There’s no bad time for solid defense, but the last six minutes of a competitive game are a particularly good time.
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh proved that by throwing the clamps on Ramapo College, forcing a five minute scoring drought that let Oshkosh turn a 6-point lead into a 16-point margin of victory in a Division III national semifinal at the Salem Civic Center on Friday. Wisconsin-Oshkosh won 73-57.
A pair of free throws by Ramapo forward Patrick Peterson with 5:35 to go cut Oshkosh’s lead to 60-54. The Titans (25-7) then forced a bad shot late in the shot clock. Oshkosh’s Ben Boots took the rebound up the court and got it back after three passes, then buried a 3-pointer from the left side.
Brett Wittchow made treys on the next two possessions and Boots then scored two from the stripe. Jack Flynn turned an offensive rebound into two points when he was fouled on the stickback attempt with 2:01 to play.
Oshkosh did not score again, but did not need to as the 13-point run put the game away.
By the time Ramapo’s Rob McWilliams made a three-point play the hard way with 37 seconds to play, the Roadrunners were just shy of five minutes without a point.
Oshkosh coach Pat Juckem said the defense was solid, but fouls were negating the defensive effort through the middle part of the second half. The final stretch, however, was different.
“We closed it out with quality possessions, we didn’t foul, forced them into tough shots and we were able to finish off the plays,” Juckem said.
Ramapo coach Chuck McBreen said Oshkosh’s defense and rebounding prowess changed the game by dictating the pace, taking the Roadrunners out of their preference of being courtrunners.
“We got beat on the backboards, which was one of the keys to our [gameplan],” McBreen said. “The other was getting the tempo played to the pace we wanted to, but as a result of not rebounding the ball, we had to play more of a halfcourt basketball than we would like. They’re a better halfcourt basketball team. We’re better out in space, but tonight we were not able to get out in space.”
Ramapo scored only two points in transition in the game.
Oshkosh won the rebounding battle 45-34.
From the halfcourt, the Roadrunners (25-7) struggled to find the range, shooting just 34 percent from the floor.
Oshkosh shot 44.4 percent from the floor and 10 for 27 from beyond the arc, but after struggling to find the shot from distance, the Titans made four of their last seven attempts from distance.
A 2-point game late in the first half was turned into a 7-point Oshkosh lead at the break on a trey from Wittchow and a jumper from Adam Fravert.
Juckem said that run was key to setting up the second half, where Ramapo was never able to get closer than four, but kept its deficit at no more than eight for 15 minutes.
“Momentum at end of first half is always a key thing,” Juckem said. “For us to be able to separate enough, with this being a grind-it-out game, a three possession lead is pretty significant.”
Fravert led all scorers with 21 points to go with 13 rebounds. Wittchow scored 18, Boots added 12 and Flynn had 11.
Peterson came off the bench to tie Thomas Bonacum for team-high honors for Ramapo, each scoring 11 points. Josh Ford added 10.
This with be UW-O’s first trip to a national basketball final in the 59 year history of the program.