UW-Oshkosh's 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark as the Titans suffered a 60-59 loss at UW-River Falls during the final game of the WIAC Men's Basketball Championship on Saturday (Feb. 25).
UW-River Falls reclaimed a 60-58 lead on a jumper near the free throw line by Clay Seifert with less than three minutes remaining.
UW-Oshkosh's Max Schebel then split a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to pull the Titans within 60-59 with 1:59 left. The teams exchanged turnovers on the next two possessions, and Titan Ben Boots was fouled after a steal by Adam Fravert.
Boots missed both free throws with under one minute to play, but Seifert misfired on a jump shot to give UW-Oshkosh one last chance with 12.9 seconds to go. However, a 3-point attempt from the left wing by Boots was off the mark at the buzzer.
UW-River Falls (24-3), ranked sixth in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, earns the WIAC's automatic berth to the 64-team national tournament that begins March 3. The Falcons, seeded first in the league tournament, secured their second WIAC Championship crown and first since 2012.
Second-seeded UW-Oshkosh (17-10), the defending WIAC tournament champion, had its nine-game road winning streak snapped despite holding the Falcons to their lowest scoring output of the season.
In last year's WIAC Championship final, the Titans ousted UW-River Falls by a 66-63 score in Oshkosh.
UW-River Falls concluded Saturday's contest with slim advantages in field goal (.423 to .422) and free throw (.800 to .722) percentages, rebounds (32-29), turnovers (14-9) and steals (8-4).
Garret Pearson notched his fifth double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Falcons, who also received 12 points from Brennan Witt and 11 points from Alex Herink.
UW-Oshkosh's Charlie Noone led all players with 19 points by connecting on 6 of 9 shots from the field and all five of his free throws.
Noone accounted for all five points as UW-Oshkosh took a 5-4 lead that it wouldn't relinquish until the 8:36 mark of the second half.
UW-Oshkosh made nine of its first 10 shots from the floor on the way to building a 23-12 lead midway through the opening half. Boots and Noone combined for 17 of those points, including 10 from Boots, during the Titans' game-opening run.
UW-River Falls cut its deficit to 28-26 with less than five minutes to play in the first period, but UW-Oshkosh went into intermission with a 37-31 advantage.
The Titans shot 54.2 percent (13-24) from the field during the opening stanza, including 46.2 percent (6-13) from 3-point range, while UW-River Falls converted 11 of 24 field goal attempts (45.8 percent) and all six of its shots from the free throw line.
UW-Oshkosh built its largest lead of the game of 12 points at 46-34 following a layup by Jack Flynn with 15 minutes left.
UW-River Falls missed 10 of its first 11 field goal attempts of the second half before making eight baskets in a row to reclaim a 55-48 lead at the 6:59 mark. The Falcons' 21-2 scoring run, aided by 1-for-10 shooting from the floor by UW-Oshkosh, was sparked by eight points from Witt.
UW-Oshkosh, which was making its third consecutive appearance in the WIAC Championship final, rallied to tie the score at 58 with four minutes remaining behind five points apiece from Noone and Fravert during a span of less than 180 seconds.
UW-River Falls and UW-Oshkosh split two games during the regular season. The Falcons prevailed by a 79-57 score on Jan. 21 in Oshkosh, while the Titans secured a 65-60 victory in River Falls on Feb. 4 to hand UW-River Falls its lone home loss of the season.
The Titans had also defeated the Falcons in each of their four previous meetings in the WIAC Championship.