By Kyle Naber, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com)- It was a disappointing early exit from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championship (presented by Culver's) for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men's basketball team as they fell to the UW-La Crosse 76-66 Tuesday night in Zorn Arena.
The old adage says it is hard to beat a team three times in a season and this was proven true in the opening round. La Crosse would jump out to a 6-0 lead following back-to-back three-pointers from Ben Meinholz. Eau Claire would respond with two quick buckets from George Diekelman (Jr. – Stevens Point, WI/SPASH), followed by a jumper from Josh Weix (So. – Eau Claire, WI/North) to tie it.
But the Eagles stormed back and by the end of the first half it was the Eagles leading 35-23 at the break.
Eau Claire trimmed the lead down to five points multiple times in the second half, but once they got close, it was the Eagles finding a way to maintain their lead.
The Blugolds looked like they finally had their break with just over six minutes remaining. It was Diekelman driving with authority to the rack and converting on the layup, despite getting fouled. Diekelman would hit the free throw to trim the Eagle lead to just four. However, a quick 8-2 run in response would seal the win for the Eagles.
Weix and Chris Duff (Jr. – Walker, MN) led the Blugolds with 13 points while Jack Martinek (Sr. – New Brighton, MN/Irondale) followed with 12 and Diekelman added 11. Jared Schneidermann also added a game-high 11 rebounds and chipped in five points.
The Blugolds shot 44 percent (22-50) from the field and 33 percent (7-21) from three while hitting 15 of 18 (83.3 percent) from the charity stripe.
The Eagles were 25-49 from the field (51 percent), 6-12 (50 percent) from behind the arc and 20-33 (60.6 percent) from the free throw line as they advance to the WIAC semifinal against River Falls.