Payback on the Pointers

Kathlyn Hotynski

The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team trailed for much of Wednesday’s game against UW-Stevens Point, committing turnovers, struggling to find offense and having trouble stopping the Pointers’ inside attack.

Then Michelle Burns took over.

Starting with a baseline jumper to give the Blugolds a one-point lead with 9:42 left, the junior forward rattled off nine consecutive Eau Claire points and six straight field goals to spark a 61-50 victory at Zorn Arena.

She finished with 19 points, with 15 coming in the second half.

“When I have a good game I really have to attribute it to the girls around me,” said Burns, who scored all of her second half points in the last 10 minutes. “They’re the ones getting me the ball, they’re making the great passes and they’re also knocking down shots themselves that are getting me open.”

The win moves the Blugolds to 8-4 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and closer to locking down home games for the conference tournament, which begins Feb. 19. Eau Claire is in second place, two games behind UW-Stout.

The Blugolds and Pointers went back and forth throughout the second half. With a little less than seven minutes left, the Pointers’ Haley Houghton hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 48.

As it would turn out, however, that was the last field goal the Pointers would make on the night.

The Blugolds began to pull away late, as a pair of field goals by Burns gave the ‘Golds a 53-48 lead with 3:20 left.

With 1:20 remaining and the score 53-49, Stevens Point blew a chance to make it a one-possession game with two costly misses on the free throw line.

Eau Claire capitalized with two free throws from Burns before sophomore Heidi Arciszewski finally put the game away, drilling a 3-pointer in the corner to make it 58-51.

“She had a night where stuff wasn’t going for her, but to hit that shot, that’s a kid who understands what we need to win,” coach Tonja Englund said.

The loss avenged a 20-point defeat to the Pointers on Jan. 10 and pushed Eau Claire’s undefeated Zorn Arena record to 10-0.

The ‘Golds were able to shake off a sluggish first half in which they committed eight turnovers, but still went into the locker room leading 27-26 after a 6-0 run to end the half.

“Unforced turnovers, to me as a coach, it’s something that is unacceptable,” Englund said. “I thought in the second half our decision making was better and we didn’t have those kinds of turnovers.”

They stayed with Stevens Point in large part due to the play of sophomore center Ashley Anderson, who came off the bench to score 10 first half points and finish with a career-high of 12.

“It’s really a team effort,” Anderson said. “We really need to keep it going and get on the road and get some wins.”

Englund echoed those comments, saying the Blugolds must win away from Zorn to play there in the conference tournament.

“We are always talking about how important it is that we will be here for the tournament . because we think that our home crowd is going to help us win,” she said.

“We got a gritty win (at Platteville) on Saturday so I’m hoping that the confidence of the group is really starting to come around.”