EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The UW-Eau Claire men's basketball team won its own 43rd Annual Holiday Classic with a 90-78 victory over Simpson College (Iowa) at Zorn Arena tonight.
The Holiday Classic title is the Blugolds' first since 2009 but it is the third in the last four years. The title is also the Blugolds' 29th in the history of the tournament.
While the Blugolds led the game all but the first couple minutes, they let a big lead slip away near the end before recovering.
Simpson hung with the Blugolds in the first half, never trailing by more than eight points. At halftime, the Blugolds found themselves up by just three points (44-41).
Eau Claire started the second half outscoring Simpson 12-8 over the first eight minutes and then went on a 13-1 run over the next four minutes to build a 19-point lead, their largest of the night.
However, Simpson came on strong and cut the Blugolds' lead to only two points after a 21-4 run to make the score 73-71. Over the final two and a half minutes, the Blugolds got back on track and outscored Simpson 17-7 to hold on for the 90-78 win.
Jordan Petersen (Jr.-Strum, Wis./Eleva-Strum) had a good night for Eau Claire as he led the game with a career-high 32 points. At one point he was 6-for-6 from beyond the arc and finished 6-for-7. Five of his three-pointers came in the first half.
Nick Bartlett (Jr.-Arden Hills, Minn./Mounds View) added 16 points for the Blugolds while Nick Craggs (Jr.-Kimberly, Wis.) scored 10. Craggs also had six rebounds to tie for a team-high with Kevin Rabbers (So.-Grand Rapids, Minn.).
The 90 points the Blugolds scored is their most since facing Silver Lake College at the UW-Oshkosh Classic on November 27, 2010 (90-62 win).
The Blugolds are now 8-4 overall while Simpson falls to 4-7.
Next up, Eau Claire will be home against UW-Stout on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. and the game is part of a doubleheader with the women.