UW-River Falls’ quiver was full of dagger 3-pointers. And the No. 20 Falcons kept firing until UW-Eau Claire stopped coming.
A UW-River Falls team that came into Wednesday shooting 32.7 percent from 3-point range went 14 of 22 from downtown to doom UW-Eau Claire to a 77-63 loss in WIAC men’s basketball action on Ken Anderson Court in Zorn Arena.
“When teams are knocking down shots at that rate, it’s just really tough to come back,” UW-Eau Claire coach Matt Siverling said.
Matt Keller, a 27.5-percent 3-point shooter coming into the game, led the charge for the defending conference champion Falcons (13-4, 4-3) by going 6-for-6 from deep and scoring 20 points.
It wasn’t just UW-River Falls’ 63.6-percent clip from 3. It was the timing of some of those daggers.
When the Blugolds (9-9, 1-5), who trailed by as many as 16, ripped off a 13-0 to get within three, Keller responded with a 3. The lead was back to six with 7 minutes, 36 seconds to play.
Less than a minute later, Austin Moldenhauer finished off a loose ball scramble with a 3. The lead was back to seven.
With less than four minuts to go, All-American forward Alex Herink drilled a 3. Suddenly the lead was 10.
Then Clay Seifert hit two triples. Suddenly, the Falcons were back up 12, and the game was effectively over.
“Give Eau Claire credit,” UW-River Falls coach Jeff Berkhof said. “They did a good job coming back on us. Our guys did a nice job answering the call there. We hit a couple big 3s there.”
George Diekelman, who spearheaded the second-half comeback, scored 20 points to lead the Blugolds. Chris Duff added 12 points. But UW-Eau Claire was unable to completely dig out of the early hole it found itself in, a reoccurring theme in the first round of WIAC play.
“It’s really been hurting us,” Duff said. “It seems like we’re always down 10 going into the half and make a great run in the second half. But we always come up short.”
NOTES: Herink, a Hudson graduate, scored 13 points. Seifert added 12 and Austin Heidecker had 10. ... The Falcons roster includes freshman forward and McDonell graduate Alex Ohde. He was a high school teammate of UW-Eau Claire student assistant coach Ben Retzlaff. ... While UW-River Falls was 14-for-22 from 3, UW-Eau Claire was 6-for-24. The Falcons were 11-for-15 from the free-throw line, while the Blugolds were 5-for-5.