HQ prediction: Georgia 77, UI women 66

HQ prediction: Georgia 77, UI women 66

Sneak peek: No. 6 Georgia at Illinois women, 7 p.m. Friday

Illinois (6-5)
P    Name           Yr.     Ht.     PPG
G    Alexis Smith    So.    5-9    9.0
G    Ivory Crawford    So.    5-10    15.3
G    Amber Moore    Jr.    5-11    13.8
G    Adrienne GodBold    Sr.    5-11    —
C    Karisma Penn     Sr.    6-2    19.2

F    Taylor Tuck    So.    6-0    6.5
F    Kersten Magrum    Jr.    6-1    6.1
F    Nia Oden    So.    5-10    2.5

FYI: Penn needs two blocked shots to become the UI’s career leader. The fourth-year starter trails record-holder Jenna Smith (2006-10) 231-230.

Georgia (12-0)
P    Name           Yr.     Ht.     PPG
G    Khaalidah Miller    Jr.    5-9    8.8
G    Jasmine James    Sr.    5-9    11.3
G    Shacobia Barbee    Fr.    5-10    5.0
F    Anne Marie Armstrong    Sr.    6-3    8.6
F    Jasmine Hassell    Sr.    6-2    12.4

G    Erika Ford    So.    5-9    8.4
G    Tiaria Griffin    Fr.    5-7    7.9
G    Marjorie Butler    Fr.    5-8    3.1

FYI: Barbee, Griffin and Merritt Hempe have started this season, increasing the number of freshmen who have been starters during coach Andy Landers’ 34 seasons at Georgia to 72.

Radio: WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM; Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Live stream: Big Ten Digital Network (link fromfightingillini.com/allaccess); subscription required
Series: Georgia leads 2-1.
FYI: The home team has won in each previous meeting.


The Illini’s final nonconference game also marks the beginning of a highly challenging three-game stretch. In order, Illinois will face No. 6 Georgia, No. 11 Purdue and an Ohio State team that has been ranked as high as No. 15 in The Associated Press poll and currently is No. 24 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. Entering Thursday’s action, this trio had a combined record of 31-4. “Obviously a tough stretch,” UI coach Matt Bollant said. “(We) play three of the best teams in women’s basketball; three teams that have been three of the best programs in the country over the last 10 years. So it’s a great challenge for us, and a challenge we’re going to embrace and try to step up.” Although none of Illinois’ previous opponents was ranked at the time they played, Colorado currently is No. 23 and Iowa State was ranked for two weeks. According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Illini have played the nation’s 74th-toughest schedule. “Our nonconference strength of schedule was really good,” Bollant said, “but obviously we haven’t played three in a row like this.”

At 12-0, Georgia has equaled the sixth-best start in program history. Picked to finish second in the SEC behind Kentucky, the Bulldogs have steamrolled through a modestly challenging schedule ranked 115th toughest by RealTimeRPI.com. Georgia is outscoring opponents by an average of 28.1 points, with two games decided by 10 or fewer points. “On ESPN, they said this is one of the best Coach Landers teams that they’ve had in a long time there,” Bollant said. “And he’s had great teams, teams that have been to the Final Four in the past, so (this is a) really good basketball team. Really big and athletic and very veteran.” This is a deep Georgia team — nine players are averaging between 15.7 and 24.6 minutes per game — that has displayed remarkable balance on offense. No Bulldog is averaging more than 12.4 points, but six are averaging at least 7.9 points. Among Bollant’s points of emphasis to his team for this game is rebounding. Georgia is outrebounding opponents by an average of 8.8 per game, with nearly 40 percent of its total boards coming on the offensive end. “They’re going to get some offensive rebounds,” Bollant said. “We’ve got to limit that the best we can.”

We probably should have put an asterisk above next to GodBold’s name because her return wasn’t completely assured as of Thursday. However, Bollant sounded extremely confident that all the necessary paperwork would be completed and approved in time to allow the 2011-12 Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year to make her season debut tonight. GodBold, the Illini’s MVP last season, was academically ineligible for the first semester. “It looks like there’s a good chance that she’ll be cleared and be able to play,” Bollant said after practice Thursday afternoon. “It’s not 100 percent, but it looks very positive. It’s probably in the 90s (percent) somewhere that she’ll play.” If so, the UI coach plans to waste no time getting GodBold on the floor, saying she would start. GodBold is capable of making a widespread impact, but Bollant is particularly excited about her potential contributions to a UI team ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 11th in opponent field goal percentage. “She’s a really good defender,” Bollant said. “We’re a better defensive team for sure as soon as she’s on the floor.”

PREDICTION: Georgia 77, UI 66

By far, this is the toughest assignment of the season so far for the Illini. Entering Thursday, the Bulldogs were one of seven undefeated teams in Division I. If Georgia takes Illinois lightly, however, it could get interesting. (N-G prediction record: 9-2)