The stats didn’t look pretty.
30 percent shooting from the field. 20 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
On Wednesday night at Zorn Arena, the numbers didn’t lie.
A rough shooting night for Eau Claire left the Blugolds without much of a fighting chance in a 58-39 loss to UW-La Crosse. Eau Claire was held to its lowest point total in a game since a 64-32 loss to UW-Oshkosh in January of 2014.
The Blugolds managed to hang around for a while before La Crosse went on a 15-3 run midway through the second half to turn a five-point lead into a 17-point advantage. The Eagles cruised from there to hand the Blugolds their first loss in WIAC play.
“La Crosse did a really good job defensively, making it really difficult for us to score,” Blugolds coach Matt Siverling said. “You’ve got to give credit to those guys for what they did on the defensive end of the floor.”
None of the Blugolds scored in double figures. Cam Kuepers had a team-high eight points. Ben Meinholz led the Eagles with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Eau Claire went cold from the field during the Eagles’ big run, and only scored six points in the final eight minutes of the game. The Blugolds shot 22 percent in the second half.
The offense’s woes started early. The Blugolds finally reached double figures on the scoreboard only after more than eight minutes of action in the first half. A stout Eagles defense kept Eau Claire away from the rim and forced a wealth of 3-point attempts, many of which missed the mark.
“You always wish you could get a good look on offense. It’s really hard if you can’t get the ball in the paint,” Siverling said. “We’ve been living by the 3, that’s kind of what we do. We don’t have a lot of post presence, we don’t have anybody in the interior that can score, so we’ve got to find ways to get into the paint by driving.”
After the first 10 minutes had gone by, the Blugolds started scoring with a bit more consistency. A Cole Rabedeaux jump shot cut La Crosse’s lead to 19-17 with seven minutes remaining, but the Eagles went on a 7-0 run to add some breathing room.
The Blugolds recovered from their slow start and finished the first half shooting 37 percent from the field, but trailed 29-24 at the break.
La Crosse’s lead was 35-30 with 15 minutes left when the Eagles went on their long run in the second half.
The loss drained some of Eau Claire’s momentum resulting from a three-game win streak, capped by an upset win over No. 14 UW-Whitewater on Saturday.
“Really in this league, it’s all about matchups. We didn’t match up very well with La Crosse tonight with the way they defended,” Siverling said. “The way we played wasn’t great for us, so we’re going to have to continue to work and continue to get better.”
Eau Claire returns to action when it hosts ninth-ranked UW-Stevens Point on Saturday.
UW-La Crosse 58, UW-Eau Claire 39
La Crosse (10-4, 3-0): Taulvish McCray 12, Tanner Bruchs 3, Ben Meinholz 21, Terek Nesheim 6, Brendon Manning 7, Sam Skoyen 3, Ethan Anderson 2, Jack Kortes 4.
Eau Claire (9-5, 2-1): Steve Christiansen 3, Ben Widdes 2, Cole Rabedeaux 7, Cam Kuepers 8, Wilyam Wright 2, Spencer Page 5, Sean Miller 7, Blake Wacholz 5.
3-pointers: La Crosse 6 (McCray 3, Bruchs, Meinholz, Skoyen); Eau Claire 4 (Miller 2, Rabedeaux, Page).
Halftime score: La Crosse 29-24.