The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse men’s basketball team never trailed. It led by as many as 18 points. It withstood a surge. Then the Eagles put UW-Oshkosh away.
Third-seeded UW-L took down the No. 6 Titans 76-61 in the first round of the WIAC tournament on Wednesday at Mitchell Hall. The Eagles will now head to UW-Whitewater for a 7 p.m. tip Friday. The Warhawks are both the No. 2 seed and the No. 2 team in all of Division III.
The two teams split the regular-season series, winning 88-83 at home on Jan. 22, before losing 63-45 on Feb. 12.
Against Oshkosh, Lucas Collom, a 6-foot-5 junior from Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School, had 13 points and a WIAC record 19 rebounds for the Eagles (17-9), which led 45-27 three minutes into the second half before the wheels looked like they fell off.
The Titans (12-14) went on an 11-0 run to pull within seven points with 13:42 remaining before the Eagles sent them packing for the third time this season, thanks in part to Braden Tice.
The senior guard scored five points, blocked a shot and then hit Cameron Skyler for a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession as part of an 11-1 run.
Skyler then connected on another 3-pointer to push that run to 13-2, which put UW-L up, once again, by 18 and finally out of Oshkosh’s reach.
Calahan Skogman led the Eagles with 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting, though he was just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc. He did go 8 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Skyler was 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in scoring 14, while Tice added 13 for UW-L, which was 10-for-22 from deep and outrebounded Oshkosh 43-24.
The Titans were led by Alex Olson’s 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting, but as a team, they shot just 20-for-54 from the field (37 percent).
On the other half of the bracket, UW-Platteville beat UW-Stout 70-53 and will go on to face the No. 1 ranked team in the country, top-seeded UW-Stevens Point (24-1). The Pointers only loss this season came Feb. 5 to Whitewater, 81-76 in overtime.
The Warhawks are 22-3 on the season. Aside from losing to UW-L, they also lost back-to-back games to UW-Stout (93-62) and UW-SP 79-67 on Dec. 3 and Dec. 11, respectively.