Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

UWO begins quest for another title

Morgan Feltz / Advance-Titan – UWO’s Quinn Steckbauer drives to the hoop in the WIAC tournament championship game last season at the Kolf Sports Center.

Fresh off a trip to the Elite Eight last season, the UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team will look to compete for a third-straight Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title when the Titans hit the court for their home-opener Nov. 8.

UWO, ranked No. 25 in the nation in’s preseason poll, were picked to finish second in the WIAC behind No. 2 UW-Whitewater in a preseason poll conducted by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.

Oshkosh head coach Matt Lewis said the goal for the team is to just get better every day at practice.

“If we’re fortunate enough to be playing really good basketball in January or February, well then we’ll worry about (winning a title) then,” Lewis said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get better for today.”

Last season, the Titans went 24-7 and 13-1 in the WIAC to claim their third conference championship in the last five years. The Titans fell to Whitewater in the WIAC tournament championship game, but still qualified for the Division III NCAA tournament where they advanced to the quarterfinal round. In their Elite Eight matchup against the University of Mount Union (Ohio), the Titans trailed the entire game and fell 78-67 to the Purple Raiders to end the season.

Lewis returns for his sixth season at the helm of the Titans and will welcome back two of his five starters from last season that allowed a league-low 63.5 points per game and a 42.3% opponent shooting percentage. Lewis, the 2023 WIAC Kwik Trip Coach of the Year, has compiled a career record of 101-25 and has led UWO to four NCAA tournament appearances in the last five years (there was no tournament in 2020). Lewis led the Titans to a national championship in 2019 and has won the most NCAA tournament games in school history.

Lewis said the team’s expectations and standards have become to compete at the highest-level year after year.

“Right now, we’ve been focusing on quite a few young guys who are just trying to focus on getting better each and every day,” Lewis said. “We’re three weeks in, I think we’ve gotten a lot better, but I also think we’ve got a ways to go yet. We’re just trying to focus on getting ourselves better and ultimately, it’s a race for how good we can be by the end of the season, where it matters the most.”

Leading the charge for the Titans this season will be returning starters Jonah Rindfleisch and Quinn Steckbauer. Rindfleisch, a junior forward, averaged a career-high 5.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season. Steckbauer, a senior guard, was an All-WIAC Honorable Mention selection each of the past two seasons and averaged 10 points per game last year while shooting 38.5% from behind the arc.

UWO will also be led by senior guard Will Mahoney, predominately a sixth man for the team last season, who earned a All-WIAC Honorable Mention nod in 2021 and averaged 7.5 points per game in the 2022-23 campaign and shot 38.3% from deep.

Mahoney said his goal for the season is to help the team win in any way possible.

“We have a great group of guys and we’re excited to show people what Oshkosh basketball is about,” Mahoney said. “We strive to win the league every year and compete for national championships.”

For the first time since the 2018-19 campaign, the Titans will be without star forward Levi Borchert who graduated after last season. Borchert, the WIAC Player of the Year each of the past two seasons, averaged 15.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game to lead UWO in both stats last year.

“Levi (Borchert) was obviously super talented and got a lot of good things for us last year,” Mahoney said. “But we have some dudes and can shoot it very well and take it to the lane and finish at a high rate. Our big men are monsters too, so we aren’t too worried.”

The Titans will also no longer have seniors Eric Peterson, Cole Booth and Hunter Plamann, all starters from last year who have graduated.

Lewis said that the graduating seniors from last season were big parts of the program and went through a lot of battles.

“They had played in a lot of games together, then won a lot of games together, and so it’s a really fun transition ultimately,” Lewis said. “There’s no doubt it’s a big loss for us. Those guys graduated but we’ve got a lot of returners that have gotten a lot better and are ready to assume bigger roles. It’s fun to see those guys have those opportunities and it’s also fun to see some kids come in that you think are really talented and see that new group come together.”

Mahoney said the leadership on the team hasn’t changed, even though the team had four of their top players graduate.

“Every year we have guys in that leadership role and the standard is the standard,” Mahoney said. “We push each other every day in practice and some of the older guys like Quinn (Steckbauer), (Nick) Otto, Reed (Gunnink) and I know what is expected and we are sure to teach the guys who are learning our culture.”

The Titans kicked off their season against Illinois Tech Nov. 8 at the Kolf Sports Center. Check the UWO Athletics website for more information.

Mahoney said he was impressed with how the first few practices have gone.

“The team is looking great,” Mahoney said. “We got a couple returners and some new faces in the mix, so we are excited to ball out.”

UWO will take on La Roche University (Pennsylvania) in the Great Lakes Invitational in Springfield, Ohio, Nov. 17 starting at noon.

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