UW-Oshkosh will play its sixth nationally ranked men's basketball team of the season when it hosts WIAC-leading UW-River Falls on Saturday (Jan. 21). The opening tip is set for 7 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-River Falls (15-1, 5-0 WIAC), ranked fifth in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, has a two-game lead in the league standings with nine games remaining. The Falcons head into Saturday's contest on a 13-game winning streak.
UW-Oshkosh (10-6, 3-2 WIAC), which was picked to win the WIAC title in a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors, is among a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings.
The Titans have a 2-3 record against nationally ranked teams this season, defeating then-eighth-ranked St. Norbert College (58-45) on Dec. 20 and 10th-ranked UW-Eau Claire (70-62) on Jan. 14. UW-Oshkosh suffered losses to sixth-ranked Benedictine University (Ill.) (68-55), last year's national runner-up, on Nov. 26, Augustana College (Ill.) (77-64) on Nov. 30 and 25th-ranked UW-Whitewater (73-67) on Wednesday (Jan. 18).
UW-Oshkosh has defeated UW-River Falls in the last two meetings and seven of the previous nine matchups. Seven of the last eight meetings between the teams were decided by four points or less. In the first of three meetings last season, UW-River Falls nipped UW-Oshkosh, 76-75, before the Titans slipped past the Falcons by scores of 65-62 during the regular-season finale and 66-63 in the WIAC Championship final.
The Falcons' last win in Oshkosh was a 105-99 double-overtime thriller on Dec. 10, 2011.
UW-River Falls enters Saturday's matchup leading the conference with 38.5 rebounds per game as well as +12.3 scoring and +6.9 rebounding margins while UW-Oshkosh paces the WIAC by allowing 64.8 points per contest. The Titans also rank seventh nationally with a .794 free throw percentage.
UW-Oshkosh has held six opponents to fewer than 61 points this season while UW-River Falls, averaging 79.2 points per contest, has scored at least 60 points each game.
Noone leads the WIAC with 45 3-pointers and Boots ranks third with 42 long-range baskets. Wittchow's 47 assists are seventh best in the conference.
UW-Oshkosh boasts the top three free throw shooters in the WIAC as Boots has converted at a .915 rate (54-59) from the foul line while Noone is second at .912 (31-34) and senior guard Taylor Jansen third at .905 (38-42).
Rounding out the UW-Oshkosh starting lineup is senior forward Max Schebel, who averages 7.3 points on 50 percent (50-100) shooting from the field and a team-leading 5.6 rebounds per game.
Key contributors off the bench for the Titans include freshman forward Jack Flynn, sophomore guard Kyle Beyak and senior forwards Sean Dwyer and AJ Mueller. Flynn, Dwyer and Mueller each chip in better than three points per game while Beyak has played at least 11 minutes in eight of the last nine contests.
UW-River Falls is led by the trio of junior forward Alex Herink, senior forward Garret Pearson and junior guard Devin Buckley.
Herink ranks third in the conference with 16.9 points per contest and a .574 (97-169) field goal percentage while listing fifth in the league by shooting 49.1 percent (28-57) from 3-point range and 87.3 percent (48-55) from the free throw line. Herink also leads the team in 3-pointers and with 17 steals.
Pearson averages 14 points on 51.5 percent (87-169) shooting from the floor and a team-best 5.5 rebounds while Buckley chips in 10.8 points per contest to go along with 2.9 rebounds, and one assist and one steal per game.
Junior forward Brennan Witt adds 7.1 points per game off the UW-River Falls bench. Filling out the Falcons' starting lineup are sophomore guard Clay Seifert and senior guard Grant Erickson, who average 6.4 and 6.2 points, respectively. Erickson, who ranks sixth nationally with a 3.80 assist-to-turnover ratio, has a team-leading 76 assists.
UW-River Falls, which has won one conference title since 1950, set a program record by shooting 64.7 percent (33-51) from the floor during its 91-76 win at UW-La Crosse on Wednesday.