Huth prediction: UI women 80, Bradley 61
Sneak peek: Bradley at UI, 7 p.m. Thursday
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Alexis Smith So. 5-9 6.0
G Amber Moore Jr. 5-11 19.0
G Ivory Crawford So. 5-10 11.0
F Kersten Magrum Jr. 6-1 4.0
F Karisma Penn Sr. 6-2 11.0
FYI: Penn recorded her 29th career double-double Sunday (11 points, 12 rebounds) against Evansville. She’s No. 5 on the all-time Illini double-double chart.
OFF THE BENCH
F Nia Oden So. 5-10 7.0
G McKenzie Piper Fr. 6-0 14.0
F Taylor Tuck So. 6-0 12.0
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Kelsey Budd Jr. 5-9 9.5
G Katie Yohn Sr. 5-11 10.0
G Brooke Bisping Sr. 5-7 5.0
G Catie O’Leary Jr. 5-10 13.5
C Aly Spinas-Valainis Jr. 6-3 7.0
FYI: Yohn, a 2009 News-Gazette All-State first-teamer, scored seven points Monday to move into a tie for 13th on the school’s career scoring list (1,032 points).
OFF THE BENCH
G Shronda Butts So. 5-7 3.0
F Kelly Frings Jr. 6-1 7.0
F Jenny Smith Fr. 6-1 4.0
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM. Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Series: Illinois leads 10-2
FYI: For Loane, this is first of four consecutive days of calling Illini women’s basketball or volleyball.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
Say what you will about the four-season Illini coaching tenure of Jolette Law — and there’s no denying her 69-93 record was disappointing — but her teams did take care of business in the home state. During Law’s time at the UI helm, the Illini faced six non-Big Ten state schools a total of 13 times and went 10-3. Thursday night, first-year UI coach Matt Bollant begins writing his own resume against such opponents. This is the first of two games this season against in-state teams not named Northwestern, with Illinois State also making a visit to the Assembly Hall on Dec. 21. The Illini are 5-1 all time at home against Bradley.
As aggressively as the Illini are at defending under Bollant, fouls are going to happen. The key, especially against better opponents, will be to avoid the kind of widespread foul trouble Illinois experienced in its season opener Sunday. The Illini had 13 fouls by halftime and finished with 25. Somehow, Illinois avoided any foul-outs, but two starters and a top reserve barely avoided it with four fouls. Bollant complained that, especially in the first half, his defenders weren’t moving their feet quickly enough and paid for it with fouls. When the Illini move their feet, the defense can be overwhelming. In the first eight minutes of the second half, Illinois limited Evansville to five points. “They just had intense ball pressure, and we couldn’t see the open person,” Purple Aces center Samantha Heck said.
If it’s been a while since you’ve attended an Illini women’s basketball home game, you might be interested to know that everyone currently is getting the best seats in the house. With attendance badly lagging the past few seasons, the UI has closed off B and C sections at the Assembly Hall. Whether you’re a season ticket-holder or a walk-up ticket buyer, you’ll be seated in A, the area closest to the court. According to Steve Landrus, an assistant ticket manager in the UI athletic department, seating capacity in A Section for women’s basketball is about 2,100. About 800, located near midcourt, are reserved seating. This change was made to avoid the kind of spread-out seating that made small Illini crowds appear even sparser. With more fans closer to the court, it also creates an enhanced homecourt atmosphere for UI players. If and when the need arises, of course, B Section will be opened.
Prediction: Illinois 80, Bradley 61
The Braves return three starters from the team that went 18-16 and advanced to the second round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational last season. When coach Paula Buscher resigned after 12 seasons to take the same position at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Bradley promoted assistant Michael Brooks. The Braves have won their last six regular season nonconference road games. That streak ends Thursday night. (N-G prediction record: 1-0)