ROCK ISLAND n Today’s 7:30 p.m. College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin basketball game at Carver Center shapes up as one large multiple choice question.
Are Illinois Wesleyan and Augustana reeling or healing? Neither or both?
In a battle of top 10 teams, No. 9 Augustana (20-3, 10-2 in the CCIW) is coming off two tough losses and has one key player fighting injury. No. 10 IWU (18-4, 8-4) is trying to rebound from one gut-wrenching defeat and has two players hoping to return from ailments.
The Vikings have already earned the right to host the conference tournament Feb. 24-25 and would win the CCIW championship outright by downing the Titans. IWU can nab a share of its fourth straight title by finishing the regular season with two wins and having North Central beat Augustana on Saturday in Naperville.
The big question for the Vikings surrounds senior guard and CCIW scoring leader Rick Harrigan, who averages 23.0 points. Harrigan suffered a deep thigh bruise last Wednesday and played only 16 minutes in a loss to Wheaton. He sat out Saturday’s defeat at Millikin.
“He’s not ready,” Augustana coach Grey Giovanine said Tuesday. “I don’t know what his status will be by Wednesday. I don’t know of any therapy other than time that will make
a difference. There’s no questioning his toughness, but it’s really restricting his ability to move.”
IWU coach Scott Trost is preparing for a full dose of Harrigan.
“He’ll play. I don’t think there’s any question. He went through warm ups at Millikin,” Trost said. “Their style and system is not going to change because Harrigan is not playing. If he doesn’t play, (Pat) Brusveen has been playing well for them.”
The Titans anticipate the return of guard Jason Fisher and forward Chris Jones, both of whom sat out Saturday’s 69-66 loss at Wheaton.
“I’m feeling good right now,” Jones said of the sore knee that has kept him out of the last two games. “(Monday’s practice) was my test. It would depend on how I felt today (Tuesday) and it feels great. It’s looking like I’m going to be playing.”
Fisher felt a sharp twinge in his back during Friday’s practice and had his back tighten up before the Wheaton contest.
“I couldn’t even get in a defensive stance, so I told Coach I couldn’t go,” said Fisher. “It’s great now. It’s weird. I can’t even explain it.”
The Titans must shake off the shocking effects of blowing a 15-point second-half lead against Wheaton as what would have been a key victory slipped away.
“That was probably the most disappointing game I’ve ever been a part of in my career here,” said senior point guard Adam Dauksas. “Words don’t really describe it. I’m still very hurt by it. But you’ve got to move on and put those things in the past. Everyone’s intensity has to be picked up a little bit. And I think we need to hit the defensive glass on rebounds.”
That is what gnaws at Trost, his team’s 34-20 rebounding deficit to Wheaton.
“That’s inexcusable. That’s one thing that frustrates me as much as anything,” he said. “Rebounding to me is heart and effort and desire. We didn’t do the job on the glass to get that win.”
The Titans were plagued by miserable shooting and turnovers in a 57-54 loss to Augustana on Jan. 25 at Shirk Center. IWU shot 24 percent in the second half (38 percent overall), while committing 21 turnovers and handing out a mere seven assists.
“We have to defend a little better, and we have to hit some big shots,” said Dauksas, who became Wesleyan’s career assists leader in the Wheaton game. “That game was ours the first time. We just didn’t come up big at the offensive end at the end of the game.”
Giovanine said his team’s defense has slipped lately, with the opponent topping 50 percent from the field the past two games.
“The biggest concern for us is trying to contain all the offensive weapons we think Wesleyan has in so many different areas,” the Vikings’ coach said. “We’ll have to play a great defensive game to have a chance to win.”
Jay McAdams-Thornton, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior, averages 14.6 points and 5.1 rebounds for Augustana. Dain Swetalla, a 6-9 sophomore, adds 7.9 points and 6.4 rebounds, and brother Nate Swetalla, a 6-7 junior, contributes 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Wesleyan is led by 6-6 senior Keelan Amelianovich (18.9 points), 6-7 junior Zach Freeman (15.0 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Dauksas (14.7 points, 6.7 assists).
Today’s junior varsity game starts at 5:15 p.m.