The nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh men's basketball team clinched at least a share of its first WIAC title in 17 years with a thrilling 83-81 overtime victory at defending league champion UW-Platteville on Wednesday (Feb. 6).
UW-Oshkosh led, 73-70, with 30 seconds left in regulation and regained possession with 18 ticks to go, but UW-Platteville's Carter Voelker recorded a steal and drained a 3-pointer to tie the score at 73 with 11 seconds remaining. UW-Oshkosh committed a turnover with three seconds left on the ensuing possession. However, UW-Platteville's Robert Duax, the reigning WIAC Player of the Year, missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
UW-Platteville led by as many as six points during the overtime session as Voelker knocked down a jumper for an 81-75 Pioneer advantage at the 2:54 mark. UW-Oshkosh's Jack Flynn scored the next six points of the game, tying the score at 81 after a three-point play with 69 seconds remaining.
After UW-Platteville's Kyle Tuma missed a 3-pointer, Brett Wittchow provided the Titans their only lead of overtime with a jumper with 26 seconds to go that created the final score. The Pioneers then went to Duax on the final possession of the game, but his attempt at a game-winning 3-pointer was once again off the mark as time expired.
UW-Oshkosh (21-1, 11-0 WIAC), ranked third in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, clinched at least a share of its 13th league title and first since sharing the championship during the 2001-02 season by virtue of its win over UW-Platteville and 25th-ranked UW-La Crosse's (15-7, 8-3 WIAC) loss at UW-River Falls on Wednesday. The Titans own a three-game lead in the WIAC standings with three contests remaining.
The Titans also extended program marks for best overall record to start a season, best WIAC record to start the year and longest winning streak. UW-Oshkosh's current 20-game winning streak is the sixth longest in WIAC history.
Flynn paced five UW-Oshkosh double-digit scorers with 18 points. He added a game-high 14 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, to notch his seventh double-double of the season and 15th of his career. Flynn, who has scored in double figures in all but three games this season, went into Wednesday averaging a WIAC-leading 3.5 offensive rebounds per game.
UW-Oshkosh's Adam Fravert added 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a game-high four steals.
The Titans had five double-digit scorers for the 10th time this season as David Vlotho contributed 12 points off the bench while starters Wittchow and Ben Boots chipped in 11 apiece. Boots dished out a team-leading four assists.
UW-Oshkosh shot 42.9 percent (27-63) from the field, 40.7 percent (11-27) from 3-point range and 75 percent (18-24) at the free throw line. The Titans, who have made at least 11 3-pointers on 10 occasions this season, held a 43-33 rebounding advantage. UW-Oshkosh has now outrebounded 23 of its last 24 opponents dating back to last year.
The Titans, who defeated the Pioneers by a 96-70 score Jan. 2 in Oshkosh, entered the game ranked seventh in Division III with a +18.9 average scoring margin, ninth with a +10.1 average rebounding margin and 10th with a 1.54 assist-to-turnover ratio. UW-Oshkosh was also leading the WIAC in scoring (85.1), rebounds (40.9) and assists (16.1) per game, made 3-pointers (211), blocks (92) and field goal percentage defense (.409).
UW-Platteville (13-9, 6-5 WIAC) concluded the contest shooting 37.7 percent (29-77) from the floor, 32.3 percent (10-31) from behind the 3-point arc and 81.3 percent (13-16) at the foul line. The Pioneers, the best free throw shooting team in the WIAC at 77.2 percent, fell despite holding advantages of 13-10 in assists, 10-6 in steals and 12-19 in turnovers.
Duax led all players with 35 points for the Pioneers. He went 12 of 27 from the field and added six rebounds, four assists and three steals after entering the game averaging a WIAC-best 17.6 points per game.
Voelker had 17 points, a team-leading nine rebounds and four assists for UW-Platteville before fouling out with just over a minute to play in overtime.
UW-Platteville led for the majority of the first half, building a 32-25 advantage with 6:50 left in the period and taking a 45-42 advantage into intermission. Duax scored 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the floor during the game's first 20 minutes.
Neither team led by more than three points in the second half until Fravert made a jumper for a 53-48 Titan advantage with 14 minutes to go in regulation. UW-Oshkosh maintained its lead until a Voelker jumper tied the score at 57 with 9:53 left in the second half.
Duax accounted for each of the Pioneers' seven points as UW-Platteville turned a 62-60 deficit into a 67-62 lead with 5:45 to play in the second half. The Titans rallied to reclaim a 69-68 lead following a jumper from Boots at the 1:32 mark, but Quentin Shields made a jumper of his own 17 seconds later to give the Pioneers a 70-69 lead.
Fravert then answered with a twisting left-handed shot off the backboard to give UW-Oshkosh a 71-70 lead with just under a minute left in regulation. Wittchow then sank two free throws to increase the Titans' advantage to 73-70 with 30 seconds to go in the second period.
Wednesday marked the first overtime game for the Titans this season and the first in their series with UW-Platteville since the Pioneers outlasted UW-Oshkosh by a 74-69 score Jan. 25, 2012, in Platteville. UW-Oshkosh has won its last three overtime contests, including two wins over Augustana College (Ill.) last season by scores of 95-89 in double overtime during the regular season and 95-88 in one overtime for the right to advance to the Division III Final Four. The Titans went on to reach the national championship game last season for the first time in program history.
With Wednesday's conference title-clinching win, UW-Oshkosh interim head coach Matt Lewis' .955 winning percentage (21-1 record) remains the best among all 2,189 active NCAA men's and women's basketball coaches. UW-Oshkosh's .955 winning percentage is tied for the best in the country as top-ranked and defending national champion Nebraska Wesleyan University and fifth-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.) also sport 21-1 records.
UW-Oshkosh will attempt to secure its first outright conference championship since the 1977-78 season when its hosts UW-Stevens Point on Saturday (Feb. 9) in Kolf Sports Center. The Titans defeated the Pointers, 78-68, Jan. 9 in Stevens Point.