BLOOMINGTON — Two College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin basketball teams rocketing in opposite directions did nothing to alter their flight paths Saturday at Shirk Center.
Illinois Wesleyan assumed control late in the first half and zoomed away from North Park for an 87-47 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin victory before a crowd of 1,300.
"The second half we showed a lot of energy," IWU coach Ron Rose said. "Our defense got more active. When we get stops and get out in transition we're hard to guard because we have as many offensive weapons as we do."
The 18th-ranked Titans won their eighth straight game and improved to 16-3 overall.
The news was even better on the CCIW front. Augustana's home loss to Carthage put Wesleyan two games in front in the conference race. IWU is 9-1 with Augustana and North Central at 7-3 and Carthage at 6-3.
The loss was the seventh in succession for the Vikings (4-14, 1-9)
North Park closed within 13 points on a pair of early second-half 3-pointers from Colin Lake and Vergard Tangen.
But the Titans had no desire to sweat through a tight contest similar to IWU's one-point win over the Vikings on Jan. 13 in Chicago.
Buckets from Danny Baker and Doug Wallen restored the Wesleyan bulge to 17. A Zach Knobloch 3-pointer and six straight points from Jason Gregoire highlighted a 20-2 spurt for a 73-40 Titan margin.
"We wanted to prove we're a better team than how we played there," Gregoire said. "We didn't think we played with enough energy at their place, and that's really been a focus for us this season."
Buoyed by early 4 of 8 3-point shooting, North Park clung to the Titans for the initial 15 minutes.
IWU carried a 49-32 cushion into halftime on the strength of a 17-4 half-closing surge. The Titans scored 12 points over the final three minutes with Brady Rose draining a 3-pointer with three seconds showing.
"The last three minutes were really key. You could see what they're capable of," said Ron Rose. "I didn't love our defensive intensity the first half. I thought we were soft on the ball, which allowed some good looks for them. And we were a little anxious offensively."
Brady Rose scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the opening half and was 4 of 5 from 3-point range. It was the younger Rose's eighth consecutive game of 20 or more points.
Gregoire added 11 points and Knobloch 10.
"Today was a good test for us," Gregoire said. "It was good we took care of business and got some of the reserves in."
Among those reserves outside of IWU's 10-man rotation, Charlie Bair grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in eight minutes, Nick Coleman hit a pair of 3-pointers and Wallen blocked three shots.
"That was really a positive thing," said Ron Rose. "Those guys who haven't gotten a lot of minutes have had great attitudes and been enthusiastic. They deserve this opportunity."
Lake, who riddled the Titans for 46 points in the earlier meeting, was held to 11. Billy Kirby scored all 12 of his team-leading points in the first half.
IWU starting center Alex O'Neill played just 10 minutes because of a lingering illness.