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UWRF women’s basketball beat UW-Stevens Point 77-67

February 10, 2016

The Falcons women’s basketball team took down UW-Stevens Point Pointers 77-67 in a thrilling comeback on Saturday afternoon. The clash of two top-25 ranked teams, with the Falcons at 18 and the Pointers at 16 in the nation squared off to determine who would hold sole possession of second place in the WIAC.

The Falcons got off to a quick start, going on a 9-3 run out of the gate with three Falcons starters hitting jump shots in the opening minutes. The Pointers quickly turned the game around when junior guard Taylor Douglas entered the game and completely took over. Douglas made five of her first six shots and dropped 13 points in only a few minutes to put the Pointers up 21-14 after the first quarter.

UWRF’s sloppy play clearly held them back in the first quarter, committing seven turnovers in the opening 10 minutes. But the story of the second quarter began differently, with the Falcons slowly chipping away at the Pointers lead. River Falls finally broke through midway through the second quarter when Brynn Liljander’s three pointer gave the Falcons their first lead since the opening minutes at 32-31. A few easy baskets near the end of the half put UW-Stevens Point up 40-35 heading into the break.

The Falcons balanced scoring attack kept them in the game throughout the first half, with the leading scorer being Liljander with 11 points. Taylor Douglas quieted down in the second quarter and added only two points to her half-high 15 points.

The Pointers came out of the second half looking to make a statement. They quickly jumped out to a 46-36 lead through converting on some Falcon missed opportunities. UWRF couldn’t seem to cut into the deficit and it remained a 10 point game through most of the third quarter. But the Falcons’ zone defense came up big in the closing minutes of the third quarter, forcing turnovers and leading to higher percentage shots for the slumping Falcons.

Liljander said, “In the first half Stevens Point got to the basket a lot so we knew we had to take that way. By going into zone we packed the lane in and made Point take some tough shots.”

Junior Forward Ali Clark also dropped in 10 huge points off the bench to keep the game close at 54-49 going into the decisive fourth quarter.

Head Coach Cindy Holbrook was especially impressed, saying, “With Katie [Theisen] in foul trouble we needed to someone to step up for us. Ali came up huge for us in the post with her scoring and defense.”

UW-River Falls owned the fourth quarter, jumping out to a 17-5 run to begin the quarter. Huge three pointers from Liljander and Taylor Karge jumpstarted the Falcons offense and swung the momentum and crowd towards the Falcons.

“We started taking better shots early in the fourth quarter, and going on a run like that really changes the energy,” Holbrook said.

The Falcons made their free throws down the stretch and committed zero turnovers in the second half, making it all but impossible for UW-Stevens point to get back in the game. The final score of 77-67 didn’t clearly show how close the game was all afternoon long.

“In the fourth quarter we were a lot more patient on offense. We didn’t force shots and we found the open player. We played with a lot of confidence and in close games like that confidence is a huge advantage,” Liljander said.

Liljander finished with 26 points, nailing four threes and going 10-12 from the free throw line. Karge also added 16 points and six rebounds to clinch another huge WIAC victory for the Falcons.

While at the beginning of the day the game looked to be a battle for second place, UW-Oshkosh’s loss to UW Stout 59-52 propelled the Falcons to sole possession of first place in the WIAC. UWRF currently holds the tie breaker after their victory over Oshkosh on the road earlier this season.

“The difference between the top and bottom teams in this conference is only about 10 points. But if you don’t show up for even one day it can change everything this late in the season,” Holbrook said.

With the win the Falcons move to 17-4 on the season, and improve to 9-1 at home and 8-2 in the WIAC. The Falcons now head on a two game road trip before returning home for the final two regular season games.

Holbrook said, “This is a team that is good enough to win a conference title or a conference tournament. But as we saw by Stout’s upset win, you have to come focused and ready to play every night.”

The Falcons final two home games will be key in determining the tight WIAC race this season. Falcons’ fans won’t want to miss the Falcons first chance at a conference title since 1988-1989. UWRF’s next home game is Feb. 17 against UW-Stout. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.