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IWU Sydney Shanks

Illinois Wesleyan's Sydney Shanks (24) drives toward the basket in a game last season against Rose-Hulman at Shirk Center. Shanks, a Central Catholic graduate, will miss the rest of the season with a broken wrist suffered in Saturday's win over Carroll.

BLOOMINGTON — Wednesday’s 7 p.m. women’s basketball game at Shirk Center marks the final visit by Lori Kerans as coach of Millikin.

Unfortunately, Sydney Shanks' final game of the season for No. 17 nationally ranked Illinois Wesleyan occurred Saturday in an 87-58 win over Carroll during which she broke her wrist. In 21 starts, she averaged 7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals.

Nina Anderson will replace Shanks in the starting lineup, but Titan coach Mia Smith knows Shanks’ unique skill set will have to be made up for by the entire team in other areas.

“I don’t have a player on my team that can replace the things that Syd does,” said Smith, who uses Shanks to guard opponents’ best players.

Over the years, Smith and Kerans have tried to recruit many of the same players.

“She got some good ones and I got some good ones,” Smith said.

Millikin’s winningest coach, Kerans’ 32-year record is 555-274. Her 2004-05 squad won the national title.

“I am saddened by that,” Smith said of Kerans’ retirement. “She is the one coach in the conference that I can call when I feel there is a conference problem or situation.

“We share the breast cancer survivor situation. When I was going through my cancer, she was the person I called when things didn’t feel right.”

Kerans' final season has been a struggle as the Big Blue come in at 7-15 overall and 2-11 at the bottom of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, but they have won their past two games. Millikin dropped a 79-62 decision to IWU on Jan. 17.

With three league games left, the Titans (19-3) remain atop the CCIW at 12-1 followed by Wheaton (19-4, 12-2), Carthage (16-6, 9-4) and Elmhurst (12-11, 8-6).

Millikin has four double-digit scorers in Devin Curry (16.1), Yanni Saddler (11.1), Emily Schultz (10.5) and Jordan Hildebrand (10.4).

Prairie Central graduate Cassie Somers adds 5.7 points for the Big Blue while Clinton product Haley Toohill chips in 4.5. Lincoln’s Faith Smith (1.2) has appeared in 11 games while Clinton’s Megan Tool (5.0) has been in two.

IWU is led by Molly McGraw, who averages 12.8 points, while Maddie Merritt chips in 12.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. Rebekah Ehresman adds 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.3 steals.

The Titans rank fourth nationally in scoring (85.4) and seventh in margin of victory (23.7).

On Saturday, Anderson became the ninth Titan to lead IWU in scoring this season, pouring in 22 to lift her average to 8.1. She leads the CCIW in 3-point field goal percentage at .439. Her team’s depth has resulted in only one Titan (McGraw in week one) earning CCIW player of the week honors.

“It is one of the odd things that happens,” Smith said. “There were a couple times when I thought, even though our team was pretty balanced, we had a couple outstanding performances like Rebekah almost having a triple double against Carroll (with 11 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists).

“We look at it as every week we want to get the team award. We have done that every week with the exception of losing to Wheaton.”

Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @Pg_Sharer


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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