Blugolds work hard in hopes of making it to conference tournament

    Men’s basketball team takes it one game at a time through end of conference season

    More stories from Erica Jones

    DIY diaries
    May 9, 2018

    Photo by Kelsey Smith

    The men’s basketball team has eight more games left in the regular conference season. They’re hoping to make it to the conference tournament and even to the NCAA tournament.

    Currently 13-4, the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team is hoping to add nothing but W’s to their record as they approach the last eight games of the conference season.

    While most students were on winter break for about a month, the team was preparing for the classic in Las Vegas, where they won both games, against Gustavus Adolphus (Minn.) and UC-Santa Cruz. About a week later, the team was back in Wisconsin to face a loss against UW-River Falls. Since then, the team has accumulated three conference wins and two losses.

    Head Coach Matt Siverling said his team continues to work on tightening up the defensive end of play; he said the men have been playing well both offensively and defensively, but their goal is to better guard the three-point line.

    “I think it’s going well,” Siverling said. “We’re 500 right now. We obviously would need to continue to improve as we head into our second half of the conference season. But I like where we’re at and hopefully we can continue to improve as we move forward this season.”

    While the team is constantly working to get better, Siverling said his team always shows up and works hard, attending practice six times each week, lifting weights and attending individual instruction, where players get personalized attention to help them enhance certain aspects of their game.

    All this work is in anticipation of playing past the regular conference season, and earning a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

    “We’re hoping to perform well enough to participate in the conference tournament,” Siverling said, “and if we win enough games, there’s the possibility we could play in the NCAA tournament. That’s been one of our goals since the beginning of the season.”

    Sophomore shooting guard Wilyam Wright said he feels the team has been playing a solid game. While he said the team’s weaknesses are harder to pinpoint, he identified several of their best qualities.

    “For our strengths, we share the ball well and shoot very well on the court, and we have a great size advantage over most teams,” Wright said.

    Wright said although he doesn’t get as much playing time as some of the other men on the team, he always keeps up “a good spirit and positive energy,” and focuses on helping his teammates mentally prepare before games.

    At the end of this season, four of the team’s players will either graduate or no longer be eligible to play, but Siverling said he’s been recruiting for a while now and thinks he’ll be looking toward returning players to fill the roles of those who will be leaving. No matter who plays, Siverling said it’s all a matter of making it work.

    “Every season is unique to itself regardless of who you return and who you lose,” Siverling said. “We lost a couple of key pieces from last year’s team; we gained a couple pieces this year, and now it’s a matter of getting them all to fit together and perform at a high level.”

    The team won 83-58 against UW-Platteville last night at home. Prior to the game, Siverling said he expected the game might be a challenge for the Blugolds as the Pioneers have also had a number of wins this season.

    Both Wright and Coach Siverling said ahead of time they would like to see a great student turnout at the game, Wright saying a crowd adds to the atmosphere of a game and Siverling saying he’d love if the stands were packed.

    Saturday at 5 p.m., the team begins their rounds again, replaying every team they’ve already played this conference season, starting with UW-Oshkosh. Wright said the team is ready to do so.

    “We’re definitely looking forward to getting back at the teams who have taken a ‘W’ away from us, Wright said, “and executing on the teams that haven’t, so we close the conference season out right.”