They have a combined 42-4 record.
The #3 UW-Oshkosh men and 11th-ranked UW-O women’s basketball teams have both become “titans” in Division III college basketball.
“Brad Fischer and Kelly McNiff, they do a phenomenal job with the women’s program,” said UW-Oshkosh interim head men’s basketball coach Matt Lewis. “They really kind of teed it up for us 6 years ago. They started winning right away that first year, and have been rolling since.”
“Coach Juckem previously, now Coach Lewis… they started the same year I did so we have been bouncing ideas off of each other,” said UW-Oshkosh women’s basketball head coach Brad Fischer. “We were learning what Oshkosh was about together. We’re learning what NCAA Tournaments are about. We’re doing it all together, and I don’t think that’s a relationship every men and women’s program has at a college.”
Coming off an NCAA D-III national runner-up finish a season ago, Lewis went from assistant to interim head coach for the departing Pat Juckem. Oshkosh clinched the WIAC Championship outright for the first time in 41-years Saturday, and fittingly it came on Senior Night.
“It definitely starts with our senior leadership,” Lewis said. “Ben Boots, Brett Wittchow, and Alex Van Dyke, those guys do a great job. And then we have some guys a year younger than them, and they hold us to a high standard.”
The Titans 21-consecutive wins is the longest active streak in Division 3, and the 4th longest in conference history. UW-O is also averaging a WIAC-leading 85 points per game.
“A lot of people see the points we put up, but not many people talk about our defense,” says senior guard Ben Boots. “That’s what fuels us. That’s what we focus most on in practice. We have a lot of versatility offensively and defensively.”
Speaking of defense, the lady Titans rank 4th in all of NCAA men and women’s basketball allowing just 48.3 points per game.
“We were under the radar for the first time in awhile I think,” said Fischer. “We were picked for 3rd (in the preseason WIAC poll), and we weren’t ranked. I don’t know that we took it personally, but I do think we had enough in us to have a really good season.
“We don’t have an All-American like we’ve had with Taylor Schmidt or Eliza Campbell. We’ve always had that girl we were going to rely on for that big shot, and this team and this team has not had that because everyone has done it at different times. We have had 10 different leading scorers. At the college level, that’s just not how it works. At any level, that’s not how it works.”
But it’s worked for UW-Oshkosh, and following a victory Saturday, the Titans stayed all alone in 1st in the WIAC and became the first program i n conference history to have at least seven straight 20-win seasons on two separate occasions.
“It was fun getting to watch my older sister (Eliza) play here, and knowing coming into this program how good of a team it was and how important the culture was,” said junior guard Olivia Campbell. “You’re not only playing for your teammates this year, but you’re playing for everyone that played before you.”
This past week was proof these programs aren’t only focused on winning. Wednesday was UWO’s annual “Pink Game” in recognition of breast cancer awareness. The event was more meaningful than ever after senior Chloe Pustina lost her mother to the disease in November.
“I always wanted to be with her and around her more, but I knew my mom wanted me here doing my school and basketball said Pustina in a video released by UW-Oshkosh Athletics this week. “So my team was like my second family. They were there to take my mind off things or talk about things, and they were super helpful.
And the UWO men held their third annual “Shooting it for Luke” fundraiser to benefit “Families of Children with Cancer.” A cause close to senior Alex Van Dyke who survived leukemia as a child
“I think events like this are extremely important,” Van Dyke said. “Everybody knows what cancer is, but not everyone has been touched by it or knows somebody who has been touched by it. Chemotherapy is extremely expensive, and research for chemo to find better cures is extremely expensive and needs to be funded.”
It’s obvious both programs are getting it done on and off the court, and there’s no doubt they have each other’s backs as well.
“A lot of people kind of counted them out this year, and they have definitely shut those people up,” said Boots. “We’re always rooting them on.”
“I remember last year getting to watch the boys play in Virginia,” said Campbell. “And I was thinking like this is so cool for them, but it’s also awesome that our program has the chance to do that too.”
“When we get off the bus or get off from a game, we go and check the (men’s) score,” said Fischer. “It just feels great when we get sweeps, and I know we both take a lot of pride in that. And being one of the top basketball programs in the country, not just a men and not just a women’s program.”