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Titans Look To Disturb 17th-Ranked Blugolds

Titans Look To Disturb 17th-Ranked Blugolds

The top two scoring defenses in the WIAC square off when the UW-Oshkosh men's basketball team hosts nationally ranked UW-Eau Claire on Saturday (Jan. 28). Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.

UW-Oshkosh (11-7, 4-3 WIAC) leads the league by limiting opponents to 65 points per game while UW-Eau Claire (14-4, 4-3) is next at 65.8. The two teams are among a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings – three games behind UW-River Falls (17-1, 7-0 WIAC) – with seven contests remaining.

The Titans have won each of the past three meetings with UW-Eau Claire and seven of the last eight. UW-Oshkosh defeated the Blugolds, 70-62, on Jan. 14 in Eau Claire after eliminating UW-Eau Claire during the semifinal round of the 2016 WIAC Championship by a 77-67 score in Oshkosh.

In the teams' first meeting this season, UW-Oshkosh made 12 of its first 15 shots from the field on the way to building a 22-5 lead. The Blugolds pulled within two points on three occasions during the second half, but the Titans owned a lead for the final 38:47 of the contest en route to snapping UW-Eau Claire's 10-game home winning streak.

UW-Oshkosh's Charlie Noone scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and Ben Boots tallied 12 of his 14 points during the second period as the Titans upset the Blugolds, who went into the previous matchup ranked 10th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com.

UW-Eau Claire heads into Saturday's meeting with the Titans ranked 17th in the country after winning two of its last three games.

Since their loss to UW-Oshkosh, the Blugolds have cruised to home victories over UW-Stout (12-6, 3-4 WIAC) and UW-Platteville (8-10, 1-6) while falling at UW-Stevens Point (9-8, 3-4). Three of UW-Eau Claire's four losses this season have come on the road.

UW-Oshkosh lost at home to both 24th-ranked UW-Whitewater (15-3, 4-3 WIAC) and fifth-ranked UW-River Falls before rebounding with a 61-55 victory at UW-La Crosse (10-8, 2-5) on Wednesday (Jan. 21).

Saturday's battle with the Blugolds marks UW-Oshkosh's seventh game against a nationally ranked opponent this season. The Titans defeated a pair of ranked teams this year, downing UW-Eau Claire and then-eighth-ranked St. Norbert College by a 58-45 count on Dec. 20 in Oshkosh.

UW-Oshkosh, picked to win the WIAC title in a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors, ranks second in the conference with a .776 free throw percentage and a +4.7 average rebounding margin.

Boots leads the Titans with 14.2 points per game and 18 steals. The sophomore guard is shooting a team-best 41.8 percent (46-110) from 3-point range while ranking second on the squad with 41 assists.

Noone, a junior guard, adds 13.4 points per contest for the Titans, who also receive 10.3 points per game from sophomore guard Brett Wittchow, 7.7 from senior guard Taylor Jansen and 7.3 from senior forward Max Schebel.

Boots, Noone, Wittchow and Schebel have started all 18 games this season while Jansen, who leads the WIAC with a .913 free throw percentage, has joined the UW-Oshkosh starting lineup in each of the past nine contests.

Noone paces the WIAC with 48 3-pointers and Boots ranks third with 46. Schebel and Wittchow lead the Titans with 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, respectively.

UW-Oshkosh has nine players averaging more than nine minutes per game, including freshman center Jack Flynn, senior forward AJ Mueller, senior forward Sean Dwyer and sophomore guard Kyle Beyak in reserve roles.

Flynn chips in 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest while Mueller contributes 3.2 points per game, Dwyer 2.9 and Beyak 2.1.

UW-Eau Claire is second nationally with a 52.2 percent field goal percentage while holding opponents to a WIAC-best 40.8 percent shooting from the floor. However, the Blugolds rank 414th among 416 Division III teams by forcing just 10.3 turnovers per game and 406th with 7.6 offensive rebounds per contest.

Sophomore forward Josh Weix scores a team-leading 15.8 points per game for the Blugolds while ranking second in the WIAC with a .569 field goal percentage.

UW-Eau Claire also receives 14.4 points per game from junior forward George Diekelman, 12.9 from senior guard Jack Martinek, 11.5 from junior forward Chris Duff and 8.5 from senior forward Jared Schneidermann.

Schneidermann's 7.2 rebounds per game is second in the WIAC while Diekelman is third in the league with 72 assists.

The Blugolds have featured a starting lineup of Weix, Diekelman, Martinek, Duff and Schneidermann during 17 of their 18 games this season. Only Weix has missed a start among the five.

No current member of the Blugolds has won a game at UW-Oshkosh as the Titans have won their last four home games in the series. UW-Eau Claire's last win in Oshkosh was a 59-56 decision on Jan. 9, 2013.

The UW-Oshkosh men's basketball program will honor its former players and coaches during halftime of its game with UW-Eau Claire. The annual alumni game will be held at 12:30 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.