Women’s basketball conference begins

Cory Sparks, Editor in Chief

April Lee / Advance-Titan Players Brooke Freitag, Leah Portah and Nikki Arnenson attempt to force their way down the court against UW-Eau Claire.

The UW Oshkosh women’s basketball team split their first two games against conference competition this year when they fell to UW-Eau Claire 70-57 on Dec. 1 and took out UW-La Crosse 55-49 on Dec. 4.

After finishing the 2020-2021 season, where UWO played only conference games and finished the regular season 6-2 before taking the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championship, the Titans have now started this season off with a 7-2 overall record and a 1-1 conference record.

The Titans’ road loss against UWEC featured a rough start, where they only scored five points in the first quarter on a 1-for-10 shooting effort from the field.

UWO cleaned up its game and caught fire in the shooting department to put up 52 points in the next three quarters on 20-for-39 shooting from the field, but the comeback never happened as UWEC won every quarter of the game.

Not only was this game UWO’s first conference game of the year, but it was the team’s first conference game with a live crowd in almost two years.
Senior guard Leah Porath, who led the Titans in scoring with 14 points in the loss, said the team was feeling some of the pressure in their first conference game.

“With it being the first conference game, there definitely [were] some jitters. Playing on the road doesn’t usually have an effect on us,” Porath said. “In the past we’ve almost always played better on the road. We are still working on the flow of our offense, which is getting better each day.”

With the team currently being ranked No. 20 after their first conference loss, the team quickly recovered.

Junior Guard Ava Douglas led the Titans in scoring with 13 points, and senior forward Nikki Arneson scored six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter while converting on all four of her free-throws down the stretch.

Despite the height mismatches at almost every position, UWO held UWL to a mere 49 points. The only game where UWL scored less points was in their 64-48 loss against UW-Platteville on Dec. 1.

Going into the home conference opener and alumni game against UWL, the defending WIAC champions were facing a tall task with a pair of 6’2 forwards, Gabby Ritchie and Kat Fitzgerald, getting minutes against the Titans’ characteristic small-ball lineup.

Sophomore guard Kennedy Osterman said that the team’s ability to communicate on the court when screens were being set was essential to pulling off the tough conference win.

“We did a good job talking about when we got screened or when we got beat to the basket,” Osterman said.

UWO held UWL to just 20 points in the entire second half, and Porath said that such a feat was able to be achieved by breaking the game down possession by possession.

“Focusing on getting stops was the priority against La Crosse,” Porath said. “The key to getting stops for us was to understand what they were trying to do with each play and take that away. We did a [much] better job [in the] second half with making the adjustments needed.”

Even with nobody over 6’ on the roster, UWO outrebounded UWL 36-35, who was second in the WIAC in rebounds behind UW-Stevens Point.

Osterman said that it was crucial to fight for every rebound as well as knowing who the best shooter on the team was at any point in time.

“We had to realize who on the team was feeling hot and get them the ball so they can go to work,” she said. “Making sure we make good passes so they can shoot or rip and drive. Boxing players out and getting those 50/50 balls.”

UWO hosts Ripon College on Monday Dec. 20, then will go on the road to take on Lawrence University on Tuesday Dec. 21 before taking on the University of Dubuque at a neutral site in Northfield, Minn. Wednesday Dec. 29.

The team will play their second game in as many days at 3 p.m. Thursday Dec. 30 against Carthage College in Northfield, Michigan before playing conference games for the rest of the regular season.