HQ prediction: UI women 83, Wake Forest 77

Sneak peek:

Wake Forest at Illinois, 7 p.m. Thursday

THE LINEUPS

ILLINOIS (3-2)
STARTERS
Pos.    Name     Yr.    Ht.     PPG
G     Alexis Smith     So.     5-9     8.0
G     Amber Moore     Jr.     5-11     14.0
G    Ivory Crawford    So.     5-10     15.6
F     McKenzie Piper    Fr.     6-0      4.8
F     Karisma Penn    Sr.     6-2     18.4

FYI: Penn has tied Ashley Berggren (1994-98) for ninth place on the school career rebounding list. Penn, averaging 10.6 rebounds this season, has 779 for her career.

OFF THE BENCH
F     Taylor Tuck     So.     6-0     8.2
F     Nia Oden    So.     5-10     4.2
G     Cassie Dumoulin    Jr.     5-8     0.0

WAKE FOREST (2-4)
STARTERS
Pos.     Name             Yr.     Ht.     PPG
G     Chelsea Douglas    Jr.     5-5    13.0
G     Lakevia Boykin    Sr.    5-9    11.7
G     Asia Williams    Sr.     5-11     9.0
F     Dearica Hamby     So.     6-3     7.3
C     Sandra Garcia     Sr.     6-3     8.2

FYI: Garcia, who played for the Puerto Rican national team the last three summers, scored a season-high 20 points Saturday on 9-of-14 shooting against Marist.

OFF THE BENCH
F     Mykala Walker    Sr.     6-0      3.7
C     Lindsy Wright              Jr.     6-3     2.3
G    Millesa Calicott    So.     6-0     1.3

THE DETAILS
TV: None

Radio: WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)

Series: Illinois leads 1-0

FYI: With the Illini volleyball season finished, the multitasking Loane will be at the women’s basketball mic the rest of the way.

JEFF HUTH'S STORYLINES

1

The lone previous meeting of these teams was a memorable one — at least for the Illini. In the 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Illinois stormed back from a 17-point second-half deficit to win going away, 65-50, on the Demon Deacons’ court. After falling behind 36-19, the Illini scored 25 of the next 27 points to take command. Penn, then a freshman, scored all 15 of her points in the second half. With its seventh straight win, Illinois was rolling. It wouldn’t last, the Illini going 6-12 the rest of the regular season to fall out of NCAA tournament consideration. Those Illini, however, made a postseason run in the WNIT, winning three straight to reach the quarterfinals before being ousted.

2
From the outside looking in, coach Mike Petersen’s move from Wake Forest to North Texas in April was highly curious, and not merely because he was leaving a top-tier conference for a struggling program in a midmajor league. Petersen, the Demon Deacons’ all-time winningest coach in women’s basketball, had three starters and 10 letter winners returning from a team that won 20 games and advanced to the second round of the WNIT last season. For a replacement, athletic director Ron Wellman — a former Northwestern baseball coach — turned to a familiar name in Jen Hoover. A Wake Forest Athletic Hall of Famer who still holds school records for career points and rebounds, Hoover has coached at the college level since 1994. However, this is her second season as a head coach after guiding High Point (N.C.) to a 20-13 record and a WNIT appearance in 2011-12.

3
Illini coach Matt Bollant received some welcome news early this week: His thin roster could regain the services of Kersten Magrum on Thursday night. The redshirt junior forward hasn’t played since Nov. 15, when she suffered a left shoulder separation. In Magrum’s absence, Illinois was down to nine available players, and Bollant stuck with a seven-player rotation. The UI coach said “there’s a chance” Magrum will be cleared to play against Wake Forest. “Obviously, that’s a big benefit,” said Bollant, who cited Magrum’s scoring (11.4) and rebounding (5.7) averages last season as an indication of her impact. “So it would be great to get her back.” Bollant said Magrum has full range of motion and was approaching 100 percent strength in the shoulder. Bollant wouldn’t hazard a guess on how much Magrum might play Thursday night if she is cleared. “She’s been doing some cardio stuff to stay in shape,” he said. “She’s been doing some 5-on-0 (halfcourt) stuff, but that’s a lot different than the 5-on-5 and playing. It’s a little early to tell, and obviously we’re going to try to get as many minutes as we can out of her.”


THE PREDICTION
Illini 83, Wake Forest 77
Which Wake Forest team will show up: the one that took then-No. 25 (and current No. 20) Kansas to the wire before losing 64-58 on the Jayhawks’ court? Or the one that lost by 15 points at a neutral site to a Marist team that entered the game with a 2-3 record? (We could bring up the Demon Deacons’ 61-point loss to No. 2 Connecticut, but that would be piling on). Bollant expects Wake Forest to join his Illini in pushing the pace — “I anticipate it being an up-and-down game” — but the Demon Deacons also are capable of causing matchup problems in the halfcourt with two 6-3 post players. (N-G prediction record: 4-1)

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