HQ forecast: UI women 80, Northwestern 69
Sneak peek: UI women at Northwestern, 7 p.m. today
Illinois (8-6, 1-1 Big Ten)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Alexis Smith So. 5-9 8.6
G Ivory Crawford So. 5-10 14.0
G Amber Moore Jr. 5-11 12.8
G Adrienne GodBold Sr. 5-11 15.0
C Karisma Penn Sr. 6-2 20.5
FYI: With a school-record 16 free throws in her last game, Penn jumped from sixth place to fourth on the UI career list (374).
OFF THE BENCH
F Taylor Tuck So. 6-0 5.6
F Kersten Magrum Jr. 6-1 5.4
F Nia Oden So. 5-10 2.1
Northwestern (8-7, 0-2 Big Ten)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Karly Roser So. 5-10 10.6
F Kendall Hackney Sr. 6-2 14.6
F Lauren Douglas Fr. 6-2 11.3
F Maggie Lyon Fr. 6-1 13.1
C Dannielle Diamant Sr. 6-5 12.4
FYI: Five different players have led the Wildcats in scoring this season.
OFF THE BENCH
F Kate Popovec Sr. 6-3 3.7
F Alex Cohen So. 6-5 3.2
G Inesha Hale Sr. 5-9 1.5
Site: Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117), Evanston
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM; Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Internet: Live stream on Big Ten Digital Network (link from www.fightingillini.com/allaccess); subscription required
Series: Northwestern leads 34-32
FYI: The Illini have lost on each of their last two visits to Evanston, both times by a point.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
Which Northwestern team will show up tonight? The one that lost by 18 points to Illinois State and to a Hofstra team that enters its game tonight with a 5-7 record? Or the one that threw mighty scares into current No. 7 California (71-65 loss) and current No. 8 Penn State (73-69 loss)? What we do know is that, for the second straight game, Illinois will be at a decided height disadvantage. The Illini have one player in their regular rotation as tall as 6-foot-2. Three of the Wildcats’ projected starters are at least that tall, and their rotation includes players who stand 6-5, 6-5 and 6-3. “They’re just really long, and that poses some problems,” Illini coach Matt Bollant said. But Illinois faced a similar height disparity Sunday against Ohio State and still managed to win 79-73. ”We did a good job of limiting (Ohio State’s) touches inside, which was really encouraging that we could play our (defensive) system against really big people,” Bollant said.
Bollant is particularly familiar with Northwestern freshman forward Maggie Lyon. While coaching at Wisconsin-Green Bay, he made a strong push to try to recruit the 2012 News-Gazette All-State second-teamer from Wilmette New Trier. “That’s a kid that we couldn’t get in on at Green Bay that we would have recruited here for sure at Illinois,” Bollant said. “I wish she was at Illinois. She’s really good.” Lyons is one of two freshman starters for Northwestern, along with forward Lauren Douglas. Between them, they’ve earned three Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards this season. A sophomore, Karly Roser, starts at point guard for the Wildcats. (Roser’s free throw with 2.6 seconds left was the difference in a 59-58 Illini loss on their last visit to Evanston.) “They’ve got some young players that are good (and) give them some energy ... so I think they’re going to be a better basketball team (going forward),” Bollant said.
Allison Guth, who lettered at Illinois from 2002 to ’04, is in her first season on the Northwestern coaching staff. Guth serves as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Joe McKeown, who has won 575 games in 27 seasons as a collegiate head coach. “When the opportunity at Northwestern became available, it was incredibly exciting to think of the possibility of learning under a coach with such a history of success like Joe McKeown,” Guth said this week. “In addition to contributing to Northwestern’s success, the opportunity to return to the Big Ten, Chicago and my family was hard to pass up.” The Arlington Heights native originally went to work in private business after graduating from the UI. However, an opportunity to coach in Nike clinics led her to enter collegiate coaching. Guth was an assistant at Loyola, Missouri, DePaul and, most recently, Yale before joining McKeown’s staff. Among Guth’s favorite memories as an Illini athlete was playing on the same court with a UI men’s All-American and future NBA All-Star. “I remember Deron Williams staying in Ubben to hoop in our pick-up games even when he had just got a run in with the guys,” she said. “It was pretty special to play alongside guys like that who made us better.”
Prediction: Illinois 80, Northwestern 69
The Illini, winners of four of their last six games, are playing their best basketball of the season. No reason that shouldn’t continue tonight unless Illinois pays too much attention to Northwestern’s record and views this game as a gimme. It’s not. (N-G prediction record: 10-4)