Nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh opens the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Women's Basketball Championship (presented by Culver's) by hosting UW-Stout for a semifinal matchup Friday (Feb. 22). Tipoff between the top-seeded Titans and the fourth-seeded Blue Devils is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (22-3), ranked 14th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, earned a bye into the semifinal round of the WIAC Championship after claiming its league-leading 13th regular season title and second in the past three seasons.
UW-Stout (18-8) secured its first trip to the league tournament semifinals since 2010 behind an 81-69 home victory over fifth-seeded UW-Platteville (11-15) on Wednesday (Feb. 20).
The Titans have won each of their last six meetings with the Blue Devils and 13 of the past 14, including victories by scores of 81-54 Jan. 5 in Oshkosh and 81-67 Feb. 2 in Menomonie.
The other WIAC Championship semifinal on Friday features second-seeded and two-time defending tournament champion UW-Whitewater (17-8) hosting third-seeded UW-La Crosse (22-4). The Warhawks received a bye into the semifinal round by virtue of a tiebreaker after finishing tied with 25th-ranked UW-La Crosse for second in the WIAC regular season standings behind champion UW-Oshkosh. UW-La Crosse won its first-round game at home, 61-55, over sixth-seeded UW-Stevens Point (8-18) on Wednesday.
The highest remaining seed will host the WIAC Championship title game at 2 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 24). The WIAC tournament winner earns the league's automatic berth into the 64-team Division III Championship that begins March 1.
UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stout will be meeting for the fifth time in the WIAC Championship and the first since a 71-54 Blue Devil victory during the opening round in 2007. The Blue Devils have won three of the four previous league postseason matchups with the Titans, including decisions of 68-53 in the 2005 and 90-71 in the 2002 title contests. UW-Oshkosh's lone win over UW-Stout at the WIAC Championship was a 93-45 triumph during the semifinal round of the inaugural tournament in 1999.
The Titans, who earned the league tournament's top seed for the third time, won WIAC Championship crowns in 1999, 2014, 2015 and 2016. UW-Oshkosh, which has advanced to the WIAC championship game each of the past five seasons, was also the top-seeded team in 1999 and 2017.
UW-Stout is seeking its fifth league tournament championship after winning titles in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. UW-La Crosse has never won the WIAC Championship. UW-Whitewater captured its two league postseason titles in 2017 and 2018.
UW-Oshkosh owns a 9-1 home record this season and has won 54 of its last 64 games in Kolf Sports Center. UW-Stout has won just seven of its last 34 road contests, including a 2-6 mark on the road this season.
The Titans, who reached 20 wins and finished among the top two in the conference standings for the seventh consecutive season, enters Thursday's game ranked six in the country by allowing 48.2 points per contest. UW-Oshkosh has held 17 opponents to less than 50 points this season.
UW-Oshkosh is also leading the WIAC with a .430 field goal percentage, 15.0 assists and 13.3 turnovers per game, a +19.0 average scoring margin, a +7.0 average rebounding margin and a 1.13 assist-to-turnover ratio.
UW-Stout counters with the conference's top scoring offense at 70 points per contest and a defense that forces a WIAC-best 20.5 turnovers and 11.4 steals per game on the way to leading the league with a +6.2 average turnover margin. The Blue Devils are also averaging a WIAC-leading 15.1 offensive rebounds per contest.
The balanced UW-Oshkosh offense has produced 10 different leading scorers this season.
Senior center Isabella Samuels paces the Titans with 9.7 points per game while senior forward Melanie Schneider adds 8.5 points per contest. Samuels is the conference leader with a .684 field goal percentage and ranks fourth among active Division III players by shooting at a .629 rate during her career. Schneider leads the team with 4.7 rebounds per game.
UW-Oshkosh sophomore forward Nikki Arneson, senior guard Jessie Rabas and senior guard Chloe Pustina are all scoring 6.4 points per game. Junior guard Olivia Campbell, sophomore forward Leah Porath and sophomore center Karsyn Rueth each contribute 6.0 points per contest.
Campbell, averaging 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game, is the team leader with 66 assists and 45 steals while Pustina has dished out 61 assists and Rabas has made a team-best 35 3-pointers.
A total of 13 Titans have appeared in at least 16 games and averaged more than seven minutes of playing time this season, including freshman guards Brooklyn Bull, Brooke Freitag and Katie Ludwig; junior forward Emily Miller; and senior center Erin Vande Zande.
UW-Stout is led by a trio of double-digit scorers in senior guards Bailey Diersen and Kyncaide Diedrich, and junior forward Amber Fabeck.
Diersen ranks second in the WIAC with 17.6 points per game while Diedrich lists third at 15.4 and Fabeck seventh at 13.2. The top three Blue Devil scorers have combined to account for more than 64 percent of the team's points and nearly 61 percent of the squad's field goal attempts.
Diersen leads the conference with 89 steals and 128 made free throws on a team-leading .776 conversion rate. Diedrich ranks second in the league with 92 assists, third with 71 steals and seventh by averaging a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game. Fabeck is fourth in the WIAC with 26 blocks and fifth with a team-best .485 field goal percentage.
Rounding out UW-Stout's starting lineup are sophomore guard Liz Oswald and senior guard Carolyn Feddema, who are chipping in 6.9 and 2.7 points per game, respectively.
Leading the Blue Devil reserves is junior guard Shannan Watkins, who averages 8.1 points per contest.
Top-seeded teams have combined to compile a 42-7 record and win 13 of the 20 all-time titles at the WIAC Championship. Top seeds won each of the first nine WIAC postseason championships. However, UW-Whitewater's title last season was the first since 2012 in which the top seed emerged victorious.
Ticket prices for Friday's game are $8 for adults, $5 for senior citizens (62-plus) and $4 for students (K-College). Children aged four and under are free.