The UW-Oshkosh women's basketball team is returning to NCAA Division III postseason activity after defeating UW-Superior, 66-61, in the championship game of the WIAC Tournament held Sunday (March 1) in Superior.
The Titans (22-6) broke the game open by scoring 10 unanswered points for a 59-48 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
UW-Oshkosh earned the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division III Championship for the second straight year and will learn their first-round opponent during Monday's (March 2) Basketball Selection Show on ncaa.com. The 30-minute webcast begins at 1:30 p.m.
Katelyn Kuehl led four Titans in double figures with 16 points. She converted 9 of 10 free throws, including four straight in the closing seconds, while adding eight rebounds and a team-high three steals.
Taylor Schmidt added 13 points and three assists for UW-Oshkosh. Alex Richard recorded her second career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Madeline Staples contributed 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting off the Titan bench. Marissa Selner chipped in nine points and seven rebounds.
UW-Oshkosh, which claimed its second straight and third WIAC Tournament title overall, advances to the NCAA Division III Championship for the second consecutive year and 12th time in program history. In last year's WIAC Tournament final in Oshkosh, the Titans defeated the Yellowjackets, 75-69.
The Titans scored the first seven points of the game before UW-Superior rallied to claim its first lead at 11-9 on an Allyssa Lindberg 3-pointer with 13:19 remaining in the opening period. The Yellowjackets also erased a 17-13 deficit with eight unanswered points for a 21-17 advantage at the 7:39 mark.
UW-Superior, which won the WIAC's regular season title and was unbeaten in 10 home games this season, held its largest lead of five points at 24-19 with seven minutes to play before halftime. A three-point play by Richard knotted the contest at 26 and a free throw by Kuehl put the Titans ahead for good at 27-26 with 3:50 left in the first period.
Yellowjacket Hadley Skalmoski trimmed UW-Oshkosh's lead to 29-28 late in the first half, but Kuehl tacked on two free throws for a 31-28 Titan advantage at intermission.
The Titans extended their lead to 44-35 on two free throws by Kuehl and a layup by Staples with just under 14 minutes remaining. UW-Superior's Sally Linzmeier, the reigning WIAC Player of the Year, accounted for 11 of her team's first 13 points of the second period, and the Yellowjackets pulled within 47-44 midway through the half on a basket by Grace Kennedy.
Dana Karlstad snapped a string of seven consecutive UW-Superior missed shots with a jumper that got the Yellowjackets within 49-48 at the 5:48 mark, but the Titans quickly responded with a layup by Selner and a 3-pointer by Ashley Neustifter on their next two possessions. Schmidt added two free throws and Morgan Kokta a deep jumper during a 10-point run that gave UW-Oshkosh a 59-48 advantage with just over two minutes left.
The UW-Oshkosh defense limited UW-Superior to 1 of 12 shooting from the floor during a span of more than nine minutes until Karlstad again broke the drought to pull the Yellowjackets within 59-51 on a 3-pointer with 1:47 remaining.
Linzmeier scored five points in less than 30 seconds to get cut UW-Superior's deficit to 59-56. The teams traded two free throws on the next three possessions before Kuehl pulled down a missed 3-pointer and converted two throws from the charity stripe for a 65-58 lead with 13 seconds left.
Karlstad buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds, and a free throw by Kokta provided the final score.
UW-Oshkosh ended the game shooting 43.8 percent (21-48) from the floor, 44.4 percent (4-9) from 3-point range and 74.1 percent (20-27) from the free throw line. The Titans, who have defeated the Yellowjackets 56 times in the last 61 meetings, also had a 39-30 rebound advantage.
Linzmeier had a game-high 26 points for UW-Superior (19-8). She made 7 of 20 shots from the field and 12 of 14 free throws while adding team-high totals of seven rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks.
Karlstad and Skalmoski had 11 points apiece off the Yellowjacket bench.
UW-Superior (19-8) concluded the game shooting 34.4 percent (22-64) from the field, 20 percent (3-15) on 3-pointers and 66.7 percent (14-21) from the free throw line.
UW-Oshkosh became just the third No. 3 seed to win the WIAC Tournament. The top two seeds have combined to win the other 14 titles. Top seeds are now a combined 38-5 in the 17 years of the event.
The Titans also won WIAC Tournament titles in 2014 and 1999. UW-Oshkosh's previous NCAA Division III postseason appearances were in 1990-92, 1994-2000 and 2014.
UW-Superior and UW-Oshkosh split two games during the regular season. The Titans were 86-52 victors on Jan. 3 in Oshkosh while the Yellowjackets won, 58-46, on Feb. 14 in Superior.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Coleman, D3photography.com