The final 22 seconds of UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team’s battle with defending NCAA Division III national champion UW-Oshkosh on Saturday proved to be a thumbnail of a series of near misses this season for the Warhawks.

Whitewater held a 1-point lead late. Oshkosh took a 3-pointer that overshot the rim by several feet. But a failure to block out helped the Titans grab the errant shot along the baseline, and eventually led to a wide-open David Vlotho 3-pointer that proved to be the game-winner with 8 seconds left.

One small lapse in a crucial moment was all Oshkosh needed to escape Kachel Gym with a 73-71 victory.

The win allowed the Titans (6-1 in WIAC and 12-6 overall) to remain in first place in the WIAC, one game ahead of La Crosse and Platteville.

The disappointing ending was painstakingly familiar for Whitewater, which fell to 1-6 in the WiAC and 6-12 overall.

“There’s been so many games this year where we are one play or one shot away, but we just haven’t finished games,” UW-Whitewater coach Pat Miller said.

“And this game is just another disappointing example.

The disappointment was evident on Warhawk guard Bailey Kale’s face after Whitewater failed to get a shot off on the final possession.

“I just didn’t make a play, and I turned it over and that’s on me,” said Kale, who finished with 14 points. “What really hurt us was giving up that offensive rebound after they missed the three.”

Whitewater certainly seemed poise to turn things around with an 18-8 run, capped by James Burks’ layup that made it 59-57 Warhawks with 8 minutes to play.

Both teams exchanged leads the rest of the way before Janesville Craig product Riley Jensen sank two free throws to give Whitewater a 71-70 lead with 22 seconds left.

But Whitewater failed to hold on the next possession, setting up the Titans winning shot.

“It’s just little things like their last possession where we have to learn to close out,” Kale said.

Whitewater was able to open the game on a high note, grabbing a 17-10 lead behind 8 quick points from Equan Ards.

Ards, who had a team-high 24 points, added a dunk and a pair of stepback jumpers to help Whitewater grab a 37-32 halftime advantage.

The Warhawks maintained the lead into the second half before Breontae Hunt drew a technical foul for taunting after a thunderous two-hand dunk.

The Titans then unleashed a 13-0 run to build their biggest lead of the game 49-41 with 13 minutes left.

Whitewater soon erased the deficit and set up a back-and-forth battle that featured 11 lead changes.

“I thought this was our most complete 40 minutes of the season,” Miller said. “There were a lot of positives in this game, but obviously you have to win games and we’re not here for moral victories, but at least we are moving in the right direction.”

With plenty of season left, Whitewater may be moving in the direction of playing spoiler down the stretch against conference frontrunners.

{pre}UW-OSHKOSH 73, UW-WHITEWATER 71

UW-Oshkosh (73)—Fravert 9-17 5-6 24; Flynn 6-9 6-7 18; Muench 4-12 3-5 12

Vlotho 3-7 0-0 8; Borchert 3-5 1-1 7; Peterson 1-4 0-4 3

Whiteside 0-0 1-2 1; Wilman 0-0 0-0 0; Steckbauer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 26-55 16-25 73.

UW-Whitewater (71)—Ards, 10-19 4-5 24; Kale, 6-18 1-1 14; Hunt, 4-6 0-0

9; Gates, 3-5 2-2 8; Grintjes, 2-2 0-0 4; Chislom, 1-3

2-4 4; Jensen, 1-1 2-2 4; Brahm, 1-1 0-0 2; Burks, 1-4 0-0

2; Martinez, 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-59 11-14 71.

Wis.-Oshkosh 32 41—73

Wis.-Whitewater 37 34—71

3-point goals—Oshkosh 5-21 (Vlotho 2-6; Fravert 1-6; Peterson 1-3; Muench 1-5; Steckbauer 0-1), Whitewater 2-8

(Kale, 1-5; Hunt, 1-1; Gates, 0-1; Ards, 0-1). Fouled out—Gates, Grintjes. Rebounds—Oshkosh 29 (Fravert 10), Whitewater 34

(Gates, 7). Assists—Oshkosh 12 (Fravert 4), Whitewater 10 (Kale 3). Total fouls—Oshkosh 16, Whitewater 24. Technical fouls—Hunt, Breontae. A-842{/pre}

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