Men’s basketball moves into second place tie in conference

Defense and three-point shooting fueled the UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team in a 71-49 victory over UW-Eau Claire in the Kolf Sports Center on Wednesday night. Sophomore Charlie Noone led Oshkosh with 17 points on 5 of 11 shooting, as the Titans moved into a three-way tie for second place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings. Head coach Pat Juckem said with two weeks remaining and with the conference race being tight, his players are looking forward to playing some very meaningful games. “We want to reach our full potential,” Juckem said. “When it’s all said and done, will we be able to say that we become the best possible team we could be? I think, that if we can look back and say that, then regardless of the results, our heads will be high and we will feel good about what we did this year.” Oshkosh never trailed in the game and jumped out to an early 7-1 lead after Eau Claire missed its first five shots from the floor with three turnovers. The Blugolds made their first field goal 5 minutes, 25 seconds into the game. Eau Claire turned the ball over 17 times, and Oshkosh took advantage with 23 points off turnovers. Oshkosh extended its lead to double digits with a 3-pointer from freshman Ben Boots to give the Titans a 13-3 advantage. Consecutive triples from junior Sean Dwyer and Noone gave the Oshkosh its largest lead of the first half 21-9 with 8 minutes, 44 seconds left. The Titans lead the conference in three-point shooting and made 8 of 24 attempts from long range against the Blugolds. Freshman Brett Wittchow knocked down a deep 3-pointer as time expired in the first half, and the Titans went into halftime with a 38-26 advantage. The Titans made six of their first seven shots to begin the second half, which extended their lead to 50-28. Oshkosh shot 47.3 percent from the floor for the game as the Titans coasted in the second half for their third consecutive win. The Titans overcame a 20-point second-half deficit to defeat UW-Stout 66-65 on Feb. 6 in Menomonie. “It was an interesting game,” Oshkosh head coach Pat Juckem said. “We did not come out; we didn’t play very well, and our guys would be the first to admit that and to own up that. I give credit to Stout’s players, they played with great purpose from the opening tip.” UWO’s only lead of the game came when senior Alex Olson made a jumper with less than 21 seconds left. Then, with seven seconds remaining, Stout’s Brett Ahsenmacher missed a 3-pointer that would have put the Blue Devils on top. Boots got the rebound to secure the win for the Titans. “We just stuck together as a group and kept trust in each other that we would be able to find a way to win,” Boots said. The Titans entered the second half of the game down 24-39. UWO started its comeback with 19:10 left by making nine of 13 3-pointers. Four of them came from Noone, Olson added three, and junior Kyle Bolger and Boots each made one. With 11:20 left in the game, Olson sank a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 10 points. Bolger and Wittchow each added a layup that put the score at 48-55 with eight minutes remaining. With six minutes to go, Stout went on a seven-point run to put the Blue Devils on top 61-48. However, another 3-pointer by Olson with 3:31 to go created a spark for UWO. The Titans held the Blue Devils to just two points during the final four minutes of the game. Juckem said that one of the biggest problems his team faced during the game was controlling the ball on offense and said there were times when his players were too careless. “We had 16 turnovers,” Juckem said. “Our passing and catching weren’t great. And those turnovers, we talk that those are ‘turnovers for touchdowns.’ One led to a dunk and that gives a team great energy: they didn’t have to work and generate that offense against our set defense.” Stout scored 20 points off the Titans’ 16 turnovers, and Juckem said turning the ball over has been a problem at times this season. “By turning it over, we fed their fast-break,” Juckem said. “And that’s something, from time to time this year, that has been an issue with us, but our guys are well aware that we need to address it.” The Titans, now 14-8 and 7-4 in conference, have three more regular season games. Oshkosh plays its next game on the road against UW-La Crosse on Saturday at 5 p.m. Bolger said it is especially important to carry the momentum into the remaining games because they are all against conference opponents. “Every conference game is huge, especially at this point in the season,” Bolger said. “To come back like that was big for us because it showed us that we can go through adversity in games and still fight our way back to a victory.”