BLOOMINGTON — Storybook seasons such as the one being written by the Illinois Wesleyan women’s basketball team include milestones.
Fans taking in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. home game with Augustana likely will witness senior Molly McGraw becoming the No. 2 career scorer in IWU history.
The former Central Catholic High School star needs eight points to pass the 1,415 scored by Elaine Hill (1986-90) and Kristen Schroff (1992-96). It will require an extended postseason run for McGraw to reach Tracy Butler’s school record of 1,632 (1992-96).
Coach Mia Smith credits McGraw for adjusting her style to help the No. 17-nationally ranked Titans win 15 consecutive games and reach 17-2 overall and 10-0 in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
McGraw, for one, marvels at her team’s success and its 33.0 average margin of victory in CCIW games.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. Each game is just shocking. We prepare and we don’t think (a blowout) is going to be the outcome. It just happens. It’s awesome.”
McGraw shares the team’s top scoring average with Maddie Merritt at 12.8 points. That’s down from McGraw’s averages of 16.9 as a junior, 14.6 as a sophomore and 13.4 as a freshman.
“Molly has really bought into making her team better this year,” Smith said. “I think being able to see that change in her is the thing that I’m most proud of Molly for.”
The 2016 Division III national high jump champion, McGraw possesses unusual athleticism.
“I think she shoots a layup like a collegiate guy,” Smith said. “She elevates so high. I just love watching her shoot a layup.”
McGraw’s personality makes her a good teammate.
“Molly is good comic relief,” Smith said. “Molly doesn’t take things too seriously. She’s competitive, but at the same time she’s always got that little smirk on her face that makes me laugh, too.”
Smith applauds McGraw and the rest of the Titans for respecting each opponent.
“I think the reason why this team does is this team is really sharp mentally,” Smith said. “They know any letdown could creep up on them. They know that there is a target on their back. I think they know they’ve got to play every game to the best of their abilities.”
IWU played well enough on Jan. 3 to top Augustana, 102-57, in a game where the teams combined to shoot 73 free throws. The Titans made 35 of 44, but got the worst of a 27-23 difference in turnovers.
“I want to make sure we’re not fouling and putting people at the free throw line,” Smith said. “Augustana is fighting to get in the (CCIW’s) top four and we’ve got to make sure we’re not the team they trip up.”
The Vikings (12-7, 5-5) are led by Izzy Anderson, who averages 15.6. In the earlier meeting, Sydney Shanks held her to five points on 2-of-11 shooting. That was Anderson’s second lowest point total of the season.
Led by Rebekah Ehresman’s 3.4 steals, IWU is forcing 25.4 turnovers compared to 23.9 last year.
“I think it has to do with we’re more athletic,” Smith said. “We’re longer. We’re quicker. I think we’re also smarter. We’ve got another year of the run-and-jump (press) under our belt. Our half-court defense, especially our post defense, has been a lot better.”