By Travis Nyhus, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) –The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's basketball team battled back from two double digit deficits thanks to 24 points from Anna Graaskamp (So. – Eau Claire, WI/Memorial), but fell just short, 61-58 to the No. 18 UW-Whitewater Warhawks in Zorn Arena on Saturday night.
The Blugolds held the lead through much of the first quarter with their ability to make their way to the free throw line. Eau Claire made 7 of 8 for a 9-4 advantage 6:30 into the game.
The Warhawks responded with 10-4 run after the Blugolds went up by four to end the quarter with a 17-15 lead.
Whitewater opened up the second quarter with 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, which put the Blugolds down by eight.
Eau Claire's deficit ballooned to 10 a little over half way through the quarter. That's when the Blugolds went to their leading scorer. Four buckets in five possessions by Graaskamp made it 29-27 with 1:41 before the break.
For the second quarter in a row, Whitewater scored at the buzzer and led the Blugolds 31-27 at the half.
The Blugolds shot 10 of 21 (47.6 percent) from the field in the first half, but couldn't connect on any of their three shots from deep.
It was back to Graaskamp out of the locker room for Eau Claire. Two scores for her and the game was tied just two minutes into the third quarter.
Whitewater prevented the Blugolds from getting the lead and knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:26 left in the quarter that put Eau Claire down eight.
The deficit swelled to double digits, but was nine, 47-38 heading into the final quarter.
Whenever the Blugolds needed a boost they went to Graaskamp. She scored six points and made it 51-44. A steal by Jenni LaCroix (Sr. – Verona, WI) led to a quick score putting Eau Claire down by just five.
It was still a six-point deficit with three minute remaining in the game. Two free throws by Kelsey Bakken (So. – Marshall, WI) and a score in transition by Hallee Hoeppner (So. – Winona, MN) put Eau Claire within a bucket.
Eau Claire earned another stop on the defensive side and gave themselves their first chance since the first quarter to take the lead. They made the most of it, as Bakken dropped one in from deep causing the Zorn Arena crowd to erupt as Eau Claire went up 56-55 with 1:14 left in the game.
Bakken was involved defensively on the next Whitewater possession as she was called for the foul looking for a block inside the paint. Both shots were good from the line.
A crucial turnover forced Eau Claire to foul, where Whitewater would make 4 of 4 down the stretch.
With 12 seconds remaining the Blugolds needed a three to tie. Kayla Hanley (Sr. – Chippewa Falls, WI) got a decent look from beyond the arc, but it bounced off the back iron and Eau Claire suffered their first loss in Zorn Arena on the season.
Eau Claire shot 23 of 47 (48.9 percent) from the field for the game, 2 of 12 (16.7 percent) from deep and 10 of 12 (83.3 percent) at the line.
The Blugold held a 35-24 advantage on the boards and had 13 assists.
Graaskamp had a game-high 24 points and added six rebounds. Bakken scored nine and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Katie Essen (Fr. –Farmington, MN/Rosemount) scored eight off the bench for the Blugolds.
The Blugolds (13-6, 5-3) face UW-Stout on Wednesday with tip set for 6 p.m.
Follow the action this season on Blugold Game Day.