By Kyle Naber, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com)- Following their thrilling comeback victory over No. 6 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the UW-Eau Claire men's basketball team looked to start a win streak with another upset over No. 20 UW-River Falls, but fell short, 77-63, Wednesday night at Zorn Arena.
The Blugolds were unable to make it back-to-back home upset wins over (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) opponents as UW-River Falls came in and using strong 3-point shooting earned the win.
The Falcons would begin the game early with a strong effort from beyond the arc, a focal point of their offense all-night. UW-Eau Claire would fight to keep the game close throughout the first half.
With the score tied at 22 with just under eight minutes left in the first half, River Falls would go on an 18-8 run to end the quarter. The run would completely change the momentum of the game as the Blugolds went into the break down by 10 points.
With 12:26 left to go in the game and the Blugolds trailing 56-40, Eau Claire would look to earn the win in familiar fashion, with a strong second half run. A jumper from George Diekelman (Sr. – Stevens Point, WI/SPASH) would begin the comeback trail. Diekelman would lead the way scoring eight points as the Blugolds went on a 13-0 run to make it a one possession game with over seven minutes remaining.
The Falcons would respond with consecutive 3-pointer shots to all but end the Blugolds comeback. Eau Claire would go cold down the stretch as River Falls took the 77-63 win.
Head coach Matt Siverling pointed to the strong 3-point shooting of River Falls, 14 of 22, as a major difference in the game.
"They scored a lot of points in their last game and they did it again tonight," Siverling said. "When they get it going from the inside and the outside, they are tough to stop. Anytime to give up 14 3-pointers in a game, you are going to have a tough time winning."
Diekelman finished with 20 points, two rebounds and two assists to lead UW-Eau Claire, while Chris Duff (Sr. – Walker, MN) added 12.
The Falcons were able to win at the little things as well, out-rebounding the Blugolds 35-27, allowing them to have 12 second chance points in the game.
While the Blugolds were unable to get the win, the fact remains that this team does not quit. The team continued to fight back deep in the second half, something that is always a positive for Siverling.
"They [UW-River Falls] played faster than us tonight," Siverling said. "Our guys continued to fight though, but we just could not get to the free-throw line and we struggled rebounding."
The Blugolds (9-9, 1-6 WIAC) will face another difficult test on Saturday, as they will begin a two-game road trip starting with No. 8 ranked UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks got the better of the Blugolds in their first match-up, a 78-65 defeat. The rematch is set for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off. Follow all the action on Blugold Game Day.