By Travis Nyhus, UWEC Sports Information
LA CROSSE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) –The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's basketball team stopped a fourth quarter rally to start off Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) play with a 49-47 win at UW-La Crosse on Wednesday night.
Things started slow for the Blugolds, who didn't connect on their first field goal of the game until 2:40 into the game. That didn't affect their defense as they made La Crosse work for every score.
Eau Claire and La Crosse traded baskets throughout the first quarter. The Eagles held a 9-7 lead with 2:06 remaining in the quarter. From there, the Blugolds found some rhythm. Maddie Dunathan (Fr. – Hortonville, WI) connected on three free throws and Kelsey Bakken (So. – Marshall, WI) found the bottom the net on a jumper helping Eau Claire end the quarter up 12-9.
The Blugold defense carried over from late in the first slowing the Eagles attack. Dunathan buried a 3-pointer for the first points in the second quarter and then Hallee Hoeppner (So. – Winona, MN) and Bakken got in on the action with buckets to extend the Blugold run to 12-0 at the 6:20 mark of the quarter.
With 2:24 second before the break, Katelyn Morgan (Fr. – Green Bay, WI/Notre Dame) received a pass from Bakken and converted to give the Blugolds a 25-11 advantage.
After holding La Crosse to seven, second quarter points, Eau Claire headed to the locker room leading 26-16.
The Blugolds held La Crosse to only 6-24 (25 percent) of their field goals over the first two quarter of play. Offensively, Eau Claire made 10-24 (41.7 percent) of their shots from the field.
In the third period, a La Crosse 3-pointer cut the Blugolds lead to seven, but Dunathan responded with a shot from deep herself. The Eagles buried another shot from distance as part of a short 5-0 run, which made it 31-26 Eau Claire with 6:39 left in the third quarter.
Buckets by Kayla Hanley (Sr. – Chippewa Falls, WI) on back-to-back possessions for Eau Claire put the Blugolds up by nine with just over a minute to go in the quarter.
The Blugolds started the fourth quarter with Katie Essen (Fr. –Farmington, MN/Rosemount) knocking down two free throws for an 11-point advantage. Eau Claire held their biggest fourth quarter advantage a minute later when Caryn Donahue (So. – Rockton, IL/Hononegah) dropped a 3-pointer through the net with 8:42 left in the game.
La Crosse wouldn't be put away though. The Eagles knocked down a 3-pointer with a little less than two minutes to go in the game. This capped a 14-2 run by La Crosse that cut the Blugolds lead to one.
Hanley responded for Eau Claire, converting on two clutch attempts at the free-throw line. La Crosse made two from the charity stripe with 37 seconds to go, making it 48-47.
With Eau Claire only leading by a point, Hanley got a steal and found Jenni LaCroix (Sr. – Verona, WI), who was fouled. LaCroix knocked down one of her two attempts, which was enough as a La Crosse shot at the buzzer was errant.
Eau Claire made 18-50 (36 percent) of their field goals, 3-15 (20 percent) on 3-pointers and 10-18 (55.6 percent) at the line in the game.
The Blugold defense harassed the Eagles all night, forcing 28 turnovers. Eau Claire also held a 10-0 advantage in fast break points.
Essen, Bakken and Hanley each had 8 points to lead Eau Claire.
Essen added a team high six rebounds and Hanley had four steals on the night. Bakken contributed three rebounds, three assists and three steals to her stat line.
Dunathan had seven and Morgan six in support for Eau Claire.
The Blugolds (9-3, 1-0) are back in action on Saturday at 5 p.m. as they return to Zorn Area to host UW-Platteville.
Follow the action this season on Blugold Game Day.