Leah Porath's game-high 18 points off the UW-Oshkosh bench were not enough as Wartburg College (Iowa) defeated the Titans, 70-57, in a battle of nationally ranked teams during the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball St. Paul (Minn.) Sectional semifinals Friday (March 8).
Wartburg College (27-3), ranked 11th in the country by D3hoops.com, closed out the first quarter with nine unanswered points for a 20-11 lead. The Knights had a 49-44 advantage entering the final period and a 53-47 edge with six minutes to play, but Wartburg College outscored the 13th-ranked Titans, 17-8, the rest of the way.
The Knights and St. Paul Sectional host University of St. Thomas will meet Saturday (March 9) for the right to advance to the Final Four. The homestanding Tommies (29-1), ranked second in the nation, outlasted two-time defending national champion and sixth-ranked Amherst College (Mass.), 61-58, in overtime Friday.
UW-Oshkosh (26-4), the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season tournament champion, concludes the season with the program's eighth trip to the Sweet 16 and third in the past six seasons. The Titans, who won at least 20 games for the seventh straight year, produced a school-record 199 made 3-pointers this season and narrowly missed a program mark in field goal percentage defense.
Kaitlyn Volesky paced Wartburg College with 14 points and six rebounds in a reserve role. She shot 5-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, in 29 minutes off the bench.
Ally Conrad added 13 points for the Knights, who also received nine points each from Amanda Brainerd, Payton Draper and Katie Lindeman as Wartburg College reserves contributed 32 points.
The Knights' Emma Gerdes, the American Rivers Conference Most Valuable Player, was held to six points on 2 of 11 shooting from the field to go along with six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Wartburg College, which extended its winning streak to 16 games, shot 45.8 percent (22-48) from the floor, 42.9 percent (9-21) from beyond the 3-point arc and 85 percent (17-20) at the free throw line. The Knights held advantages of 33-30 in rebounds, 15-7 in assists and 7-3 in steals. Both teams committed 12 turnovers.
UW-Oshkosh went 39 percent (23-59) from the field, 16.1 percent (5-31) from 3-point range and 100 percent (4-4) at the foul line. The Titans owned an 8-2 edge in blocks.
Porath shot 8-for-12 from the floor and 2-for-2 at the free throw line. She had four rebounds on the way to recording her season-best scoring effort.
Brooklyn Bull and Karsyn Rueth had six points and five points, respectively, in reserve roles for the Titans. Rueth dished out a team-leading three assists. UW-Oshkosh starter Jessie Rabas recorded four points and a team-high six rebounds.
UW-Oshkosh's Chloe Pustina drained a 3-pointer to open the scoring 34 second into the contest, and the Titans reclaimed a 5-4 advantage on a jumper from Rueth with 5:48 left in the first quarter. However, Wartburg College took the lead for good at 14-11 following a 3-pointer from Lindeman at the 2:06 mark of the first period.
The Knights' nine unanswered points to close out the first quarter included four by Gerdes.
Wartburg College extended its lead to 34-20 with 4:48 left in the second quarter, but a layup by Erin Vande Zande cut the Titan deficit to 37-28 at intermission.
The Knights snapped a nearly four-minute scoreless drought on a layup from Tori Hazard that increased their lead to 39-30 with 8:17 to go in the third period. The Titans cut their deficit to 39-35 after a 3-pointer from Arneson and a layup by Porath.
UW-Oshkosh pulled within 43-40 following a Rueth 3-pointer with 4:29 left in the third period and 45-42 on a Porath jumper at the 3:07 mark, but Wartburg College scored eight of the next 10 points during a span of nearly seven minutes until Bull scored in the lane and added a free throw to pull the Titans within 53-47 with 6:05 remaining in the game.
Volesky hit a 3-pointer to increase the Knight cushion to 59-49 with 3:49 to play, and Wartburg College secured the win by shooting 9-for-10 at the free throw line over the final 2:11.
Wartburg College went into Friday leading the country with 19.1 assists per game. The Knights also listed second nationally 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), 15th in scoring (77.1), 18th in average rebounding margin (+10.6) and 19th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.12). Each of Wartburg College's 27 wins this season have been by at least 11 points.
UW-Oshkosh entered the sectional semifinals ranked eighth in scoring defense (48.3); 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.18), 3-point percentage defense (.247) and turnovers per game (12.8); and 17th in average scoring margin (+18.4). The Titans held 19 opponents under 50 points this season.
Opponents shot just 35.6 percent from the field against UW-Oshkosh this season. The Titans' field goal percentage defense ranks second in school history, trailing only the .354 field goal percentage allowed by the 2016-17 squad.