Defending champion UW-Oshkosh opens play in the WIAC Men's Basketball Championship (presented by Culver's) by hosting nationally ranked UW-Whitewater in the tournament's semifinal round on Thursday (Feb. 23). Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (16-9), seeded second in the six-team tournament, received a first-round bye while third-seeded UW-Whitewater (21-5) advanced to the semifinals with a 78-69 victory over sixth-seeded UW-Stout (13-13) on Tuesday (Feb. 21) in Whitewater.
The other WIAC semifinal on Thursday will feature top-seeded UW-River Falls (22-3) hosting fifth-seeded UW-La Crosse (14-12), which eliminated fourth-seeded UW-Eau Claire (18-8) by a 76-66 score on Tuesday in Eau Claire.
The semifinal winners will meet at the higher seed on Saturday (Feb. 25) for the WIAC's automatic berth into the 64-team NCAA Division III Championship that commences March 3.
The Titans and Warhawks split their two regular season meetings. UW-Whitewater defeated UW-Oshkosh, 73-67, on Jan. 18 in Oshkosh while the Titans snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Warhawks with a 67-63 victory on Feb. 15 in Whitewater.
UW-Oshkosh is seeking two straight wins over UW-Whitewater for the first time since claiming consecutive overtime decisions more than a decade ago. The Titans outlasted the Warhawks, 97-92, on Jan. 26, 2005, and 68-67 on Jan. 18, 2006.
UW-Whitewater, ranked 19th in the country by D3hoops.com, owns a 10-2 record in the semifinal round of the WIAC Championship. The Warhawks suffered their most recent semifinal loss, a 77-74 overtime decision at UW-Platteville, in 2009.
UW-Oshkosh has won three of its four previous meetings with UW-Whitewater in the WIAC Championship. The Warhawks defeated the Titans, 71-57, in the final of the 2015 tournament while UW-Oshkosh earned wins over UW-Whitewater in the 2004 quarterfinals (62-49) as well as triumphs in the title contests in both 2002 (70-69) and 2003 (68-63).
Last season, UW-Oshkosh secured its third WIAC Championship title with a pair of home wins as the second seed. The Titans ousted third-seeded UW-Eau Claire by a 77-66 score during the semifinal round and defeated fourth-seeded UW-River Falls, 66-63, in the title game.
The first or second seeds have claimed each of the last 13 WIAC Championship titles, including seven by the top-seeded team, while UW-Whitewater seeks to become the first third-seeded squad to win the league tournament crown.
UW-Whitewater is making its 13th trip to the semifinals and UW-Oshkosh its 12th since the WIAC Championship debuted in 1999. The Warhawks claimed league tournament titles in 2006, 2008, 2013 and 2015 while the Titans won championships in 2002, 2003 and 2016.
UW-Stevens Point has won eight of the 18 previous league tournament titles, including three in a row from 2009-11. UW-Eau Claire (2001), UW-Platteville (1999) and UW-River Falls (2012) have each claimed one league tournament crown.
UW-Whitewater heads into the semifinals leading the WIAC in scoring at 78 points per game while UW-Oshkosh sports the second-rated defense in the league with 64.9 points allowed per contest. The Warhawks have poured in at least 80 points on 12 occasions this season, including the first 10 games of the year, and the Titans have limited opponents to 70 points or fewer 20 times, including each of the past eight contests.
The Warhawks also pace the conference with 76 blocks and a +2.81 turnover margin while listing seventh nationally by shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Titans' trio of guards have combined for 160 3-pointers on the year, including a league-leading 73 by Noone. Boots, who also leads the Titans with 70 assists and 30 steals, is second in the conference with 60 long-range baskets.
Rounding out the UW-Oshkosh starting lineup are senior forward Max Schebel and senior guard Taylor Jansen. Schebel contributes 8.0 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game while Jansen chips in 7.4 points per contest.
Leading the UW-Oshkosh reserves is freshman forward Jack Flynn, who averages 5.3 points on a team-high .560 (56-100) field goal percentage.
UW-Whitewater junior guard Chris Jones leads the conference with 18.4 points per game on 49 percent (154-314) shooting from the field, including 49.2 percent (32-65) from 3-point range. He also ranks fourth in the league with 73 assists.
Junior forward Scotty Tyler and sophomore guard Derek Rongstad add 14.3 and 10.0 points per game, respectively, while Andre Brown chips in 9.6 points per contest for the Warhawks. Tyler leads UW-Whitewater with 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, and Rongstad averages a team-leading 1.7 steals.
UW-Oshkosh has a 5-6 record at home this season while UW-Whitewater owns a 6-2 mark on the road.
The Titans have won three straight games over nationally ranked conference rivals and have a 5-4 record against ranked teams this season. UW-Oshkosh swept the season series against UW-Eau Claire by scores of 70-62 on Jan. 14 in Eau Claire and 79-66 on Jan. 28 in Oshkosh. UW-Eau Claire was ranked 10th at the time of the first meeting and 17th during the second matchup.
UW-Oshkosh also defeated then-eighth-ranked St. Norbert College, 58-45, at home on Dec. 20, fourth-ranked UW-River Falls, 65-60, on Feb. 4 in River Falls and then-17th-ranked UW-Whitewater on Feb. 15.