive unit was stout through far more than just this brief stretch.
Pearson had good things to say about the Bulldog defense on a more macro level, too.
“I thought our players did a great job of taking away some of Concordia’s individual strengths, and they communicated and worked really well together,” Pearson said. “I also really liked our efforts to box out and finish possessions. Hopefully we can keep getting better, as our efforts to rebound continue improving.”
Saturday’s a big one for the Bulldogs, as they travel to Mankato to face off against a 12-1 Minnesota State squad that’s ranked No. 5 in the country. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m.
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