Men’s basketball team surprises in pre-season exhibition

    UW-Eau Claire battled hard and walked away from Winona State with a victory on Saturday night

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    UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball secured an exhibition game victory on the road this past weekend, defeating Winona State 81-76.

    The UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team came out on top after Saturday night’s exhibition game as they defeated the Division II Winona State Warriors on the road, with a final score of 81-76.

    Despite losing four graduated seniors from last year’s roster, the Blugolds may have indicated in Saturday’s game the potential for a winning season.

    The starting unit for Eau Claire was able to account for the entirety of their 81 points in the contest while still shooting an impressive 51 percent from the field.

    Leading the charge for the Blugolds was Chris Duff, a senior forward, who totaled 31 points, all while shooting 78.5 percent from the field and 70 percent from deep.

    “I’ve been shooting with confidence,” Duff said. “I made the first couple of shots, and that got me going early.”

    In addition, Duff said he also credits his teammates for his success.

    “The guards did a good job of finding me,” Duff said. “They were driving and kicking and finding me when I was open.”

    Other key contributions for Eau Claire came from Dan Becken, a senior forward, and George Diekelman, a senior guard. Becken was able to chip in 15 points and four rebounds, while Diekelman finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

    Matt Siverling, the Blugolds’ head coach, said he has high expectations for the team’s graduating class this season.

    “I expect this group of seniors to play a significant role this year,” Siverling said. “This is their last go-around so I expect them to give it their all every night.”

    Siverling said he not only holds his upperclassmen to high standards, but expects a lot from the underclassmen as well.

    “We have a number of new guys this year trying to figure out where they can fit in, and I think they’ve done a good job so far,” Siverling said. “Some of them might find themselves on the court eventually.”

    For Winona State, Corey Jeffs, the 6’8’’ Aussie forward, was a standout player. He completed the game with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He received the most help from Connor Flack, a junior guard, who came off the bench for 17 points. Ultimately, their efforts came up short.

    Coach Siverling said the Blugolds expect to see players with this same sort of talent level throughout the season in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC).

    “There are no nights off in the WIAC,” Siverling said. “Our conference is returning 16 to 17 of our best players, so that’ll make it tough.”

    However, just how far the team can go this season lies all in the hands of the players.

    Duff said the team is optimistic.

    “We want to compete in conference,” Duff said. “Our goal as a team is to make it into the NCAA tourney. That’s our goal.”

    The Blugolds will officially begin their season Wednesday, Nov. 15 on the road as they travel to De Pere, Wisconsin to take on the St. Norbert College Green Knights.

    When Eau Claire faced off against the Green Knights last season, the Blugolds achieved a narrow victory, with a final score of 68-67. This year’s tip-off will be at 7 p.m.