Hoopsters drop close game to Hawks

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The UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team was defeated 62-65 on the road Saturday night by UW-La Crosse for the second time this season.

The team proved that there is no such thing as an easy win in the WIAC.

The Blugolds were cold from the start, falling behind 19-8 in the first eight minutes of the contest. The ‘Golds managed to come within four by the end the half.

“They were pretty hot to start out the game,” senior Sherm Carstensen said. “We didn’t play a very solid first half. We played hard, but we were a little out of sync. I don’t know what to say, sometimes the ball just doesn’t drop.”

Carstensen led the Blugolds with 25 points. Sophomore Jason Larson contributed 13 and sophomore Andy Witte put 10 points on the board.

Carstensen was eight out of 22 from the field, hitting four of 11 from downtown.

Larson shot four for 13, but none of his four three-point attempts were successful. Five players reached double digits for the Eagles led by Eddie Hebert with 15.

At the 11:02 mark of the second half, the Blugolds took their only lead of the game, 41-39. The hot-shooting Eagles then drained five three-pointers to take a nine point lead with 4:51 remaining.

Eau Claire brought the margin down to four at the 3:01 mark, but couldn’t get over the hump. La Crosse extended its lead back to six (61-55) with 39 seconds left. A three-point play by Larson cut it to two (64-62) with 12 seconds remaining. The Blugolds didn’t get the shot they wanted for the game winner.

“They’re such a good perimeter shooting team,” head coach Terry Gibbons said. “We had a lot of easy looks early on and we just didn’t convert.”

Missing the easy buckets hurt the ‘Golds early on, while La Crosse shot 53 percent from the field, including a hot seven for 16 from behind the arc.

Eau Claire was tough on the boards, out-rebounding La Crosse by 10, 37 to 27. Each team had 12 turnovers.

“We did a good job on the boards,” Gibbons said. “We continued to work hard on defense in the second half.”

With five games left, including three home games, the Blugolds hope to finish the season strong.

“In this conference, one through eight, anybody can win on any given night,” Gibbons said. “We’re still in the hunt.”

Eau Claire sits with a 12-7 overall mark, 6-5 in the WIAC. The Blugolds have continued to stay strong after losing seven players off last year’s squad.

They’re just a game and a half out of first place in the conference behind the new leader UW-River Falls.

“There’s no question, this is the toughest conference in the nation,” Gibbons said. “There isn’t a team below .500. Every game is a war.”

Despite this loss, the Blugolds remain in contention for the WIAC title. The Blugolds remain tied with two other teams for third place.

The team is looking to turn things around Wednesday as it continue its conference battle at Zorn Arena against UW-Stout. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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