SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Illinois Wesleyan basketball team will ring in the new year with a large zero to its credit.
And the Titans have nothing exactly where they want it - the loss column.
IWU completed a perfect pre-conference season Friday with a 76-60 victory over Westmont in the championship game of the Tom Byron Classic before a Murchison Gymnasium crowd of 500.
Westmont had won the previous five titles in its own tournament. The NAIA Division I team fell to 8-4.
"We played really well," IWU coach Scott Trost said. "It was a great team effort. Westmont is a good team."
Tournament Most Valuable Player Keelan Amelianovich paced the 10-0 Titans, ranked No. 1 in Division III, with 25 points. Adam Dauksas and Chris Jones contributed 14 each. Jones led all rebounders with nine.
Dauksas and Jones also made the six-player all-tournament team.
"We knew it would be a tough game," Amelianovich said. "We kept our composure at times we needed to. We moved the ball around and got good open shots inside and outside."
The Warriors closed a 13-point halftime deficit to six with a 9-2 surge to open the second half.
Westmont then got as close as 58-51 at the 8:21 mark before a pair of Zach Freeman dunks off Matt Arnold assists helped IWU hold off the hosts.
Santiago Aguirre, who fouled out with 4:55 to play, paced the Warriors with 18 points.
Westmont shot just 35.6 percent from the field, while IWU finished at 57.1 percent.
"I admire that team," Warriors' coach John Moore said of Wesleyan. "They played really well. They took us out of everything we do."
With Dauksas scoring 11 of IWU's first 20 points, the Titans led 20-13 on the strength of a 16-7 spurt.
Westmont climbed to within 26-23 on a Nick Debban basket before Amelianovich scored the next seven points to extend the Wesleyan margin to 10.
The Titans closed the half on a 10-2 spurt with Jason Fisher contributing a 3-pointer and a driving layup.
Wesleyan shot just under 61 percent from the field in the opening half and nailed 7 of 10 from beyond the arc. The Titans also enjoyed a 23-11 halftime rebounding advantage.
IWU opens its College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin schedule Wednesday in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Shirk Center against North Central.
"It's tough to travel across country and beat two really good teams," Amelianovich said. "To do that, is a very positive sign. There's nothing better to start the conference 10-0."
Other all-tournament team members were Aguirre, Chase Curtiss of Puget Sound and Mitch Webb of Berry.
Puget Sound 117, Berry 108
Puget Sound, ranked No. 5 in Division III, held off NAIA Division I Berry in the third-place game with a tournament-record offensive output.
Berry shot 63.8 percent from the field and scored 62 second-half points while dropping to 7-6. Webb and Lee Burrell scored 22 points each for the Vikings, who committed 30 turnovers.
Curtiss paced Puget Sound (8-2) with 26 points. Ryan DeLong and Jason Foster added 14 apiece.
IWU had defeated the Loggers, 104-87, in a tournament semifinal Thursday.