BLOOMINGTON — Although it was sad to see a 16-game winning streak end with a 71-61 loss at Wheaton on Wednesday, the No. 14-nationally ranked Illinois Wesleyan women's basketball team remains focused on the big picture. 

At 18-3 overall and 11-1 atop the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, the Titans remain in the driver's seat to win the league and host the Feb. 23-24 CCIW Tournament. 

Wheaton (18-4, 11-2) is second followed by Carthage (15-6, 8-4) and Elmhurst (12-10, 8-5).

"If we can take care of business one game at a time and finish our regular conference season the way we want to then that (Wheaton) game is a non-factor," said Coach Mia Smith, whose team hosts Carroll (7-14, 4-8) at 5 p.m. Saturday. 

IWU will honor seniors Rebekah Ehresman, Molly McGraw and Kelsey Walsberg.

After a brief post-game discussion on Wednesday, Smith sensed the Titans had already "moved on."

"We had a great practice yesterday," said Smith, whose team shot 25.4 percent from the field against Wheaton, a squad that leads the nation with nine blocked shots per game.

The Thunder blocked eight Titan shots led by Jill Berg with six. Besides its actual blocks, Wheaton's threat to block also was a factor. 

"I think it was in their minds," Smith said. "I know that it made us adjust a few times. The thing we have to remember when you have shot blockers is you need to use the shot fake, get them up in the air and then draw the foul.

"We didn't use enough shot fakes in that ballgame. You can't fade your shot. You've got to take your shot into them."

Ehresman led IWU in with a season-high 24 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals. The Gridley native is Wesleyan's career leader in steals with 276. Her 70 steals this season are 18 shy of tying Christina Solari's school record. 

"I would say she's got great anticipatory skills, but I think the most important aspect of her game is decision making," Smith said.

"She's just such a competitor. She's as unselfish as any player I've ever had. When you combine those two things, it makes for an incredible leader. I think Rebekah is one of our best captains ever." 

Ehresman ranks second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.34. She averages 4.6 assists and 1.4 turnovers per game.

"Her ability to secure the ball to make sure we get into offenses is really amazing," Smith said. "That has been a goal of Rebekah's to make sure she is positive in the assist-to-turnover ratio. She has worked really hard on her ballhandling skills."

Ehresman had three assists and one turnover in an 89-46 win at Carroll on Jan. 20.

"Carroll is playing a lot better," Smith said. "They've won a few games and they just lost a really close game at North Park (67-65).

"One of the things we need to do is just make sure we continue to play our game. We've got to strengthen our defense, strengthen our rebounding and then, on the offensive end, continue to move the ball and keep our players in motion."

Carroll is led by Brittney Wald (13.3 ppg) and Rachel Van Sluys (12.7). IWU counters with Maddie Merritt (12.8), McGraw (12.6) and Ehresman (10.4).

Weather permitting, Saturday's festivities will begin with an 11 a.m. alumni game involving former Titans such as Hope Schulte, Holly Harvey, Lila Naffziger, Karen Solari and other members of the 2012 national championship team.

Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @pg_sharer


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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