By Travis Nyhus, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) –The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's basketball team got back into the win column with a 51-50 victory over the UW-Steven Point Pointers on Saturday night in Zorn Area. A Blugold 16-4 third quarter brought Eau Claire back and Kayla Hanley (Sr. – Chippewa Falls, WI) made 1-2 free throws with five seconds remaining to cap the victory.
Eau Claire started slow with only two points in the first five minutes, but Jenni LaCroix (Sr. – Verona, WI) connected on her first of three shots from deep to make it a 5-5 tie with 4:30 left in the first quarter of play.
The Blugolds took their first lead, 7-5 on two made free throws by Katie Essen (Fr. –Farmington, MN/Rosemount). Stevens Point ended the quarter with an 11-4 run to end the quarter ahead of the Blugolds 16-11.
In the first four minutes of the second quarter, the Pointers extended their lead, and held a 25-13 advantage. Sarah Huebner (Jr. – Hortonville, WI) came off the bench and kept Eau Claire in it. Playing in replace of Essen, who sat with foul trouble. Huebner scored four straight points for the Blugolds.
Eau Claire cut their deficit to seven with just under four minutes before the half, but Stevens Point headed to the break leading 33-24.
The Blugolds changed up the game plan and turned things around quickly out of the locker room.
A post feed to Essen resulted in a bucket on the first Eau Claire possession. Then jumper from Hanley, a free throw from Kelsey Bakken (So. – Marshall, WI) and a 3-point play by Hallee Hoeppner (So. – Winona, MN) pulled Eau Claire to within one, 33-32 just 2:20 into the third quarter.
It didn't take long for the Blugolds to get right back in it, but their next few possessions were empty as they looked to take their first lead since the first quarter. Hanley finally did it as the defense for Eau Claire shut down the Pointers and Eau Claire led the first time since 7-6 lead with about three minutes left in first quarter.
In what can only be described as a dominant display from the Eau Claire defense, the Pointers first scored with just 1:12 left in the quarter. Eau Claire only allowed four points and entered the final quarter up 40-37.
Stevens Point managed to knot things up at 41-41 four minutes into the fourth quarter. The Blugolds went ahead 43-41, but the Pointers responded. In what might have been the biggest shot of the game, La Croix buried a three-pointer that set the crowd into a frenzy at the end of the shot clock for the three point advantage with around four minutes left in the game.
Essen made what looked to be the clincher with 1:05 left in the game as she made strong post move to lead 50-47. Stevens Point found their outside weapon, Carly Cerrato, and she tied things up.
The Blugolds had the opportunity for the final shot and Hanley drove the lane forcing a late defender and getting the foul drawn. She went to the line and made 1-2. The Pointers called a timeout to set things up. The Blugolds walled off the paint and Cerrato looked to repeat what she did 20 seconds earlier, but her 3-pointer attempt was no good and Eau Claire held on for the win.
For the game, Eau Claire shot 16-45 (35.6 percent) from the field, 3-13 (23.1 percent) from beyond the arc 16-23 (69.6 percent) at the line.
LaCroix lead the Blugolds with 10 points on three critical 3-pointers. Elly Boles (Sr. – Prescott, WI) and Huebner did their part spelling Essen with eight and six points, respectively, to lead a bench that scored 25 points.
Hanley scored five points and pulled down a team-leading nine boards. Essen had seven points and four rebounds.
Eau Claire forced 21 turnovers and had five blocks and six steals in the win.
The Blugolds (11-4, 3-1) travel to Menomonie on Wednesday to face UW-Stout starting at 6 p.m.
Follow the action this season on Blugold Game Day.