Eliza Campbell's potential game-tying 3-point shot was off the mark at the buzzer as UW-Whitewater held on for a 65-62 win over UW-Oshkosh in a battle of nationally ranked teams during the WIAC Championship title game on Saturday (Feb. 24) in Whitewater.
UW-Whitewater took the lead for good at 54-53 on a layup by Olivia Freckmann with 1:16 to play in the third quarter. A jumper from Freckmann extended the Warhawk advantage to 67-62 at the 3:18 mark of the final period.
UW-Oshkosh's Emma Melotik, who led all players with 16 points, drilled a 3-pointer that cut the Titans' deficit to 67-65 with under two minutes remaining. The teams exchanged turnovers on the four ensuing possessions, and Malia Smith split a pair of free throws to provide the final score with eight seconds left.
Campbell's long-range jumper from the left wing then bounced off the backboard and rim as UW-Whitewater secured its second straight WIAC Championship title.
UW-Whitewater (24-3), ranked 12th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, earned the WIAC's automatic berth to the national tournament that commences March 2. The Warhawks defeated the Titans in last year's league title game by a 65-56 score to claim the first WIAC Championship title in program history.
Twenty-third ranked UW-Oshkosh (21-6) will learn Monday whether its receives an at-large berth to the NCAA postseason. The Titans, who have advanced past the first round in each of the past four Division III Championships, are seeking their 15th national tournament appearance.
Sarah Schumacher and Brooke Trewyn led UW-Whitewater with 12 points apiece while Freckmann had 11 off the bench, and starter Andrea Meinert chipped in 10 points and a team-best six rebounds. Trewyn added four assists and a crucial steal with 11 seconds to play.
UW-Whitewater, which improved to 13-1 at home this season, owned advantages of 30-27 in rebounds, 19-11 in turnovers and 11-3 in steals.
UW-Oshkosh outshot the Warhawks, .511 to .475 from the field, .375 to .333 from 3-point range and .867 to .727 at the free throw line. The Titans faced a turnover deficit for just the third time this season – all against UW-Whitewater.
The Titans entered their 11th appearance in the final of the WIAC Championship leading the country with 10.7 turnovers per game while listing sixth nationally with a 1.29 assist-to-turnover ratio. UW-Oshkosh was also pacing the conference in scoring (70.7), scoring defense (50.2), field goal percentage (.433) and average rebounding margin (+8.3).
The Warhawks were forcing a WIAC-best 20 turnovers and 10.5 steals per game while ranking second in the conference by scoring 69.1 points per contest and allowing 55.3.
Melotik connected on 6 of 8 shots from the floor, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, on the way to her 12th double-digit scoring effort of the season.
Campbell produced 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to mark her fifth career double-double.
UW-Oshkosh's Chloe Pustina contributed 10 points and three assists.
UW-Whitewater held a 24-22 lead after a first quarter in which the Warhawks shot 64.7 percent (11-17) from the field and UW-Oshkosh 58.3 (7-12).
The Titans reclaimed a 29-28 advantage following a jumper from Melotik, but the Warhawks went to intermission with a 40-36 advantage.
UW-Oshkosh scored seven consecutive points to take a 47-44 lead on Melotik's 3-pointer with under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Titans then increased their advantage to 52-48 on a layup from Madeline Staples, who contributed six points and five rebounds off the bench.
Staples split a pair of free throws to give UW-Oshkosh its last lead at 53-52 with 96 seconds left in the third quarter.
Neither team led by more than five points the entire second half.
UW-Whitewater improved its WIAC postseason record against the Titans to 2-5. The Titans ousted the Warhawks from the leaguein 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2015.
UW-Whitewater won all three meetings with the Titans this season. The Warhawks defeated UW-Oshkosh, 54-52, on Jan. 3 in Whitewater and 72-60 on Feb. 7 in Oshkosh.
Photo courtesy of Steve Frommell, d3photography.com