Boots' Career Scoring Best Leads Titans To NCAA Final Four

UW-Oshkosh defeated Augustana College, 95-88 in overtime, to advance to its first NCAA Division III Final Four.
UW-Oshkosh defeated Augustana College, 95-88 in overtime, to advance to its first NCAA Division III Final Four.

Ben Boots scored a career-high 36 points as UW-Oshkosh secured the first trip to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship Final Four in program history with a thrilling 95-88 victory in overtime at Augustana College (Ill.) during the quarterfinal round Saturday (March 10) in Rock Island, Ill.

UW-Oshkosh (24-7) reclaimed a 75-74 lead on a 3-pointer from Boots with 44 seconds left in regulation. Kyle Beyak split a pair of free throws to increase the Titan advantage to 76-74 with 25 seconds to play, but Augustana College's Chrishawn Orange sent the game into overtime on a short floater in the lane with five seconds remaining.

The Vikings knotted the score for the 18th and final time at 85 following a pair of free throws from Brett Benning at the 2:11 mark in overtime. The Titans then took the lead for good at 87-85 on two free throws by Brett Wittchow with 99 seconds left.

Wittchow drained a 3-pointer to extend the Titan advantage to 90-85 with 25 seconds to go. The Vikings' Nolan Ebel answered with two free throws that trimmed the Augustana College deficit to 90-87 with 21 second remaining, but Boots, who accounted for 29 of the Titans' last 50 points, knocked down a pair of free throws of his own for a 92-87 advantage.

Augustana College's Joe Kellen made one of two shots at the foul line to pull the Vikings within 92-88 before the Titans provided the final scoring with one free throw by Adam Fravert with 15 seconds left and a pair of makes at the charity stripe from Jake Laihinen with nine seconds remaining.

UW-Oshkosh, ranked 24th in the country by, advances to play in the Division III Final Four against Ramapo College (N.J.) (25-6) Friday (March 16) in Salem, Va. The opening tip between the first-time opponents is set for 4 p.m. (CDT) in the Salem Civic Center.

Boots, who shot 12 of 23 from the field Saturday, tallied 20 points in the second half and added nine during overtime. He concluded the contest 8-for-18 from 3-point range while leading the Titans with six assists. Boots surpassed his previous career high of 31 points established during an 83-72 setback at Wartburg College (Iowa) on Nov. 19, 2016.

Wittchow had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Titans, who also received 12 points and a team-leading eight boards from Jack Flynn. Laihinen, who entered Saturday's contest with 20 points on the season, contributed eight points in a season-high 22 minutes off the bench.

UW-Oshkosh shot 17-for-35 (48.6 percent) from 3-point range and 24-for-31 (77.4 percent) at the free throw line. The Titans' 17 3-point baskets tied for second most in school history – four shy of the 21 they made during a 91-70 win at UW-Stout on Feb. 17.

The Titans held advantages in assists (10-7) and turnovers (10-7) while both teams collected 41 rebounds.

Ninth-ranked Augustana College (25-6) out-shot the Titans, 42.9 to 40.3 percent, from the field. The Vikings, who lost for just the 10th time in their past 72 games in the Roy J. Carver Center For Physical Education, went 27-for-63 from the floor, including 5-for-20 (25 percent) from beyond the arc.

Ebel led all players with a career-high 38 points for the Vikings. He shot 12-for-19 from the field and 11-for-12 at the free throw line.

Benning recorded 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds for Augustana College while Orange finished with 13 points, six rebounds and a team-leading two assists.

UW-Oshkosh scored the first eight points of the game and maintained an advantage until Augustana College knotted the score at 18 on a layup by Orange at the 8:39 mark of the first half.

The Vikings took their first lead at 26-25 on a free throw from Ebel with 5:51 to go in the first period.

Boots drilled a 3-pointer for a 39-36 Titan edge with six seconds left in the opening period, but Ebel hit a long-range jumper at the buzzer to tie the score at 39 at intermission.

Ebel's buzzer-beater sparked a string of eight straight points by the Vikings, who opened a 44-39 lead with 18:39 left in the second half. Augustana College went on to build its largest lead of eight points at 48-40 following a jumper by Ebel at the 17:30 mark of the second period.

UW-Oshkosh claimed its first lead of the second half at 61-60 on a 3-pointer from Sam Ebersold with 6:59 remaining in regulation.

Augustana College owned a 72-66 advantage with 3:03 left in the second half after a 3-pointer from Benning, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Boots in the span of 51 seconds tied the score at 72 with 1:53 to go.

UW-Oshkosh also defeated Augustana College by a 95-89 score in double-overtime in Oshkosh on Dec. 2.

The Vikings were making their fourth consecutive appearance in the national quarterfinals. Augustana College, which owns a 42-18 record in 18 NCAA postseason appearances, was the Division III runner-up in 1981, 1993, 2015 and 2017.

UW-Oshkosh, which reached the national quarterfinals in 2003, improved to 11-7 in eight trips to the Division III Championship.

UW-Oshkosh previously reached the 1968 Final Four in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, finishing third in Kansas City, Mo.

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