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Four years after national title, UWO gears up for another tournament run

Fifth-year senior Eric Peterson, the only player remaining from UWO's title run in 2019, called this year's WIAC-winning squad "special."
Posted at 8:40 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 21:40:19-05

OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) — The UW-Oshkosh men's basketball program is on the verge of another trip to the month of March.

The Titans are riding an 11-game winning streak and can clinch an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament if they win the WIAC Tournament this weekend.

UWO is vying for its seventh straight trip to the "Big Dance." Matt Lewis has been there for all of them, including the last three as the Titans head coach.

"The end of the season is always fun," Lewis said, smiling.

"Obviously every game-day is a blast," he added. "But when you get to when those games really mean a lot, we all get a little bit of a heightened awareness and our heart starts beating faster every moment."

"It's win or go home so when you put it all on the line - everything you worked for all season - it makes for a lot of excitement and it's just a lot of anticipation," senior guard Quinn Steckbauer said. "(That) just makes it that much more fun when you're able to get it done and that's what we hope to do."

Lewis led the Titans to the NCAA DIII title in 2019. Four years later, just one player from that team remains: fifth-year senior Eric Peterson, who played a key role on that squad as a freshman.

Lewis said he knew Peterson would be special from day one, when he shut down All-American point guard Ben Boots - a Kimberly native - in practice.

"Ben struggled to score in practice," Lewis said. "We were wondering why he was struggling... And then we realized well it's not necessarily Ben. It might be this 6'4" freshman that can guard every position on the court that might be giving Ben trouble."

"I'd actually never heard that (story) before so that's actually pretty funny to hear," Peterson laughed. "But, I don't know, they just kind of trusted me from the beginning. Putting me on the other team's best guys."

Four years later he's still at it. And with March beckoning, Peterson hopes to bookend his career with another championship this season.

Peterson called the 2022-23 team "special," but said it's important not to look too far ahead.

"He's really locked in on what we can do with this team this year," Steckbauer said of Peterson. "Not a whole lot gets asked or said about his run back in 2019."

"Just never look too far ahead," Peterson said. "We're always just focusing on the next game and nothing more than that. Nothing is promised."

Oshkosh will host UW-Eau Claire in the WIAC semifinal round on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Kolf Sports Center. Eau Claire was the last team to beat the Titans, 51-48, back on January 4.