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BLOOMINGTON — Mia Smith thought she had a finesse team short on toughness.

The Illinois Wesleyan women's basketball squad, however, demonstrated physical toughness during two exhibition games against Division I opponents.

"I thought this team was a little bit more finesse than brawn, but I think we've got a better balance now that we've had the two exhibitions under our belt," said the 21st-year coach ahead of Sunday's 2 p.m. home opener against the University of Chicago.

The Maroons, who opened with a victory over Lake Forest on Thursday, are ranked seventh nationally by D3hoops.com while IWU is No. 12.

The Titans outrebounded Division I Eastern Illinois, 43-35, during an 86-82 exhibition loss and only had 10 fewer rebounds than Division I Southern Illinois Edwardsville in an 81-71 exhibition setback.

"I was real happy with the rebound numbers in the first half against SIUE," Smith said. "I thought they could have been better for the game.

"Our true posts, Maddie (Merritt) and Riley (Brovelli), have got to produce higher rebounding numbers than they did last year and better than what they've produced this year."

Wesleyan shot .409 from 3-point range in its exhibition games. Smith wants players taking the first good 3-pointer they see.

"More times than not ... when they pass up the first good look, it throws the rhythm of the team out and we usually end up turning it over," she said. 

IWU's top scorer in the exhibitions was sophomore Kendall Sosa, a Normal Community graduate who averaged 17.0 points off the bench. She made five of six 3-point attempts.

"I love what Kendall is doing," Smith said. "She has played incredible."

Also shining reserve is sophomore Raven Hughes, a University High graduate averaging 10.5 points.

"Kendall and Raven are certainly contenders for starting positions," said Smith, whose starters have been Ashley Schneider (11.0 ppg), Sydney Shanks (10.5), Merritt (10.5), Nina Anderson (9.0) and Samantha Munroe (1.0). 

Last season, the Titans topped Chicago, 77-56, and the Maroons went on to finish 24-3. Chicago has a pair of honorable mention All-Americans in 5-6 junior Mia Farrell (15.6 ppg last year) and 5-10 senior Olariche Obi (11.2 rpg).

"Those two are really good, but even as good if not better is (5-10 junior Taylor) Lake," Smith said. "They return all their starters from last year.

"They are a very good team. They pressure the guards and their athleticism is equal to ours."

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Contact Randy Sharer at (309) 820-3405. Follow him on Twitter: @PG_sharer

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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