Eau Claire basketball conference play ends with turbulent weekend in Menomonie

Just three days after the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team upset one of the country’s strongest teams, the same Blugold squad dropped the ball against one of the weakest teams in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Blugolds fell to WIAC cellar-dweller UW-Stout on the road Saturday afternoon 89-75 in both teams’ regular-season finale. Just days earlier the Blugolds had served up a hot 65-60 defeat against UW-Platteville, then-ranked fourth in the country.

The women’s team, on the other hand, took a 59-41 win against the same school on the same day after going neck-and-neck against the host Blue Devils for most of the afternoon.

The Lady Blugolds finished their regular season on a high note and earned themselves a home-court advantage in the first round of the upcoming conference tournament.

Eau Claire outshot Stout 37 percent to 23 percent from the field Saturday afternoon and led in several defensive categories to take the win against the I-94 rival.

The Blugolds committed just 14 turnovers to Stout’s 21 and out-blocked and out-stole the host Blue Devils.

Stout led by as many as seven in the first half, but a late-period comeback by Eau Claire gave the Blugolds a short lead going into halftime. Eau Claire held onto a tentative lead for the first 15 minutes of the second half before finally exploding offensively in the waning minutes to claim a lopsided 59-41 victory.

Senior Heidi Arciszewski led the Blugolds in the scoring column with 26 points. Freshman Ellen Plendl, who tallied 14 points, was the only other Blugold to score in double digits. Plendl also led the team in rebounds and blocked shots with 10 boards and four swats.

At 15 points, Stout senior Charlee Edwards was the only Blue Devil player to score in double digits.

Eau Claire never held a lead during a game that quickly turned sour at Stout’s Johnson Fieldhouse. In just over five minutes, the Blue Devils had already climbed out to a nine-point lead, and by halftime the home-team underdog was up 49-29.

Stout outshot Eau Claire 50 percent to 30 percent from the field during the first half. Defensively, both teams appeared evenly matched, at least on paper; during the first half both teams recorded near-equal numbers of steals and turnovers.

In the second half, the Blugolds made marginal cuts into the Devils’ lead before watching the gap widen to as many as 25 points about halfway through the period. Eau Claire cut the gap to as few as 12 points later in the half, but that was as close as the Blugolds got in what turned into an 89-75 finish.

Senior Dan Beyer, who scored 23 points in Wednesday’s upset win over Platteville, was held to just nine points Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Amadou Fofana took the reins in the scoring column, scoring a team-high 11 points on 100 percent shooting from the field and three-for-four shooting from the free throw line.

Junior Geoff Probst, one of the team’s stalwart go-to scorers, put in a second-best 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Freshman Nick Bartlett also scored 10 points.

Stout sophomore Eric Hostetter put up a game-high 28 points – 15 from behind the 3-point arc. Sophomore Jerrod Buchholtz and junior Jerrel Enerson-Matthews scored 16 and 12 points, respectively, to help give Stout the win.

Eau Claire finished the regular season at 15-10 overall and 8-8 in the WIAC. Stout scored just its second conference win of the season to put its final record at 2-14 in the WIAC and 8-17 overall.

The Blugolds are now seeded fifth in the conference tournament and will head to fourth-seeded UW-Oshkosh Tuesday evening for a first-round match-up. Eau Claire went 1-1 against the Titans this season, losing by six in overtime on Oshkosh’s home court but winning by 13 at Zorn Arena earlier this month.

Tuesday’s first-round match will begin at 7 p.m. at Oshkosh’s Kolf Sports Center. If Eau Claire wins Tuesday, the Blugolds will play on the road against either UW-Stevens Point or Platteville on Thursday.

– Spectator Staff