HQ forecast: Colorado 73, UI women 69

HQ forecast: Colorado 73, UI women 69

Illinois vs. Colorado at Assembly Hall, 1 p.m. Saturday
The Lineups
Illinois (4-2)

Pos. Name           Yr. Ht. PPG
G Alexis Smith      So. 5-9 7.5
G Ivory Crawford     So. 5-10 17.3
G Amber Moore       Jr. 5-11 13.8
F Kersten Magrum    Jr. 6-1 6.3
C Karisma Penn      Sr. 6-2 20.3
FYI: Through six games, Illini bench is outscoring opponents’ bench 94-76.

F Taylor Tuck       So. 6-0 7.7
F McKenzie Piper     Fr. 6-0  4.8
F Nia Oden          So. 5-10 3.5

Colorado (5-0)
Pos. Name         Yr. Ht. PPG
G Brittany Wilson      Jr. 5-7 8.2
G Jasmine Sborov    So. 6-0 4.4
G Chucky Jeffery   Sr. 5-10 13.0
F Arielle Roberson     Fr. 6-1 17.2
C Rachel Hargis      Jr. 6-4 5.8
FYI: Roberson has scored in double figures in each of her first five college games.

F Jen Reese    So. 6-2 9.0
G Lexy Kresl    So. 5-11 5.0
F Meagan Malcolm-Peck    Sr. 6-2 3.8

TV: none

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

Series: Tied 2-2

FYI: Game will be streamed on BTN.com.

Jeff Huth’s storylines
1. Colorado was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 in a preseason poll of media members who cover the league. The Buffaloes finished 10th in the conference last season but were 21-14 overall and went 3-1 in the WNIT to reach the quarterfinals. Third-year head coach Linda Lappe returns four starters and nine letter winners from that team. Point guard Jeffery, a do-it-all talent, was selected to the All-Pac-12 team and the Pac-12 All-Defensive team last season. Roberson, whose brother Andre plays for the No. 19 Colorado men’s basketball team, is performing at an All-Pac-12 level. After sitting out last season with a hip injury that required surgery, the San Antonio native already is a two-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week and was MVP of Colorado’s Omni Hotels Classic last weekend. “They play fast,” Illini coach Matt Bollant said of Colorado. “They’ve got a really good point guard in Jeffery. They’re a good defensive team. They’re physical and will get after you.”

2. By now it should be obvious that this Illini team can put the ball in the hoop. Illinois is averaging a Big Ten-high 78.5 points and has three players among the conference’s top 18 in scoring average. Stopping opponents, however, has been another story. The Illini are yielding an average of 70.7 points, most in the Big Ten and 7.3 points more than the conference’s next most generous defense. These are foreign numbers to Bollant, whose Wisconsin-Green Bay program was built on a solid foundation of defense. His final four Phoenix teams held opponents to scoring averages of 50.8, 56.6, 53.0 and 55.1. “We want to be better defensively,” he said earlier this week. “I think they’ve had moments when they’ve embraced the offense and running ... but we’re not guarding the way we should. I thought we’d be better on the ball than we have been because of our athleticism, and I thought we’d have a little more toughness in guarding the ball. We have to get better at that.”

This Illini team has had no problem sharing the ball. Entering the week, Illinois ranked ninth nationally in assists per game, and it currently leads the Big Ten with a 19.5 average. If the stats crew that worked last weekend’s Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas is to be trusted, the Illini recorded an assist on each of their 18 field goals in a game against Iowa State. As you’d expect, a point guard is at the forefront of Illinois’ assist fest. Smith racked up a career-high 14 assists Thursday against Wake Forest — the third-highest single-game total in program history — and leads the Big Ten with an average of 8.0. Bollant rightly points out that assists are more likely to occur when an opponent plays a zone defense, which is what the Illini faced against Iowa State and several other opponents. “But certainly we want to be good at sharing the basketball, be unselfish the way we play,” he said, “and I think our team has grown in that area.”

Prediction: Colorado 73, Illinois 69. A tough one to call. If the Illini can tighten up their defense, they have a good shot at winning. The Buffaloes already have shown they can defend, holding opponents to an average of 56.0 points. Games like this apparently hold no fear for Colorado. The Buffaloes enter with an 18-game winning streak in nonconference regular season games and are 25-4 in such contests dating back to the 2010-11 season. (N-G prediction record 5-1)


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SwifferFan wrote on December 01, 2012 at 7:12 am

Home advantage.  A team that's improving.  A coach and woman finding an upward path.  The Illini by 6.  The Illini women will gut it out and get very serious on defense, in particular.