Women’s basketball adds to winning streak; now 16-3
The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team continued their winning ways on Saturday, beating the UW-La Crosse Eagles 49-36 in Zorn Arena. The Blugolds are currently riding a four game winning streak and are in first place in WIAC conference play.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well, with Eau Claire shooting about 35 percent and La Crosse shooting just under 30 percent. The team hadn’t played since Jan. 14, but senior guard Nicole Christianson said she didn’t think that was a result of the team being rusty. “They just weren’t falling for us, and we found other ways to score,” Christianson said.
Eau Claire started the game off slow and had eight first half turnovers, which led to a 22-22 tie game at halftime. Coach Tonja Englund said the slow start could be attributed to rust, but doesn’t think that tells the whole story.
“With five seniors, I don’t think you want to necessarily make that excuse,” Englund said. “If we struggle a little bit with our shooting, then sometimes we compound it and make it harder than it really needs to be.”
Christianson was 2-11 shooting on the day, and said she tried to find other ways to help the team. “I try to keep shooting, because I don’t want to give up on that, but I also find other ways to get other people involved,” Christianson said. Christianson finished with eight points, four assists and four steals in 38 minutes of play.
Senior forward Callie Halama led the Blugolds in scoring with 14 points and eight rebounds. Halama said she was able to exploit her size advantage on the offensive end, while having to guard a smaller, quicker player on the defensive end. “It goes both ways,” Halama said.
Coach Englund said she thought the team’s free throw shooting was a big key to their success.
Eau Claire shot 15-17 from the free throw line, while La Crosse was 6-17. “That was a game-changer,” said Englund. “On a positive note, that’s the best that we’ve shot from the line probably all year.”
Eau Claire had a key 15-0 run in the second half that opened up a 13 point lead that helped them secure the victory. Englund said the team’s switch to a zone defense in the second half forced La Crosse to take more outside shots. “That helped us make that run because we could rest a little bit more on within that zone, and also protected Ellen [Plendl], because she was in foul trouble,” said Englund.
A little over 1,000 people attended the game, which created a high-energy atmosphere, said Englund. “We loved having a big crowd today, and it’s only going to get better now that the students are returning,” said Englund.
The win puts Eau Claire at 15-3 overall, and 8-1 in WIAC play. The loss drops La Crosse to 13-5, with a 6-3 conference record. Christianson said the team is doing a good job focusing on one game at a time, and not lingering on being in first place in the conference.
Englund said the team’s success can be attributed to their focus on themselves, and not on other teams. “This is such a tough league,” said Englund. “You have to spend more time on improving rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing.”