Ron Rose’s Illinois Wesleyan basketball team has won six consecutive games, is ranked 18th nationally and sits atop the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin at 7-1.
Still, Rose knows how he wants his Titans to improve.
“The big thing for us is consistency,” said Rose, whose team faces Elmhurst on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. CCIW contest at Faganel Hall. “We’ve played with energy at the defensive end at times, but not consistently. We’ve been terrific on the boards at times, but not consistently.”
The Titans (14-3 overall) broke from a 71-all tie with five minutes remaining with 13 straight points to claim an 87-75 win over Elmhurst on Jan. 6 at Shirk Center.
“It’s only been a couple weeks, but I think both teams are playing better already,” Rose said. “Both teams are improved in terms of execution of the offense, which has led to both teams shooting better, too.”
IWU has won all six of its January games heading into the second half of the CCIW schedule.
“The biggest thing is execution,” said sophomore forward Miles Curry. “We’ve been executing on offense and defense, putting together an overall game that has been really good.”
Rose has been encouraged by Curry’s recent development that included a driving dunk in last Saturday’s win at Carroll.
“I thought Miles was terrific in the Carroll game,” said Rose. “You could see his athleticism stand out and not just when he drives and dunks it. He has the ability to put it on the floor and create, and he’s going to be able to rebound with anybody in the country with his athleticism.”
Elmhurst (11-6, 4-4 in the CCIW) is part of a six-team scrum for four CCIW Tournament berths. After Wesleyan, Augustana and Wheaton are 6-2 in league play with North Central and Carthage at 5-3.
Bluejays coach John Baines, the former Wesleyan and University High player, believes his team is “pointing in the right direction. We’ve got a young group that is starting to play really well.”
Elmhurst trailed North Central by 16 points in the first half last Saturday and rallied for a 91-77 win.
“We just got through the first round of the league,” Baines said. “I thought to myself I want to make sure we’re in position we can get ourselves in (the CCIW Tournament) if we got hot at the right time. I think we did that.”
Junior guard Brady Rose scored 35 points and drilled five of IWU’s 13 3-pointers in the first Elmhurst game.
“I hope Brady doesn’t know how to get to our gym,” joked Baines. “He’s playing at a really high level. But they are 7-1 not just because Brady is playing at that level, but because the other guys are playing pretty well.”
Elmhurst's Jeremy Ireland, a 6-foot-7 junior, had 22 points and eight rebounds at Shirk Center and averages 16.7 and 9.5, respectively.
“The first time was just a tough game," Curry said. "We know this upcoming game is going to be tough, too."