March 3, 2012

Women's Basketball Ends Season in Second Round of NCAA Championship

CHICAGO, Ill. (Blugolds.com) – The 18th-ranked UW-Eau Claire women's basketball team played second-ranked and undefeated University of Chicago (Ill.) close, but came up just short 56-52 in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Championship at the Ratner Center today.

The Blugolds started off well, holding Chicago scoreless for nearly five minutes as they built an 8-0 lead. Eau Claire never trailed for more than 14 minutes but with just under six minutes remaining in the opening half, Chicago took its first lead of the night.

After the Maroons took their first lead, they continued a run that encompassed almost eight minutes and they outscored Eau Claire 17-2 to build a 12-point advantage. Ellen Plendl (Sr.-Chippewa Falls, Wis./McDonell) added a final basket for the Blugolds to close the half and Chicago took a 32-22 lead into halftime.

Eau Claire opened the second half with an 11-2 run and cut the Maroons' lead to one point (34-33) five minutes into the half. The game was very competitive the rest of the way.

The teams found their way to a 44-44 tie with just over six minutes to play and shortly after that, Eau Claire went on a 6-0 run to take a one-point lead (50-49) with less than two minutes left. But the rest of the night went Chicago's way as they outscored the Blugolds 7-2 to win by four.

Plendl led the Blugolds with a double-double, her 17th of the season, as she tied a career-high 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. She also had one blocked shot and finished with 114 this season, a school and conference single-season best. Plendl ended her career with 259 blocked shots, which is a school record and ranks second all-time in the WIAC.

Nicole Christianson (Sr.-Chetek, Wis.) finished with 14 points while Callie Halama (Sr.-Independence, Wis.) added eight points and pulled down eight rebounds.

The Blugolds outrebounded the Maroons 37-27 and outshot them 42.6 percent (20-for-47) to 38.9 percent (21-for-54). However, Eau Claire had 20 turnovers which Chicago converted to 21 points while the Blugolds scored just 10 points off nine Chicago turnovers.

Eau Claire ends the season with a 21-7 mark, its most wins since the 2009 season. Chicago improves to 27-0 and moves on to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Championship.

Seniors competing in their final contest tonight were Christianson, Jess Freagon (Sr.-Chippewa Falls, Wis./McDonell), Halama, Laura Olson (Sr.-Osseo, Wis./Osseo-Fairchild) and Plendl.

-KM-

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