By Kyle Naber, UWEC Sports Information
OSHKOSH, Wis. (Blugolds.com)- The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men's basketball team was unable to upset No. 18 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for the second time this season, as they fell 77-72 Saturday night in Kolf Sports Center.
The Blugolds earned a 60-57 win over then No. 6 UW-Oshkosh, in their first meeting and needed a second upset win to stay alive in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) standings. The WIAC is as strong as ever, featuring five ranked teams. (No. 12 UW-Whitewater, No. 18 UW-Oshkosh, No. 20 UW-Platteville, No. 24 UW-River Falls and No. 25 UW-Stevens Point).
In the first half, the Titans hit the ground running, hitting three unanswered 3-pointers on their way to opening on a 13-0 run. UW-Eau Claire struggled to get going offensively as they had just four points through the first seven minutes of the game.
UW-Oshkosh continued to play well and fended off a large Blugold run in the first half. The Titans used a barrage of 3-pointers in the first half, shooting 6 for 9 to build a lead. At the half, UW-Oshkosh led 39-25.
Unsurprisingly, the Titans opened the second half with another 3-pointer. After going through the majority of the second half unable to trim the lead to under double-digits, the Blugolds finally broke through with less than six minutes left.
A George Diekelman (Sr. – Stevens Point, WI/SPASH) layup made it a 61-51 game and then a 3-pointer from Cole Rabedeaux (So. – Poulsbo, WA/North Kitsap) put the lead down to seven points. The Titans stood tall, but UW-Eau Claire was able to shrink the gap down again minutes later. With 3:15 left to play, Rabedeaux was clutch again making it a 63-58 game following a made layup.
Oshkosh left the door open for the Blugolds after missing a free throw. Chris Duff (Sr. – Walker, MN) took advantage and hit a jumper to make it a 64-60 game. Eau Claire matched the Titans layup to keep it at a four-point deficit.
Following a time out from Eau Claire Head Coach Matt Siverling, Oshkosh's Charlie Noone hit a 3-pointer with just over a minute left. As the year has continued, one thing remains true; the Blugolds fight until the end.
Trailing by four points again, Eau Claire turned to Duff to hit another clutch 3-pointer with just 20 seconds left. The Titans hit both of their foul shots and Siverling called a timeout to draw something up.
Siverling's plan resulted in a three-point attempt from Duff, but this time the senior was unable to hit. UW-Oshkosh would hit their remaining free throws to finish the night and hold off the Blugolds.
Leading the way for the Blugolds was Diekelman, who had 20 points and three assists. Following him was Duff who added 15 points and eight rebounds.
The Blugolds, (10-11, 2-8 WIAC) still trail UW-La Crosse for the sixth and final spot in the WIAC tournament. UW-Eau Claire has a big opportunity on Wednesday, February 7 to make headway in the conference with a head-to-head matchup with the Eagles. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. Follow all the action on Blugold Game Day.