WHEATON — After jumping out to a 27-7 lead, the No. 17 nationally ranked Illinois Wesleyan women's basketball team coasted to a 78-59 victory over Carthage in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament semifinals on Friday.
The No. 2-seeded Titans (22-4) will face top-seeded and No. 21-ranked Wheaton (22-4) in Saturday's 7 p.m. final to determine who receives the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Wheaton won its semifinal against No. 5 seed North Park, 68-56.
No. 3 seed Carthage (17-10) lost to IWU for the third time. Earlier scores were 85-71 and 85-73.
"I thought it was one of our better games," said IWU coach Mia Smith. "We played a really good first quarter. Our defense was good and our offense was good. The thing I love the most is our 22 assists.
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"I thought we moved the ball extremely well and found the open girl. I thought we took them out of their offense and kept them from attacking the basket with the dribble drive."
Maddie Merritt paced the Titans with 19 points and six rebounds. Kendall Sosa added 13 points, Ashley Schneider 12 and Sydney Shanks 10. Shanks also had five assists and three steals while Raven Hughes had four blocks and nine points.
The Lady Reds were led by Autumn Kalis' 13 points and Bailey Gilbert's 11. Carthage was outshot from the field, .469 to .408, and outrebounded, 35-30.
IWU, which never trailed, led by as many as 29 points with 4:41 left. The Titans got the best of a 24-16 difference in turnovers to win the points-off-turnovers race, 30-9.
Wesleyan's bench outscored its counterpart, 28-16. In second-chance points, IWU prevailed, 20-8.