HQ forecast: UI women 86, Oregon 75
Oregon at Illinois, 7 p.m. today
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Alexis Smith So. 5-9 8.4
G Ivory Crawford So. 5-10 15.7
G Amber Moore Jr. 5-11 13.8
F Kersten Magrum Jr. 6-1 6.2
C Karisma Penn Sr. 6-2 19.1
FYI: Three Illini players — Moore, Smith and Penn — rank among the Big Ten’s top 10 in average minutes played per game. No other team has more than two.
OFF THE BENCH
F Taylor Tuck So. 6-0 6.6
F McKenzie Piper Fr. 6-0 3.6
F Nia Oden So. 5-10 2.4
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Jordan Loera So. 5-9 6.7
G Devyn Galland Fr. 5-8 6.9
F Danielle Love Jr. 6-2 13.1
F Jillian Alleyne Fr. 6-3 14.9
C Megan Carpenter So. 6-4 6.6
FYI: Oregon used its fourth different starting lineup of the season in its last game. Love, Carpenter and Loera are the only Ducks to start all seven games.
OFF THE BENCH
G Ariel Thomas Jr. 5-6 10.0
F Chynna Miley Jr. 6-2 2.5
G Katie Gruys Fr. 6-0 0.0
TV: Streamed live at BTN.com; will be delayed broadcast on BTN at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM; Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Series: Oregon leads 2-0.
FYI: Each of the two previous meetings was played on Oregon’s court.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
Injuries have taken a mighty toll on the unlucky Ducks. Laura Stanulis and Lexi Petersen — two of Oregon’s top five scorers before getting injured — are lost for the season. Deanna Weaver, the team’s No. 5 scorer last season, has yet to play. Ariel Thomas, the No. 3 scorer last season, played her first game Sunday, scoring 10 points in 23 minutes off the bench. After starting five games, Amanda Delgado (12.7 ppg) missed the most recent one with an injury. Redshirt freshman Janitah Iamaleava still is sidelined after sitting out all of last season. In addition, the Ducks remain without multisport standout Liz Brenner, a member of the school’s Final Four-bound volleyball team. The sophomore forward averaged 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. Little wonder it’s been a challenge for UI coach Matt Bollant to prepare a scouting report on Oregon’s uncertain and fluctuating personnel. “Just trying to know exactly what they’ll do as they’ve dealt with injuries and which kids are healthy and which kids are not is important to figure out.”
In a coaching career that dates back to 1968, Paul Westhead has worked with the likes of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, shook up the college basketball world with an audacious run-and-gun attack at Loyola Marymount that once averaged 122.4 points per game, and won titles in the NBA and WNBA. “Great coach,” Bollant said. “Is kind of a coaching legend and so (I) just admire him and all that he’s done in his career.” Now, this 73-year-old coaching lifer is in Season 4 at the Oregon helm. Not surprisingly, Westhead’s Ducks teams reflect his emphasis on the quick-trigger attack, ranking among the top 15 in the nation in scoring in each of his first two seasons and leading the Pac-12 in three-pointers per game each of the last three years. So far, however, it’s been slow going with regard to program-building. Since going 18-16 in his first season in Eugene, Westhead had losing records the past two years and now is coping with an injury-decimated roster.
Illini fans no doubt have heard Bollant refer to The Buzz — a 2-1-2 zone defense that UI associate head coach Mike Divilbiss adopted earlier in his career and one that Bollant clearly has embraced. What makes The Buzz unique from other zones is how far Illini players extend the defense in guarding the passing lanes and how aggressively they trap. A defense new to Illini players has been a work in progress, with Bollant continually urging his up-top defenders to put more pressure on the ball. When Illinois entered a stretch of games against better competition, The Buzz too often lacked teeth. In Games 5 through 8, opponents shot at least 44.6 percent. But in their most recent game, the Illini held Memphis to 37.7 percent and forced 23 turnovers. In the second half, when Illinois was in The Buzz for long periods, it produced eight steals compared with three in the first 20 minutes. Best of all, in Bollant’s view, the Illini were aggressive without fouling. After shooting 13 free throws in the first half, Memphis had six attempts. “I think it was probably our longest stretch ... of being good (in The Buzz) and creating things for us,” he said.
Prediction: Illinois 86, Oregon 75
The Illini like to run. The Ducks certainly like to run. If this isn’t an up-and-down, rapid-fire game, we’ll be surprised. (N-G prediction record: 8-1)