Scarlet Knights await Illini

Scarlet Knights await Illini

The coaches working tonight's Illinois-Rutgers game have won a few games. Actually, 1,737 of them.

First-year Illinois coach Nancy Fahey, who won five national titles at Division III Washington University, goes against Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer. In her 47th year, Stringer is nine wins away from 1,000.

"Coach Stringer is obviously a great coach," Fahey said. "They know what they're going to do. They buy into that really well."

A year after an injury-plagued 6-24 season, the Scarlet Knights are winning again.

The team is 14-2 and receiving votes in The Associated Press Top 25. The News-Gazette's Scott Richey has Rutgers at No. 22.

The Scarlet Knights are No. 25 in the coaches poll, joining four other Big Ten teams.

Rutgers is 2-0 in the Big Ten, opening with wins against Purdue and Michigan State.

Senior guard Tyler Scaife led the Scarlet Knights with 23 points against the Boilermakers and 25 at Michigan State. She is third on the school's career scoring list and needs just 44 points to hit 2,000.

Rutgers leads the all-time series against Illinois 3-1. The only victory for the Illini came in the last meeting, a 78-41 decision last January,

The current teams are moving in opposite directions. Illinois has dropped three in a row, all by double digits, while Rutgers has won its last nine games.

"We've got to treat it like any other game and prepare the best we can and come ready to fight," junior forward Alex Wittinger said.

"One thing that Coach always tells us is we need to bounce back," sophomore guard Brandi Beasley said.

Wittinger leads Illinois in scoring (13.1 points) and rebounding (8.9). Beasley is right behind at 13 ppg.

The Illini will play without guard Jaelyne Kirkpatrick, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury.

After tonight's 6 p.m. tip at Rutgers, the Illini return home for a three-game home stretch. Iowa visits Sunday, followed by Nebraska and Michigan State.

With nine wins, Illinois has already reached last season's total, but Fahey is looking for her first Big Ten victory.