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Strong Defensive Effort Keeps Titans Atop Conference Standings

Olivia Campbell matched a career best by scoring 13 points against the Blugolds.
Olivia Campbell matched a career best by scoring 13 points against the Blugolds.

Olivia Campbell tied her career high with 13 points and Isabella Samuels added 10 as the UW-Oshkosh women's basketball team's stout defense held UW-Eau Claire's prolific offense to its lowest point total of the season during a 58-43 victory Wednesday (Jan. 23) in Eau Claire.

UW-Oshkosh (16-2, 6-1 WIAC), ranked 12th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, went into the matchup with the third-best scoring defense in all of NCAA men's and women's basketball at 46.3 points per game while UW-Eau Claire entered scoring a league-leading 73.2 points per contest.

The Titans, who never trailed after the 2:45 mark of the first quarter, reclaimed the lead for good at 32-29 following a 3-pointer by Campbell with 4:23 left in the third period. UW-Oshkosh held a 40-33 advantage entering the final quarter and maintained a lead of at least 10 points for the final 8:38 of play.

UW-Eau Claire (13-5, 4-3 WIAC) mustered a season-low 18 points during the first half and concluded the contest with its fewest points in the 58 games since a 67-37 loss at UW-Whitewater on Jan. 7, 2017. The Blugolds produced their lowest scoring home game since a 65-36 setback to UW-Oshkosh during the semifinal round of the 2015 WIAC Championship.

UW-Oshkosh remains alone atop the conference standings – one game ahead of 22nd-ranked UW-La Crosse (16-2, 5-2 WIAC) – with seven league contests remaining. UW-Eau Claire, which suffered just the fourth loss in its last 23 home games, is in a three-way for third place in the conference.

Wednesday's victory was the 155th of UW-Oshkosh head coach Brad Fischer's career, tying him for third on the program's all-time win list with Kathi Bennett (155-32 record from 1990-96). Fischer, who boasts a 155-35 record in seven seasons at the helm of the Titans, ranks third in conference history among coaches with at least 70 wins with an .816 winning percentage. Bennett is first with an .829 winning percentage and UW-Eau Claire's Lisa Stone (277-59 record from 1989-2000) second at .824.

UW-Oshkosh shot 35.3 percent (18-51) from the field against UW-Eau Claire, 25 percent (7-28) from 3-point range and 68.2 percent (15-22) at the free throw line. The Titans held advantages of 40-29 in rebounds, 15-6 in offensive rebounds, 14-13 in assists and 17-19 in turnovers.

Campbell added four rebounds, three assists and two steals on the way to tying her career-best point total that she established during an 86-40 UW-Oshkosh win over Pennsylvania State University Altoona on Dec. 29 in Delaware, Ohio. Campbell went 2-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc Wednesday to tie her career high for made 3-pointers.

Samuels shot 5-for-7 from the field and grabbed a team-leading seven rebounds, including five on the offensive end.

UW-Oshkosh reserves outscored the Blugold bench, 22-2, as Titans Brooke Freitag and Karsyn Rueth both scored six points, and Niki Arneson and Jessie Rabas five apiece. Rabas also pulled down seven rebounds.

Titan starter Melanie Schneider contributed five points and six rebounds while Leah Porath and Chloe Pustina both had four points. Pustina dished out a team-best four assists.

UW-Eau Claire shot 33.3 percent (16-48) from the floor, 28.6 percent (4-14) from behind the 3-point arc and 87.5 percent (7-8) at the free throw line. The Blugolds were held to a season low in rebounds.

The Blugolds' Hallee Hoeppner led all players with 19 points on 7 of 19 shooting from the field. She went into the game averaging a WIAC-leading 19.8 points per game and a .518 field goal percentage.

Kelsey Bakken had nine points, a game-high nine rebounds and four assists for UW-Eau Claire, which also received six points and a game-best five assists and five steals from Maddie Dunathan.

UW-Eau Claire raced out to a 10-4 lead midway through the first quarter, but UW-Oshkosh concluded the opening period with a 13-2 scoring run for a 17-12 advantage. The Titans' quarter-ending run featured four points from Rueth and 3-pointers by Arneson and Campbell.

UW-Oshkosh maintained at least a two-possession lead for the entire second quarter en route to a 25-18 advantage at intermission. The teams combined for just 14 points on 4-for-18 (22.2 percent) shooting from the floor during the second period.

The Blugolds turned a 27-18 deficit into a tie at 29 midway through the third quarter behind five points from Hoeppner and four from Brooke Harris during the 11-2 scoring run. However, UW-Oshkosh regained the lead to stay at 35-29 following 3-pointers from both Campbell and Pustina in the span of less than a minute.

The Titans opened the fourth-quarter scoring on a 3-pointer by Freitag for a 43-33 lead with 8:38 left and led by at least 10 points the rest of the way. UW-Oshkosh held its largest lead after Nikki Arneson sank a pair of free throws that created the final score with 15 seconds to play.

UW-Oshkosh, which has won seven of its last eight meetings with UW-Eau Claire, improved to 6-0 on the road this season. In addition to scoring defense, the Titans also entered the contest leading the conference in average scoring margin (+20.6), average rebounding margin (+8.6), turnovers per game (13.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.11).

The Titans, who have won by at least 12 points on 13 occasions this season, have held 14 of their last 17 opponents to fewer than 50 points.

UW-Oshkosh returns home to play UW-River Falls on Saturday (Jan. 26) in Kolf Sports Center. The Titans defeated the Falcons, 70-42, on Jan. 12 in River Falls.