Swat, Titans advance to title game

Ben Booth shouting
It was a big night for Ben Boots, who shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range in the win.
Photo by Matt McClure, d3photography.com

Swarthmore advanced to the Division III men's basketball national championship for the first time, and UW-Oshkosh returned to the national title game the Garnet held off Christopher Newport 70-63 and the Titans put Wheaton (Ill.) away 104-85 despite 44 points from Aston Francis.

It was the first national semifinal round played in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was played in front of a crowd of 1,982. The Garnet and Titans will meet for the national title on Saturday night, at 7 p.m. ET.

UW-Oshkosh put together a 14-0 run to take control early in the second half, punctuated by two 3-pointers from guard Ben Boots, and extended that lead to 18 with a little over six minutes to go in the game. 

Ben Boots, Jack Flynn and Brett Wittchow scored a team-high 21 points apiece, and the starters left to a huge ovation with 58 seconds remaining as UW-Oshkosh improved to 28-3.

Francis finished his NCAA Tournament with another outing of 40-plus points, but shot just 5-for-20 from downtown and 15-for-38 from the floor on the night.

“We were hoping that whatever we tried to do was going to work. He still had 44," said Titans coach Matt Lewis. "Our goal was to make him as inefficient as possible. Connor Duax, our big wing, and Eric Petersen off the bench, were incredibly disciplined on him. We wanted to make him go left and not foul him. He was nine for nine. If you foul him, it’s a given.”After shooting 1-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half, Christopher Newport came out of the halftime break and scored the first seven points of the second half to tie the game at 36-36. Swarthmore then darted out on a quick 7-0 run that included a stellar sequence from Zac O'Dell who had a block on one end followed by a layup, a defensive rebound, and then an and-one.

A highlight reel spin move from Wiley led to a fastbreak layup with 10:02 to go to put Swarthmore ahead 52-44. Christopher Newport kept pushing to keep it a one- or two- possession game.

Cam Wiley scored a team-high 23 points, eight of them in the final five minutes. He took a ball to the hole left-handed with 4:40 remaining to put the Garnet (29-3) up by nine, 60-51. Two minutes later, he hit a deep 3-pointer, his second of the game, to return the lead to nine points at 65-56. Christopher Newport (29-4) cut the lead back to four points with a 3-ball by Jason Aigner, but Swarthmore was able to hit its free throws and run out the clock.

“One of our goals was to keep them under 10 assists; we did that, we accomplished it," said Captains coach John Krikorian. “One of our goals is to out-rebound our opponent; Swarthmore outrebounds their opponents by eight or nine a game. We out-rebounded them. That shows me the effort, toughness, and tenacity of our guys; they did everything we asked of them tonight and the whole year. We couldn’t hit enough shots and you have to credit Swarthmore for that. We figured out some things late, but it was just too late.”

The difference was the swatting of Swat. Nate Shaffer blocked five shots and O'Dell blocked four more in the win, with Marcus Carter getting blocked three times.

Carter led the Captains with 25 points, but was 6-for-18 from the floor.