WHEATON -- The Millikin men had difficulty holding onto the ball, allowing 21 turnovers in their CCIW opener with Wheaton Saturday in a 78-68 loss.  

Millikin (4-2, 0-1) also struggled with its shot in the first half while the Thunder had the hot hand.

Wheaton was led by Ashton Francis' game-high 31 points as the Thunder (5-1, 1-0) shot 57 percent from the field in the first half building up a 46-28 lead at halftime.

Millikin's offense caught fire in the second half and went on a 28-7 run in the first nine minutes to cut the Thunder lead to three at 56-53 with 10:50 left in the game.

Although Millikin outscored the Thunder in the second half, it could never overcome the first half deficit.

Millikin coach Mark Scherer sees his team's first CCIW game as a learning opportunity. 

"I felt like we were a little shell-shocked in the first half," he said. "We regrouped and out played them in the second half and we even outscored them by eight points. We are learning what the CCIW is all about." 

For Scherer, fixing the turnover problem is the key to the Big Blue moving forward.

"We have to learn to take care of the ball," he said. "Part of us taking the next step is getting everyone to value possessions. We need to reduce our turnovers to closer to 10." 

Millikin shot 47 percent from the field, but struggled from three-point range going 1-10.

The Thunder had a big advantage at the free throw line making 22-26 while Millikin went 9-16.

Elijah Henry led the Big Blue with 22 points and 12 rebounds. DaVante Harrell had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. Michael Beaty added 10 points for Millikin.

Millikin returns home on Wednesday to host hosting Elmhurst College at 7 p.m.

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