BLOOMINGTON — A taut thriller of a College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opener came down to one shot Saturday at Shirk Center, and Illinois Wesleyan's Brady Rose thought it was going in.

"I think they're all going in," Rose said.

Yet Rose's potential game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing rimmed out at the buzzer and Carthage escaped with a 74-72 victory.

One Steve Leazer free throw at the 7.8-second mark had given the Red Men a two-point lead. IWU hustled the ball downcourt and the ball was knocked out of bounds with one-half second showing.

"We got a better look than I think we even expected," Rose said. "Unfortunately, it didn't fall."

The Titans lost for the first time in six games, while Carthage hiked its record 4-2 before a crowd of 1,100.

"Good college basketball game, very intense," said Red Men coach Bosko Djurickovic, who prevailed for just the third time in 22 games at Shirk Center. "Both teams were playing for something and playing very well."

IWU's Nick Coleman snapped a 67-all tie with a 3-pointer in transition from the right wing.

Carthage struck back with driving baskets from Jordan Thomas and Brad Kruse. Two Kruse free throws at the 22-second mark extended the Red Men lead to 73-70 before a Rose bucket brought the Titans within one.

"It's really disappointing, We didn't play very well. We didn't play well enough to deserve to win or expect to win," Wesleyan coach Ron Rose said. "We just couldn't get the defensive stop when we needed it where we could extend the lead and it cost us."

Carthage held the Titans to seven 3-pointers in 25 attempts from beyond the arc.

"When you look at their stats the first five games, it was scary," said Djurickovic. "But we have defended very well. I think the key to the game was we made them take difficult shots for the most part."

Brady Rose paced all scorers with 24 points. Alex O'Neill added 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds for the Titans.

"We didn't do a good job keeping our guy in front," Brady Rose said. "Give them credit. They hit some tough shots and got some easy looks we normally don't give up."

Kruse's 20 points and 10 rebounds topped Carthage. Thomas chipped in 16, Derek Mason 13 and 6-foot-11, 285-pound Brad Perry 11.

The Titans led only at 3-2 in the first half after O'Neill swished his first 3-point try of the season.

Carthage led 22-16 after a Mason 3-pointer, and O'Neill brought IWU within 26-24 by driving past Perry on the baseline for a powerful dunk.

Yet the Red Men received two 3-pointers from Kruse and one from Mason in final 3:20 of the first half for a 39-34 edge.

Mason surpassed his 7.8 scoring average with 11 first-half points, while Kruse had 13 points and seven rebounds over the first 20 minutes.

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt

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