KENOSHA, Wis. — Drawing a Carthage foul while pulling down a late first-half rebound, Illinois Wesleyan junior Colin Bonnett proceeded to tell the Red Men's Brad Perry exactly what he thought of him.
The Titans carted along a chip on their collective shoulders for the bus ride north Saturday. Bonnett and his buddies were not about to let Carthage knock it off.
Avenging a two-point December loss at Shirk Center, IWU buried the Red Men with two breathtaking first-half runs and continued piling on the dirt after halftime in a 92-63 victory that earned the Titans a least a share of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championship.
"You only get so many opportunities to play for a championship. I'm proud of how we took advantage of this opportunity," Titans coach Ron Rose said. "We played with great urgency at the defensive end and great purpose at the offensive end."
No. 23-ranked Wesleyan (19-5, 12-3 in the CCIW) will try for the outright crown Tuesday in the regular-season finale against North Central at Shirk Center. A win also makes the Titans hosts for the CCIW Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Using his superior quickness when confronted with the 6-foot-11, 285-pound Perry, IWU's Alex O'Neill broke free for the first of his two first-half dunks to forge a 22-22 tie with 9:58 showing.
The slam touched off a 16-0 surge that also featured five straight Bonnett points followed by five more in succession from Brady Rose. A Miles Curry jumper and O'Neill's reverse layup around Perry staked the Titans to a 36-22 lead.
"It was a lot of under the basket stuff," said O'Neill. "The first layup was big. I got going early. That helped."
The 6-foot-9 O'Neill paced the Titans with 17 points and eight rebounds.
"Carthage has great size," Ron Rose said. "We did feel Alex's agility was an advantage."
After a Kienan Baltimore shot brought the Red Men within 39-26, the Titans launched a similarly impressive streak.
"We played very well the first 10 minutes," Carthage coach Bosko Djurickovic said. "It was 22-20 and the wheels came off. They are winning the league because they're a good basketball team."
Back-to-back Jason Gregoire 3-pointers led to another O'Neill dunk, a Bonnett three and yet another O'Neill wrap around layup as IWU closed a thoroughly impressive first half with a 13-0 spurt to double up Carthage 52-26 entering halftime.
"We've been waiting to get clicking on all cylinders," Rose said, "and we got clicking on all cylinders."
The Titans committed just one turnover and drilled 9 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc in the initial 20 minutes.
"We really put it together at both ends," said Bonnett. "It feels great. This is good to see going into the conference tournament."
A Bonnett steal at halfcourt and dunk placed the Wesleyan second-half cushion at 59-33. A Tyler Burdine dunk and a Zach Knobloch 3-pointer extended the IWU advantage to 78-40.
Bonnett and Brady Rose chipped in 13 points each, and Curry added a career-high 12. Knobloch and Gregoire had nine apiece.
The Titans finished at 51.5 percent from the field (35 of 68) and bombed home 16 of 32 from 3-point range.
In his final home game, Carthage senior Brad Kruse scored 14 points. Baltimore also had 14 and Derek Mason 13.