‘Golds win fourth in a row over UW-Whitewater

Kyle Seidel

It’s been a season full of ups and downs for the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team and in the closing stages, with only four games remaining, it appears the Blugolds might have righted the ship at the perfect time.

The ‘Golds topped UW-Whitewater Tuesday night with a 70-57 win to push their winning streak to four games, the second longest streak of the year.

The victory also provided redemption for a 69-66 loss to Whitewater earlier this season, a game that was decided in the final second by a Warhawk three pointer.

“My hope is these four wins in a row show this team how good they can play in stretches,” said coach Tonja Englund.

“We talked about building some momentum going into the conference tournament so we’re at the point right now where it’s must-win every time we play.”

The first half for the Blugolds was nothing to get excited about, as they crept into the locker room with a slim three-point lead at 29-26.

When the Blugolds took the court in the second half they looked the same, had the same jerseys on, but they sure didn’t play the same.

“Our focus was just to get up the line, try to get some tipped passes and hopefully get them a little flustered,” senior guard Jessica Dickey said. “That’s what we were able to do in the second half and it worked.”

A new intensity on the defense end forced a plethora of turnovers from the Warhawks in the opening minutes of the second half, as the Blugolds ran off a 16-4 run to take a comfortable 45-30 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.

The only thing that slowed the game and the ‘Golds in the second half was a torrent of foul calls, which left the Warhawks in the bonus with 11:25 remaining.

A total of 44 fouls were called on the night, along with 56 free throws – monster numbers for both categories.

Whatever the reason for the frequency of the whistles, they didn’t seem to matter to the Blugolds as they finished strong, not allowing Whitewater to get any closer than 11 points the rest of the game.

The 70-57 victory over the Warhawks pushes the Eau Claire’s record to 14-7 and into fourth place in the WIAC with a 7-5 conference record.

“We’re playing very well right now,” freshman forward Michelle Burns said. “It’s important for us to build momentum going into the conference tournament.”

The ‘Golds aren’t only picking up momentum with their four straight wins, but also getting momentum back in the form of a healthy senior guard, Katie Murphy.

“Anybody that comes to our games can tell that Katie gives us presence, is great to have her back,” Englund said.

In her second game back Murphy turned in a solid all-around game against the Warhawks with five points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Murphy isn’t the only one who’s been on the shelf. Englund said she also is eager to get back her other senior guard Emilee Planert, who currently is out with back problems.

The Blugolds hope to be near full strength when they travel to Stevens Point to take on the third-ranked Pointers (16-4, 8-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Dickey said they are confident they can steal a victory from the Pointers.

“It’s a big game,” she said. “We already beat them once this year and we know we can do it again.”

Dickey came off the bench to pitch in 19 points for the Blugolds.

Burns was the leading scorer for Eau Claire with 20 points in 35 minutes.

Junior guard Rachel Becker turned in another all-around performance with 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals.