Blugold women stymie Whitewater with 2-3 zone

UW-Eau Claire races out to early lead and never looks back


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Sophomore guard Abby Midtlien was one of four Blugolds in double figures Saturday against the Warhawks. – Photo by Anna Mateffy

It hasn’t been uncommon for the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team to get out to an early lead and then see it slip away.

That wasn’t the case Saturday night at Zorn Arena.

The Blugolds used a stifling 2-3 zone and put all the momentum from an early-game run in a vice grip to cruise past UW-Whitewater by a score of 64-49.

“It’s kind of a theme in our game is that we’ll get up and let the other team inch back in,” sophomore guard Abby Midtlien said. “Tonight, we wanted to make sure we put them away at halftime.”

While they didn’t necessarily throw a knockout punch in the game’s first 20 minutes, they certainly did enough knock the Warhawks off their feet.

Whitewater started the game just just 2 of 13 from the floor, and Eau Claire scored 11 points off turnovers in the half as coach Tonja Englund went into the locker room with her team up 33-21. The Warhawks were just 24 percent from the field as the Blugolds swatted away five shots, including three from sophomore center Ellen Blacklock.

“I thought Ellen got the shot blocking going at the beginning, which is important for us,” Englund said. “We like to really clog that lane right away.”

Despite finishing the game just 5 of 19 from the 3-point line, the Blugolds made three huge ones early in the second half in response to small runs from the Warhawks.

After Whitewater had trimmed into the lead, junior point guard Teenie Lichtfuss and Midtlien sunk 3s on back-to-back possessions, which stretched the score out to 42-25. Midtlien hit both of her 3s from the top of the key.

“Abby is really good at filling up at the top and finding that gap where they can make that extra pass to her and stretch the defense,” Englund said. “That’s really what we’re looking for right now is our motion.”

But yet again, the Warhawks still staggered around to cut the lead to 10 again midway through the second half.

Lichtfuss, who has been averaging just under 16 points per game in her last eight contests, made sure it stopped there.

She went on a 5-0 run by herself, capped off by a rainbow 3, to push the score back to 47-32. Whitewater never got it any closer than 11 after that.

Even with timely shooting, the Blugolds biggest strength of the night came on the other end of the court.

They thwarted any easy inside baskets and made the Warhawks take tough perimeter jumpers late in the shot clock. Whitewater finished just 6 of 20 from deep.

The Blugolds limited second-chance opportunities despite playing in a zone. They outrebounded Whitewater 39 to 28. Courtney Lewis led Eau Claire with nine rebounds.

“I think our defense was our bread and butter and made us confident on the other end,” Midtlien said.

A balanced scoring attack paced Englund’s club as four players were in double figures. Midtlien led the way with 15, Lichtfuss had 13 despite not scoring in the first, Lewis had 12 and Blacklock chipped in 10. Kristin Sahr added seven off the bench.