UW-Oshkosh's Nikki Arneson hit a running shot in lane with 1.3 seconds left, DePauw University (Ind.) missed a layup at the buzzer and the Titans pulled out thrilling 54-52 victory in a battle of nationally ranked teams during the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Oshkosh Regional title game Saturday (March 2) in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (26-3), ranked 13th in the country by D3hoops.com, never trailed in the game and led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter before DePauw University cut its deficit to 49-47 with 3:20 remaining in the fourth period.
After a scoreless drought of more than two minutes by both teams, Isabella Samuels made a layup to extend the Titan advantage to 51-47 with 52 seconds left. DePauw University committed a turnover on the ensuing possession, and Chloe Pustina split a pair of free throws to give UW-Oshkosh a 52-47 lead with 28 seconds to go.
DePauw University's Sydney Kopp completed a three-point play seven seconds later to pull the Tigers within 52-50. Following two missed free throws by the Titans, the Tigers' Maya Howard drove for layup to knot the score at 52 with 9.6 seconds to play.
After a UW-Oshkosh timeout, Arneson dribbled through traffic and rose for the game-winning basket on the right side of the lane with 1.3 seconds remaining. A timeout by the Tigers advanced the ball to the frontcourt, and the inbounds pass went across the lane to Claire Keefe, who took a dribble, spun toward the hoop and fired a shot from near the basket, but it was off the mark as time expired.
The Titans advance to the Sweet 16 for the eighth time and third in the past six seasons. UW-Oshkosh will face 11th-ranked Wartburg College (Iowa) in the third round Friday (March 8). Wartburg College (26-3) won its regional at home by a 79-49 score over 10th-ranked Hope College (Mich.) on Saturday.
Nineteenth-ranked DePauw University (25-5), the 2007 and 2013 national champion, was also ousted by UW-Oshkosh from the 2017 Division III Championship during the second round in Oshkosh.
Leah Porath led UW-Oshkosh with 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field.
Olivia Campbell added 11 points, four rebounds and five assists for the Titans, who also received nine points from Arneson and eight points apiece from Samuels and Karsyn Rueth. Samuels made 4 of 5 field goal attempts to improve her field goal percentage to .714 on the year.
UW-Oshkosh shot 46.3 percent (25-54) from the floor, 15.4 percent (2-13) from 3-point range and 25 percent (2-8) at the free throw line. The Titans held advantages of 13-8 in assists and 4-3 in steals. Both teams committed nine turnovers.
DePauw University was held to 37.5 percent (21-56) from the floor, 20 percent (2-10) from beyond the 3-point arc while shooting 72.7 percent (8-11) at the foul line. The Tigers had edges of 34-33 in rebounds and 5-3 in blocks.
The Titans entered the night ranked sixth in the country by allowing 48.2 points per game, 12th with a 1.12 assist-to-turnover ratio, 13th with a .248 opponent 3-point percentage, 14th with 12.9 turnovers per game and 15th with a +19.0 average scoring margin.
DePauw University went into the Oshkosh Regional final 11th nationally with 12.7 turnovers per contest and 16th with a +10.7 average rebounding margin.
Keefe had a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers while Howard had 12 points and a team-leading three assists.
Kopp, who hit a program-record eight 3-pointers and scored 29 points during DePauw University's opening round win Friday, had eight points, six rebounds and two steals Saturday.
UW-Oshkosh scored 24 seconds into the game on an Arneson 3-pointer, and the Titans maintained a lead until the final minute of the fourth quarter. The Titans extended their advantage to 7-2 in the opening two minutes, and the Tigers headed into the second quarter with a 14-10 deficit. Arneson's 3-pointer on the game's opening possession gave the Titans a program-record 193 makes from beyond the arc this season.
The Tigers pulled within one point on two occasions during the second quarter, including at 24-23 following a Howard layup with 1:49 left in the period, before UW-Oshkosh headed into intermission with a 28-25 lead.
UW-Oshkosh created separation in the third quarter with a string of eight unanswered points, including four by Rueth, for a 39-29 cushion with 4:07 to go. The Titans then matched their largest lead of the game at 41-31 on a Rueth jumper at the 1:21 mark of the third period.
With Saturday's regional championship, Titans seventh-year head coach Brad Fischer moves into 11th in WIAC history with 165 wins. Fischer (165-36 record) surpasses former UW-River Falls coach Dennis Bloom, who compiled a 164-93 mark from 1982-91.
Wartburg College has won its past three meetings with UW-Oshkosh, including a 66-56 decision in the most recent matchup during the second round of the 2016 Division III Championship.