UWO defeats UWRF in final seconds

Morgan Van Lanen

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh men’s basketball team finished its season 16-9 overall and 9-5 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after defeating UW-River Falls on Saturday, Feb. 20th 65-62. The victory against the Falcons resulted in the Titans earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the 2016 WIAC tournament for the first time since 2007. According to head coach Pat Juckem, his team went into Saturday’s game with a focus on getting the win, rather than playing to get a high seed in the upcoming tournament. However, having a first-round bye has its perks, he said. “It’s a terrific accomplishment,” Juckem said. “It’s a goal this group had set. It means one less game we have to play to get to March Madness, to play in the NCAA tournament. And now we have the opportunity to be in the semifinal and host a game on our campus, which hasn’t been done here for a while.” UWRF took the lead first with a layup by senior forward Jon Christensen with 27 seconds into the game. With 13:51 left in the first half, a 3-pointer by freshman guard Brett Wittchow pulled the Titans within six, making the score 10-16. However, UWO went on a two-minute slump where it was outscored 0-10. With seven seconds to go before the half, junior forward Max Schebel, who shot three-of-five for six points, made a layup to make the score 28-31. The Titans entered the second half down 28-33 but were able to score 37 points and hold the Falcons to 29. Junior forward Sean Dwyer said during the first half his team felt they took too many quick shots. During halftime, they talked about having River Falls defend them deeper into the shot clock for the second half, he said. “We discussed how we needed to tighten up our defense, especially in transition,” Dwyer said. “We knew that if we could string some stops together, then we could come back and build a lead.” Dwyer put the Titans on the board first for the Titans with a 3-pointer, which made the score 31-33 with 18:17 remaining. Their next two came from senior guard Alex Olson, who led the Titans with 17 points and eight rebounds, with 16:37 to go. Freshman guard Ben Boots gave UWO its first lead of the game, 46-45, when he made a layup with 12:35 left, which was the only lead change in the game. Boots finished the night with 14 points and five assists. The final points of the game came when the Falcons’ junior forward Garret Pearson made a layup with 1:02 remaining, to pull his team within three. With one second left, junior guard Kyle Bolger missed a freethrow to close out the game. Overall, the Titans shot 45.5 percent. They committed just seven turnovers while scoring 20 points off of UWRF turnovers. Titan reserves outscored Falcon reserves 35-4. According to Dwyer, having a strong bench allows for he and fellow starters to have confidence in their team when they are not in the game. “First off, our bench is awesome,” Dwyer said. “Not just the guys that play, but every last guy on the bench brings energy each and every game. We don’t see guys as starters or reserves because the guys on the bench could easily start as well; that’s how deep of a team we have.” The Titans will host the highest-remaining seed on Friday, Feb. 26th at 7:00 p.m. The game will take place at Albee Hall while the Kolf Center is being utilized by the track and field team. Juckem has experience coaching at Albee and he said his team has known about the chance of playing there for over a year, and they have visualized during practices what it would be like to have a game there. “I’ve actually coached a game in there when I was an assistant at a different school, back in 2004, and it was an awesome atmosphere,” Juckem said. “Our guys are embracing the fact that it is going to be unique. We are spending this week practicing in there and getting ready.” Sophomore guard Charlie Noone said he is ready to take on the postseason with his team who went 8-3 at home and 6-5 on the road this season. “I’m mostly looking forward to just suiting up with my teammates and competing at a super high level,” Noone said. “It will also be fun to play in some great atmospheres.”