Men’s b-ball scores huge upset over Oshkosh

Mouse Braun

Few students were around to witness the statement the men’s basketball team made to the Midwest Conference and the nation by beating No. 2 ranked UW-Oshkosh 82-75 in overtime. With many students rushing home after classes for Thanksgiving break, the Vikings were ready to upset one of the top-ranked teams in the country.
The unranked Vikings led 35-29 at the half behind Chris Braier’s 11 points and seven rebounds. The Oshkosh Titans managed to slim the lead to 39-36 with 15 minutes to play. Freshman Ryan Kroeger then hit a 3, and on the ensuing Titan possession Kyle MacGillis recorded a steal and a bucket, extending the lead to 44-36.
Oshkosh then rattled off four straight points, all on free throws, and forced LU head coach John Tharp to take a timeout. Oshkosh came out of the timeout in a zone defense. The Vikings moved the ball well against the Titan zone, and Ben Rosenblatt hit open looks from the outside, managing to keep Lawrence in front despite Oshkosh slowly closing in.
With 22 seconds left and the Vikings leading 65-63, an off-the-ball foul was called on Braier, which sent 7-foot-1-inch Kerry Gibson to the line for Oshkosh. Gibson hit both free throws to tie the game. Braier’s last-second shot was then blocked by Gibson to send the game to overtime.
Kroeger sparked Lawrence in overtime, scoring five of the first six Viking points to gain a 71-67 lead. Oshkosh narrowed the margin to 71-70 after hitting three of four foul shots. Lawrence’s free throw shooting then took over. In the last two minutes of overtime, the Vikings went 11-12 from the line to clinch the victory.
MacGillis played a stellar game for the Vikes. He led Lawrence in scoring with 25 points, and in assists with 8. However, his most important contribution was on defense. His five steals came at times when the Titans looked like they were ready for a run. He also shut down preseason all-American Andy Jahnke, who finished with only 5 points.
Braier scored 20 points and added nine rebounds. Kroeger added 15, shooting 3-4 from behind the arc, while Rosenblatt added 13 points and 5 assists. More importantly, Rosenblatt recorded no turnovers, showing that he is capable of filling the shoes of the departed Dan Evans.
Each team finished with 25 team fouls. The refs helped Oshkosh stay in the game in the second half by calling numerous non-shooting fouls that resulted in bonus free throws. The Titans were in the bonus with 13 minutes left in the second half, while the Vikings were not awarded bonus free throws until there were three minutes left.
The Titans were the highest ranked opponent Lawrence has ever beaten, and this is the third straight year the meeting between the two teams went in the Vikings’ favor.
Later in the week, the Vikes would down the Milwaukee School of Engineering 74-53 in a much less climactic encounter. Braier led the team in points and rebounds and improved on his 40 percent shooting day against Oshkosh with a 10-for-15 day against the Raiders.
The Vikings completed their pre-conference portion of the season Tuesday with a game at Wisconsin Lutheran. The pursuit of their third straight MWC title begins this weekend at Knox and Illinois College. The Prairie Fire was picked to by sixth and Blueboys 10th in the preseason coaches’ poll and currently hold non-conference records of 3-0 and 2-1.