Close late, but Nebraska Wesleyan men’s basketball is clutch to claim first Division III title

Close late, but Nebraska Wesleyan men’s basketball is clutch to claim first Division III title
The Associated Press

SALEM, Va. (AP) — Tournament MVP Cooper Cook scored 16 points and Jack Hiller added 14, including a late 3-pointer that gave Nebraska Wesleyan the lead for good, as the Prairie Wolves beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh 78-72 on Saturday night for their first NCAA Division III national championship.

Nebraska Wesleyan (30-3) finished its season with 13 consecutive wins, including a 130-97 win over top-ranked Whitman last weekend to clinch its spot in the final four.

Cook and Hiller each hit 4 of 6 from 3-point range as the Prairie Wolves finished 14 of 22 from behind the arc and shot 52 percent overall. Wesleyan concluded the tournament with a record 73 made 3s in six games.

Wesleyan led by eight with less than five minutes left, but Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Jack Flynn made two free throws and Ben Boots hit back-to-back 3s — the second from well beyond NBA range — to make it 72-all with 2:52 to play. Oshkosh was 17 of 40 on 3s for the game.

But after Hiller missed a 3 on the other end, Cook grabbed the offensive rebound before Nate Schimonitz found Hiller for a 3 from the right wing to put the Prairie Wolves in front for good. The Titans committed a turnover on each of their next two possessions. And after a tightly contested fall-away jumper by Schimonitz with 30 seconds left, a steal by Ryan Garver sealed the win. Garver’s free throw with 4.4 seconds to play capped the scoring.

Schimonitz, a Creighton Prep graduate, finished with 15 points and six assists. Schimonitz also hit back-to-back 3s in the final 30 seconds of the first half to give Wesleyan a 45-43 halftime lead.

Garver and Omaha Benson graduate Deion Wells-Ross scored 11 points apiece. Wells-Ross added three blocks, and Millard West grad Austin Hall chipped in seven points off the bench.

Boots led Wisconsin-Oshkosh (25-8) with 24 points, including six 3-pointers.