Whitewater knocks Oshkosh from the unbeaten ranks
Ten, nine, eight …
The UW-Oshkosh bench counted down the seconds remaining on the shot clock as the Titans attempted to slow down the tempo.
They might as well have reset that 10-second timer for when they'd be back on the offensive end, as the UW-Whitewater women's team did its best to force its preferred faster pace.
In the end, time ran out on No. 17 Oshkosh's unbeaten season. The No. 19 Warhawks forced 23 turnovers and turned them into 29 points in a 72-66 victory at Kachel Gym on Wednesday night.
UW-W won its second straight game following back-to-back losses to move to 10-3 overall and 4-0 atop the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Oshkosh fell to 13-1 and 3-1.
“We were down by four in the locker room (at halftime) and we got excited, saying, 'This is our half; let's go,'” said Whitewater senior Mary Merg, who scored 11 of her game-high 20 points in the final 20 minutes. “We got it tied really quick, and from there on we just had to keep it going.”
The contrasting styles led to a back-and-forth game through throughout the first half as neither team dictated the pace. The teams traded the lead 10 times and were tied five more before Oshkosh took a 35-31 lead into the break.
The Warhawks erased that deficit in a matter of 40 seconds to open the second half.
“They wanted this one bad,” UW-W coach Keri Carollo said. “They showed a lot of intensity and a lot of maturity, which is something I've been talking about all year.”
The Warhawks trailed just twice more, and never in the final 15 minutes, after that.
The forced turnovers—often leading to transition buckets—helped the veteran group overcome a 1-for-7 night from beyond the arc.
And every time Oshkosh pulled within two points down the stretch, UW-W had an answer. The first came on Kaitlyn Thill's blow-by layup, then again on Thill's drive for an old-fashioned three-point play with less than six minutes to play, and finally on Amy Mandrell's second-chance jumper with 2:20 left.
“Personally (the tempo battle) is not as fun,” said Merg, who added four steals and hit all four of her free-throw attempts in the final minute to help put the game away. “But it's to our advantage. We can tire teams out by running a lot. It gets them out of their comfort zone.”
Oshkosh had scored less than 60 points in five of its past seven wins. Katelyn Kuehl led the Titans with 19 points.
Four players scored in double figures for the Warhawks, including 19 from Thill, 13 from Katie Burton and a dozen from Mandrell—who played just 16 minutes due to foul trouble.
“We were very pumped up about this game,” Mandrell said. “This game meant we were going to be at the top of the conference, and we wanted to show Oshkosh what the Warhawks were all about.”
Start the countdown now on the way to Feb. 15, when the teams will rematch in Oshkosh.
WHITEWATER 72, OSHKOSH 66
Oshkosh (66)—Kuehl, 5-7-19; Stecker, 3-5-11; Schmidt, 3-2-9; Neustifter, 2-1-5; Kokta, 3-0-9; Novak, 1-3-6; Mirsberger, 1-3-5; Richard, 1-0-2. Totals: 19-20-66.
Whitewater (72)—Merg, 7-5-20; Thill, 6-7-19; Burton, 6-1-13; Mandrell, 4-4-12; Reeves, 1-0-2; Olsen, 0-2-2; Jensen, 1-0-2. Totals: 26-19-72.
UW-Oshkosh 35 31—66
UW-Whitewater 31 41—72
Three-point goals—Oshkosh 8 (Kokta 3, Kuehl 2, Schmidt, Novak, Mirsberger), Whitewater 1 (Merg). Rebounds—Oshkosh 27 (Kuehl 7), Whitewater 37 (Thill 7). Free throws missed—Oshkosh 7, Whitewater 5. Total fouls—Oshkosh 20, Whitewater 23.