UW-Oshkosh led the entire way during a convincing 96-82 victory over Swarthmore College (Pa.) in the final game of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship held Saturday (March 16) at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Titans (29-3) scored the first 11 points of the game en route to earning the first national title in the program's 121-year history. UW-Oshkosh, which made its first five shots from the field, entered intermission with a 45-37 advantage after leading by as many as 15 points in the first half.
Swarthmore College (29-4) pulled within three points on two occasions early in the second half, but UW-Oshkosh scored 10 unanswered points for a 57-44 lead and maintained a cushion of at least seven points for the final 18 minutes.
UW-Oshkosh's Jack Flynn, selected the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, paced five Titans in double figures with a career-high 33 points on 13 of 18 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 at the free throw line.
Connor Duax added 16 points for the Titans, who also received 14 apiece from Adam Fravert and Brett Wittchow, and 10 from Ben Boots. Fravert, who joined Flynn on the five-member All-Tournament Team, led all players with 12 rebounds for his 15th career double-double. Boots contributed six rebounds and a team-leading seven assists.
UW-Oshkosh shot 52.3 percent (34-65) from the field, 33.3 percent (7-21) from 3-point range and 80.8 percent (21-26) at the free throw line. The Titans owned advantages of 40-33 in rebounds, 16-15 in assists, 8-3 in blocks and 7-9 in turnovers. Both teams recorded four steals.
Swarthmore College, making its Final Four debut, was led by Zac O'Dell's 22 points and 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He shot 11 of 19 from the floor.
The Garnet's Cam Wiley had 20 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Conor Harkins and George Visconti added 17 and 13 points, respectively.
Swarthmore College shot 44.2 percent (34-77) from the field, 42.3 percent (11-26) from beyond the 3-point arc and 75 percent (3-4) at the foul line. The Garnet's four free throw attempts tied a season low.
UW-Oshkosh's first five possessions resulted in consecutive made jumpers from Fravert, Duax and two in a row by Flynn before a Wittchow 3-pointer gave the Titans an 11-0 lead at the 17:40 mark of the first half. Swarthmore College missed its first six field goal attempts and was held scoreless until O'Dell scored in the lane with 17:10 left in the opening period.
Vlotho cut through the lane for a layup that increased UW-Oshkosh's lead to 19-6. The Titans later made another five straight field goals, including a Wittchow layup that provided UW-Oshkosh its largest lead of the opening period at 31-16 with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half. UW-Oshkosh began the game shooting 13-for-19 from the field and 4-for-4 at the free throw line during the opening 12 minutes.
Swarthmore College responded with an 11-2 scoring run to cut its deficit to 33-27 following a 3-pointer by Visconti. Harkins, who entered the game with the sixth-most made 3-pointers in the country this season, converted a long-range jumper to pull the Garnet within 40-37 late in the first half. However, Flynn scored a basket in the paint with 27 seconds to play in the opening period, and Boots hit a floater in the lane at the buzzer to give UW-Oshkosh a 45-37 advantage at intermission.
The Garnet pulled to within three points at 45-42 and 47-44 in the opening minutes of the second half, but UW-Oshkosh regained control with 10 unanswered points, including the last eight by Duax, during the span of more than three minutes. Duax made a pair of 3-pointers and capped the spurt with a layup for a UW-Oshkosh 57-44 lead at the 16:20 mark.
A Flynn layup increased UW-Oshkosh's advantage to 65-50 with 11:31 to go, and the Titans led by double figures the rest of the way after a 3-pointer from Fravert extended the UW-Oshkosh lead to 83-73 with 3:30 left. The Titans then preserved the win by converting 13 of 16 free throws over the final three minutes.
Completing the All-Tournament Team were Swarthmore College's O'Dell and Wiley, and Aston Francis from Wheaton College (Ill.).
The Garnet, one of the best defensive squads in the nation, gave up their highest point total of the year and allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the field for just the third time this season. Swarthmore College had not allowed more than 95 points in the 187 games since a 97-67 loss to SUNY College at Old Westbury (N.Y.) on Dec. 30, 2012.
UW-Oshkosh and Swarthmore College went into the championship game ranked fourth and sixth in the country, respectively, by D3hoops.com.
The Titans, who have outrebounded 30 of their last 34 opponents, were also ranked 11th nationally in average scoring margin (+15.7), 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48), 13th in average rebounding margin (+8.9) and 18th with 10.7 turnovers per contest.
The Garnet, the regular season and tournament champions in the Centennial Conference, were ranked second in the nation in blocks (173), fifth in field goal percentage defense (.383), seventh in scoring defense (62.9) and 10th in average scoring margin (+15.8).
UW-Oshkosh was making its second straight Division III title game appearance. The Titans suffered a 78-72 setback to Nebraska Wesleyan University during the last year's championship contest in Salem, Va. The Titans are the third team to come back and win the national title after falling in the previous year's championship contest. Wittenberg University (Ohio) was the first program to accomplish the feat with its redemptive 1977 title before State University of New York at Potsdam went from runner-up in 1985 to champion in 1986.
The Titans, the outright champion of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) for the first time since 1978, established several new program records on their journey to the 2019 national title. UW-Oshkosh, which claimed its 13th league regular season crown, set WIAC-records with 325 made 3-pointers and 866 3-point attempts while also setting new school marks with 2,715 points, 961 made field goals, 2,018 field goal attempts, 1,308 rebounds and 148 blocks. The Titans' program-record 29 wins are the fifth most in conference history.
Boots, who was named the 2019 Player of the Year in the WIAC and Division III's Central Region by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, capped his standout UW-Oshkosh career as the program's all-time leader with 417 assists, 272 made 3-pointers, 699 3-point attempts and 121 games played. The three-time all-conference performer also finished sixth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,695 points.
Wittchow, a 2019 All-WIAC First Team selection, concluded his four-year Titan career ranked 17th on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,210 career points. The national championship contest was also the last in the career of senior Alex Van Dyke, who helped UW-Oshkosh compile an 89-32 record and make a program-record four consecutive NCAA postseason appearances.
The Titans reached this year's title game with a 104-85 win over Wheaton College in the semifinals Friday (March 15) in Fort Wayne. Swarthmore College beat ninth-ranked Christopher Newport University (Va.), 70-63, in Friday's other semifinal. UW-Oshkosh trailed for just nine minutes, 41 seconds – all in the first half against Wheaton College – during its six-game run to the Division III championship.
With Saturday's title-clinching victory, UW-Oshkosh interim head coach Matt Lewis (29-3 record) leads all 1,099 active NCAA men's basketball coaches with a .906 winning percentage.
UW-Oshkosh has now won 47 team national titles, including the 32nd in Division III. The men's basketball championship is the school's first since the women's indoor track & field team won the 2014 Division III title. Nine different Titan programs have claimed Division III championships (men's and women's basketball, men's and women's indoor track & field, men's and women's outdoor track & field, men's and women's cross country, baseball).