Jack Flynn scored the game-winning layup with four seconds remaining as the nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh men's basketball team pulled out a thrilling 76-74 victory over UW-La Crosse during the opening round of the WIAC Championship on Wednesday (Feb. 21) in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (20-6), seeded third in the six-team WIAC Championship, trailed by as many as 14 points midway through the second half before tying the score at 70 with 2:43 to play following a steal by Brett Wittchow and a dunk from Adam Fravert.
Tied again at 74 with 86 seconds left, the teams swapped three empty possessions, including a missed jumper by UW-La Crosse's Ben Meinholz with just over 30 seconds to go.
Fravert collected the rebound off of Meinholz's miss and, with the clock winding down, UW-Oshkosh's Ben Boots drove from the right wing and delivered a short pass to Flynn, who laid in the eventual game-winning basket from the left side of the lane.
A 35-foot 3-pointer by Meinholz caromed off the rim at the buzzer, securing the Titans' first 20-win season since the 2006-07 campaign.
Flynn's game-winning layup gave UW-Oshkosh its first lead since a 38-37 advantage with 19:36 remaining.
UW-Oshkosh, ranked 19th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, advances to play at 23rd-ranked and second-seeded UW-Stevens Point (17-8) in the semifinal round of the WIAC Championship on Friday (Feb. 23).
Flynn led UW-Oshkosh with 22 points and nine rebounds. Flynn, who entered the night with a WIAC-best .629 field goal percentage and 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, shot 8-for-9 from the floor and 6-for-8 at the free throw line while grabbing three offensive boards.
Fravert added 16 points for the Titans, who also received 15 points and a game-high four assists from Boots, and 10 points from Wittchow. Wittchow made a pair of free throws to tie the score at 74 with 1:25 remaining.
UW-Oshkosh, which has reached the league tournament championship game each of the past three years, had at least four double-digit scorers for the 10th time this season.
Sixth-seeded UW-La Crosse outshot UW-Oshkosh, .611 to .469 from the floor, and had a 12-9 lead in turnovers, but the Eagles converted each of their four free throw attempts while the Titans went 20-for-24 at the foul line. UW-La Crosse committed 24 fouls and UW-Oshkosh was called for 10. The Eagles, who shot 33-for-54 from the field, had their highest field goal percentage in the 241 games since shooting 62.7 percent (32-51) against UW-Superior on Jan. 31, 2009.
The Titans, who shot 10-for-26 from 3-point range, concluded the Wednesday's contest with advantages in rebounds (28-21), offensive boards (10-1) and assists (10-7). UW-Oshkosh went into the game ranked sixth in the country with a +9.2 average rebounding margin while leading the WIAC with 14.7 assists per contest and a 1.20 assist-to-turnover ratio.
UW-La Crosse's Meinholz led all players with 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting from the field. He added a team-high six rebounds and two assists.
Taulvish McCray and Brendon Manning had 14 and 12 points, respectively, for the Eagles.
Flynn scored on the opening possession of the game, and UW-Oshkosh maintained a lead for the entire first half, including a 38-35 advantage at intermission. The Titans owned their largest lead of nine points at 23-14 following a pair of free throws from Wittchow with 9:13 left in the opening period.
UW-La Crosse (13-13) tallied the first six points of the second half to claim a 41-38 lead with 18:06 to play. A 17-4 scoring run extended the Eagles' advantage to 58-44 at the 10:18 mark as the Titans committed five turnovers during a span of just over three minutes, including two miscues that led to dunks by Meinholz.
Boots drained a 3-pointer to cut UW-Oshkosh's deficit to 68-65 with 5:24 left, but the Eagles extended their lead to 70-65 on a layup by Manning at the 3:58 mark. Three free throws from Flynn pulled UW-Oshkosh within 70-68 before Fravert's dunk tied the score at 70.
Fourth-seeded and defending tournament champion UW-River Falls (17-8) defeated fifth-seeded UW-Whitewater (16-10), 79-68, in Wednesday's other WIAC Championship first round contest in River Falls. The Falcons play at fifth-ranked and top-seeded UW-Platteville (22-3) in the semifinal round on Friday.
The winner of the WIAC Championship, which will be determined Sunday (Feb. 25), gains the league's automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Division III Championship that begins March 2.
The Titans won each of their three meetings with UW-La Crosse this season. UW-Oshkosh also defeated the Eagles by scores of 72-65 on Jan. 6 in La Crosse and 70-54 on Feb. 10 in Oshkosh.
UW-Oshkosh improved to 20-12 in 16 WIAC Championship appearances while UW-La Crosse fell to 8-15 in 15 trips. The Titans won the league postseason tournament in 2002, 2003 and 2016.
UW-Oshkosh earned its first win over UW-La Crosse in the WIAC Championship. The Eagles had previously eliminated the Titans from the league postseason during the 2006 quarterfinals (70-67 score in overtime), the 2007 semifinals (66-61) and the 2014 first round (76-61).