BLOOMINGTON — Hanover College's Mike Beitzel looks at Illinois Wesleyan's imposing 137-12 record at Shirk Center over 11-plus seasons a bit differently than most opposing coaches.
That's because Beitzel's Panthers own two of the 12.
And Hanover's most recent triumph over IWU at Shirk will certainly be in the back of the Titans' minds today when the Panthers return for a 7:30 p.m. nonconference game today.
"Ever since that last game last year, it left a sour taste in our mouths," Wesleyan senior center Cory Jones said of Hanover's 81-76 victory in the NCAA Division III Tournament. "We try not to make it a revenge game, but in essence it is a revenge game. We're going to play our butts off and show Hanover how good of a team we really are."
The No. 1-ranked Titans are 7-0 and shooting for their first 8-0 start since 1996-97. IWU was 21-5 last season with two losses coming to the Panthers, including a 55-53 decision at Hanover.
Hanover, which dropped an NCAA Tournament game to Wesleyan on its home floor in 2004, is 6-2 and ranked 14th.
"It's a game I definitely had on my calendar. I've been looking forward to it to say the least," said Titans' senior guard Adam Dauksas. "When somebody beats you twice, it's kind of like getting beat up a little bit. You don't want it to happen again.
"But we're a different team this year. We have a better mindset. I think we're a lot better defensively."
The coach who watched his team shoot 74 percent from the field in the second half of the NCAA Tournament victory here last March agrees with Dauksas.
"We think they're a very fine team. They're playing better defensively this year," Beitzel said Monday before his team held an evening practice at Shirk. "We know we have to be at our best to compete against Illinois Wesleyan, and I'm sure they feel like they have to be at their best to beat us. It's been a remarkable series."
IWU coach Scott Trost is emphasizing toughness against a Hanover team that is meticulous in its offensive execution and relentless in its rebounding.
"It's all about urgency on the defensive end for us," said Trost. "They are a physical team. We have to make it hard for them to get in their offense and then limit them to one shot. We've got to be disciplined and be able to guard for 35 seconds each possession."
Hanover's leading scorer is 5-foot-11 sophomore Clint Parker at 14.0 points per game.
"Parker shoots quick and drives a lot," Beitzel said of his top 3-point shooter. "He can score and he can give up points, too. He's not a real strong defensive player, and he has a lot of turnovers. It's a mixed bag with Parker."
Panthers' seniors Ben Lye and Brian Chrin have remarkably similar statistics. The 6-4 Lye has scored 89 points (11.1 average) and has 40 rebounds (5.0). The 6-3 Chrin has 88 points (11.0) and 40 boards. Both have 14 offensive and 26 defensive rebounds.
"They're not big and they're not real strong, but they know how to use their bodies really well," said the 6-6 Jones. "They know how to get the ball on the post, and if the post gets doubled they're really good passers."
Hanover's other starters are 6-0 senior Nate Minyard (6.1 points) and 6-7 sophomore Robby Brown (6.6 points, 6.5 rebounds).
"We're not as strong of a team as we were last year. But we do have a team that can become a good team," Beitzel said. "We're still developing offensively."
IWU will start 6-6 senior Keelan Amelianovich (18.0 points), 6-7 junior Zach Freeman (16.3), 6-2 senior Jason Fisher (6.0), Dauksas (14.1) and Jones (6.9).
"Chrin and Lye have been a nemesis for three years. They are really good college players. They're smart, tough, winners," Trost said. "I think our guys will be energized and excited to play. We have to play our game and make sure IWU doesn't beat IWU."
Contrasting philosophies will again butt heads. IWU likes a fast tempo and has surpassed 80 points four times. Hanover prefers a halfcourt style and averages 65.6 points.