Titans open season with high expectations

After winning five straight games and reaching the National Championship game last season, the Titans started their season off with a three-game road trip, winning two of those contests. In the midst of its non-conference season, the team looks to string together some wins heading into conference play and the postseason.

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Lydia Sanchez

Sophomore Connor Duax (20) goes in for a contested layup as junior Jack Flynn boxes out a North Park opponent.

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team, now ranked No. 9 in the d3hoops.com’s men’s basketball rankings, began its regular season with a 3-1 record over the past couple of weeks.

The Titans took on North Park University (Ill.) on Tuesday, coming out with a convincing victory, 86-53. From the opening tip, everything was going right for the Titans as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead and never trailed throughout the game.

By halftime, the Titans were able to build a 29-point lead heading into the break. Junior forward Adam Fravert posted 12 points in the half and drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Titans the lead.

Fravert said even though they had a large lead going into halftime, the Titans knew they had to stay focused on not letting North Park back into the game.

“We’ve lost leads before so we know that we’ve gotta stay focused; we can’t get loose and keep playing tight,” Fravert said. “We still had seven turnovers going into halftime so we still had improvements that we needed to make. So we just had to stay focused basically.”

Over the course of the second half, the Titan lead ballooned up to 39 points at one time, and they coasted to the victory while getting 16 players minutes in the contest.

The Titans had seven players with seven points or more. Sophomore Connor Duax provided a spark off the bench and put up nine points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 16 minutes of action.

Freshman guard Eric Peterson came in off the bench and had six rebounds in 22 minutes while playing hustle defense and going after loose balls.

Peterson said when he enters the game, he’s just trying to play mistake-free basketball.

“I’m just trying to do everything coach asks me to do,” Peterson said. “Just trying to help run the team, help make good plays and I know I’m surrounded by very good scorers so I don’t have to do much. Just have to make the smart play all the time.”

Head coach Matt Lewis said he was impressed with the way his bench players came into the game and played well.

“Those bench guys are emerging,” Lewis said. “Just having those guys step up and provide some sort of contribution whether that’s getting a rebound, a loose ball or making a good play defensively helps. Tonight I thought every guy that played contributed in some facet.”

After trailing at halftime, the Titans were able to score 51 points in the second half to defeat Edgewood College in Madison on Nov. 20.

All five Titan starters scored in double digits as they were led by Fravert with 26 and Boots with 23. UWO went 22-25 from the free-throw line led by Boots who went 11-12 from the charity stripe with all 12 of his attempts coming in the second half.

The team traveled to Wheaton, Illinois on Nov. 16-17 for the Lee Pfund Classic, hosted by Wheaton College. The Titans played the host team in the championship game, losing 86-74.

UWO was stymied by a poor shooting performance as they shot 32.1 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from the 3-point line.

Brett Wittchow led the Titans with 23 points on 23 shots and seven rebounds. Both Fravert and Jack Flynn recorded double-doubles in the loss. Duax also contributed with 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Wheaton College was boosted a 45-point performance by senior guard Aston Francis as he went to the free-throw line 19 times, converting 16 of those attempts. Francis also added 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

Preseason All-American Ben Boots had a rough game against the Thunder as he shot 2-15 from the field and only added one assist in 35 minutes.

Lewis said he’s not concerned about his senior leader playing better in the future.

“Ben’s Ben, he’ll figure it out,” Lewis said. “Ben’s confidence is never shaken. He always thinks his next shot is going in. Ben’s fine. He still helps us win whenever he’s out on the floor. He plays a huge role and he’ll make shots. It’s not a big deal.”

To get to the championship game, the Titans began the weekend by defeating Piedmont College (Ga.) in their regular season opener by a score of 86-77.

The Titans had four scorers in double digits as Flynn racked up 20 points while Boots accounted for 19. Flynn also recorded 10 rebounds while going 4-6 from the free-throw line. Boots’ points solely came from the free-throw line and beyond the arc as he had four threes and went 7-8 from the charity stripe.

Wittchow also impacted the game, adding 18 points while going 7-7 from the free-throw line and dishing out five assists.

The Titans will be heading back to Illinois to play Elmhurst College on Dec. 1 before returning home on Dec. 4 to face Finlandia University (Mich.).