Blugolds suffer crucial loss

Offense goes cold in second half against UW-River Falls

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

It seemed like things were finally clicking for the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team.

The Blugolds had won three of their last four contests and put themselves in a position to not just qualify for the WIAC tournament, but even host a playoff game. And they were welcoming UW-River Falls, who had lost seven contests
in a row.

But as the old saying goes, you can’t win if you can’t score. That’s exactly what happened to the Blugolds in a 47-44 loss to the Falcons Saturday night in Zorn Arena.

Three days removed from lighting up the scoreboard for 73 points in a big win against UW-Superior, Eau Claire shot just 29 percent from the floor, including 21 percent in the second half.

“We shot poorly today, unfortunately, and a lot of those shots that went the other night didn’t go tonight,” head coach Tonja Englund said.

Sophomore guard Teenie Lichtfuss said it wasn’t a matter of getting bad looks at the hoop, it was a matter of not putting the ball through the bottom of the net.

“We got open looks, we just didn’t take our time, (we) rushed them,” Lichtfuss said. “We just didn’t finish.”

Despite the shooting woes, the Blugolds had a chance to win the ballgame.

Lichtfuss buried a 3-point basket with five minutes to go to tie the score at 39, and with 1:43 remaining in the contest, she found a wide-open Rachel Egdorf under the basket for a go-ahead layup to make the score 42-41 Blugolds.

The lead would be short-lived, however, as Falcon forward Tess Lueders knocked down a jump shot 30 seconds later to give River Falls the lead for good.

Junior forward Courtney Lewis made a shot with 12 seconds to cut the deficit to 45-44, but after River Falls made two free throws with five seconds to play, the Blugolds weren’t able to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

“We know what to do, we just for some reason didn’t do it,” Lichtfuss said about not shooting before the buzzer. “We obviously should have got a shot off at the end.”

Lichtfuss scored a game-high 14 points while Lewis chipped in eight for the Blugolds.

The loss denied Eau Claire the chance to climb up in the WIAC standings, and the team now finds itself having to fight in the last few games to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

“It’s a missed opportunity is what it is, and it’s a lesson for the group to learn,” Englund said.

The Blugolds will have to learn quickly as they finish out against UW-Platteville at home as well as UW-Whitewater on the road. The Blugolds lost to both the Pioneers and Warhawks earlier in the year.

Lichtfuss said the team will come ready and hungry to attempt to secure a spot in the conference tournament.

“We have a lot of work to do, but I think we still have a good shot to win out the rest of the season after tonight,” Lichtfuss said. “We definitely took a little step back after Superior last game, but I think we can build off it.”

The Blugolds fell to No. 17 UW-Oshkosh on the road Wednesday. They were down by 14 at halftime before clawing back to trim the lead in the second half. Eau Claire ultimately fell by a score of 66-55 to the now 20-2  Titans.

The Blugolds shot the ball better against Oshkosh, shooting 40 percent from 3-point land as well as going 15-for-19 from the free-throw line.

Lichtfuss once again led the team in scoring, netting 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Freshman Abby Midtlien also chipped in 13 points.

Eau Claire will get the weekend off before hosting Platteville at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Zorn Arena.