GREENCASTLE, Ind. — Going scoreless the final 50 seconds doomed the No. 25 nationally ranked Illinois Wesleyan women's basketball team during an 89-81 loss to No. 10 Washington (Mo.) in the Midwest Challenge on Saturday.
"I know we're close," said IWU coach Mia Smith. "We just have to find a way to get over the hump. Turnovers in critical spots hurt us. You've got to give yourself a chance to win it. When you have a turnover, you take away that chance."
A pair of free throws by Rebekah Ehresman pulled the Titans (2-2) within 84-81 with 58.5 seconds left, but the Bears (2-1) scored five unanswered points the final 42 seconds.
Ehresman led IWU with 17 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals. Maddie Merritt chipped in 16 points while Molly McGraw had 14 and Kelsey Walsberg 10.
"Rebekah has been the solid force for us throughout our four games," Smith said. "She can't get frustrated. She's got to keep doing what she's doing. The rest have to find that consistency."
Washington, which trailed 71-70 with 6:26 left, received 29 points and 16 rebounds from Madeline Homoly. Kristina Schmelter added 19 points while Rachael Sondag and Stephanie Botkin had 12 apiece.
"You've got to credit Wash U," Smith said. "They took it to us on the inside. (Homoly), who usually averages 17, had 29. She's really athletic for her size. She has pretty good speed and strength."
IWU trailed 24-21 after one quarter and 47-41 after two, but drew within 66-65 after three. The Titans' biggest lead was 65-60 with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
IWU scored 23 points off 22 turnovers while the Bears had 13 points off turnovers.
The Titans were outshot from the field, 52.7 percent to 38.9 percent. IWU made 3 of 17 3-point attempts (17.6 percent), but went 22 of 24 at the free throw line (91.7 percent).
"Our shot selection was not the greatest," Smith said. "It seems like we get out of rhythm on our offense. We need to keep the movement going. We get stuck and the offense bogs down. I really think this team can be great. We've got to click with everybody."
IWU ends the tournament on Sunday against Rose-Hulman (2-2) in the 2 p.m. third-place game. The Engineers lost, 55-49, to No. 15 DePauw (4-0) on Saturday.
"I know we're playing great teams," Smith said. "This tournament is unbelievable. It's been super great competition."