Women left out of tournament

After falling in the WIAC championship tournament final, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh women’s basketball team did not earn a bid into the 2018 NCAA tournament.

Mike Johrendt, Sports Editor

After propelling to the team’s sixth consecutive 20-plus victory season, the UW Oshkosh women’s basketball team fell in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament final by a score of 68-65 to UW-Whitewater.

Titans one shot away from trophy

A game-tying three-pointer from senior Eliza Campbell did not fall through, sending the Titans home with a second-place finish on Feb. 24.
This marked the second-consecutive season Oshkosh fell in the conference championship contest to Whitewater, dropping the final at home to close out the conference tournament last season.

Eliza Campbell contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on her way to her fifth career double-double. In 31 minutes, she went five of 12 from the field and hit all three of her free throws on the night.

Other contributions came from senior guard Emma Melotik and junior guard Chloe Pustina, who joined Eliza Campbell in scoring double figures. Melotik had a game-high 16 points on an efficient six of eight shooting in 28 minutes, while Pustina knocked down four of her seven shot attempts for 10 points.

Melotik said as the season progressed, the team developed more cohesion as a solid unit.

“Overall, our positivity and just being there for each other has improved and gotten better as we have gotten into bigger games and tougher games,” Melotik said.

Pustina also contributed one rebound, three assists and one steal in a team-high 35 minutes.

Junior forwards Isabella Samuels and Melanie Schneider, senior forward Madeline Staples and senior guard Jaimee Pitt combined for 26 points in the defeat with Samuels leading the way with eight.

As a team, UWO shot 51.1 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from behind the arc and 86.7 percent from the charity stripe, besting the Warhawks in all three categories.

Head coach Brad Fischer, who has completed his sixth season at the helm for Oshkosh, said while the team had yet another successful season, at times it is not enough.

“We are hoping that when we are done, we have done the right work,” Fischer said, back in an early-February practice. “Like I said, you can do a lot of things right and still get beat, so that is a reality that you face in this league if you don’t play your best.”

Season at a glance

Looking back at the season, the team played its way to a 21-6 record. Speaking to the success that Fischer has brought to this program since he was hired for the 2013 season, this was the team’s second-lowest season victory total.

Fischer helped guide the team to a 10-game winning streak to begin the year, suffering two losses to open the conference slate. This is also the first time the team is not making the tournament with Fischer at the helm.

The team received a plethora of awards on the season as the WIAC handed out its yearly academic and athletic awards Tuesday.

For UWO, Eliza Campbell was named the Judy Kruckman Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was named to the all-WIAC first team. The conference does not hand out awards for a second team, so earning honorable mentions were Samuels and Schneider for Oshkosh.

Sophomore guard Olivia Campbell was one of two sophomore guards named to the All-Defensive team, and junior forward Erin Vande Zande was nominated to the All-Sportsmanship team for the WIAC.

Earlier in the season, the team had set goals that focused both on academic and athletic achievements, which did not fall on deaf ears. After a practice at the end of last year, Eliza Campbell said the team was looking to build off its academic success from last year and wanted to be even better both in the classroom and on the court this year.

“Academically, we always want to do well,” Eliza Campbell said. “I think last year, we had around a 3.4 [GPA], [so] matching that or beating that is important to us. To just keep matching our culture’s goal is to keep doing what we are doing, to get conference championships, to get regular season championships, to win big games against teams like Whitewater and River Falls. That is what our program needs to succeed and keep building off each year. This [culture’s goals] is to let the state know and the nation know that we are a really good program.”

Looking ahead

The reasoning for UWO being skipped over for the NCAA tournament remains to be seen as the team fell out of the top-25 for this week, but was the third-best team receiving votes. The tournament is supposed to include the 64 best teams across the country, and with countless other teams earning bids that had questionable comparable statistics, the rhyme and reason behind the team not being included is seen as surprising, especially considering the team’s season stats and record.

The team will be graduating four players: Eliza Campbell, forward Taylor Dagon, Melotik and Pitt. While only Eliza Campbell and Melotik were starters, both Dagon and Pitt provided important minutes off the bench that the team will look to replace.

Starters at the point guard, shooting guard and center all return for Oshkosh with holes needing to be plugged at both the small forward and power forward for next season.

Depending on how Fischer looks to run his offense next season and who is comprising the next recruiting class, depth should not be an issue with this team. In the past years, Fischer normally goes nine or ten deep in each game, using four to five reserves each contest. Look for the starting rotation to become determined after the first few games that open up next season.