Drake scores career high, ‘Golds fall
Junior guard Casey Drake began hitting the shots early in the second half Saturday, starting out with a couple layups before moving outside for the long-range jumpers.
Drake was able to shoot UW-Eau Claire back into the game, but turnovers and foul trouble helped UW-Stevens Point mount another run, pushing the Blugolds closer to the WIAC basement.
Drake scored a career-high 35 points, but it wasn’t enough, as the 12th-ranked Pointers (19-4, 10-4 WIAC) handed the Blugolds (10-14, 4-11) an 80-68 loss in the first game of a men’s-women’s doubleheader in Zorn Arena.
|UW-Stevens Point 80
UW-Platteville, 7 p.m. Tuesday, at Platteville
Drake was the key figure in a 17-7 Eau Claire run that opened the second half, scoring 27 points and giving the Blugolds a 43-42 lead with 13 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game.
But moments later, sophomore forward Buck Smith picked up Eau Claire’s seventh foul of the half, sending the Pointers into the bonus.
The Pointers ended up 21-for-30 from the line, compared to 9-for-16 for the Blugolds.
The Blugolds committed 15 turnovers to the Pointers’ three, all of which helped the Pointers move into a three-way tie for first in the WIAC.
“We’ve had turnover problems all year, but I see it as us trying to make plays,” Drake said. “We’re just attacking the play on the offensive end.”
The Pointers confused the Blugolds offense during the first half by mixing in a zone defense, which helped them jump out to a nine-point halftime lead.
Drake admitted after the game that the zone did have an effect on the offense.
“They did a pretty good job mixing in the zone,” he said. “It messes you up for a couple of possessions, then they get back into man defense.”
In the second half, though, there wasn’t much the Pointers could do to contain Drake. He scored his 35 points shooting 12-for-19, 5-for-7 from behind the 3-point arc. Drake also pulled down a team-high six rebounds in the game.
Coach Terry Gibbons was full of praise for Drake after the game, describing his performance as “awesome.”
“He’s the hardest working player I’ve ever had,” Gibbons said. “I’ve never had a guy who worked as hard in the offseason.”
Drake’s 35 points were the most scored by a Blugold in a single game since Jason Larson scored 36 in a game in November 2001 in Puerto Rico.
Sherm Carstensen, who was honored with several other Blugold alumni at halftime, scored 36 points in the 2000 national championship game.
The last Blugold to score 35 points against a WIAC opponent was Jeremy Nicolet against UW-Oshkosh in 1995.
While Drake’s scoring was able to bring the Blugolds back into the game, the Pointers responded. A 7-1 run that took just over a minute off the clock gave the Pointers a 65-55 lead with 6:47 left; the Blugolds were unable to get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We had a nice run to get the one-point lead, they had another run and we didn’t come back with an answer,” Gibbons said.
“We have to be able to step up and get another run of our own.”
The loss drops the Blugolds into eighth place in the conference, only a half-game ahead of idle UW-La Crosse.
Only the top eight teams play in the WIAC tournament.