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Titans Defeat Third-Ranked Tigers To Advance To NCAA Sweet 16

Ben Boots had 20 points, including nine in the last two minutes, and five steals against the Tigers.
Ben Boots had 20 points, including nine in the last two minutes, and five steals against the Tigers.

Ben Boots had a game-high 20 points, including nine in the last two minutes, as UW-Oshkosh defeated Wittenberg University (Ohio), 68-60, in a battle of nationally ranked teams during the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship on Saturday (March 3) in Springfield, Ohio.

UW-Oshkosh (22-7) trailed for less than one minute en route to handing Wittenberg University its first home loss of the season. The Titans, who led by as many as 17 points in the first half, owned a 39-23 advantage with 18:16 remaining in the second period.

Wittenberg University (26-3) claimed a 53-51 lead at the 4:28 mark and extended its advantage to 54-51 with four minutes left, but UW-Oshkosh's Brett Wittchow collected an offensive rebound and passed to Charlie Noone for a 3-pointer that knotted the score at 54 with 3:45 to play.

Tied at 56 with 1:59 remaining, Boots and Noone drained back-to-back 3-pointers in the span of 38 seconds to provide the Titans a 62-58 edge with 66 seconds to go.

Boots then converted each his six free throw attempts over the final 35 seconds to preserve the UW-Oshkosh victory that secured the program's third trip to the Sweet 16 and first since reaching the national quarterfinals in 2003.

Wittenberg University missed its last four field goal attempts during the last 18 seconds, including a pair of 3-pointers that were blocked by Titans Adam Fravert and Wittchow in a five-second sequence. The Tigers, who were held to less than 70 points for the first time this season, fell to 16-1 in home games on the year.

UW-Oshkosh, ranked 24th in the country by D3hoops.com, advances to play sixth-ranked Emory University (Ga.) (23-4) on Friday (March 9) in the third round of the NCAA postseason.

Boots concluded Saturday's contest shooting 5-for-12 from the floor and 8-for-9 at the free throw line to go along with a game-high five assists and two steals.

Fravert added 12 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals for the Titans, who also received 12 points from Noone and 10 from Wittchow.

The balanced UW-Oshkosh offense featured at least four double-digit scorers for the fourth straight game and the 13th time this season.

UW-Oshkosh owned advantages in field goal (.421 to .411) and 3-point (.409 to .250) percentages, steals (9-3), blocks (7-1) and turnovers (14-8). The Titans shot 9-for-22 from beyond the arc while the Tigers went 4-for-16 from long range.

Third-ranked Wittenberg University, which was limited to a season-low 19 points in the first half, finished the game with advantages of 37-29 in rebounds and 12-10 in assists. The Tigers, who entered the game eighth nationally with a .503 field goal percentage, had shot 50 percent or better from the floor on 15 occasions this season.

The Tigers went into the night fifth in the nation with a +9.3 average rebounding margin while UW-Oshkosh listed fourth at +9.5. Wittenberg University is just the fifth team to out-rebound the Titans this season and the first opponent to have more than a two-rebound edge over UW-Oshkosh.

Chad Roy paced Wittenberg University with 13 points while Mitchell Balser and Connor Seipel added 10 apiece.

Wittchow hit a spinning layup 20 seconds into the game before the Titans extended their lead to 11-2 on a 3-pointer from Fravert. UW-Oshkosh then scored 10 unanswered points for a 25-10 advantage following a layup by Sam Ebersold with 8:33 left in the first half.

The Titans built their largest first-half lead of 17 points at 34-17 on a layup from Kyle Beyak with 3:29 left before entering intermission with a 34-19 advantage.

UW-Oshkosh maintained a double-digit lead from the 9:44 mark of the opening period until Roy scored a basket in the paint to trim the Tiger deficit to 39-30 with 16:45 to play.

A layup from Boots gave UW-Oshkosh a 49-37 edge with 11:08 to play, but Wittenberg University responded with 12 points in a row to tie the score at 49 with 6:10 left as the Titans missed all three of their free throws and each of their eight field goal attempts during the five-minute stretch. Boots ended the Titans' drought with a layup for a 51-49 advantage with 5:46 left.

Wittenberg University answered with the next five points, including the last three from Jordan Pumroy, for a 54-51 lead.

The Tigers, who have reached the Final Four seven times and claimed the 1977 national title, boast a 52-28 record in 28 national postseason appearances. Wittenberg University's 52 NCAA tournament wins rank second in the division behind Illinois Wesleyan University's 54.

The Titans are making their third consecutive and eighth overall trip to the Division III Championship. UW-Oshkosh sports a 9-7 record in the national tournament.

Photo courtesy of Nick Falzerano, Wittenberg University

UW-Oshkosh Postgame Press Conference

NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship • NCAA.com Website

NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Interactive Bracket