Although both teams came into the game knowing it wouldn't have any effect on the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings or WIAC Tournament seeding, UW-Whitewater and UW-River Falls took Saturday's game down to the wire before deciding the outcome. UW-W defeated UW-RF 66-60 in Kachel Gym of Williams Center in Whitewater.
The first half between the Warhawks and the Falcons saw seven ties and four lead changes. Whitewater got the scoring started and jumped out to an early 6-2 lead two minutes into the game. River Falls took their first lead at the 16:35 mark on a jumper by junior forward Tess Lueders. Neither team could gain the upper hand over the next five minutes, as the game was tied or led by River Falls by one or two points. At the 11:19 mark, the Falcons gained momentum and took a six point lead, 18-12, after a pair of Nikki Guhr free throws. The Warhawks responded with a 8-2 run, capped off on a Courtney Kumerow jumper to once again knot the game up, this time at 20-20, with 8:46 left in the first half. UW-RF answered Whitewater's run and took a four point advantage, 26-22, on a Gurh jumper, at the 5:04 mark. UW-W ended the first half on an 8-3 run to put them in front for the first time since the opening basket, 30-29.
Whitewater's bench came through, scoring 21 of the Warhawks' 30 first half points. UW-W shot 12-28 (43%) from the floor and 5-9 (56%) from the free throw line. The Falcons countered by shooting 10-21 (48%) and 9-10 (90%) from the charity stripe.
UW-W was led by junior forward Amy Mandrell with eight points. Mandrell came into the game averaging 2.8 points per game. Lueders of UW-RF matched Mandrell's scoring with eight of her own first half points.
After a Whitewater basket 40 seconds into the second half, River Falls took over. Brittany Gregorich knocked down a three point jumper, which gave the Falcons a nine point lead, 37-46, at 12:17. Whitewater managed to chip away over the next six minutes, and tied the for the tenth time at 54-54 with 6:17 left to play. The Warhawks stretched their lead to seven, 66-59 at the 1:47 mark, after a Sam Quandt three pointer proved to be the dagger in the side of the Falcons.
The Falcons ended 20-45 (44%) from the field compared to the Warhawks 25-63 (40%). Whitewater's defense cashed in twelve points off of 19 Falcon turnovers, with UW-W out-rebounding UW-RF 38 to 31.
Kumerow and junior guard Kaitlyn Thill paced the Warhawks with 12 points apiece, and Mandrell chipped in with as season high ten off the bench. The Falcons were led by Gregorich's 13 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. Lueders and freshman guard Richell Mehus added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Whitewater concluded the regular season with a 20-5 mark, including the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title at 13-2. UW-RF is 14-11 overall and 8-8 in league play.
UW-W will host a WIAC Tournament semifinal game Friday at 7:00 in Kachel Gym in Williams Center. The Warhawks will face the lowest remaining seeds from Wednesday's quarterfinal games, where third seed UW-Oshkosh hosts number six UW-Eau Claire, and number four UW-Superior hosts five seed UW-River Falls. The WIAC Tournament title game will be hosted by the highest remaining seed Sunday at 2:00.