EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) George Diekelman scored 19 points and led the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men's basketball to their third straight win, a 69-60 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Superior Tuesday night at Zorn Arena.
The Blugolds welcomed back former assistant coach and first year head coach Greg Polkowski, but spoiled his homecoming with the win. The story line is increasingly interesting with Eau Claire head coach Matt Siverling coming from UW-Superior.
"It's always great to see Greg again, it was a lot of fun going against him," Siverling said. "His team continued to fight to the end, making it tough on us. I wish him the best as he continues to build this program."
Eau Claire was able to get started fast behind two three-pointers from Cole Rabedeaux (So. – Poulsbo, WA/North Kitsap), giving them an early 8-4 advantage. Nate Kalien, brother of former UW-Eau Claire basketball players Dustin and Tyson Kalien, was able to hit a three for the Yellowjackets, which looked like it would spark a run for Superior. Instead, it was the Blugolds would make a huge run.
Up 14-9 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half, Eau Claire went on a 16-1 run on the strength of two three-pointers and seven points overall from Chris Duff (Sr. – Walker, MN). The Yellowjackets were able to trim the lead down to 12, but Diekelman finished the half with a clutch buzzer-beating jumper to push the lead to 14 going into the break.
The Blugolds picked right up where they left off in the second half with back-to-back threes from Rabedeaux and Duff to push the lead back up to 18. The Yellowjackets were able to get right back into the game though, going on a 8-0 run.
With just over five minutes left in the game, Eau Claire was able to again push the their lead to 20 points. Taking their foot off the gas pedal a bit, Superior was able to go on a 13-2 run to finish the game. The run proved to be too late as the Blugolds held on the victory.
The Blugolds came out with a lot of energy in front of a busy Zorn Arena crowd and were able to build a lead early and never surrendered it to Superior. Siverling was proud of the way his team played.
"I'm really happy with the way the team came out and started the game with energy and intensity, all of that carried over on both ends of the floor," said Siverling.
Eau Claire was able to set up a number of great looks for their shooters tonight, as the team knocked down 9-of-18 shots from behind the arc.
"Sharing the basketball was key tonight, great ball movement allowed us to get good team looks and showing the unselfishness of our team." Siverling said.
The Blugolds got another strong performance out of Diekelman and Duff who combined for 36 points on 15-of-24 shooting. Rabedeaux's minutes have continued to increase every game so far and played well again scoring 11 points, while dishing out a team high three assists. One of the biggest keys to the win for Eau Claire was the play of Montrell Oliver (So – Naperville, IL/Metea Valley) off the bench. Oliver added high intensity defense and seven points while playing a team high 29 minutes.
After a two game home stand Eau Claire will now start a long stretch away from home, with their next home game coming in over a month, the beginning of the Holiday Classic tournament on December 29. Eau Claire's four game road trip begins on Thursday where the team will travel to take on St. Scholastica (Minn.) at 7 p.m. The Blugolds will be looking for their fourth straight win.