Women’s basketball beats UW-River Falls in WIAC tournament
Nearly one year ago to the day, the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team hosted UW-River Falls in its first game of the WIAC conference tournament opening round and won 73-43.
This year, the women once again hosted River Falls, and once again, the Blugolds walked away victoriously – this time with a 62-47 victory.
“We split with them this year in the regular season and fortunately we played really well against them in the conference tournament,” coach Tonja Englund said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that . we continually improved.”Senior Heather Witt, a key contributor in the 2008 victory over River Falls, helped the Blugolds take an early lead with a 3-pointer and an assist to sophomore Hannah Mesick as Eau Claire jumped out to a 6-0 lead. River Falls, however, fought back and took a 7-6 lead.
After back and forth play for the first six and a half minutes, Witt scored on a fastbreak to give the Blugolds a lead they would not relinquish. Senior Pam Kaye made a jumper with three seconds left in the half to give the Blugolds a 25-19 lead heading into halftime. Witt led all scorers at the half with 11 points, while Mesick and senior Heidi Arciszewski tied for the most rebounds for the Blugolds with four each.
“Limiting our turnovers (was a key),” Englund said. “We only turned the ball over 12 times (Tuesday) night and we did a much better job handling their pressure and attacking their pressure. As a team we did a much better job of playing smarter in key situations.”
Mesick and Witt once again combined for a quick five points as the Blugolds extended their lead to 10. Eau Claire never let its lead sink below five points for the remainder of the game, eventually winning by 15.
“Our entire team and our coaching staff-, we’re always going to say that we believe our home court gives us a 10 to 15 point advantage because of our crowd,” Englund said. “It’s a great place to play and a great playoff atmosphere. It was awesome that our seniors got to play another game in front of the home crowd.”
Witt scored eight points in the second half, increasing her total to a team-leading 19. She recorded six assists, which also led the team. Arciszewski led the Blugolds in rebounds, grabbing 10. Mesick finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Katie Weinberg scored 12 points, all in her nine minutes on the court in the second half.
Eau Claire will travel to UW-Whitewater to play the Warhawks at 7 p.m. Thursday night. A fan bus is planning to transport students from Eau Claire’s Water Street lot at 2 p.m. and will return immediately following the game; however, the bus will be canceled unless 40 people are registered by 10 a.m. on Thursday.
“Both games (against Whitewater) were impacted by who hosted – they played really well down there and we played really well at home,” Englund said. “We proved last week that we could do it at Stout and that we can do it at Platteville, which are two tough places to win. For this team it will be winning at Whitewater that will be a big key for them. We’re capable of it.”
In their previous two meetings this year, the Blugolds and the Warhawks split the season series. On January 10, in Whitewater, Eau Claire lost, 73-61. However, the Blugolds bounced back and won 71-50 on January 31, in Zorn Arena.
“I would be a strong advocate, right now even before the semi finals, for three teams (from the WIAC) getting in (to the NCAA championship tournament),” Englund said. “Stevens Point, Whitewater and ourselves are three of the best in the nation. All of us have played extremely strong and competitive schedules.”