Jack Flynn had a season-high 22 points, Brett Wittchow added 17 to surpass a career scoring milestone and the nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh men's basketball team never trailed on the way to claiming sole possession of first place in the WIAC standings with a 72-66 victory over UW-La Crosse on Saturday (Jan. 19) in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (16-1, 6-0 WIAC) led by as many as 11 points midway through the second half and held a 66-58 advantage with 1:20 remining, but UW-La Crosse (12-5, 5-1 WIAC) twice pulled within two over the game's final 40 seconds.
Ben Meinholz, who finished with a game-high 23 points, converted a three-point play that trimmed UW-La Crosse's deficit to 66-64 with 40 seconds left. Taulvish McCray later knocked down a jumper that pulled the Eagles within 68-66 with 13 seconds remaining.
However, UW-Oshkosh secured the win by making each of its six free throws during the final 21 seconds as Wittchow, Ben Boots and David Vlotho each went 2-for-2 at the foul line. The Titans finished the game 25 of 28 (89.3 percent) at the foul line, marking their season high for made free throws.
UW-Oshkosh, ranked fifth in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, extended its program record to 15 consecutive victories. The Titans, winners of 12 straight home games, improved to 6-0 in league play for the first time since winning their first nine conference games during the 1967-68 season. UW-Oshkosh upped its record to 16-1 for the first time since the 1995-96 campaign.
Flynn finished two points shy of his career high by connecting on 7 of 12 shots from the field and 8 of 11 attempts at the free throw line. He has scored in double digits each of the last 20 games dating back to last season.
Wittchow added a team-high eight rebounds while becoming the 34th Titan to reach 1,000 career points. He accomplished the feat with a pair of free throws that upped UW-Oshkosh's lead to 60-52 with 7:22 remaining. Wittchow concluded the contest with 1,004 points during his four-year Titan career (103 games).
Boots chipped in 11 points and a game-high five assists for the Titans, who also received eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks from Adam Fravert. Fravert entered the game leading the WIAC with 30 blocks.
UW-Oshkosh and UW-La Crosse both shot 39.3 percent from the floor as the Titans went 22-for-56 and the Eagles 24-for-61. The Titans shot just 3 of 19 (15.8 percent) from 3-point range while the Eagles were 5 of 16 (31.3 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc and 13 of 14 (92.9 percent) at the free throw line.
The Titans held slim advantages in rebounds (37-34), turnovers (9-10), blocks (8-3) and steals (3-2). The Eagles had an 11-9 edge in assists. UW-Oshkosh, which has out-rebounded each of its last 19 opponents, went into Saturday ranked sixth in the country with a +11.4 average rebounding margin and seventh with a +19.6 average scoring margin while also leading the conference in scoring (86.1), field goal percentage (.489), field goal percentage defense (.409), assists per game (16.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.55), made 3-pointers (165) and blocks (66).
Meinholz compiled his game-high point total by connecting on 8 of 17 field goal attempts and 5 of 6 shots from the free throw line. He also tallied six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
McCray added 16 points and four assists for the Eagles while Brendon Manning had eight points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Manning, who shot 4-for-10 from the floor, went into the game ranked 10th in the nation with a WIAC-best .662 field goal percentage.
UW-Oshkosh's Connor Duax drained a 3-point shot on the opening possession of the game, and the Titans took the lead for good at 9-7 following a layup from Brian Wilman with 15:08 remaining in the first half. Wilman's basket in the lane ignited a 12-3 scoring run that turned a 7-7 tie into a 19-10 Titan advantage at the 7:31 mark of the opening period. Wilman accounted for four points during the run while Flynn and Wittchow both added three.
UW-La Crosse cut its deficit to 28-25 on a layup from Manning with 76 seconds to play in the first half before UW-Oshkosh went into intermission with a 32-27 lead. The teams combined to shoot just 33.3 percent (20-60) from the floor during the opening period, including 29 percent (9-31) by the Eagles.
The Eagles scored the first four points of the second half to pull within 32-31 with 18:39 left, but the Titans later responded with nine unanswered points in the span of two minutes to increase their lead to 50-39 with 13:21 to go.
UW-Oshkosh held a 58-47 lead with 10 minutes left and owned a 66-58 advantage following a Wittchow layup with 95 seconds to play. The Eagles got a 3-pointer from Tanner Bruchs and a three-point play by Meinholz on the next two possessions to trim their deficit to 66-64 with 40 seconds remaining.
Boots hit a pair of free throws for a four-point UW-Oshkosh lead with 21 seconds left, but McCray answered with a jumper eight seconds later. Vlotho knocked down two free throws to once again make it a two-possession game, and Wittchow then iced the Titans' fourth consecutive win over UW-La Crosse with his two shots at the foul line with two seconds left after Meinholz missed a 3-pointer.
UW-Oshkosh remains at home to play UW-Eau Claire on Wednesday (Jan. 23) in Kolf Sports Center.