Duluth East grad leads Eau Claire past UWS
Ryan Shea received little interest from college basketball recruiters after graduating from Duluth East in 2007. Shea could have walked on at Minnesota Duluth or gone to Upper Iowa, but one was too close and the other too far. Shea found a happy ...
Ryan Shea received little interest from college basketball recruiters after graduating from Duluth East in 2007.
Shea could have walked on at Minnesota Duluth or gone to Upper Iowa, but one was too close and the other too far.
Shea found a happy medium at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a Twin Cities-length drive from the Twin Ports, and on Wednesday he returned to lead the Blugolds to an 82-68 victory at Wisconsin-Superior before 387 spectators at Mertz Mortorelli Gym.
Shea scored a game-high 26 points on
10-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-5 from
3-point range as Eau Claire bolstered its Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoff hopes while hurting the Yellowjackets' chances.
"This was great," Shea said. "My old high school friends are off to college, but family and friends and everything, they were able to make it."
UWS sophomore forward Jake Smith scored the first basket of the game, but the Yellowjackets (9-10 overall, 2-8 WIAC) had only one other lead the rest of the way as Eau Claire (11-7, 5-5) took a 44-39 lead into halftime. The Blugolds pushed the lead to 11 early in the second half before UWS used a full-court press to cut the lead to 64-62 with 5:45 to play. That's when Shea hit two 3-pointers and a jumper as Eau Claire regained a comfortable cushion.
"Ryan is a gamer, and it was fun to watch him come back to his hometown and do well," said Eau Claire coach Terry Gibbons. "He's gotten better, he's dedicated himself and really just become kind of a gym rat. He really enjoys the game."
Smith finished with 20 points to lead UWS while teammate Dwight Hill fought through a nagging ankle injury to add 19, but 30 of those 39 points were scored in the first half. Hill and fellow starters Dan Culy (knee) and Shane Manor (knee) all missed the Yellowjackets' last game because of injuries but returned with limited effectiveness on Wednesday.
But Yellowjackets coach Dave Buchanan won't use injuries as an excuse.
UWS had high hopes after returning nearly its entire squad from a resurgent 2007-08 season but isn't surprising teams this season in the always-tough WIAC. Unlike past years when the conference took eight teams, this year the WIAC tournament will include only the top six teams in the league standings. UWS (9-10, 2-8) missed an opportunity on Wednesday to close ground with River Falls (9-9, 3-6) for the coveted sixth spot with six conference games remaining.
"We're not a defensive-minded team, and that fault falls directly on me," Buchanan said. "The game honors toughness, and until we become more willing to make defensive stops, it's going to be hard for us because it puts too much pressure on our offense to score every time. Our
margin of error is just too small right now."
Dan Beyer added 17 points for Eau Claire (11-7, 5-5), which starts another Northeastern Minnesota product, junior forward Geoff Probst of Moose Lake, who added two points, two blocks and seven rebounds.
UWS, which hasn't won a conference title since 1941, is emerging as a more attractive local option for area recruits under Buchanan, but some athletes are always going to want to play their college ball farther from home. But with Shea, just not too far.
"Eau Claire didn't recruit me. Not at all, I just showed up there one day," Shea said, laughing. "No offense to the local schools, but I wanted to get away. I already knew everything about here that I needed to know."
Wisconsin-Eau Claire -- Josh Prince 3-7 3-3 10, Ryan Shea 10-15 2-2 26, Colin Boone 3-9 0-0 7, Dan Beyer 7-11 3-5 17, Geoff Probst 1-7 0-0 2, Jordan Kappen 4-5 0-1 9, Nick Bartlett 0-1 0-0 0, Jacob Schlub 3-4 2-2 9, Amadou Fofana 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 32-61 10-13 82.
Wisconsin-Superior -- Dan Culy 4-12 2-2 12, Dwight Hill 9-14 1-2 19, Shane Manor 4-9 0-0 8, Jake Smith 8-21 4-4 20, Greg Roeder 1-2 0-0 2, Ben Aalfs 2-2 0-0 4, Steve Briman 0-2 0-0 0, Dustin Ritchie 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 29-63 7-8 68.
Halftime -- WEC 44, UWS 39. 3-point goals -- WEC 8-18 (Prince 1-2, Shea 4-5, Boone 1-4, Beyer 0-2, Probst 0-2, Kappen 1-2, Schlub 1-1); UWS 3-6 (Culy 2-4, Smith 0-1, Ritchie 1-1). Rebounds -- WEC 38 (Beyer 9), UWS 23 (Manor 7). Assists -- WEC 17 (Boone 7), UWS 7 (Hill, Aalfs, Ray Byrns 2). Turnovers -- WEC 13 (Shea 6), UWS 8 (Culy 2). Total fouls -- WEC 12, UWS 14. Fouled out -- None.