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No. 6 Illinois Wesleyan outmuscles Central

Women's basketball | Nov. 20, 2009

AJ BakerBLOOMINGTON, ILL.—No. 6 Illinois Wesleyan Univ. flexed its muscle early and advanced to the title game of its own Titan Tip-Off Tournament with an 85-60 win over the Central College women’s basketball team.

While Central (0-2) was still without injured center Andrea Clark (junior, Guthrie Center), the Dutch held their own on the boards, getting outrebounded 46-41. And they shot 40 percent from the field but Illinois Wesleyan’s aggressive, full-court pressure forced 39 Central turnovers.

“They really hurt us early with their physical play and we weren’t responding very well,” coach Jerry Nikkel said. “But once we got our feet under us and made some adjustments, we played a little better.”

The second half was even, 29-29, but the Titans (2-0) had already stretched the lead to 56-31 at intermission.

Guard Sarah Paulson (sophomore, Ottumwa) had 15 points and five rebounds but was limited to 20 minutes after getting in foul trouble in the first half. Forwards AJ Baker (sophomore, Grinnell) and Alyssa Schwartz (freshman, Titonka, WCLT HS) each played more extensive minutes and earned Nikkel’s praise. Schwartz had eight points.

“For a freshman, Alyssa did a nice job,” he said. “She’s starting to come around.”

Nikkel also cited guard Ashley Feldman (senior, Alleman, North Polk HS), who had a career-high eight points.

“We gave her a lot of time and she responded,” Nikkel said.

The Dutch coach said the setback could prove useful.

“It was a great learning experience,” Nikkel said. “It teaches us how hard we need to play. If you’re going to play people like this, you’ve got to play as hard as they do.”

Another top-10 foe awaits in Saturday’s third-place game. Central will tackle No. 7 DePauw (Ind.), which fell to No. 1 Washington-St. Louis (Mo.) 57-52 in Friday’s early game, losing a 3-point lead in the final 1:22. Central and DePauw met in last year’s third-place game at the Washington-St. Louis Invitational, with DePauw a 75-57 winner. DePauw leads the teams’ all-time series 2-0.

Central College