Titans rise up national rankings

Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team extended their win streak to four games as they defeated UW-Stevens Point on the road on Feb. 9, and UW-La Crosse at home on Feb 12.

The Titans (18-3, 8-2 in Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play) were led by junior forward Levi Borchert, who scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the 79-58 victory over the Pointers (3-14, 0-10 WIAC).

UWO grinded out the 80-77 win against the Eagles (19-4, 9-4 WIAC), ranked seventh in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll, with help from Eddie Muench, who scored 27 points and shot 7-8 from behind the arc. With the two wins, the Titans remained at number three in the Top 25 rankings.

UWO took the early 6-4 lead against Stevens Point, and never looked back. UWSP kept the game close in the first six minutes of the game but went on a cold streak, missing five straight shots, allowing Oshkosh to increase their lead. During the cold stretch for UWSP, the Titans scored 10 straight points to lead 22-8 midway through the first half.

Oshkosh would keep a double-digit cushion for the rest of the game. At halftime, the Titans led 41-23. In the opening 20 minutes, the Titans held the Pointers to 28.6% shooting (8-28).

“We just talk about defense all the time. That’s what we pride ourselves on, the defensive end. We talk about defense basically every day,” said Muench.

Cory Sparks / Advance-Titan
Forwards Levi Borchert (left) and Ethan Anderson (right) jump for the tip-off of UWO’s 80-77 win in a matchup that featured two top-10 nationally ranked teams.

After the break, UWO continued to shoot over 50% as the bench players for the Titans were given quality minutes. For the entire second half, UWO led by at least 18 points. UWSP shot much better in the second half (40.6%), but could never chip away at the Titan lead, as the game finished 79-58.

Borchert was nearly perfect from the floor, shooting 9-11, and had his 11th double-double of the season, a WIAC best. Muench scored 11 points, shooting only 1-6 from deep. Guard JT Petrie and Forward Jonah Rindfleisch each added 11 points for Oshkosh. Rindfleisch scored a career-high in points during the game.

UWO finished the game shooting 54.7% from the floor, 23.5% from three-point range, and only 41.7% from the foul-line. This was the eighth time this season the Titans shot over 50% in a game. Oshkosh led Stevens Point in rebounds (44-28) and assists (20-8).

Stevens Point shot 35% from the field, 21.7% from three, and 91% from the charity stripe. The Pointers lost their 12th straight, and rank 410 out of 411 Division III teams in rebounding where they average just 29.6 per game.
The game was the first played between the two teams this season, as the first meeting was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Oshkosh has now won five straight games against UWSP.

The game between the Titans and UWL was much closer, going down to the final seconds. UWO got out to a fast start, making five of their six shots, and led 24-12 with 8:53 to go in the half. Oshkosh held the Eagles to 0% three-point shooting in the first half. The Titans managed to keep UWL at bay, and by the break, the lead was 31-22.

In the second period both teams came out on fire, as UWO shot 60.7% and UWL shot 58.3% in the half. Slowly, La Crosse chipped away at the Oshkosh lead, cutting the score to 69-66 with 1:53 to play. Guard Hunter Plamann would make back-to-back shots to increase the lead to seven with 61 seconds remaining. But UWL went on a run of their own and cut the lead to 74-71 with 34 seconds to play. La Crosse had the chance to tie the game on the next possession, but UWO’s Cole Booth stole the ball away and was fouled. Booth only made one free throw, and the Eagles ran down the court and hit a three, cutting the lead to 75-74 with eight seconds to go.

Free-throw shooting was the story of the game, as Oshkosh continued to split their free-throws, while La Crosse was mostly able to convert both. That was not the case in the final seconds when UWL missed a crucial free-throw, with Titan Eric Peterson grabbing the rebound and converting on both his free-throws. A last-ditch full court heave was way of the mark for UWL as Oshkosh went on to win 80-77.

“It was a game that we knew we were going to come to play. We had a great week of practice and it translated into the game,” freshman forward Connor Jenkins said. “There are still things we can improve on heading into the playoffs, but we feel like we are ready for any challenge that faces us.”

UWO converted a season high in threes, with 13. Muench led the team with 27 points and three assists, as Oshkosh completed the sweep over La Crosse. The 87.5% three-point shooting percentage by Muench is the 12th best in WIAC history, and the second best in UWO history.

Plamann scored 17 points and six rebounds, as UWO shot 53.6% from the floor, 52% from three, and 46.7% from the line. Borchert scored 15 points, six rebounds and dished out three assists, helping Oshkosh become only the second team all year to score 80 points on UWL.

La Crosse shot 48.4% from the field, 33.3% from three, and 68.8% from the free-throw line. UWL outrebounded the Titans 35-31 and is only the third team to do so this season. Seth Anderson scored 23 points and grabbed nine boards to lead the Eagles. Anderson scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half.

“We are a tight knit group that cares so much about one another, and I feel like that is what separates us from other teams,” Jenkins said.

UWO is now 4-1 against teams ranked in the top eight this season and will look to possibly win the WIAC regular season title against UW-Whitewater on Wednesday.