UW-Oshkosh's Connor Duax led all players with a career-high 26 points as the Titans never trailed en route to an 86-75 victory over Loras College (Iowa) during the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Oshkosh Sectional on Friday (March 8) in Kolf Sports Center.
UW-Oshkosh (26-3), which set a new program record for wins in a season, opened up a 17-9 lead with 14 minutes left in the first half and maintained an advantage of least 10 points for the final 16:32 of the contest.
The Titans advance to play Saturday (March 9) in the Oshkosh Sectional championship game at 7 p.m. against Guilford College (N.C.) in Kolf Sports Center. The Quakers reached the Elite Eight with an 80-73 win over University of St. Thomas (Minn.) during Friday's other Oshkosh Sectional semifinal.
UW-Oshkosh, which reached the national championship game last year, is ranked fourth in the country by D3hoops.com while University of St. Thomas (24-5) was ranked 13th and Loras College (23-7) 20th. Guilford College (24-7) is not among the top 25 in the latest D3hoops.com poll.
Duax made 9 of 14 shots from the field and added six rebounds in 25 minutes on the way surpassing his previous career high of 21 points. Duax went 3-for-6 from 3-point range after entering the night with 12 made 3-pointers on the year.
Ben Boots, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, added 15 points and two assists for the Titans, who also received 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks from Adam Fravert. Boots moved into a tie for first place in school history with 399 assists.
UW-Oshkosh starters Jack Flynn and Brett Wittchow contributed nine points apiece. Flynn had a game-high 13 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Wittchow contributed five rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks.
UW-Oshkosh shot 47.4 percent (27-57) from the floor, 32.3 percent (10-31) from beyond the 3-point arc and 62.9 percent (22-35) at the free throw line. The Titans held advantages of 43-36 in rebounds, 16-7 in assists and 7-3 in blocks.
The Titans, who have outrebounded 28 of their last 31 opponents, went into Friday ranked eighth in the nation with a +9.4 average rebounding margin. UW-Oshkosh also ranked 11th in the country with a +16.2 average scoring margin, 12th with a 1.48 assist-to-turnover ratio and 14th with 10.6 turnovers per contest.
Loras College, playing in its first sectional semifinal game, shot 38.2 percent (26-68) from the floor, 13.6 percent (3-22) from 3-point range and 71.4 percent (20-28) at the foul line. The Duhawks, who owned edges of 7-11 in turnovers and 7-4 in steals, were held to season lows in assists, made 3-pointers and 3-point percentage.
The Duhawks went into the Oshkosh Sectional ranked fourth nationally with a .785 free throw percentage, fifth with 543 made free throws, 11th with 90.8 points per game, 14th with 18.3 assists per game and 20th with 293 made 3-pointers.
Ryan DiCanio paced the Duhawks with 25 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field.
Josh Ruggles and Cole Navigato added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Loras College while Demond George had nine points and a team-leading six rebounds.
UW-Oshkosh scored 18 seconds into the game on a short jumper from Flynn and took the lead for good at 5-2 on a 3-pointer by Duax with 18:56 left in the opening half. Back-to-back layups from Peterson and Brian Wilman later extended the Titans' advantage to 17-9.
Loras College pulled within 24-21 following a pair of free throws by Navigato at the 9:26 mark of the first half, but the Titans responded with five straight points, including a three-point play from Duax that increased the UW-Oshkosh lead to 29-21.
The Duhawks once again cut their deficit to three points at 37-34 with 2:09 to go in the first half, but another five-point run by the Titans upped their advantage to 42-34 after a 3-pointer by Peterson.
Trailing 42-36 at intermission, Loras College scored on a Jordan Boyd offensive rebound and layup during first possession of the second half. However, UW-Oshkosh responded with a 15-4 scoring run that included Duax scoring 10 consecutive Titan points as they extended their lead to 57-42 with 15:57 to play.
Loras College never got closer than 10 points after UW-Oshkosh's decisive 15-4 run. The Titans held their largest lead of 16 points on two occasions during the second half, including at 76-60 score following a Flynn free throw with 5:45 left.
UW-Oshkosh is back in the Division III Elite Eight for the second straight season and the third time in program history. The Titans bowed out in the national quarterfinals in 2003 and played in the Division III title game last season. UW-Oshkosh suffered a 78-72 setback to Nebraska Wesleyan University in the 2018 championship game.
The Titans will be hosting a sectional championship game for the first time Saturday.