Pointers fall late at third-ranked Oshkosh
Portage County Gazette
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s basketball team trailed by two with under one minute to play, but was unable to pull ahead late and fell to third-ranked and reigning National Runner-up UW-Oshkosh at the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh Saturday, Feb. 9.
The Pointers (15-7, 7-5) used a three-pointer from junior guard Ethan Bublitz to pull within 72-70 with 2:43 left and came up empty on three straight possessions to tie or take the lead, as Oshkosh (22-1, 12-0) held on for a 77-70 win to clinch the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Title outright for the first time since 1977-78 and run its win streak to 21 games.
Oshkosh used a 14-2 run early to take a 14-6 lead with 13:38 to go in the first half, and led 27-17 with 8:51 left in the half, when UWSP used a three-pointer from senior guard Nate Dodge, a layup from senior forward Canon O’Heron, and a three-pointer from Dodge to pull within 27-25 with 7:40 to play in the first half.
The Pointers took a 33-32 lead on a three-pointer from junior forward Blake Ehrke with 4:35 left, and O’Heron scored the final four points of the first half to give UWSP a 39-36 lead at halftime.
Oshkosh opened the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 47-41 lead with 16:37 to go, but the Pointers answered with a 16-7 run to take a 55-54 lead with 11:41 remaining, and the game stayed tight the rest of the way.
Junior forward Brandon Spray buried a three-pointer with 8:20 to play to put UWSP ahead 63-58, before Oshkosh answered with a 10-2 run to take a 68-65 lead with 4:10 left.
The Pointers pulled to within 72-70 on Bublitz’ three-pointer with 2:43 to go, and with a chance to tie or take the lead over the next 1:45, they had a missed runner in the lane, a turnover and a missed three-pointer.
Oshkosh scored on a layup with 36 seconds remaining to go up 74-70, and following a missed three-pointer, Oshkosh hit two more free throws with 23 seconds to play to take a 76-70 lead, as it went on to win 77-70 to claim the WIAC Title outright, after it previously last won a share of the Conference Title in 2001-02.
Dodge scored 17 points, Bublitz had 15 points, Spray finished with 14 points off the bench, and O’Heron added 10 points to lead UWSP, which shot 1-for-11 from the field in the final eight minutes of the game.
The Pointers are set to play their final home game of the regular season against UW-Stout (6-17, 0-12) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, before they close the regular season at UW-Platteville (14-9, 7-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.
Also in the WIAC Saturday, UW-Whitewater (15-8, 4-8) won 79-77 at Stout, UW-Eau Claire (14-9, 7-5) won 61-52 at UW-La Crosse (15-8, 8-4), and UW-River Falls (10-13, 3-9) scored on a layup with four seconds left at home to tie UW-Platteville 54-54, before Carter Voelker hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Platteville (14-9, 7-5) a 57-54 win.
That left the Pointers (7-5) tied for third in the WIAC with Eau Claire and Platteville heading into the final week of the season, behind Oshkosh (12-0) and La Crosse (8-4), and ahead of Whitewater (4-8), River Falls (3-9) and Stout (0-12).
The top six in the eight-team WIAC will advance to the Conference Tournament Feb. 19, 21 and 23, with Oshkosh locked in as the No. 1 seed, and La Crosse one game up for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, as La Crosse hosts Oshkosh next Wednesday then travels to Stout for the regular-season finale.
Eau Claire hosts River Falls Wednesday and Oshkosh Saturday, while Platteville is at Whitewater Wednesday and hosts UWSP Saturday.