The UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team has officially concluded their first round of WIAC play this past Wednesday as they fell to UW-Oshkosh 64-32.
Over winter break, Eau Claire picked up a close win versus WIAC opponent UW-River Falls, 59-57 for their first conference win of the season.
Head coach Matt Siverling said his team has been progressing well, and the narrow victory against River Falls was due to his team playing one of their best first halves of basketball all year.
“We moved the ball and defended well,” Siverling said. “One thing we found out about ourselves is we need to work on finishing games, and that game showed us we need to get better in those situations.”
Both junior Lewis Mau and sophomore Adam Hjelter scored a team high 15 points, and pulled down six rebounds.
Hjelter said the team has had trouble starting out games, and they have gotten down early at times, but this game showed his guys they are capable of having strong first halves.
“We grew up a little bit that night,” Hjelter said. “For us to defend home court in a close game like that taught us some things about ourselves.”
Despite the win, the Blugolds failed to carry their momentum into their next two conference games as they lost to UW-Whitewater and UW-Superior.
Versus Superior, Eau Claire fell 75-68. In this game the Blugolds fell behind early as Yellowjackets opened up the game with an 11-0 run. Siverling said his team did not lose the game because of their slow start, but instead because of his team’s play towards the end of the game.
“Every team goes on a run, whether it is in the beginning of the game or in the middle or end,” Siverling said. “The bottom line is you have to respond by making your own run, and not let those things affect you. There were a few key plays down the stretch that really hurt us, and that is why we ultimately lost the game.”
Eau Claire was able to battle back and overcome the early deficit as the Blugolds captured their first lead of the night with just over four minutes left in the game.
But Superior was able to outscore the Blugolds 17-9 to close out the game and ultimately won the contest.
Sophomore Jacob Kohner led the Blugolds offensively with 14 points, and Hjelter chipped in with 13 of his own. Mau led the team with nine rebounds.
Hjelter said the loss to Superior is still tough to swallow because of the way his team battled back, but still came up short.
“Coming into the game we knew they needed a win and we did as well,” Hjelter said. “That game still hurts because we were able to come back, but at the end we ran out of gas.”
The Blugolds will tip off their second and final round of WIAC play at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Zorn Arena as UW-Stout will travel to Eau Claire for what should be war on Highway 94.