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Francis Leads Thunder To Win Over Titans

Jack Flynn has started the 2018-19 season with a pair of double-doubles.
Jack Flynn has started the 2018-19 season with a pair of double-doubles.

Aston Francis had 45 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lift Wheaton College (Ill.) to an 86-74 win over the nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh men's basketball team in the Lee Pfund Classic championship game Saturday (Nov. 17) in Wheaton, Ill.

Wheaton College (3-0) led for more than 37 minutes during the teams' sixth meeting and first since the 1935-36 season. The Thunder have won 23 of their last 24 games at their own Lee Pfund Classic.

UW-Oshkosh (1-1), ranked second in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, reclaimed a 50-49 edge following a three-point play by Jack Flynn with 15:33 remaining in the second half, but Francis gave Wheaton College the lead for good at 51-50 with a pair of free throws at the 14:46 mark.

Francis scored five straight points on a jumper and a 3-pointer that extended the Thunder advantage to 71-57 with 5:33 to play, and Wheaton College maintained a lead of at least seven points the rest of the way.

Francis shot 12 of 29 from the floor, 5-for-14 from 3-point range and 16 of 19 at the free throw line on the way to earning most valuable player honors at the Lee Pfund Classic. A D3hoops.com Preseason All-America Second Team selection, Francis ranked fourth in the country last season by averaging 27.4 points per game. The senior went into Saturday as Division III's active career leader with 25.7 points per game and 4.26 made 3-pointers per contest.

Kobe Eichelberger added 14 points and a team-leading 11 rebounds for the Thunder, who also received 11 points and six rebounds from Luke Peters, and nine points and six rebounds from Anajuwon Spencer. Peters was named to the six-member All-Tournament Team.

Brett Wittchow paced UW-Oshkosh with 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists.

UW-Oshkosh's Flynn and Adam Fravert both recorded double-doubles as Flynn had 12 points, 11 rebounds while Fravert contributed 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. The double-doubles were Flynn's 10th career and Fravert's ninth.

Connor Duax chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists off the UW-Oshkosh bench.

Wittchow and Flynn represented UW-Oshkosh on the Lee Pfund Classic All-Tournament Team. Wittchow totaled 41 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in the Titans' two games while Flynn registered 32 points and 21 rebounds.

Wheaton College, which has won 15 of its last 19 home games, concluded Saturday's contest with advantages in field goal percentage (.443 to .321), 3-point percentage (.348 to .231), free throw percentage (.774 to .722) and blocks (6-4).

UW-Oshkosh owned advantages in rebounds (50-45), offensive rebounds (21-7) and steals (7-3). Both teams collected 12 assists and committed 11 turnovers.

The Titans scored the first four points of the game on a Fravert layup and a short jumper from Flynn. The Thunder answered with a 3-pointer by Francis and a layup from Eichelberger for a 5-4 advantage it would not relinquish until early in the second half.

Ben Boots made a 3-pointer that cut UW-Oshkosh's deficit to 15-14 with 8:02 left in the opening half, but Wheaton College upped its lead to 25-18 following an Eichelberger basket at the 5:00 mark. Duax drove for a layup to pull the Titans within 35-33 with 89 seconds to play in the opening period before Eichelberger split a pair of free throws to provide the Thunder a 38-34 lead at intermission.

Trailing 49-42 after an Eichelberger 3-pointer, UW-Oshkosh responded with eight unanswered points to take a 50-49 lead. The Titans' eight-point run featured a 3-pointer by Wittchow, an offensive rebound and layup from Duax, and a three-point play by Flynn with 15:33 to go.

Francis hit a pair of free throws 47 seconds later for a 51-50 Thunder advantage. Eichelberger drove for a layup that increased Wheaton College's lead to 62-55 at the 10:37 mark, and the Titans trailed by at least seven points for the remainder of the game. Francis secured the win by accounting for 19 of the Thunder's final 24 points during the last eight minutes.

Wheaton College advanced to this year's Lee Pfund Classic championship game with a 79-77 victory over Coe College (Iowa) on Friday (Nov. 16). UW-Oshkosh reached Saturday's title game via an 86-77 win over Piedmont College (Ga.) on Friday.

Wheaton College has won five of its six matchups with UW-Oshkosh in a series that was rekindled after 83 years between meetings.

UW-Oshkosh plays Edgewood College on Tuesday (Nov. 20) in Madison.

Photo courtesy of Mark Black