Top-seeded and nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh begins its quest for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Men's Basketball Championship (presented by Culver's) title with a semifinal home game Thursday (Feb. 21) against defending league tournament champion UW-Stevens Point. The opening tip is set for 7 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (23-2), ranked fourth in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, received a bye into the WIAC Championship semifinals after winning the league's regular season title for the first time since 2002 and claiming the program's first outright crown since 1978.
Fourth-seeded UW-Stevens Point (17-8) advanced to the conference semifinals with an 87-61 home win over fifth-seeded UW-Eau Claire (14-12) on Tuesday (Feb. 19).
UW-Oshkosh swept the regular season series with UW-Stevens Point for the first time since 2008, defeating the Pointers by scores of 78-68 Jan. 9 in Stevens Point and 77-70 Feb. 9 in Oshkosh. The Titans did not trail for the final 37 minutes during their first meeting of the season. UW-Oshkosh then completed the season sweep by finishing the second matchup of the year with a 17-5 scoring run over the last 7:30 of the contest.
Thursday's other WIAC tournament semifinal contest features second-seeded UW-La Crosse (17-8) hosting third-seeded UW-Platteville (16-10). UW-La Crosse earned a first-round bye by virtue of its runner-up finish to UW-Oshkosh during the regular season. UW-Platteville, a four-time national champion, reached this year's WIAC semifinal round by defeating sixth-seeded and four-time Division III champion UW-Whitewater (17-9), 77-60, in Platteville on Tuesday.
The highest remaining seed will host the conference tournament championship game Saturday (Feb. 23). The WIAC Championship winner receives the league's automatic berth into the 64-team Division III Championship that commences March 1.
UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point will be meeting in the WIAC Championship semifinals for the second straight year. UW-Stevens Point eliminated the Titans by a 71-63 score last season on the way to securing its league-leading ninth WIAC Championship title since the tournament debuted in 1999.
Despite last season's semifinal round setback to the Pointers, UW-Oshkosh went on to reach the Division III Championship title game for the first time after receiving an at-large berth into the tournament. The Titans won five consecutive NCAA postseason games away from home before falling by a 78-72 score to Nebraska Wesleyan University during the championship game in Salem, Va.
UW-Stevens Point was one of the WIAC's three representatives in last year's Division III Championship. The Pointers and UW-Platteville were both ousted from the national tournament in the third round a year ago.
Thursday's game will mark the seventh meeting between the Titans and Pointers in the WIAC postseason and the first to be held in Kolf Sports Center. UW-Stevens Point has won four of the six previous matchups, including semifinal victories in 2004, 2005 and 2009. UW-Oshkosh beat the Pointers during the WIAC semifinals in both 2003 and 2015.
UW-Oshkosh, which produced a program record 21-game winning streak earlier this season, is seeking its fourth WIAC Championship title. The Titans claimed league tournament championships in 2002, 2003 and 2016. The Pointers won their WIAC postseason titles in 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2018. UW-Stevens Point also went on to win Division III championships in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2015.
Thursday's semifinal game pits UW-Oshkosh's WIAC-leading scoring offense against UW-Stevens Point's top scoring defense in the country. The Titans are averaging 83.9 points per game while the Pointers are allowing an average of 60.2.
UW-Oshkosh also paces the conference with a .475 field goal percentage, 255 made 3-pointers, a .377 3-point percentage, a .411 field goal percentage defense, 40.5 rebounds per game, 15.6 assists per contest, a +9.6 average rebounding margin, 111 blocks, a +17.1 average scoring margin and a 1.46 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Titans have outrebounded 25 of their last 27 opponents dating back to last season.
The Titans went 1-1 during the opening weekend of the season before rattling off 21 victories in a row. UW-Oshkosh suffered an 86-74 loss at Wheaton College (Ill.) on Nov. 17 and did not lose again until a 66-61 setback at UW-La Crosse during the penultimate game of the season last Wednesday (Feb. 13). UW-Oshkosh's 21-game winning streak is tied for the fourth longest in WIAC history.
UW-Oshkosh has won 16 consecutive home games since a 68-62 loss to UW-Platteville on Jan. 31, 2018.
Four UW-Oshkosh starters are averaging at least 14 points per game this season.
Senior guard Ben Boots leads the Titans with 15.5 points and 4.1 assists per game to go along with 65 made 3-pointers, a .890 free throw percentage and a 2.02 assist-to-turnover ratio. He ranks first in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in both assists and free throw percentage, third in made 3-pointers, fifth in scoring and eighth in 3-point percentage (.392).
Boots is currently second in program history with 386 career assists, third with 250 made 3-pointers and eighth with 1,582 points.
UW-Oshkosh junior center Jack Flynn is averaging 15.2 points and a team-leading 7.9 rebounds per game. The WIAC leader with 88 offensive rebounds on the year, Flynn also ranks second in the league with a team-best .599 field goal percentage and 29 blocks, third in rebounding and sixth in scoring.
Senior guard Brett Wittchow and junior forward Adam Fravert are averaging 14.2 and 14.1 points, respectively for the Titans. Wittchow is shooting 47.8 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from 3-point range, and 86.3 percent at the free throw line. Fravert has shot .47.4 percent from the floor, 39.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 70.5 percent at the foul line. Wittchow's 55 made 3-pointers rank fifth in the WIAC while his 3-point and free throw percentages list sixth.
Wittchow, the eighth-best scorer in the WIAC, is also grabbing 4.8 rebounds per game and dishing out 2.8 assists per contest. Fravert averages 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Fravert leads the league with 49 blocks and ranks third in the league in assists, fourth in rebounding, ninth in scoring and 10th with a team-high 31 steals.
Sophomore forward Connor Duax rounds out UW-Oshkosh's starting lineup with 7.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Key contributors off the UW-Oshkosh bench include junior guard David Vlotho and freshman guard Eric Peterson, who are both averaging more that 10 minutes per game. Vlotho is chipping in 6.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest while shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range. Peterson averages 2.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
UW-Stevens Point's formidable defense is supported by an efficient offense that ranks second in the nation by committing just 9.5 turnovers per game and lists fifth in the country with a .789 free throw percentage.
The Pointers also feature four double-digit scorers in their starting lineup as senior guard Nate Dodge averages 16.4 points per game while junior guard Ethan Bublitz adds 12.3 per contest, and senior forward Canon O'Heron and senior guard Drew Fredrickson contribute 12.0 and 10.1, respectively.
Dodge also leads the squad with 74 made 3-pointers, 40 steals, a .413 3-point percentage and an .873 free throw percentage. He paces the conference in made 3-pointers and ranks second in scoring, third in free throw percentage, fourth in 3-point percentage and fifth in steals.
O'Heron is the team leader with 5.0 rebounds per game and 11 blocks. Fredrickson is sixth in the conference with a team-high 38 steals on the year and eighth in the league with both 65 assists and 47 made 3-pointers.
Senior forward Brett Tauber, averaging 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, completes the UW-Stevens Point starting lineup.
Top-seeded teams at the WIAC Championship have combined to produce a 33-8 record and win 11 league postseason titles. UW-Oshkosh, the number-one seed for the second time in program history, won the 2002 WIAC Championship as the top seed.
Ticket prices for Thursday's game are $8 for adults, $5 for senior citizens (62-plus) and $4 for students (K-College). Children aged four and under are free.