UW-Whitewater rode a hot-shooting first half to a 71-57 win over UW-Oshkosh in the championship game of the WIAC Men's Basketball Tournament held Saturday (Feb. 28) in Whitewater.
The top-seeded Warhawks (24-3) earned the WIAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship for the second time in three years and fourth overall. Last year, UW-Whitewater won the national championship for the second time in three years and the fourth time overall.
UW-Whitewater shot 65.2 percent (15-23) from the field in the opening period, including 7 of 13 (53.8 percent) from 3-point range. The Warhawks, who shared the league's regular season title with UW-Stevens Point, led 40-23 at intermission.
Ron Patten led the Warhawks with 19 points off the bench on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor, including 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. He also grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots.
UW-Whitewater's Quardell Young went 7-for-8 from the field and added 17 points and a game-high five assists. KJ Evans had 15 points, 12 rebounds and three assists for his eighth double-double of the season.
UW-Oshkosh (16-12) opened the game with a 6-3 lead, but Young scored the Warhawks' next 15 points as UW-Whitewater built an 18-9 advantage at the 12:05 mark of the first half. Young made six straight shots during the stretch of more than seven minutes, including a layup that gave the Warhawks the lead for good at 8-6 with 16:30 left in the first period.
The Titans tallied eight unanswered points to narrow the gap to 24-21 with six minutes remaining in the first period, but UW-Whitewater made 10 of its next 11 shod during a 20-2 scoring run that spanned both halves.
The Warhawks, ranked second in the country by D3hoops.com, had their largest lead of 25 points at 52-27 at the 16-minute mark of the second half and led by at least 15 points until two free throws by Andrew Duening with less than a minute to play provided the final score.
UW-Whitewater ended the game shooting 53.3 percent (24-45) from the field, 47.6 percent (10-21) from beyond the 3-point arc and 65 percent (13-20) from the free throw line. The Warhawks also held a 41-27 advantage in rebounds.
Alex Olson paced UW-Oshkosh with 12 points for his 22nd double-digit scoring effort of the season.
AJ Mueller added nine points for the Titans on 4-for-4 shooting from the field. Kyle Bolger contributed eight points and a team-best three assists. Charlie Noone had six points, two assists and a career-high seven rebounds.
UW-Oshkosh, which shot just 28.6 percent (8-28) from the field in the first half, ended the game shooting 35.1 percent (20-57). The Titans made 5 of 22 (22.7 percent) 3-point shots and 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) free throws.
The Titans were the second fifth seed to advance to the WIAC Tournament final in the 17 years of the event. UW-Oshkosh qualified for its game with UW-Whitewater by winning road games of 59-55 over fourth-seeded UW-Platteville on Feb. 24 and 50-47 over fourth-ranked and second-seeded UW-Stevens Point on Feb. 26.
UW-Oshkosh concludes its second straight and 13th overall WIAC postseason appearance with the deepest run by a Titan squad since 2003.
Photo courtesy of Michael McLoone, UW-Whitewater Athletics