BLOOMINGTON - Second place is on the line today as Elmhurst College visits Shirk Center to face Illinois Wesleyan.
That's what the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin standings say about the 7:30 p.m. game.
That is not, however, what IWU coach Scott Trost says.
"We don't play for second," Trost said Friday. "I don't look at it like that. We've just got to play well, plain and simple. There are a lot of games left. I just want to be playing well as we hit the (CCIW) tournament."
Ranked No. 8 nationally, IWU is 16-3 overall and tied with Elmhurst at 6-3 in the CCIW behind 9-0 Augustana. The Bluejays are 14-6, including a 72-64 win over Wesleyan on Jan. 14 in Elmhurst.
"It's a significant game from the point of view the winner really solidifies their position in the CCIW tournament." said Elmhurst coach Mark Scherer. "Second, depending on what happens in the tournament, you want to earn as many wins as possible to look good to the NCAA selection committee."
A second win over the Titans would greatly enhance the Bluejays' resume for NCAA consideration if they do not win the conference tournament and the resulting automatic national tournament bid.
Elmhurst's biggest weapon continues to be senior and Eureka native Chris Martin. The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging 20.9 points and 7.7 rebounds and is coming off a 38-point performance in a Wednesday win over Millikin. In that game, Martin set a CCIW record for most free throws in a game without a miss at 20.
"We've done a pretty good job on him, but they are more than him," Trost said. "Nick Michael is an all-conference type player, and their point guard (Brian Lee) has always played well against us. They play a very aggressive, physical style of basketball. We need to play much better than we did up there."
The 6-10 Michael adds 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds, and 6-9 Farmer City freshman Brent Ruch contributes more muscle off the bench.
"I think we're playing well," said Scherer. "Lee has been a big key for us. He continues to improve as really a first-year starter in our league. He's helped us improve as a team throughout the season."
The Titans trailed by nine at halftime of the first Elmhurst game. Leading scorer Keelan Amelianovich was held to five points, his second lowest total of the season, and Adam Dauksas tied a school record with eight 3-pointers on his way to 28 points.
"It's really not in my head at all," said Amelianovich, who paces IWU with an 18.6 average. "The coaches gave me a few pointers here and there that could definitely help. But I look at that game as in the past. This is another game, another opportunity."
Junior Zach Freeman averages 14.9 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds for Wesleyan, while Dauksas adds 14.2 points and 6.6 assists.
"It really stings badly," Dauksas said of the previous loss to Elmhurst. "There was a period of time we didn't get up any good shots, and we turned the ball over too much. As long as we take care of the ball and run our sets effectively, we'll be fine."
Titans' reserve forward Steve Schweer, who broke his nose in Wednesday's win at North Central, was fitted for a protective mask Friday and will play today.
"We've got to defend home court. We've given up two here. We can't give up any more," Trost said. "We've got to get back to making this a difficult place to play and that comes from us playing well. Sometimes you rely on the emotion from the crowd to carry you through, but you've still got to play well."
Scherer played at both Roanoke-Benson High School and Eureka College. Elmhurst assistant John Baines played at University High and was part of IWU's 1997 national championship team.