UI women lose another player to injury

CHAMPAIGN – Add Dawn Vana's name to the ever-expanding list of Illinois injuries.

Vana suffered stretched ligaments in her left (shooting) thumb during a double session of practices New Year's Eve and likely will miss games against Wisconsin (Tuesday), Iowa (Friday) and Indiana (Sunday).

"Susan (Blauser) was throwing a pass over her head, and I went to knock it down," Vana said. "I looked down at it, and it was hanging awkwardly, like it was separated from my thumb. It felt differently from a (jammed finger)."

Vana on Sunday sported a soft cast, which she said will be removed today when doctors determine the severity of the injury.

"If it is torn, then I'd have to have surgery and be out for the season. If it's really bad, then four weeks. If it's not so bad, then a week or two," Vana said. "He has to see when he takes the cast off."

Vana's absence leaves the UI with nine healthy players. Cindy Dallas (knee) is out for the season, and Melissa Parker (concussions) is sidelined until at least February.

As a result, all five Illinois starters played at least 31 minutes in Sunday's victory against No. 5 Georgia. Reserves Kristi Faulkner played 19 minutes and Holly Wilson five.

"I realize how many players we have," UI coach Theresa Grentz said. "I think our players are intelligent enough to realize how many players we have. They've trained all summer to do this. The fact we've been dealt some tough situations is a fact of life. You can't complain, you can't whine, you have to be strong. That's what sports is supposed to teach you."

To catch a thief

A year ago, Allison Curtin broke Tauja Catchings' freshman record for steals with 60. It might have a short life.

Freshman Shavonna Hunter had four steals Sunday and, with 32, is on pace to break Curtin's mark.

Hunter figures to have a great chance to get the record. With Parker's injury, Hunter is a lock to average more than 30 minutes a game the rest of the season.

"Every kid comes in and says they want to be a starter on a Division I team," Grentz said. "Well, this kid's got the job. Whether she wants it or not, she's got it. And she has to handle it. And she's doing it."

Fellow freshman Kristi Faulkner was impressive, too, flashing the kind of shooting she displays routinely in practice. Faulkner made all four shots, including three three-pointers.

"It's glorious being an inside player and having Kristi outside making those suckers," said forward Susan Blauser, who's faced collapsing defenses much of the season. "It makes my life so much easier."

Curtin is doing her part. Though she rarely shot three-pointers in high school, the Taylorville sophomore is on pace to shatter school records for accuracy. Curtin is 19 for 36 (52.8 percent) beyond the arc. The record for a season is 40.4 percent.

Curtin set a freshman record by making 38.9 percent a year ago. For her career, she's at 43.5 percent, which also would be a UI record.

Curtin has not attempted enough three-pointers this season to qualify for the Big Ten statistical lead.

How quick is quick?

Grentz indicated that her team's quickness caught Georgia off guard.

"I don't think people realize how quick Illinois is until you get on the floor with Illinois," Grentz said. "I don't think they really respect that.

"You look at our team, and we've had the tag of being slow and deliberate. And they still think we're slow and deliberate, which is fine. But until you get on the floor with us ..."

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