UW-Oshkosh continues its journey through the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship with a sectional semifinal matchup against Wartburg College (Iowa) on Friday (March 8) in St. Paul, Minn. The opening tip for the battle of nationally ranked teams is set for 5:30 p.m. at sectional host University of St. Thomas' Schoenecker Arena.
UW-Oshkosh (26-3), ranked 13th in the country by D3hoops.com, enters the contest with one of the best defenses in the nation while 11th-ranked Wartburg College (26-3) counters with a prolific and efficient offense.
Friday's action at the St. Paul Sectional concludes with an 8 p.m. game between second-ranked University of St. Thomas (28-1) and its sharp-shooting offense opposing the stingy defense of sixth-ranked and two-time defending national champion Amherst College (Mass.) (25-3).
The St. Paul Sectional semifinal winners will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday (March 9) for the right to advance to the Division III Final Four that will be held March 15-16 in Salem, Va.
UW-Oshkosh, the 1996 Division III champion and 1995 runner-up, reached its eighth Sweet 16 and third in the past six seasons by winning the Oshkosh Regional title. The Titans beat Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (Calif.), 72-46, before slipping past 19th-ranked DePauw University (Ind.) by a 54-52 score as Nikki Arneson scored the game-winning basket with 1.3 seconds left.
Wartburg College, which played in the national semifinals in both 2016 and 2018, extended its winning streak to 15 games on the way to capturing the Waverly (Iowa) Regional at home by scores of 91-63 over Bethany Lutheran College (Minn.) in the first round and 79-49 over 10th-ranked Hope College (Mich.) in the regional championship game.
UW-Oshkosh and Wartburg College will be playing for the first time since the Knights eliminated the Titans from the 2016 NCAA tournament with a 66-56 win during the championship game of the Oshkosh Regional.
University of St. Thomas, which has won each of its last 25 home games, claimed its own St. Paul Regional championship with victories of 88-58 over Ripon College and 67-51 over Wisconsin Lutheran College in the title game. The Tommies, the 1991 national champions, enter the weekend on an 18-game winning streak.
Amherst College won its regional at home, defeating Husson University (Maine), 66-45, in the opening round and State University of New York at Geneseo, 58-46, in the championship. The Mammoths, who culminated the two previous seasons with Division III titles and 33-0 records, are 91-3 over the past three years.
University of St. Thomas and Amherst College also met in the consolation game at the 2012 Final Four as the Tommies clinched third place in the national tournament with an 87-60 victory.
UW-Oshkosh's formidable defense ranks eighth in the country by allowing 48.3 points per game. The Titans, who have held 19 opponents under 50 points this season, also rank 12th nationally in turnovers per game (12.8), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.18) and 3-point percentage defense (.247) while listing 17th in average scoring margin (+18.4).
Senior center Isabella Samuels leads the Titans with 10.3 points per game and a .714 field goal percentage.
The balanced UW-Oshkosh offense has produced 10 different leading scorers on the year as eight Titans are averaging better than five points per game and 17 players have contributed to their program-record 194 3-pointers on the year.
UW-Oshkosh senior forward Melanie Schneider averages 8.6 points per contest while sophomore guard Leah Porath adds 6.8 per game, Arneson 6.7, senior guard Chloe Pustina 6.3, junior guard Olivia Campbell 6.0, sophomore center Karsyn Rueth 5.8 and senior guard Jessie Rabas 5.7.
Team leaders for the Titans include Schneider with 4.7 rebounds per game, Campbell with 84 assists and 50 steals, and Rabas with 36 made 3-pointers and 27 blocks.
Wartburg College's offense paces the country with 19.8 assists per game while ranking second in the nation in free throw percentage (.767), fourth in field goal percentage (.479), sixth in made free throws (451), 11th in average scoring margin (+20.1) and made 3-pointers (240), 13th in 3-point percentage (.369), 17th in scoring (77.1) and 18th in average rebounding margin (+10.6).
The Knights, who have not lost since a 75-63 setback to Luther College (Iowa) on Jan. 9, have won by at least 11 points in each of their 26 victories.
Eight Knights are averaging more than five points a game, including the entire starting lineup of senior center Adrienne Boettger at 12.7 per contest, junior forward Emma Gerdes at 11.7, junior forward Amanda Brainerd at 9.7, sophomore forward Tori Hazard at 9.1 and sophomore guard Ally Conrad at 7.3.
Wartburg College sophomore guard Payton Draper, Katie Lindeman and Kaitlyn Volesky are all adding at least 5.4 points per game off the bench.
Gerdes leads the Knights with 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, and 78 steals. Conrad has drained a team-best 51 3-pointers and Hazard paces the squad with 24 blocks.
Brainerd and Draper are playing their first seasons with the Knights since transferring from NCAA Division II member Wayne State College (Neb.).
University of St. Thomas' potent offense leads Division III with a .404 3-point percentage and ranks second with a .506 field goal percentage while listing fourth in the nation in average scoring margin (+26.0) and 20th in scoring (75.5). The Tommies also boast a defense that ranks 10th in scoring defense (49.5) and 13th in field goal percentage allowed (.324).
The Tommies are led by a trio of double-digit scorers in senior center Hannah Spaulding with 17.7 points per game, sophomore forward Kaia Porter at 13.1 per contest and senior guard Lucia Renikoff at 11.8.
Spaulding is shooting a nation-leading 69.4 percent from the field, while her .684 career field goal percentage is the best among active Division III women's players. She also leads the Tommies with 9.7 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.7 steals per game on the year.
Renikoff, who has made a team-high 64 3-pointers, ranks ninth in the country by shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc and leads the Tommies with 91 assists.
Rounding out the University of St. Thomas starting lineup are senior guard Kaylie Brazil and junior guard Sarah Krynski, who average 7.3 and 4.3 points, respectively.
The Tommies' lone loss this season was a 60-40 setback at Wartburg College on Dec. 30. University of St. Thomas' last home loss was a 77-72 setback to Luther College (Iowa) on Dec. 16, 2017.
Amherst College's stout defense ranks fifth nationally by allowing just 48.0 points per game. The Mammoths are also eighth in field goal percentage defense (.314), 19th in blocks (143) and 20th in average scoring margin (+17.7).
The Mammoths starting lineup is highlighted by junior guards Hannah Fox and Madeline Eck.
Fox, who ranks 18th in the country with a 2.29 assist-to-turnover ratio, averages 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals per contest while connecting on a team-leading 54 3-pointers. Eck is averaging 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Completing Amherst College's most recent starting lineup are junior forward Cam Hendricks with 7.3 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game, senior forward Meghan Sullivan at 5.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, and freshman guard Courtney Resch at 5.0 points.
Senior guard Maeve McNamara, who has started 25 games for the Mammoths this season, is averaging 6.3 points and 3.0 assists per contest on the year.
The Mammoths had their 68-game winning streak come to an end Nov. 20 with a 70-67 loss at home to Eastern Connecticut State University.
UW-Oshkosh has won at least one game during 14 of its 15 trips to the NCAA postseason. The Titans, seeking to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since back-to-back trips in 1998 and 1999, also reached the Sweet 16 in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2014 and 2017.