The nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh women's basketball team put the finishing touches on an outright WIAC championship in resounding style, holding UW-Eau Claire to the lowest point total in its program history on the way to a 67-23 victory during the regular season finale for both squads Saturday (Feb. 16) in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (22-3, 12-2 WIAC), ranked 15th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, scored the first 13 points of the game and later added a string of 21 unanswered points that extended its lead to 34-5 with 3:34 left in the second quarter. The Titans went on to lead by at least 11 points for the final 32 minutes of the game.
The Titans entered Saturday's contest with the outright WIAC championship already in hand by virtue of UW-Whitewater's loss at UW-River Falls earlier in the day. UW-Oshkosh, which owns a league-record 13 conference regular season titles, is the outright WIAC champion for the second time in three years.
UW-Oshkosh earns the top seed and a first round bye for the six-team WIAC Championship that begins Wednesday (Feb. 20). The Titans will host a semifinal round game against the lowest remaining seed at 7 p.m. Friday (Feb. 22) in Kolf Sports Center. The title game of the league tournament will be contested Feb. 24 at the highest remaining seed.
UW-Eau Claire (13-12, 4-10 WIAC) was eliminated from contention for the WIAC tournament with Saturday's loss. The Blugolds' 23 points scored were their fewest since the program debuted during the 1970-71 season. Their previous lowest scoring output was established during a 45-24 loss to UW-La Crosse in the 1973-74 campaign.
The 44-point margin is the largest in the all-time series between UW-Oshkosh and UW-Eau Claire since the Titans routed the Blugolds, 82-37, in their first meeting Feb. 27, 1975. The 44-point loss also represents UW-Eau Claire's largest since suffering a 100-56 setback at UW-Green Bay on Feb. 1, 1985.
UW-Oshkosh outshot UW-Eau Claire, 49 to 22.2 percent from the field, 28 to 7.1 percent from 3-point range, and 60 to 33.3 percent at the free throw line. The Titans went 24-for-49 from the floor, 7-for-25 from beyond the 3-point arc and 12-for-20 at the foul line while the Blugolds went 10-for-45 from the field, 1-for-14 on 3-pointers and 2-for-6 at the free throw line.
The Titans also compiled advantages of 37-26 in rebounds, 19-7 in assists, 10-21 in turnovers, 6-3 in blocks and 13-4 in steals. UW-Oshkosh, which registered assists on 13 of its first 14 made field goals and matched a season high in blocks, went into the contest leading the WIAC in scoring defense (49.3), field goal percentage (.428), turnovers per game (13.4), average scoring margin (+17.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.11).
UW-Eau Claire, which has lost eight of its last nine meetings in the series, was held to season lows in field goal, 3-point and free throw percentages as well as made 3-pointers, rebounds, assists and steals. The Blugolds were limited to their worst shooting performance in the 404 games since going 11 of 51 (.216) from the field against UW-Oshkosh on Feb. 25, 2004.
The Blugolds, who had just two assists during the entire second half, entered Saturday leading the WIAC with 15.3 assists per game and a .723 free throw percentage.
UW-Oshkosh's Isabella Samuels collected five rebounds and led all players with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the floor. She improved her WIAC-leading field goal percentage to .684 on the year.
UW-Oshkosh had 12 scorers as all 18 Titans in uniform received playing time. Jessie Rabas had 11 points off the Titan bench while Melanie Schneider and Karsyn Rueth added eight apiece, and Nikki Arneson, Brooklyn Bull and Leah Porath six each. Rabas rejected two shots, Schneider grabbed five rebounds and Arneson registered game-high totals of four assists and three steals.
Titan reserves accounted for 37 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and four blocks.
Kaycee Gierczak paced UW-Eau Claire with 10 points in a reserve role.
The Blugold starting lineup was held to nine points on 5-for-31 shooting from the field in a combined 125 minutes of action. UW-Eau Claire's Hallee Hoeppner, the WIAC's leading scorer at 19 points per game, was held to two points on 1-for-7 shooting from the floor and seven rebounds while Maddie Dunathan, averaging 10.5 points per contest, was scoreless after going 0-for-10 from the field.
UW-Oshkosh's 13-0 run to open the game featured five points from Rueth and four by Samuels. Kelsey Bakken drained a 3-pointer to end the Blugolds' scoring drought with 3:16 remaining in the first quarter, and UW-Eau Claire cut its deficit to 13-5 less than a minute later. However, the Blugolds would not score again from the 2:00 mark of the first period until there was 3:09 to play in the second.
UW-Eau Claire missed 10 consecutive field goal attempts and committed six turnovers during the Titans' 21-0 scoring run that spanned nearly nine minutes. Rueth and Porath sparked the long run with back-to-back 3-pointers and a layup from Olivia Campbell eventually provided the Titans a 34-5 lead with 3:34 left before intermission. Six different Titans scored during their 21-point onslaught, including Schneider with seven points and Samuels with four.
The Blugolds shot just 5-for-24 (.208) from the field and committed 12 turnovers during the opening 20 minutes.
UW-Oshkosh led by at least 25 points for the entire third quarter and owned its largest lead of the contest at 66-21 following a free throw by Lauren Burd with 1:10 left in the game.
The Titans also defeated the Blugolds by a 58-43 score Jan. 23 in Eau Claire.
Photo by Steve Frommell, D3Photography.com