The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team loves playing at Zorn Arena. The Blugolds normally shoot the ball well at home.
In their first 10 home games, the Blugolds went 9-1. No opponent had shot a higher percentage than them in any of those games. Only once had the Blugolds not shot at least 40 percent. Only one opponent had topped the 40-percent mark. None had reached 50.
That all changed Wednesday night.
The Blugolds ran into a red-hot UW-La Crosse team that didn’t miss much. The Eagles shot 53 percent from the field, knocked down 12 3s and handed UW-Eau Claire a 76-55 loss in WIAC action at Zorn Arena.
“Credit to La Crosse. I thought they played really well,” UW-Eau Claire coach Tonja Englund said. “I think it’s a combination of they shot really well, and I felt like defensively we didn’t have the compete level that we needed to have tonight.”
The Blugolds’ Anna Graaskamp had another big night, scoring 22 points on 11-of-18 shooting. But the rest of the Blugolds shot 27 percent from the floor and hit just 3 of 20 shots from beyond the arc.
“I thought Anna did a really good job on the inside tonight and scored with her touches,” Englund said. “I thought we had really good looks on the perimeter, and we didn’t hit those shots. We had a lot of two-foot shots going to the rim that we missed, and La Crosse didn’t. That’s the difference.”
The Blugolds, who shot 39 percent as a team, actually got off to a quick start. Using their full-court pressure, the Blugolds frustrated the Eagles and forced seven turnovers in the first six minutes of the game to jump out to a 14-5 lead.
But when the Eagles started to take care of the ball, they quickly erased the deficit and took the lead, thanks to their perimeter shooting. They hit eight 3-pointers before halftime and two early in the second to grab a 15-point advantage.
“There was a point in the game where it shifted,” Englund said. “I felt like we lost what we had going with our press, and they started hitting some shots, and that completely changed the game. That’s something my team has got to learn is when we get an early lead like that, we’ve got to build on it.”
The Blugolds couldn’t put together any kind of a run in the second half, never getting closer than 12 points as the Eagles continued to knock down shots that the Blugolds couldn’t answer.
“I felt like there were a lot of possessions where we just weren’t in sync,” Englund said. “A lot of possessions where we just didn’t look like our usual selves, which is not OK. When we run into teams that are shooting the ball well, we have got to be able to clamp down defensively and do a better job.”
The loss was a disappointing one for the Blugolds, considering they entered the night in a three-way tie for second place with UW-La Crosse and UW-Oshkosh and had their sights set on the top of the conference. Their loss, coupled with UW-Whitewater’s win over UW-Oshkosh, dropped the Blugolds into a third-place tie with UW-Oshksoh, two behind UW-Whitewater.