Female hoopsters victorious in close home game

In their second matchup against UW-La Crosse this season, the Blugolds again stole the victory by the slimmest of margins. The Blugolds escaped with a 66-63 triumph Saturday at Zorn Arena.

“We didn’t want it to be this close of a game,” sophomore Janel Soppeland said. “But a win is a win, and we’ll take it.”

The victory secured Eau Claire’s third-place position in the WIAC, only two games behind conference-leading UW-Oshkosh, and a half game behind second-place UW-River Falls.

No more than six points ever separated the teams.

In the first half, La Crosse took an early lead. The largest lead the Blugolds held all night was five points.

La Crosse took control of the ball for the final five minutes of the half.

Heading into halftime La Crosse held a five-point lead with a score of 28-33.

“We had a little trouble defending Jill Murray,” Soppeland said. “She scored 19 of their points, so that was a big factor.”

At the 17 minute and eight second mark of the second half, La Crosse held its largest lead of the game at 38-32, a six point separation. After this point, the teams remained within four points of each other at all times.

The lead went back and forth until the Blugolds took the lead with 2:21 remaining. La Crosse missed a last minute three-point shot and secured the victory for Eau Claire.

“La Crosse had a really strong inside,” senior Meagan Whatley said. “(Murray) was really tough to guard with and without the ball.”

Senior Vanessa Schley scored 20 of her 28 points in the last half. Schley leads the Blugolds in overall scoring and points scored per game.

Also donating points for the Blugolds were senior Jessie Brantner, Whatley, sophomore LaToya Banks, senior Megan Murphy, Soppeland, junior Ann Bauer and junior Sarah Hughes.

Hughes, Murphy and Schley led Eau Claire in rebounding. Hughes also had four assists.

The teams were nearly equal on turnovers. Eau Claire had 21, and La Crosse had 22.

Eau Claire improved their overall record to 15-4, and its WIAC record to 8-3.

Eau Claire will face UW-Stout on Wednesday in another conference matchup.

“Stout always plays tough,” Whatley said.

The Blugolds will look to improve their record and move up in the conference.

“Stout is always a fast-paced game with a lot of action,” Soppeland said. “There should be a lot of run and guns, and fast three-pointers.”