HQ forecast: Texas Tech 73, UI women 65

Sneak peek:
 
Illinois at Texas Tech, 7 p.m. today

The lineups

Illinois (4-3)
STARTERS
Pos.    Name     Yr.    Ht.     PPG
G     Alexis Smith      So.     5-9     8.9
G     Ivory Crawford         So.     5-10     16.1
G     Amber Moore       Jr.     5-11     13.0
F     Kersten Magrum    Jr.     6-1     6.0
C     Karisma Penn      Sr.     6-2     19.0
FYI: An Illini team without a lot of height is holding its own on the boards. Illinois is averaging 40.3 rebounds per game to its opponents’ 40.4.
OFF THE BENCH
F     Taylor Tuck      So.     6-0     8.1
F     McKenzie Piper         Fr.     6-0      4.1
F     Nia Oden         So.     5-10     3.1

Texas Tech (6-1)
STARTERS
Pos.     Name             Yr.     Ht.     PPG
G     Chynna Brown    Sr.     5-8     6.4
G     Casey Morris         Sr.     5-9     12.9
G     Monique Smalls       Sr.     5-6     9.1
F     Christine Hyde       Sr.     5-10     12.0
F     Kelsi Baker          Jr.     6-0     10.1
FYI: Smalls has started 107 consecutive games, a streak that started with the first game of her freshman season. She’s on course to become the second Texas Tech player to start every game in her four-year career.
OFF THE BENCH
F     Jackie Patterson    Jr.     6-1     8.5
G     Amber Battle    So.     5-9     4.9
G     Mary Bokenkamp    Sr.     5-9     3.0
 

The details

TV: Fox College Sports (Channel 534 on Comcast and 623 on DirecTV)

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

Series: Texas Tech leads 1-0.

FYI: Illini are playing their third game in seven days.

Jeff Huth's storylines

1
Texas Tech returns four starters and nine letter winners from a team that went 21-14 last season and reached the third round of the WNIT. Among those victories was a 70-64 triumph against Illinois at the United Center. The Raiders were ranked 15th at the time and had a 9-0 record after that game, but they would later struggle in conference play, finishing ninth in the Big 12 at 6-12. The Raiders again are getting the job done in their preconference schedule, their lone loss coming on the road against a New Mexico team that entered this week with a 6-2 record. “Just a physically gifted basketball team,” UI coach Matt Bollant said of Texas Tech. “They’re really athletic and (have the) ability to pressure the basketball and get into you.”

2
This won’t be Illinois’ first road game of the season, but it will be the first time Bollant’s team is playing on an opponent’s court. In fact, of the 12 nonconference games on the Illini schedule, only two are on a foe’s floor. With eight Big Ten road games looming — and with such key young players as Alexis Smith, Taylor Tuck and McKenzie Piper having little-to-no previous experience in conference road contests — would Bollant prefer that Illinois play one or two more true away games before the league race starts? No, the first-year UI coach is fine with the schedule he inherited. “You really want to play as many home games as you can,” Bollant said. “The Big Ten is so good that you want to try to get a good schedule and win more of your nonconference games. But certainly you have to get a couple of these games under your belt to get ready for (Big Ten) road games.”

3
This won’t be the first time Bollant has coached against one of Kristy Curry’s teams. Before taking the reins of the Texas Tech program in March 2006, Curry coached for seven seasons at Purdue. For three years during that period, Bollant was an assistant coach at Evansville and then at Indiana. His duties on the Hoosiers’ staff often pitted Bollant head-to-head in recruiting with Curry’s program. “Purdue and Indiana are definitely two rivals and you fight (over) recruits, but she was always classy,” he said. “You thought very highly of her. She’s a great person, has a great heart and is a good basketball coach.” Curry’s Boilermaker teams won five Big Ten regular season or tournament titles, never failed to reach the NCAA tournament and advanced to the NCAA title game in 2001 before losing. Since succeeding Hall of Famer Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech, Curry has found the going tougher. Her first six Raiders teams had a 35-63 Big 12 record and appeared in one NCAA tournament. “It’s hard to replace a legend,” Bollant said in reference to Sharp. However, the Raiders are 49-26 since the start of the 2010-11 season.

Prediction: Texas Tech 73, Illinois 65

If the Illini had a couple true road games under their belts, this prediction might be different. But we wonder how the young UI players will react in one of the more difficult environments in women’s college basketball. Last season, Tech ranked 11th in the nation in home attendance, and Raiders fans continue to show up in large numbers. In five home games this season, Tech is averaging 6,057 in attendance. An Illini team averaging 22 turnovers in its last four games could be vulnerable to the Raiders’ pressure. Tech opponents have averaged 23.6 turnovers, and the Raiders are tied for fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+ 10.14). (N-G prediction record: 6-1)

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