For the first time in three years, the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team has started the season 2-0.
The Blugolds were in action Saturday at Hamline University (Minn.) against the Pipers and they won a tightly contested matchup, 70-66. Tuesday, the team traveled to St. Scholastica (Minn.) to take on the Saints and left victorious with a final score of 77-59.
Saturday, Eau Claire 70 at Hamline 66:
In the first half, both teams started out slow, and Hamline led at halftime with a score of 35-29.
Head coach of the undefeated Blugolds Matt Siverling said despite the fact it was his team’s first regular season game together, his players really wanted to win.
“We were still trying to figure some things out offensively, but I thought we played well,” Siverling said. “When we were down they did not get frustrated, they went out and continued to make plays.”
Sophomore guard Adam Hjelter fit the mold of a playmaker as he scored a game-high 22 points while adding three rebounds, an assist and a block to his stat line.
Hjelter is a transfer who has been out of the college basketball scene for a long time.
“Adam has been waiting to play basketball for 18 months,” Siverling said. He was really excited about getting out there. He is a scorer, and he’s going to have to score in order for us to be successful.”
Hjelter said it was a relief to finally be back on the court and play the game he loves again.
“Being able to get out there with my friends and play again was a great feeling,” Hjelter said.
It was not only the second half offense clicking for the Blugolds, but the team was also able to play aggressive defense and ended up forcing Hamline into 21 turnovers, which resulted in 21 points for Eau Claire.
Eau Claire’s ability to generate defensive stops sparked a 20-6 run in the final six minutes of the game as they went on to win the contest.
Tuesday, Eau Claire 77, St. Scholastica 59:
The Blugolds were able to jump on the Saints early as midway through the first half. Eau Claire went on a 13-0 run and St. Scholastica answered back with a small run of their own, and at halftime the Blugolds held a 40-31 lead.
The second half began with the Saints coming within four points of the Blugold lead, but the momentum of the game would swing to Eau Claire as they ended the game with two strong runs and won by 18 points.
Junior guard Lewis Mau led the team in scoring with a career-high 26 points, and sophomore Jacob Kohner finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points and securing 10 rebounds
Siverling said he credited his team’s defensive efforts for the win.
“Our defense did a great job as we held those guys to 2-20 from the three point line,” Siverling said. “We knew if we could limit the amount of threes that they made then we would have a good chance of winning.”
Junior guard Eric Effertz said his team did a great job of slowing down their offensive tempo in path to the team’s victory.
“I think we executed well, which was a key for us,” Effertz said. “The last five or six minutes of the game we were able to slow the game down by controlling the ball and getting it inside.”
Siverling said though his team is happy about winning two games, his guys understand their competition toughens, and they need to continue to work if they want success.
Hjelter also said it is important to take things one step at a time.