UWO wins first national title in program history

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team defeated Swarthmore College 96-82, to finish its redemption quest


Calvin Skalet

The team poses for a photo after winning the championship game.

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball season included a 23-game win streak, a conference title and finally, a national championship.

The Titans defeated Swarthmore College last Saturday in Fort Wayne, Indiana by a final score of 96-82 to capture their first national title in program history.

Swarthmore played a physical brand of defense to make up for the size deficit, but UWO junior Jack Flynn feasted on the Swarthmore interior. Flynn scored a career-high 33 points on 13-18 shooting and added seven rebounds.

Flynn said taking over in a big spot was a product of his teammates getting him open shots at the basket.

“It’s just a mentality I have when I go into a game,” Flynn said. “Luckily, I have the guards who can give me the ball in a good position.”

Over the course of the tournament, Flynn averaged nearly 18 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game to earn the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Flynn said winning Most Outstanding Player was only possible because of those around him.

“It’s definitely a very special thing for me,” Flynn said. “It’s a great honor. I couldn’t have done it without my great teammates and my great coach — all of my great coaches.”

The Titans were able to scorch the Swarthmore defense throughout the game as they shot 52 percent from the field.

Once again, all Titan starters ended the night in double figures as sophomore Connor Duax had 16, seniors Brett Wittchow and Ben Boots scored 14 and 10, respectively, and junior Adam Fravert poured in 14 points. The starters combined for 87 of the Titans’ 96 points.

Titan junior Jack Flynn shoots a baby hook shot over Garnet defender.
Lydia Sanchez
Titan junior Jack Flynn shoots a baby hook shot over Garnet defender.

As was the case in the Elite Eight round, Boots had an off-shooting night but was able to contribute to the team effort with six rebounds and seven assists.

Boots said after losing in the national championship last year, they were not going to relive that mistake this season.

“Getting to the national championship game and losing is one of the most devastating feelings,” Boots said. “We knew that we’re fortunate enough to get back. We weren’t going to let that happen again.”

Fravert recorded a double-double, adding 12 rebounds, five blocks, three steals and two assists to his 14-point outing. He was also named to the All-Tournament team for his efforts.

Fravert said the team was focused in its pursuit of redemption from last year’s loss.

“Going into this tournament this year, I feel like we were a lot more focused,” Fravert said. “We knew that we wanted to win the championship this year because last year we were so close. I don’t know if any of us are going to forget what it felt like to lose in the national championship, and I don’t know if any of us are going to forget what it feels like to win in the national championship.”

Wittchow said the success they had during the regular season prepared them for this postseason run.

“We were tested all year,” Wittchow said. “We got every team’s best shot. A lot of the year we were ranked top five. We had a winstreak going. We would get big leads and they would start to chip away at them. We found a way to win, and I think that came into play tonight.”

The team used its size to get in the paint and ultimately, get to the free-throw line as the team went 21-26 from the charity stripe. The Titans also played a disciplined defense as Swarthmore only went to the line four times in the game.

Boots said when he looks back on his career, he will remember a lot of things, but mostly, he will remember this game.

“National championship,” Boots said. “That’s the one thing we always wanted. You push away all the other individual things. From where this program was four years ago compared to where it is now, there have been so many special people who have been a part of that, and Brett and I are lucky to be two of those people.”

Head coach Matt Lewis said he knew when he was recruiting these seniors, that they would be great additions to the program.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better group,” Lewis said. “Looking back at their career and where we started, and where we’ve ended, there’s been some awesome moments along the way. I remember the day that [Boots and Wittchow] committed. I remember the day that Alex Van Dyke committed. From that day forward, we knew that we were going to have something special.”

Prior to winning the national championship, the Titans had to get through Wheaton College in the Final Four round of the NCAA D-III tournament. The Titans defeated the Thunder in a thrilling offensive performance, 104-85, last Friday in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

UWO was led by Wittchow, Boots and Flynn who all scored 21 points apiece. Flynn also added 15 rebounds to cap his 10th double-double of the season.

Wheaton senior Aston Francis was coming off a 62-point performance in the Thunder’s Elite Eight victory over Marietta College a week ago, so the Titans made sure to keep the senior in check.

Flynn said it was important for him to rebound effectively to not allow Wheaton to get second chances on possessions.

“All week in practice, the coaches made it a point that we must finish off every play and keep them to one shot especially with someone like Aston Francis,” Flynn said. “You don’t want him getting a second shot if he misses that first one.”

The Titans were able to hold Francis to 23 points on 38 percent shooting in the first half.

Lewis said his best defenders were up to the task in defending the talented guard.

“I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention Connor Duax, our big wing, and Eric Peterson, off the bench,” Lewis said, “Those two guys were incredibly disciplined on [Francis]. Our goal was to make him go left and try to be as disciplined as possible and not foul him. I’m really proud of the way those two guys competed.”

Getting Flynn the ball in the post has been a corner piece of the Titan offense all year, and Boots said nothing changed in the game Saturday.

“Before every game, it’s always one of our focuses: to throw the ball inside and make the defense make a choice,” Boots said. “With Jack, he’s a load to take one-on-one. We’re lucky to have really talented big guys.”

The Titans started out the game strong on an 8-0 run with two threes from Fravert, who ended up with 19 points and eight rebounds on the night.

UWO seniors Brett Wittchow and Ben Boots celebrate the final stage of their championship run. They led the team to the first championship in program history.
Calvin Skalet
UWO seniors Brett Wittchow and Ben Boots celebrate the final stage of their championship run. They led the team to the first championship in program history.

After a back and forth first half, UWO used a 14-0 run to take a 46-41 lead into the break.

Within the first five minutes of the second half, Duax poured in seven points to spark a 14-4 run to put the Titans up by 10 and force the Thunder to take a timeout.

UWO then used stifling defense and hot 3-point shooting to build their lead to 21 at its largest.

All five Titan starters scored in double digits as Duax rounded out the lineup with 14 points and five rebounds.

The Titans out-rebounded Wheaton 49-39 and had a five-rebound advantage on the offensive glass. Those offensive boards led to 18 second-chance points for UWO.

Oshkosh shot 47 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond-the-arc in the contest.

The Titans held Francis to 44 points on 15-38 shooting from the field and 5-20 from the three-point line. Excluding Francis, the rest of the Thunder shot 50 percent from the three-point line, and Francis had only two assists on the evening.

Boots said the team’s experience of going to last year’s Final Four has helped them during this trip.

“We’ve been fortunate to be here last year as well, so we were able to replicate a lot of the things we do,” Boots said. “A lot of it is just staying true to ourselves and just try to be us.”