Eau Claire, Wis. (Blugolds.com)-The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men's basketball team defeated No. 23-ranked St. Olaf College (Minn.) in their home opener 80-75 on Thursday night at Zorn Arena.
In the first half, the Blugolds came out hot, opening with a 6-2 lead and firing up the home crowd. The Blugolds great ball movement and extra passes gave them back to back open looks from three, and a quick five points from Ben Widdes (Rice Lake, WI) gave Eau Claire a 13-4 lead and forced a St. Olaf time-out. Cole Rabedeaux (Poulsbo, WA/North Kitsap) took over and scored 14 first half points building the Blugolds' lead to 10 points at the first media time-out. St. Olaf made a run and were able to capitalize on Eau Claire's aggressive defense by getting to the free- throw line. The Oles cut the Blugold lead from seven points to just three with a last second three at the buzzer heading into half time.
Rabedeaux kept rolling after the half, with the Blugolds first five points. Followed by a steal from Blake Wacholz (Lakeville, MN/South) and three-point play converted by Spencer Page (Rice Lake, WI) that gave Eau Claire a 10-point lead early in the second half. St. Olaf did not go away making runs each time the Blugolds' tried to pull away. Widdes came up big with a steal and an assist to Sean Miller (Waukesha, WI/Kettle Moraine) giving Eau Claire a nine-point lead with just three minutes to go. Back- to-back 3's from the Oles in the last minute of the game cut the lead to three points with 47 seconds left. It was a key layup from senior Wilyam Wright (Bolingbrook, IL/Plainfield East) followed by a steal from Rabedeaux that sealed the victory for the Blugolds down the stretch.
Rabedeaux who had 21 points led the Blugolds; Widdes finished with 15 points, five assists and led Eau Claire with eight rebounds. Both Wright and Steve Christiansen (Apple Valley, MN) played like seniors and came up big for the Blugolds in key moments.
Eau Claire will be back in action on Friday, November 15th, where they will take on Bethel University (Minn.) at 5:00 pm in UW-Stout Tournament in Menomonie, WI.