Titans advance to Sweet 16

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  • Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — UWO’s Cole Booth drives on a Hope defender in the second round of the NCAA tournament March 4.

  • Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — UW Oshkosh’s Levi Borchert (30) hands the ball off to Cole Booth (11) against Hope College March 4.

  • Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — UWO’s Hunter Plamann drives to the basket against a Flying Dutchman defender March 4.

  • Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — Oshkosh’s Will Mahoney dribbles the ball against Hope College March 4.

  • Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — Cole Booth tosses up a layup against the Flying Dutchman March 4.

  • Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — Levi Borchert posts up against a Hope defender March 4.

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Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

Head coach Matt Lewis won his 100th game at the helm of the UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team as the Titans grinded out the victory against Hope College 51-50 at the Kolf Sports Center March 4 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

UWO advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament with the win and will take on Rowan University (N.J.) (24-5) March 10.

Lewis, who began coaching at UWO in 2019, has compiled a 100-24 record in five seasons and led the Titans to a national championship in 2019.

Senior guard Will Mahoney said the Titans were able to grind out the win because of the confidence the team had.

“Coach tells us to believe in the moment and in the huddles he kept telling us ‘guys, we’re going to win this game’ and we stayed confident,” Mahoney said. “Confidence is what it takes and knowing that you’re going to win helps us execute on the court.”

Mahoney scored a game-high 23 points in the win, going 5-12 from behind the arc and grabbing nine rebounds. Senior Forward Levi Borchert had his 17th double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Forward Jonah Rindfleisch shot 50% from the floor in the game, finishing with eight points. A total of six other Titans combined for eight points as UWO shot just 35% from the field in the game.

Mahoney said he could feel himself heat up from the floor during the game.

“Once a couple go down, shots are easier to get up and every time you make one, you get more confidence to shoot the next one,” Mahoney said “My teammates were finding me, and it was just a great effort all around.”

The Flying Dutchman had three players finish in double figures, with forward Evan Thomas leading the way with 14 points and eight rebounds. Guard Clayton Dykhouse scored 13 points for Hope while center Gabe Quillan finished with 11 points and 10 boards.

The two teams traded baskets for the first five minutes of the game until Hope’s Thomas scored five straight points with 13 minutes to go in the first half to give the Flying Dutchman a 13-8 lead following a 3-pointer. UWO took its first lead of the game when Mahoney knocked down a 3-pointer to cap off a 5-0 run and give the Titans a one-point advantage.

With just under eight minutes to play in the first half, Borchert extended the Oshkosh lead to five points after a layup, but Hope responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 21. A Mahoney 3-pointer jump started a 7-0 run for Oshkosh, who took a 28-21 lead with 4:41 to go in the period. The Flying Dutchman hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes, but UWO went into the break leading 30-26.

After Quinn Steckbauer missed a layup to begin the second half, Thomas nailed a 3-pointer for Hope and kick started an 8-0 run for the Flying Dutchman, giving them a 34-30 lead with 18 minutes to play. The Titans responded with a 7-0 run after a timeout, leading 42-39 after Mahoney converted on another 3-pointer. 

Hope tied the game at 44 after a 3-pointer from Tanner Wiegerink 3-pointer, but Mahoney put UWO ahead for good when he hit a 3-pointer with six minutes to play. Quillan cut the lead to one point after a layup, and the Flying Dutchman had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Thomas’ shot hit the side of the rim.

Mahoney said that the team knew it just needed to breathe after Hope tied the game late in the second half.

“Coach (Lewis) talks a lot about just breathing and being present in the moment,” he said. “We knew good things would come from listening to him. We were just able to string some stops together and then convert on the other end.”

Oshkosh will take on Rowan in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament March 10 at 3:45 p.m. in Alliance, Ohio. You can view the game live at https://oac.boxcast.com/#/channels/2xVZaQz1i7Fjio54gLvb.