By Kyle Naber, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com)- CD Douglas exploded for 32 points, but it was not enough as the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men's basketball team would hold on for their second straight win Saturday night in Zorn Arena.
After starting the game missing their first five shots from the field, the Blugolds found themselves down 11-0 early to the Cougars. Eau Claire was able to respond quickly with a three-pointer from Cole Rabedeaux (So. – Poulsbo, WA/North Kitsap) and a converted three-point play from Clay Kujawa (Fr. – Greendale, WI) to make it an 11-6 game.
Following a Minnesota-Morris three-pointer from Noah Grove, the Cougars extended their lead to 19-13. Again, Eau Claire was able to respond with a quick six point run. This time it was back-to-back three-pointers from Rabedeaux and Chris Duff (Sr. – Walker, MN) to tie the game at 19.
The Blugolds and Cougars would trade the lead five times before the end of the half, with Eau Claire holding on to a three-point lead following a three-point buzzer-beater attempt from Douglas.
The second half would continue to be a hard-fought, back-and-forth stalemate as neither team was able to pull away. Down 54-52, Eau Claire was finally able to get things going behind Duff. Duff started the scoring with a lay-up. A Montrell Oliver (So – Naperville, IL/Metea Valley) steal on the next possession prompted Head Coach Matt Siverling to call a timeout to regroup his team with the game tied at 54. The ensuing possession would result in a three from Duff. The Blugolds' run would continue with a lay-up from Steve Christiansen (Jr. – Apple Valley, MN) and another three-pointer from Duff.
Morris would come right back, trimming the Blugold lead down to just two points after a three-pointer from Grove. Eau Claire would respond with a 12-2 run to give them their largest lead of the night. The Cougars would come back again. But a Dan Becken (Sr. – Lino Lakes, MN/Centennial) three-pointer made it an 83-73 game with 2:29 left to play. Back-to-back threes from Morris's Jeremy Halverson would make it a game again. The run would continue with a jumper from Douglas to again trim the Blugold lead to two. Douglas would tie the game on the next possession after two free-throws.
Two clutch free-throws from George Diekelman (Sr. – Stevens Point, WI/SPASH) would give Eau Claire an 85-83 lead with just three seconds left. The Blugolds would hold on to the win after a half-court heave was unable to give the Cougars their first win of the season.
Eau Claire was led by the duo of Duff and Diekelman who combined for 45 points (24 and 21, respectively). After struggling to find production off the bench, the Blugolds bench has scored a combined 48 points in the last two games, compared to just 12 points in their first two games.
The Blugolds were able to take advantage of turnovers in the win, forcing 20 Morris turnovers and scoring 32 points from those turnovers.
Eau Claire will continue their home stand on Tuesday night where the Blugolds will welcome back former assistant coach and current UW-Superior head coach, Greg Polkowski. The Blugolds and Yellow Jackets are set for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off with TV coverage provided on WEAU 13-2. Follow all the action on Blugold Game Day.