UW-Oshkosh secured a return trip to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship Sweet 16 in impressive fashion, setting a new program postseason scoring record en route to a 108-86 victory over University of Northwestern (Minn.) in the Collegeville (Minn.) Regional final Saturday (March 2).
UW-Oshkosh (25-3), ranked fourth in the country by D3hoops.com, never trailed Saturday on the way to eclipsing the program's previous highest scoring NCAA postseason effort established during a 95-88 overtime win at Augustana College (Ill.) in last year's national quarterfinals.
The Titans, who also tied the program record for wins in a season, jumped out to an 11-2 lead against University of Northwestern and maintained a cushion of at least eight points for the last 30 minutes of the game. UW-Oshkosh, which had 100 points with five minutes to play, reached the century mark for the first time since a 104-60 win over Finlandia University (Mich.) on Dec. 12, 2017.
UW-Oshkosh, last year's national runner-up, advances to play in the third round of the Division III Championship on Friday (March 8) against 20th-ranked Loras College (Iowa). Loras College (23-6) won the Naperville (Ill.) Regional title by an 84-82 score over host North Central College on Saturday.
The Titans' offensive explosion in the regional championship game featured a game-high 25 points and seven assists from Ben Boots; 24 points and four rebounds by Brett Wittchow; 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks from Adam Fravert; 19 points and a career-high 11 rebounds by Connor Duax; and 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists from Jack Flynn.
Flynn became the 35th Titan to score 1,000 career points – the third on this year's roster – after the second of his back-to-back layups that gave UW-Oshkosh a 21-13 lead at the 11:53 mark of the first half. Flynn now has 1,008 points in his three seasons with the Titans. UW-Oshkosh seniors Boots and Wittchow have also surpassed the 1,000-point mark. Boots, the seventh-leading scorer in program history, has 1,643 career points while Wittchow 1,156.
Boots also made six 3-pointers Saturday to extend his program record to 264 for his career. He finished the regional title game two assists shy of tying Matt Miller's school career mark of 399.
Fravert recorded his second straight and 14th career double-double. Duax's double-double was the second of his career.
UW-Oshkosh finished the game shooting 50.6 percent (41-81) from the field, 47.2 percent (17-36) from 3-point range and 64.3 percent (9-14) at the free throw line. The Titans owned advantages of 49-38 in rebounds, 21-14 in assists, 7-4 in steals, 8-5 in blocks and 6-10 in turnovers.
The Titans, who have outrebounded 27 of their last 30 opponents dating back to last season, entered Saturday ranked ninth nationally with a +9.3 average rebounding margin, 14th with a +16.0 average scoring margin, 15th with a 1.44 assist-to-turnover ratio and 18th with 10.8 turnovers per game.
The Titans' 41 made field goals are their most since making a program-high 49 during a 123-105 win over Grinnell College (Iowa) on Jan. 4, 2007. UW-Oshkosh, which also matched its season high with 17 made 3-pointers and eight blocks, has connected on at least 11 shots from beyond the arc 13 times this season.
University of Northwestern (22-7) shot 44 percent (33-75) from the floor, 55.6 percent (15-27) from behind the 3-point arc and 71.4 percent (5-7) at the foul line.
The Eagles went into the game ranked second in the nation with a 1.88 assist-to-turnover ratio, fourth with 9.8 turnovers per game, 12th with 18.5 assists per contest and 16th with 89.1 points per game.
University of Northwestern's Noah Alm led all players with 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the field, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range, in 28 minutes off the bench.
Anderson Bazile Jr. added 15 points for the Eagles, who also received 14 points and 11 rebounds from Tanner Youngberg, and 12 points from Brady Bellefeuille. Michael Moore chipped in seven points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks for University of Northwestern.
UW-Oshkosh opened the scoring on a Fravert 3-pointer just 14 seconds into the game. University of Northwestern pulled within 12-11 at the 15:51 mark of the first half, but the Titans answered with nine of the next 11 points, including four from Flynn, for a 21-13 advantage.
A string of eight unanswered points by UW-Oshkosh increased its lead to 32-17 following back-to-back 3-pointers from Boots and Wittchow. The Titans headed into intermission with a 57-38 advantage as UW-Oshkosh went 11-for-21 from beyond the 3-point arc during the first 20 minutes.
University of Northwestern cut its deficit to 60-52 with 17:31 remaining and trailed by 10 with 13 minutes to play, but the Titans put the game away with a 16-4 scoring run that pushed their lead to 89-67 at the 8:19 mark. Duax sparked the decisive run with a dunk before Eric Peterson contributed five straight points in the span of 44 seconds and Wittchow capped the surge with a 3-pointer.
The Titans held their largest lead of 27 points at 104-77 following a Duax layup with 4:22 left.
UW-Oshkosh and University of Northwestern were playing for the second time and first since a 94-70 Titan victory during the 1991-92 campaign.
Members of the UW-Oshkosh's Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which have combined for 12 NCAA men's basketball titles, have played 183 games in the national tournament. The Titans' 108 points Saturday were the conference's third most during NCAA postseason play, trailing only UW-Whitewater's 112 points in 1989 and UW-Platteville's 110 in 1991.
UW-Oshkosh is in the Sweet 16 for the third time. The Titans and Loras College will be meeting for the first time since a 73-72 UW-Oshkosh win in overtime Dec. 30, 2012.