UWL Earns Tournament Win at UW-Eau Claire; Advances to Semifinals

More news about: UW-La Crosse

Eau Claire, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse men's basketball team earned a 76-66 victory at UW-Eau Claire Tuesday night in the first round of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championships (presented by Culver's).  The Eagles improve to 14-12 on the season and advance to play at sixth-ranked UW-River Falls Thursday, February 23 at 7 p.m. in the tournament semifinals.  UW-Eau Claire drops to 18-8 on the season with Tuesday's loss.

With the win, UWL advances to the WIAC Championship Semifinals for the sixth time in school history (2006, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) and third time in the last four seasons. The Eagles also clinch a winning season for the seventh time in the last eight years with Tuesday's victory.

UWL and UW-Eau Claire were meeting for the first time in the league tournament. The Blugolds swept both regular-season meetings this year, earning a 62-58 victory in La Crosse January 11 and 88-69 in Eau Claire February 11. 

UWL, the tournament's fifth-seed, never trailed in Tuesday's win as Ben Meinholz hit back-to-back three-pointer field goals to start the game. Fourth-seeded UW-Eau Claire forced a 6-6 tie on a Josh Weix jumper with 16:36 remaining, but a Ryan Kruser jumper and another Meinholz three-pointer gave UWL a 11-6 advantage.  The Eagles led 19-15 with 9:44 left in the first half when they used a 10-0 run to lead 29-15.  UWL led 35-23 at halftime after shooting 55.6% (five-of-nine) from three-point range.

The Eagles led 37-26 with 17:45 left in the game on a Kruser jumper and an Austin Fritz layup with 14:28 remaining gave UWL a 43-33 advantage.  UW-Eau Claire cut the deficit to 48-43 with 11:28 left on a Weix three-pointer before UWL took a 54-45 lead with 8:54 remaining after a Fritz jumper.  The Blugolds used a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 56-52 with 6:38 remaining on George Diekelman's three-point play, but UW-Eau Claire could get no closer the rest of the game.

UWL went on an 8-2 run to lead 64-54 with 2:38 remaining. The Eagles went 12-of-16 at the free throw line in the final 2:09, including Zach Schradle going seven-of-eight.

UWL shot 51.0% from the field, including 54.2% (13-of-24) in the second half. The Eagles shot 50.0% (six-of-12) from three-point range for the game and 60.6% (20-of-33) at the free throw ine.

Meinholz led the Eagles with 24 points, including 20 in the first half.  Schradle finished with 21 points and eight rebounds while Kruser and Milton Cummings each finished with nine points.

UW-Eau Claire shot 44.0% from the field, including 33.3% (seven-of-21) from three-point range, and 83.3% (15-of-18) at the line. Chris Duff and Weix led four Blugolds in double figures with 13 points each.  Jack Martinek finished with 12 points and Diekelman 11.

UWL returns to action Thursday, February 23 at 7 p.m. at top-seeded and sixth-ranked UW-River Falls in the WIAC Championship Semifinals.