By Bobby Bailey, Staff Writer
Jan. 14: Illinois Wesleyan v. Carthage College
This past Saturday, the Titans won their fourth straight conference game, besting Carthage College 69-61 at home. Illinois Wesleyan University fell behind twice in the first half, but went on a 9-2 run, evening the game.
Carrying the momentum, the Titans proceeded with a 14-4 run, giving them a commanding 34-24 advantage with 2:40 left in the first half. But Carthage responded by scoring six points before the end of the half, and Illinois Wesleyan clung to a slim four point lead at halftime.
Carthage came out firing in the second half, scoring the first five points to eek out their last lead of the game, though the two teams were tied three times throughout the rest of the game at 37, 39, and 41.
But after Titan sophomore Nick Anderson sank a free throw at 12:35 to give them a one-point advantage, the Titans gained control of the game, carrying this lead until the end.
When asked about the Titan’s success in close games, head coach Ron Rose responded, “Our composure down the stretch and ability to execute at critical times during the game has been a real strength of this team.”
Following sophomore Victor Davis’ 20-point performance in the game against North Park, Anderson put up 18 points in 14 minutes, adding to the success of Titan underclassmen. “One of our strengths this season has been the contributions…from different players in different games,” Rose said. He added that the team’s depth has not only “worn opponents down” but also forced them “to focus on one player.” No matter who happens to be scoring in a given game, when the opposition concentrates on defending him, the other players step up and score.
The young Titan team, now alone in first place in the conference, runs the risk of becoming overly confident. Rose acknowledged that, despite their strong start in the conference race, the Titans have many “challenging games ahead. The team that can focus and be ready to play each and every of the 14 conference games will put themselves in a favorable position.”
Jan. 17: Illinois Wesleyan v. North Central College
Three days later, the Titans broke a nine game winning streak, falling 82-69 at North Central College. Illinois Wesleyan started slowly, going down 12-2 to begin the game. The Titans, who trailed by as many as 17 points at one time, went into halftime down by 14 points.
Half way through the second half, Wesleyan rallied a 9-0 scoring run that cut an 18-point lead in half and made it a 63-54 game with 7:11 left on the clock. But North Central responded and held off the Titans, handing them their first loss in conference play.
North Central shot 56 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the free-throw line, while the Titans shot a mere 39 percent and 36 percent respectively. Rose commented on the loss, in which North Central outrebounded Wesleyan 35-27, saying, “It seemed that we were running uphill all night long.”
Though the loss was discouraging, the Titans record is still strong as they are now 4-1 in conference and 13-3 overall.
The Titans first chance to bounce back from the loss is on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Elmhurst College. Wesleyan then returns home to square off against Millikin University the following Tuesday, Jan. 24.