Women tied for 2nd place in WIAC

The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team beat UW-River Falls 74-64 Saturday night to move into a tie for second place in the WIAC conference.

The Blugolds jumped to a 17-7 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game, but River Falls came back to take a one-point lead. A basket at the buzzer by senior Megan Murphy gave the Blugolds a 35-34 advantage at intermission.

In the second half, the ‘Golds jumped to a 10-point lead, 51-41, at the 12:20 mark, but River Falls rallied again to go up 58-53 with 6:24 left in the game.

Senior Jessie Brantner hit three treys in a two-minute span coupled with a jumper from sophomore Kristi Channing to give the Blugolds a 68-62 lead with 2:06 left.

River Falls cut the lead back down to five at 69-64 with 1:14 left, but the Blugolds scored the final five points to ice the game from the free-throw line. The Blugold women made 12 of their 20 free-throw attempts.

Brantner led the Blugolds with a career-high 23 points on seven for nine shooting. She went six for eight from three-point range. Brantner tied a school record with six three-pointers.

As a team, the Blugolds hit eight of 14 three-pointers. The Falcons made five of their 24 three-point attempts. The ‘Golds also totaled 12 turnovers to the Falcon’s 13.

The Blugolds shot 49 percent from the field and River Falls hit just 36 percent, which offset its 42-30 rebounding edge and 15 of 18 free-throw shooting.

The Falcons were led by Mara Reif-Wenner, who scored 15 points. Andrea Long, who scored 23 in the Falcons’ 67-52 win in Eau Claire four weeks ago, was held to five points after getting into foul trouble.

Sophomore Janel Soppeland chipped in seven points, nine rebounds and six assists for the ‘Golds.

“It was a game of ups and downs,” Soppeland said. “Jessie Brantner was on fire for us. She really got into a rhythm for us. We were waiting for her to do that all season.”

Murphy helped the Blugolds to victory with 12 points on five of 11 shooting. Channing came off the bench to go four for six, to finish with nine points.

The Blugolds are tied with River Falls at 10-4 in league play. Eau Claire upped its season mark to 17-5.

Both teams trail first-place UW-Oshkosh by two games after the Titans lost to UW-Stevens Point 70-68 in overtime Saturday.

The Blugolds remain a half game ahead of UW-Stout and a full game ahead of Stevens Point in the league race.

The Blugolds will close out the regular season with home games Wednesday against UW-Platteville and Saturday against Oshkosh.