Ask beat writer Jeff Huth about the job Matt Bollant is doing, about attendance at the Assembly Hall or how next year's freshman class if faring in high school. He's chatting at 11 a.m. Friday but submit questions anytime.
Hi and welcome to our first chat of 2013. We'll get started in a few minutes.
How about catching us up on how next year's recruits are doing. Matt Daniels did a nice piece on them a while ago & then seems to have forgotten there are women basketball players & some of us would prefer to read about them than the men, who get written about ad nauseam.
Also, since Kierra Morris has missed almost 1/2 of the season, do you think she will eventually play or red shirt the rest of the season?
I must confess I've been so focused on the Illini (it's a new beat and I need to get up to speed on this group) that I haven't taken the time to check up on all the Illini recruits. One of my New Year's resolutions is to do better with that.
One thing that caught my eye not long ago was a victory by Leah Bolton's Marist team against perennial power Chicago Marshall. Bolton, a 5-10 forward who signed with Illinois in November, helped Marist blow out Marshall 67-33. That just doesn't happen to Marshall, but it did that night. Bolton contributed 12 points to the win.
I asked Matt Bollant earlier this week about Morris. It sounded like she was still a ways away from returning from her broken ankle. When I brought up the possibility of a redshirt, he pointed out that Morris basically had a redshirt season in 2011-12. The sophomore center played only one game as a freshmen, and she met the criteria for a redshirt then. So there would be no need to withhold her this season if and when she is ready.
Adrienne Godbold makes a huge difference to this team, and it makes sense that she took Kirtsten Magrum's starting spot. But I am surprised that Magrum hardly played at all (four minutes) against Purdue, on a night when their depth was taking its toll on us. Is she still struggling coming back from her injury, or is it just that the starting five plus Tuck are that much better athletically?
The pace of the game, particularly in the first half, allowed Matt Bollant to stick with his starters far longer than usual. Unlike Georgia in the previous Illini game, Purdue was very deliberate and Bollant felt he didn't need to rotate players as much as he might have otherwise.
I did wonder whether the minutes might catch up with Illinois late in the second half or overtime. But I really didn't see that. And when I asked Bollant about it, he felt the energy level at the end was still pretty high.
Regarding Magrum, she's recovered from her shoulder injury, so that isn't a factor in her minutes. With GodBold a fixture in the starting lineup and Tuck firmly in the role of top reserve, Magrum's minutes will be dictated by the pace of the game and how the top six Illini are performing on any given night. She's not as athletic as the top six, but Magrum definitely is a battler and a competitor. I might have thought that rebounding also would dictate how much Magrum would get on the court. However, even though Purdue killed Illinois on the boards 49-29, Magrum ended up playing only five minutes, so he apparently didn't see a need to go to the 6-1 Magrum.
One reason might have been how often Illinois was forcing Purdue to turn the ball over. The Boilermakers ended up with 34 turnovers. When a team is struggling with rebounding, defensive pressure can serve as a substitute for rebounds. Those Purdue turnovers gave the Illini plenty of offensive possessions. Kind of a substitute for rebounds, if you will.
One topic I'd like to bring up today is attendance. It's worth noting that the Illini drew their second-largest home crowd of the season on Wednesday against Purdue: 1,638. You'll remember that not only was it a really cold night -- with temperatures in the teens by the early evening -- but the Illini men were playing on the same night as well. Fans had the option of staying in their cozy living rooms and watching John Groce's team on the tube. That fact that over 1,600 still headed out the door to watch Matt Bollant's team, in my opinion, was impressive. The only larger crowd for a UI women's home game this season was 1,973 on Dec. 21 against Illinois State.
Bollant remarked after Wednesday's game how pleased he was with the crowd size and how it's apparent to him that this community is interested in women's basketball if it's given a reason to be.
Looks like we've run out of questions so we'll wrap this up. As always, thanks to those who are participating in these chats.
Talk to you next week.
-- Jeff Huth