Titans fall to CWRU 77-74 in shocker

Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

UWO men's basketball
Kyra Slakes / Advance-Titan
Senior Eddie Muench scored 21 points in the Division III Tournament second round loss to Case Western Reserve.

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team fell to Case Western Reserve University 77-74 on Saturday at the Kolf Sports Center in the second round of the Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Spartans (20-6) stormed back from 16 points down to advance to the Sweet 16. Cole Frilling, who scored just four points in the game, scored the go-ahead basket with nine seconds to go to put Case Western on top 75-74. CWRU is playing in their first NCAA Tournament in program history.
After the game, Titan head coach Matt Lewis said the team did a phenomenal job in the loss.
“It’s after losses like this that it’s kinda hard to comprehend fully what just occurred,” Lewis said. “Obviously they played a great game. We just came up one possession short. Unfortunately in the world of sports, that’s what happens sometimes.”
UWO, ranked third in the country by D3hoops.com, was led by senior Eddie Muench who scored 21 points in the loss. The WIAC player of the year Levi Borchert was held to seven points and 11 rebounds. Hunter Plamann, a WIAC First Team selection, scored 16 points and grabbed four rebounds for the Titans.
“I just let the game come to me and my teammates got me open,” Muench said. “This has been the best year of my life, so I’m so grateful for these opportunities. I’ll never take it for granted. I’m just grateful for all that has happened.”
Case Western guard Mitch Prendergast led the Spartans with 15 points. Prendergast went into the game as the second-best free-throw shooter in the nation, shooting 93.4% from the charity stripe. CWRU dominated in bench points, outscoring UWO 44-21. Off the bench, Ryan Newton and Hunter Drenth scored 21 and 19 points, respectively, in the win.
“I honestly don’t know what just happened,” CWRU head coach Todd McGuinness said after the game. “When they went on a 7-0 run I thought we were in a little bit of trouble, but this team battled back. I didn’t even have to say very much at halftime. It was just a great effort, these guys just don’t want to lose.”
The Titans took an early 7-5 lead after Plamann converted on a three-point play, and UWO would lead the game until the 7:13 mark of the second half. Oshkosh slowly built their lead to 41-27 by the end of the first period.
Cole Booth scored 14 seconds into the second half to give the Titans a 16-point lead, their largest of the game. The contest quickly took a bad turn for the Titans, who saw their lead cut to just one point with 7:38 remaining. The Spartans claimed their first lead of the game since the opening two minutes after a pair of Frilling free throws. Oshkosh responded with points from Plamann and Muench as the Titans went up 68-62 with 2:30 to go.
UWO found themselves up 74-70 with 30 seconds left but gave up the final seven points to CWRU. Prendergast was fouled on a three-pointer and converted all of his attempts. On the inbounds pass, Plamann was trapped in the corner and the referees called a jump ball, giving the possession back to the Spartans.
Frilling scored the go-ahead shot with nine seconds after he grabbed an offensive board and scored off a layup. The Titans turned the ball over once again and were forced to commit a foul on Prendergast with 1.1 seconds to go. Prendergast was perfect in his trip to the line, increasing the Case Western lead to 77-74. Muench threw up a wild shot at the buzzer but hit the side of the rim as the Titans fell to CWRU.
Oshkosh shot 40.3% from the floor and made just 10 shots the entire second half. The Titans shot 27.3% from three-point land and 66.7% from the foul line. Case Western shot 48.4 from the field, 22.2% from deep, and 86.7% from the free-throw line. The Spartans entered the Tournament sixth in the nation in free-throw percentage, shooting 77.7%
Case Western Reserve will take on Mary-Hardin Baylor in the Sweet 16 of the Division III Championship on March 11.
McGuinness said that the experience of being in the tournament has been great.
“It’s just a fun group, everyday has been fun,” said McGuinness. “When you have these seasons, they just fly by and you have so much fun.”
Oshkosh defeated Blackburn College 92-74 to advance to the second round of the tournament behind Cole Boothe’s career high 23 points on Friday at Kolf.
“I was feeling it all night and my teammates were setting me up so it felt pretty amazing,” Boothe said. “We don’t really care who scores the basketball, we’re just looking for a great shot in the possession.”
UWO never led in the game, maintaining a double-digit lead for the final 23 minutes. Levi Borchert had his 15th double-double of the year, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Four of the five UWO starters scored double-digits, scoring a combined 66 points. Muench and Plamann scored 16 and 10 points, respectively, in the win.
Five Titans received all conference recognition last Wednesday as Borchert, Muench and Plamann were selected to the All-WIAC First Team. Quinn Steckbauer was one of 10 players on the Honorable Mention Team, and Eric Peterson was named to the All-Defensive Team. JT Petrie was chosen to the All-Sportsmanship team. Lewis was named WIAC Coach of the Year and is only the third coach in UWO program history to win the award.