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DECATUR — The No. 18 nationally-ranked Illinois Wesleyan women's basketball team never trailed while downing Millikin, 82-64, on Saturday.

Maddie Merritt provided 21 points and a career-high 12 rebounds as the Titans improved to 13-3 overall and 6-1 in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. 

Samantha Munroe added a season-high 17 points for IWU while sinking three of four 3-point attempts. Sydney Shanks chipped in 16 points as the Titans outshot their host from the field, .493 to .426.

"I think our defense in the first half was way improved, which is what it needed to be to win this game," said IWU coach Mia Smith after her first game coaching against former Wesleyan national player of the year Olivia Lett. "I feel we won the game in first quarter. We held them to eight points. That's what we had to do."

Merritt went 9 of 15 from the field and sank all three of her free throw attempts. Freshman Brooke Lansford had five of IWU's 17 assists.

"Maddie rebounded in the first half better than I've ever seen her rebound," Smith said. "Millikin takes a lot of shots per game. As long as they miss them and we get the rebound, we're in good shape."

Munroe's previous season high was nine points.

"Sam has practiced very, very well lately," Smith said. "It paid off for her today."

Jordan Hildebrand and Yanni Saddler scored 19 points apiece for Millikin (5-11, 1-6), which was outrebounded, 40-32.

Briana Anthony added 11 points for the Big Blue, whose bench was outscored by its counterpart, 34-6. Millikin freshman Aubrey Staton, an El Paso-Gridley graduate, had six points and two steals. 

"I felt our bench really played well tonight," Smith said. 

IWU hustled to leads of 18-8 after one quarter and 36-23 after two. The Titans took a 59-47 advantage into the final period.

Wesleyan outscored Millikin in the paint, 50-36, and got the best of a 15-9 difference in fastbreak points. The Big Blue lost the turnover battle, 19-13.

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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