INDIANAPOLIS – One question will override all others tonight during the Illinois-Purdue final of the Big Ten tournament. Do the Illini, playing their fourth game in four days, have anything left?
"I think we're more pumped up than anything," said Illinois' Jenna Smith. "Coach (Jolette Law) always says, 'Get un-tired.'
"We're not thinking about being tired. We're thinking about getting that championship more than anything."
To get rejuvenated in a timely manner, the Illini have been using ice baths, infamous by nature because they are, well, uncomfortable.
"They're terrible," guard Lori Bjork said. "I think it's kind of a myth that they work."
The UI training staff fills giant tubs full of ice, and the Illini submerge themselves from the waist down for 10 or 15 minutes, guard Chelsea Gordon said.
"Ugh," Gordon said, wincing at the prospect of another ice bath in preparation for today's game. "It's the coldest 10 or 15 minutes of my life. It's torture."
But, she said, it works.
"It refreshes your legs. It's amazing. After it, you feel like you haven't even played," Gordon said. "It's definitely worth it."
Not for everyone, though. While attendance is mandatory, Bjork hinted that some Illini – who shall remain nameless, of course – have managed to slip out.
"I've heard rumors," Bjork said with a smile. "I'm not going to name any names. But I've heard rumors of people who have not endured the ice baths."
Law on recruiting
With the recent addition of Florida point guard Fabiola Josil, the Illini's incoming recruiting class is up to four. But UI coach Jolette Law isn't done yet.
Law said she'd like to bump that number to as many as six. Josil and East St. Louis forward TeAndrea Smith are expected to sign during the April 16-May 21 signing period. Greenville (Ohio) guard Macie Blinn and Wheeling forward Lana Rukavina signed in November after making oral commitments during Theresa Grentz's tenure at UI coach.
One glaring need for the Illini next season is at power forward, or "4." Both Smith and Rukavina are more likely to fit in as a wing, though either could play the position.
"I would love to get a 4," Law said. "I'm looking at several 4s and even trying to find a 5, just to move (Jenna Smith) so I won't have to rely on her by herself."
Law, however, said she won't try to sign a 4 just for the sake of doing that, if the player doesn't fit what she's seeking.
"If I get some quality guards, I'll run four guards and a post," said Law, whose Rutgers teams frequently used that formula. "It's been successful for us."
Law didn't rule out seeking a junior college player but she indicated it wasn't likely.
"I don't knock junior colleges, but I'm not trying to build this program overnight," Law said. "I'd rather get quality kids in here that are going to work and represent the University of Illinois in a first-class manner.
"And I have my hands on a lot of 2009 kids. There's some great kids in Chicago and the surrounding areas that have been at our games. And after that 2009 class, that's the class that I'm really going after hard. There's some top kids."
Mitidiero in spotlight
Former Illini guard Missy Mitidiero, who played one season at the UI before transferring to DePaul, has started 28 of 29 games for the Blue Demons, averaging 7 points a game on 39 percent shooting. But she gained a few moments of notoriety recently that she'd rather not have.
DePaul was on the verge of a monumental upset of No. 1 Connecticut when Mitidiero received a pass and began dribbling upcourt with less than 10 seconds remaining and her team owning a one-point lead. But UConn freshman Maya Moore, a likely first-team All-American, sprinted from behind and poked the ball away with seven seconds left, a steal that setup Ketia Swanier's basket that won the game.
Two other former Illini, Victoria Arndt and Kira Mowen, are playing at Akron and Youngstown State, respectively.
Arndt, who redshirted during her only season in Champaign, has played in 16 games, averaging 10 minutes and 4.4 points for the 7-22 Zips.
Mowen, who spent two years at Illinois and is in her final season at Youngstown State, has played in 15 games and scored total of 15 points for the 12-15 Penguins.
The 34 combined points in the first half were the fewest in Big Ten tournament history. ... Smith has moved into second place on the UI's season rebounding list with 305. Lynnette Robinson has the record with 335. ... The last team to play on the tournament's first day and still reach the final: seventh-seeded Penn State in 1998. The Nittany Lions lost to fifth-seeded Purdue 59-49. ... Saturday's victory allowed Illinois to match its season-high winning streak of four games.