Women’s hoops upset bid falls short

    Blugold women’s basketball falters late in loss to Whitewater

    More stories from Trent Tetzlaff


    The sport of basketball is known as “a game of runs.”

    One team may score basket after basket for minutes without a response from their counterpart, or they may be the team that can’t score for a long period as their opponent makes shot after shot.

    The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team was the latter Saturday night, as they were on the wrong side of a fourth quarter run that cost them a statement win in the WIAC against No. 11 UW-Whitewater in Zorn Arena.

    After taking a 51-45 lead after a Teenie Lichtfuss bucket at the 4:52 mark in the final quarter, the Blugolds went cold from the floor, not scoring for over three minutes while allowing the Warhawks to take a 52-51 lead.

    After a free throw to tie the game at 52, Eau Claire wouldn’t score again as they missed potential game-winning and game-tying baskets while time expired, falling 54-52.

    Head coach Tonja Englund said part of the reason they struggled to score at the end was because they went away from their game plan and began to take a lot of outside shots.

    “For this team, we will continually go inside and get those touches and get to the free-throw line, and then all of a sudden we go away from that,” she said. “I think probably four or five possessions in a row down the stretch we took an early perimeter shot. It’s just not our game.”

    Leading the way for the Blugolds once again was the conference’s leading scorer Erin O’Toole, knocking down 14 free throws on the way to a game high 28 points.

    O’Toole continually received double teams from Warhawk defenders in the post, but the Blugolds still got her 21 shots in and around the paint.

    Englund said with O’Toole being the force she is inside, she will continue to receive the touches she needs despite the double teams.

    “If you look at her line tonight, what else can you ask from her? She’s taking charges, defensive rebounding and getting to the free-throw line,” she said.

    The Blugolds got behind early 17-7 in the first quarter after turning the ball over eight times and failing to cash in at the free throw line. Despite the slow start, the Blugolds fought back to take the lead before halftime after sophomore forward Kayla Hanley jump-started the team’s offense with her shooting.

    The sophomore O’Toole said she felt the team battled really well after the first quarter struggles to make it a close game, but what ultimately cost them was their struggles at the free throw line.

    “I thought that we played overall a lot better in the second half than the first, as we brought more intensity,” she said. “But what prevented us from winning this game was free throws and executing plays well.”

    With Saturday night’s loss and the win last Wednesday night, which made Englund the program’s all-time winningest coach at 278, Eau Claire now sits at 8-9 (3-3) after an up and down month of January in conference play.

    “There are four teams in the league ranked in the top-20, and with all the ranked teams we have played this year, we are right there,” Englund said. “It is just the difference in the free throw shooting and our defensive rebounding; just those key statistics that we have to clean up to be in that top four.”