On a night when the Pipers set a school record for making free throws, it was two made by their opponents that made the difference. Hamline hit 23 of 24 free throws and Brandon Rieg had another big night from the field but two WEC charity tosses with two seconds left broke a tie and sent the Pipers to a frustrating 77-75 defeat Tuesday night. Rieg had another big night off the bench, scoring a team high 18 points and Noah Aguirre added 14. But the big story of the game was Hamline's success at the free throw line. They hit their first 20 shots in a row en route to the record effort. They needed all of it because HU spent most of the night battling from behind.
In the first half, Hamline trailed by as many as 15 points before putting on a late surge to trail 41-32 at intermission. In the second half, the Pipers started fast, going on a 12-1 run to take their first lead of the night at 43-42. From there, the game rocked back and forth. UW-Eau Claire would make baskets inside while the Pipers stayed close with a combination of three-pointers and free throws. With 4:29 to go, Levi Wenrich made two free throws for a 65-62 Piper lead. But WEC came right back and scored the next seven points. The Blugolds stayed ahead until Rieg banked in a three pointer from the right corner with 29 seconds left to tie the game at 75.
Unfortunately, this meant the Blugolds now had the ball. With time running out, Andy Kleist missed his shot but was fouled on the play. He made the free throws that proved to be the game's final points. Christian Taber heaved a mid-court shot that was a bit hard and Hamline fell to 1-1 on the young season. HU shot just 35 per cent from the field for the game but made up for it with the record free throw performance and four three-pointers (Rieg 2, Al Tillman and Sam Gullickson one each).
The Pipers won't be spending the entire weekend eating turkey. They will play UW-Whitewater at Hutton Arena Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
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