UWO defeats UWEC, advances to WIAC championship game

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  • Jacob Link / Advance-Titan — Oshkosh’s Jonah Rindfleisch goes up for a dunk against Eau Claire Feb. 24.

  • Jacob Link / Advance-Titan — UWO’s Levi Borchert goes up for a jump shot in Oshkosh win over UWEC Feb. 24.

  • Jacob Link / Advance-Titan — Levi Borchert posts up against a Blugold defender Feb. 24

  • Jacob Link / Advance-Titan — UWO’s Jonah Rindfleisch throws down a dunk against UWEC Feb. 24.

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Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

The UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team blew out UW-Eau Claire 82-62 at the Kolf Sports Center Feb. 24 to advance to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship game.

UWO senior forward Levi Borchert led the Titans (21-5, 13-1 WIAC) with his 14th double-double of the season, scoring a game high 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Off the bench, guard Will Mahoney scored 18 points and finished the game shooting over 50% from the field. Eric Peterson and Carter Thomas each scored nine points, while Hunter Plamann had a game-high five assists. Oshkosh, ranked No. 11 in the nation by d3hoops.com, outshot UWEC in the WIAC semifinal 51.6%-42.9%.

UWO head coach Matt Lewis said he was impressed with the energy from the entire crew.

“From the starters to the guys at the end of the bench, their approach to our warmup, our pregame, our workouts and our shootarounds was great,” Lewis said. “I just thought our energy and our focus from the collective group was awesome tonight.”

For the Blugolds (17-10, 8-6 WIAC), senior Brock Voigt finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds while both Nolan Blair and Spencer Page also scored 12 points in the game. Eau Claire shot just 15% from behind the arc, while UWO shot 36% from 3-point land.

Oshkosh, who is on a 12-game win streak, scored the first points of the game and never looked back, leading for all but 18 seconds of the game. Peterson converted on a layup for the first bucket of the contest, kickstarting an 18-0 scoring run for the Titans. It took eight minutes of game time for the Blugolds to score their first points and UWEC found themselves down 23-5 with 10 minutes left in the first half. The UWO lead reached as high as 19 points in the first half after a Mahoney 3-pointer, but a string of baskets from Eau Claire narrowed the advantage to 40-25 at the end of the half.

Although UWO’s Jonah Rindfleisch scored the first basket of the second half, UWEC went on an 8-2 run to start the period and cut the Oshkosh lead to 11 points with 16 minutes to play. The Titans responded with a 9-2 run behind a Thomas 3-pointer to bring their lead to 20 points with under 10 minutes to go. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the way, with UWO comfortably maintaining a double-digit lead en route to advancing to their third WIAC championship game in five years.

Both Borchert and Lewis said the preparation before the game was the biggest factor in the win.

“We had a lot of time to prepare,” Borchert said. “We had a few days to just focus on ourselves and we weren’t really worried about our opponents, especially since we didn’t know who it was until the other day.”

“We hadn’t played since Feb. 15 and the guys have spent a lot of time on themselves over the last week and a half,” Lewis said. “We learned our opponent Monday night and the guys kept their focus each and every day and I thought we invested a lot and got quite a bit better over the last nine or 10 days.”

Lewis said the biggest thing he’s excited about is the chance to play another game in the tournament.

“We’ve got a chance to play in Kolf on Sunday at 1 p.m. for a conference championship, so my biggest thing is that we’ve got another opportunity and we need to make the most of it,” he said.

The Titans will take on UW-Whitewater (20-7, 9-5 WIAC), who knocked off La Crosse 72-68, in the WIAC championship game Feb. 26 at the Kolf Sports Center at 1 p.m.