EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – While the UW-Eau Claire men's basketball team led by as much as 15 points in the first half, the game came down right to the end as the Blugolds beat Hamline University (Minn.) 77-75 in their first game of the season in Zorn Arena.
With less than a minute to play, the Blugolds found themselves up by three points. But a three-pointer by Hamline's Brandon Rieg tied the game up for the third time of the night with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock.
However, with just 2.1 seconds left and the score tied at 75, a foul by Hamline's Levi Wenrich sent Andy Kleist (Jr.-Eau Claire, Wis./North) to the free three line for two shots. He drained both shots to give the Blugolds a 77-75 advantage and the game ended as Hamline tried a final shot from half court.
Earlier in the game, the Blugolds hit the opening shot and never trailed the entire first half as they built a 15-point lead just over 17 minutes into the contest. However, Hamline started a run right after the Blugolds were up by 15 and outscored Eau Claire 19-3 to take a 43-42 lead just over three minutes into the second half.
The rest of the game, Hamline didn't allow the Blugolds to get ahead by more than seven points while the Pipers led by as much as three points, the last time with less than five minutes to play. The Blugolds were sparked by a James Pfitzinger (Sr.-West St. Paul, Minn./Academy of Holy Angels) dunk at 4:15 that started a 7-0 run for Eau Claire.
Nick Craggs (Jr.-Kimberly, Wis.) led the game with 20 points while Kleist finished with a double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds and scoring 13 points. Jordan Petersen (Jr.-Strum, Wis./Eleva-Strum) also had a large impact on tonight's game as he finished with a game-high six assists while coming away with nine rebounds and five points.
The Blugolds finished the game with 42 rebounds while Hamline had 34. Eau Claire also outshot the Pipers 48.1 percent (25-for-52) to 35.3 percent (24-for-68).
Eau Claire is now 3-1 on the season while Hamline drops to 1-1.
Next up the Blugolds will head to Oshkosh for the UW-Oshkosh Classic. Eau Claire will face Rockford College (Ill.) on Friday and St. Mary's University (Minn.) on Saturday. Both games will get underway at 3 p.m.