NAPERVILLE — A 15-2 lead to open the game and a 44-29 advantage with 14:26 left proved too slippery for the Illinois Wesleyan women's basketball team to hang on to Saturday.
A layup by Bobbi Johns with 58 seconds left gave North Central its first lead at 57-56 and the Cardinals (12-0) went on to win, 59-56. North Central finished the game on a 30-12 run.
The outcome negated a stellar performance by Kasey Reaber, who had a season-high 19 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the Titans (6-6) in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opener for both squads.
"I feel bad for our kids with this loss," said IWU coach Mia Smith. "Despite the loss, I have a ton of confidence in this team.
"When we're good, we're really good. We are still moving up the ladder and getting better every day in practice. This team will find a way to get it done."
Reaber's layup off a Gabby Weber assist gave IWU a 52-42 lead with 6:32 remaining.
"Kasey Reaber wanted that win," Smith said.
Alina Lehocky added 10 points for IWU, which outshot its host from the field, 42.9 percent to 30 percent, but was outscored from 3-point range, 24-3, and outscored at the free throw line, 11-1.
"For 37 of those 40 minutes, I was really impressed with how our girls played," Smith said.
The Cardinals had 11 blocks including six by 6-foot-2 Jamie Cuny. North Central got the best of an 18-12 difference in turnovers and scored 17 points off turnovers compared to nine for IWU.
Shelby Gray missed 3-point attempts with 31 and three seconds left that could have put the Titans on top. Johns ended the scoring with two free throws with 1.5 seconds left.
"Thats's the girl you want talking those shots," Smith said of Gray. "That's the shot we want to take 10 of out 10 times."
Tess Godhardt led the Cardinals with 13 points. Their 59 points was a season low and well off their 102.8 average coming in.
By holding North Central under 100, IWU stopped the Cardinals from owning the outright NCAA Division III record for consecutive games over 100. They share the mark at five.
The Titans, who have lost three straight, won the rebound battle, 49-36. They took a 29-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.