By Travis Nyhus, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) –The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's basketball team fought back from an early hole, but fell short 74-68 to the UW-Whitewater Warhawks on the road Thursday night.
Once again the Blugold struggled out of the gate falling behind 14-0 as they missed their first nine shots. With 3:16 left in the first quarter Jenni LaCroix (Sr. – Verona, WI) got Eau Claire on the board.
After a quarter of play the Blugolds trailed 19-8.
The second quarter was much better from Eau Claire thanks to a spark off the bench from Maddie Dunathan (Fr. – Hortonville, WI). Dunathan buried a triple in the first minute of the period.
This led to an 11-2 run to make it 23-19 just four minutes into the quarter. That was the same margin at the break as Whitewater was up 30-26.
A three-point play from Hallee Hoeppner (So. – Winona, MN) cut the deficit to just three points about two minutes after the second half begin. That was then trimmed to one on the next possession as Anna Graaskamp (So. – Eau Claire, WI/Memorial) made two free throws.
The Blugolds couldn't tie things up and the Warhawks slowly opened up their lead to eight with 2:30 remaining in the quarter.
Heading into the final period, Eau Claire was down 49-43.
The deficit swelled to nine, but then LaCroix responded with a basket from beyond the arc. Two Dunathan makes at the line made it 54-50 with 6:47 left in the game.
With about four minutes remaining two more free throws, this time from Katie Essen (Fr. –Farmington, MN/Rosemount), made it a one score game at 58-56.
On the other side of the court Whitewater was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made each one of the shots at the charity stripe.
On Whitewater's next possession, they made a critical 3-pointer putting Eau Claire behind by six.
Eau Claire had one last effort as Dunathan made another shot from deep with 1:16 left in the game to make it 67-61, but they couldn't complete the comeback.
The Blugolds shot 26 of 56 (46.4 percent) from the field, only 4 of 17 from deep, but made 12 of 14 shots from the line.
Dunathan led the way for Eau Claire with 19 points and five assist off the bench. Graaskamp added 15 points and six rebounds. LaCroix joined them in double figures with 11.
The loss knocks the Blugolds (18-9) out of the tournament and will now wait to see if they will earn an at large bid for the NCAA tournament.