Men’s basketball falls in first round of tournament

Morgan Van Lanen

Sophomore guard Charlie Noone scored 12 points, had four rebounds and made two assists as UW Oshkosh fell to Elmhurst College (Ill.) 63-73 on March 4 in the first round of the Division III NCAA Tournament. According to Noone, the team is disappointed about getting beat, but he and his teammates are already looking forward to next season. “Friday’s game was tough,” Noone said. “It was hard to lose on that stage. I think one thing all of us younger guys need to take away is that we are a couple plays away from advancing, and we have the guys coming back to do just that.” This was the Titans’ sixth overall appearance in the tournament and first since 2003. Junior forward Sean Dwyer said the thing his team wants to accomplish most every season is exactly the same, and this year, they finally got a chance to do it. “Since I stepped foot on campus in fall of 2013, the goal of our team has always been to compete for a National Championship,” Dwyer said. Dwyer, who tallied six points against the Bluejays, said Friday’s game was an indicator that UWO is good enough to compete at the level necessary to win a national championship. However, his team was not able to pull out a win against Elmhurst, who won a game in last year’s NCAA tournament. “We knew they were a very solid, veteran team,” Dwyer said. “They have nine seniors who have a lot of experience and they have played in many big games in their careers. In practice, we went over all of their set plays, but like all year, we focused on playing our game.” Senior guard Alex Olson was first to put the Titans on the board when he made a 3-pointer with 17:42 to go in the first half of play. The score remained 3-3 until Elmhurst’s Bryant Ackerman made another 3-pointer for the Bluejays with 17:08 left until halftime. Noone made a layup, which gave UWO its first lead of the game, at the 12:05 minute mark. For the remaining 12:05 of the first half, there were four lead-changes and four ties. The Titans and the Bluejays went into halftime with 29 points apiece. Elmhurst’s Erik Crittenden went in for a layup 50 seconds into the second half that put Elmhurst on top 31-29. Olson responded 59 seconds later with two points. Olson led the Titans with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists in Friday’s game. According to Head Coach Pat Juckem, Olson’s legacy and his commitment to basketball will remain with the team and the school in the years to come. “Alex really has grown with the program,” Juckem said. “His role shifted this year. A year ago we really relied on him to score and we really leaned on him heavily. We had a sense going into this season that we could be more balanced and more efficient and we challenged him to maybe not shoot as much. Knowing Alex, he took as much pleasure in setting up his teammates as he did taking shots himself. He is just a really quality team player and a ‘team-first’ guy.” With 9:51 to go, a layup by Ackerman put the Bluejays up 49-40. The Titans then scored 15 points in 5 minutes and 14 seconds. With 4:37 left, Noone scored a 3-pointer to pull UWO within two. UWO was able to stay within seven until Elmhurst’s Eric Leonard sank two free throws to make the score 57-66 with 1:08 to go. Freshman guard Brett Wittchow said the Titans focused on boxing out and finishing plays during practice before Friday’s game, as they knew Elmhurst had physical players who were going to try and draw fouls. “Probably the most important thing that I can take away from Friday’s game was how important getting to the free-throw line is,” Wittchow said. “We ended the game four of six from the line, and they ended 34 of 40 from the line. That was the game right there.” Freshman guard Ben Boots missed a 3-pointer and Peyton Wyatt made a defensive rebound for the Bluejays to close out the game. The Titans ended the game shooting 25 of 62 from the field and nine of 38 from the 3-point range. 23 of their 63 points came from the bench. Juckem stated that his team needs a few weeks to regroup, regenerate and reflect on the season as a whole. However, they are proud of what they accomplished this year and are looking forward for what is to come. “I use the expression with my guys, ‘You never arrive, you are always becoming. There’s always something more,’” Juckem said. “I think the experience our guys had leaves them very hungry. Juckem also added that if his team wants to be successful again next season, it would take just as much effort as it did this year. “I think they got a taste for how great the experience is and, as a basketball player, being able to participate in true March Madness and play in the big tournament, is a pinnacle experience,” Juckem said. “And I know the returning guys are motivated to not only get back, but to hopefully advance and go farther than they did this year.”