Having an opportunity to play conference opponents twice in one season allows teams to avenge early-season losses.
Last weekend the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team took full advantage of this opportunity, defeating UW-La Crosse 60-57 at Zorn Arena.
Head coach Matt Siverling said it felt good to get a win because his players have been working extremely hard and have been making progress.
“It is hard to see that progress until you can put it all together in a game,” Siverling said. “It felt like we did that against La Crosse, and as a result we were able to win the basketball game.”
The Blugolds jumped out to an early lead against the Eagles as they lead 19-7 and even pushed their lead to 14 points before La Crosse hit three free throws to cut Eau Claire’s lead to eleven to end the first half.
Siverling said his team jumping out to an early lead was a result of playing hard from the start of the game and sustaining their effort for 40 minutes.
“Going in, we knew La Crosse was the best shooting team in the league, and we knew we had to get after those guys and not give them any open shots,” Siverling said. “It came down to effort.”
Sophomore forward Kurtis Moody scored 12 points and said he didn’t think La Crosse was ready for his team to come out as hard as they did.
“I think we picked up our intensity on the defensive end,” Moody said. “We jumped on them early and continued the intensity throughout the game.”
The final box score justified Eau Claire’s efforts defensively as the Eagles were held to 33 percent shooting from the field.
The Blugolds also outscored La Crosse 24-14 in the paint. Siverling said there was an emphasis for his team to try and get the ball inside.
“That has to be part of our game plan,” Siverling said. “We have to be a threat to score inside.”
Moody and his front court partner sophomore center Jacob Kohner combined for 24 points and Kohner was able to make his presence felt behind the ark also as he knocked down two three pointers.
Siverling said Kohner has always been able to shoot from the perimeter, and one of the things they have been trying to do is find a way to get him the ball behind the ark.
“It makes him more of a threat,” Siverling said. “If he can score on the inside and also step out and hit perimeter shots then that’s a really tough defensive matchup for other teams.”
Heading into the game against La Crosse, Eau Claire was 5-0 in games decided by five points or less. With yet another victory in a close game, Moody said his team believes they have a good chance at pulling out more close games.
“We crank up the intensity and focus,” Moody said. “We are in the right spots defensively to make stops.”
Kohner said the close win built a lot of confidence, and this is the right time for them to get hot.