Brett Wittchow scored 16 of his team-leading 19 points during the second half, Ben Boots notched his second career double-double and reigning national runner-up UW-Oshkosh trailed on just one occasion en route to a 78-68 victory at UW-Stevens Point during a battle of highly ranked men's basketball teams on Wednesday (Jan. 9).
UW-Oshkosh (13-1, 3-0 WIAC), ranked fifth in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, never trailed after taking a 4-3 lead with 17:01 left in the first half. The Titans, the highest scoring team in the conference, later took the lead for good with 12 unanswered points for a 33-21 advantage at the 5:21 mark of the opening period.
Ninth-ranked UW-Stevens Point (10-3, 2-1 WIAC) pulled within 48-44 with 12:54 remaining, but Boots converted a pair of free throws and Wittchow drilled a 3-pointer that extended the Titan lead to 53-44 with 11:22 to go, and UW-Oshkosh led by at least seven points for the remainder of the contest against the WIAC's top scoring defense.
With the victory, UW-Oshkosh tied the program record with its 12th straight win, matching the feat accomplished during the 1967-68 season. The triumph also snapped UW-Stevens Point's 17-game home winning streak.
UW-Oshkosh, 3-0 in league play for the first time since the 2007-08 season, is off to its best start since opening the 1995-96 campaign with a 16-1 record.
Wittchow shot 8-for-10 from the field, including 7-for-7 during the second half, on the way to his 45th career double-digit scoring effort. Wittchow added six rebounds and connected on three of his four attempts from 3-point range.
Boots had 16 points and a career-best 10 assists as the Titans had five double-digit scorers and shot 56.4 percent (31-55) from the field and 50 percent (12-24) from beyond the 3-point arc. UW-Oshkosh shot just 4-for-7 from the free throw line, marking the Titans' fewest makes and attempts at the foul line this season.
UW-Oshkosh's Jack Flynn contributed 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field while Adam Fravert had 12 points by going 4-for-4 from 3-point range and David Vlotho chipped in 10 points off the bench.
UW-Stevens Point, which entered the contest ranked third nationally by allowing just 60.9 points per game, allowed its most points in regulation in the 43 games since also surrendering 78 against UW-La Crosse on Feb. 18, 2017. The Pointers had not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 51 percent from the field this season.
UW-Oshkosh owned advantages of 30-27 in rebounds and 15-11 in assists. The Titans, who have out-rebounded each of their last 16 opponents dating back to last season, went into Wednesday's contest ranked seventh nationally with a +11.9 average rebounding margin and ninth with a +20.2 average scoring margin while also leading the WIAC in scoring (86.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.57), field goal percentage defense (.412), and per-game assists (17.5), made 3-pointers (10.5) and blocks (4.4).
UW-Stevens Point managed to shoot just 43.4 percent (22-53) from the floor and 23.8 percent (5-21) from 3-point range while converting 17 of 22 (77.3 percent) free throws. The Pointers, who went into the game second in the nation with 9.1 turnovers per contest, committed 10 against the Titans.
The Pointers' Canon O'Heron had a game-high 20 points and a team-leading three assists.
Nate Dodge added 18 points for UW-Stevens Point, which received just two points from reserves as only seven Pointers earned playing time. Pointer starters Ethan Bublitz and Drew Fredrickson chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively. Bublitz led all players with 10 rebounds.
UW-Stevens Point held its lone lead at 3-2 following a free throw from Bublitz with 18:15 to play in the first half. Flynn answered with a short jumper 64 seconds later, and the Titans never trailed again.
The game was tied for the sixth and final time at 21 before Wittchow and Fravert drained back-to-back 3-pointers in the span of 34 seconds to give the Titans the lead for good at 27-21. Vlotho and Boots then added 3-pointers of their own as UW-Oshkosh went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc from the 7:57 mark of the first half until Boots' long-range jumper extended the Titan advantage to 33-21 with 5:21 left before intermission.
Frederickson hit a 3-pointer to cut UW-Stevens Point's deficit to 37-32 in the final minute of the opening period, but the Flynn made a layup with six seconds left for a 39-32 Titan halftime lead.
Bublitz converted a pair of free throws that pulled the Pointers with 48-44 with 12:54 to go. However, Fravert made a 3-pointer to increase UW-Oshkosh's lead to 60-48 with 9:02 left, and the Titans maintained a double-digit cushion until Brett Tauber's short jumper cut the Pointers' deficit to 72-68 with 2:22 remaining.
A pair of Wittchow layups extended UW-Oshkosh's lead back to 10 points at both 74-64 at the 1:52 mark and 76-66 with 76 seconds to go.
UW-Stevens Point won two of three games against UW-Oshkosh last season, securing home wins over the Titans by scores of 77-70 during the regular season and 71-63 in the WIAC Championship semifinals. The Titans defeated UW-Stevens Point, 68-53, in Oshkosh last season before eventually going on to make the program's first appearance in the national championship game.
UW-Oshkosh returns home to host UW-River Falls on Saturday (Jan. 12) in Kolf Sports Center.
Photo courtesy of Larry Radloff, D3Photography.com