With long-range marksman Aston Francis and Wheaton College next on the schedule for the Illinois Wesleyan basketball team, it figures defense would be a hot topic at practice Tuesday for the Titans.
Actually, IWU coach Ron Rose has had his mind on defense since last Saturday’s loss to Carthage.
“We have to make a bigger commitment to the defensive end,” said Rose. “We have to buy into the team concept of how we want to guard. We certainly didn’t do it Saturday and haven’t been very good at it all year.”
The Titans need to improve to avoid an 0-2 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin hole when meeting Wheaton at 7 p.m. Wednesday at King Arena.
“We’re being optimistic with each other. Our mistakes are very easily fixed,” guard Nick Coleman said. “The CCIW is definitely different intensity wise.”
IWU is 5-1 overall and 0-1 in the CCIW while the Thunder (5-2, 1-0) boast the 6-foot-1 Francis.
“He distorts everything,” said Rose. “He can make a 30-footer and he can make it going right, going left, off the catch or off the bounce. He can score in bunches in a very short time.
Francis is averaging 24.7 points, while senior Ricky Samuelson is scoring 21.7 while hitting a white-hot 72 percent (18 of 25) from 3-point range. Samuelson also has connected on 24 of 25 free throws.
Samuelson and Francis have combined for 40 of Wheaton’s 51 3-pointers. Other Thunder players are 11 of 46 from beyond the arc (24 percent).
“He has incredible range,” Coleman said of Francis. “We have to guard him as a team.”
The Titans had been held under 90 points just once while opening with five nonconference wins until the 74-72 loss to Carthage.
“We can’t be that team that we win when we score 90 and we can’t win otherwise,” said Rose. “We have to turn this thing around.”
Other key Wheaton players are Kobe Eichelberger (10.2 points) and point guard Luke Peters.
Brady Rose leads IWU at 21.3 points per game with Zach Knobloch at 11.5, Colin Bonnett at 10.5 and Alex O’Neill at 10.2.
“I know I have competitive guys on this roster,” Coach Rose said. “I know they were embarrassed by the level of intensity showed at that (defensive) end on Saturday. I guarantee we’re going to play harder Wednesday.”