Men’s hoops fall to No. 1 Pointers
The UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team lost 89-55 to top-seeded UW-Stevens Point in the WIAC tournament quarterfinals Tuesday. The upset bid never got going after the second half of play.
The Blugolds kept the game within reach during the first half, leading 7-6 early on and 20-19 with 7:12 remaining in the first half. That was the last lead Eau Claire would hold in the game.
Having to play the top-ranked team in Div. III for the WIAC tournament is a difficult task, coach Terry Gibbons said, but he was proud of the way his team battled and kept it close in the first half.
“I thought our kids played tremendous against the No. 1 team in the nation,” he said.
The Pointers made a late first-half run, scoring nine unanswered points to lead 28-20. They led 36-26 at the half.
Junior Jared Bardon and senior Matt Riley contributed key points in the first half.
The Pointers made 45 percent of their shots in the first half, barely eclipsing the Blugolds, who shot 42 percent from the floor in the first half of play.
The Pointers helped build their first half lead by outscoring the Blugolds in the paint 20-0. The Pointers also had more assists in the first half, with an advantage of 8-1.
The Blugolds came out strong in the second half. Just two minutes into the final period, Eau Claire had already cut its 10-point deficit to five points.
An 11-0 Pointer run on 5-of-5 shooting helped blow the game wide open, extending their lead to 16 points.
Stevens Point never looked back, as it went on a shooting flurry in the second half, going 68 percent from the floor to finish the game at 57 percent.
Eau Claire made 46 percent of its shots from the floor in the second half, finishing with at 44 percent for the game.
Gibbons said his team kept top WIAC regular season scorer, Pete Rortvedt, almost 10 points below his season average but could not contain junior Jon Krull, who scored a team-high 24 points for the Pointers.
“We did a great job of shutting down Rortvedt but . Krull did a great job as far as getting to the glass and knocking down 24 points,” Gibbons said about Krull’s effort.
The Pointers dominated the paint, outscoring the Blugolds 42-10 for the game.
Junior Dan Beyer, coming off a career-high 40-point effort against UW-Whitewater, scored a team-high 18 points. Sixteen of his points came in the second half.
Senior Jared Supalla, suiting up for his final game as a Blugold, scored a career-high 10 points coming off the bench.
The Blugolds finished the season with a 10-16 record, failing to advance to the second round of the WIAC tournament for the fourth straight season.
The majority of the team will be returning next season, as only two seniors will be out of eligibility, Gibbons said. The team has its sights on next year and making it deeper into the tournament.
“We only lose two seniors and we’ve got a bulk of kids coming back for next year so we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
Bardon said team expectations were not as high as in years past, given the number of freshmen and transfer players on this year’s team. But given a year of experience, Bardon said the team should be improved next season.
“The (first-year players) have been around here for a year now and they know what it’s like to play here,” Bardon said. “But the new guys give us a solid base for next year and we expect to be better.”