Fahey: Wittinger 'a game-day decision'

Fahey: Wittinger 'a game-day decision'

CHAMPAIGN — The severity of Alex Wittinger's right ankle injury was the biggest question to emerge from Thursday night's 72-50 loss at Purdue.

Forty-eight hours later, her status on the eve of today's 2 p.m. game for the Illinois women's basketball team against Wisconsin at State Farm Center was still unknown.

"Right now, we're going to have to make that a game-day decision," Illini coach Nancy Fahey said Saturday of Wittinger's status.

The 6-foot-2 senior forward, who is leading the Illini in both points per game (14.6) and rebounds per game (7.7), landed on an opponent's foot in the second quarter against the Boilermakers and turned her ankle.

Wittinger logged a season-low 11 minutes and missed the entire second half as Illinois dropped its ninth straight game.

In Wittinger's absence, Ali Andrews played well as the Illini's primary threat in the post, scoring 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting while pulling down 11 rebounds for her first career double-double.

The 6-2 junior forward from Lake in the Hills played 31 minutes against Purdue, the most since she was on the court for 35 minutes during an overtime victory over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 1.

"We had to have the attitude of next up. Ali certainly had that attitude (on Thursday)," Fahey said. "We all know about her face-up game, but she really did a great job with her back to the basket. ... Ali's one of our hardest and one of our most consistent kids in the sense of how tough she is."

If Wittinger can't go against the Badgers, and Fahey decides not to utilize a four-guard lineup, the Illini's second-year coach would likely turn to either Sarah Shewan or Mackenzie Blazek to start alongside Andrews at forward.

Blazek started three straight conference games against Indiana (Dec. 28), at Northwestern (Dec. 31) and at Minnesota (Jan. 6), while it would be Shewan's first start at Illinois — although the 6-2 graduate transfer started 19 games in three-plus seasons at Quinnipiac.

For what it's worth, Shewan seemed confident Saturday that the Illini's top player will be back in the lineup for today's tilt.

"Alex is a tough cookie," Shewan said. "I think she'll be fine."

Illinois (9-14, 1-11 Big Ten) will need a strong post presence against Wisconsin (11-12, 2-9), which ranks 25th nationally in rebounding (42.8 per game).

The Badgers, who only have one win in their past nine games, are led by 6-0 forward Marsha Howard (13.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and 6-1 forward Imani Lewis (12.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg).