Beat writer Jeff Huth breaks down tonight's Big Ten contest:
No. 24 Iowa at UI women,
7 p.m. today
Illinois (11-8, 4-3)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Alexis Smith So. 5-9 7.9
G Ivory Crawford So. 5-10 13.2
G Amber Moore Jr. 5-11 12.8
G Adrienne GodBold Sr. 5-11 18.9
C Karisma Penn Sr. 6-2 18.7
FYI: With five three-pointers Monday at Minnesota, Moore moved into third place on the UI career list. The redshirt junior has made 172 treys, overtaking Mandy Cunningham (1990-94), who finished her career with 168.
OFF THE BENCH
F Taylor Tuck So. 6-0 5.5
G McKenzie Piper Fr. 6-0 2.2
F Nia Oden So. 5-10 1.8
Iowa (16-5, 5-2)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Samantha Logic So. 5-9 8.8
G Theairra Taylor Jr. 5-11 7.9
G Jaime Printy Sr. 5-11 14.2
C Morgan Johnson Sr. 6-5 15.7
C Bethany Doolittle So. 6-4 7.9
FYI: Doolittle scored a career-high 19 points Sunday, shooting 9 of 15 from the field, in a 63-57 victory against then-No. 23 Michigan.
OFF THE BENCH
G Melissa Dixon So. 5-8 8.4
G Kathy Thomas So. 5-6 2.3
G Trisha Nesbitt Sr. 5-6 1.7
Site: The Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM; tape-delayed at 10 p.m. following Illini-Michigan State men’s basketball broadcast; Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Series: Iowa leads 49-16
FYI: Illini have not defeated Iowa at the Assembly Hall since Feb. 9, 2003. Hawkeyes are 7-0 on trips to Champaign since then.
JEFF HUTH'S STORYLINES
Entering the season, Iowa was not strongly in the conversation on the topic of top Big Ten teams. That continued even as the Hawkeyes knocked off one ranked opponent after another. Finally this week, Iowa cracked The Associated Press’ and USA Today coaches’ Top 25s after improving to 6-0 against ranked foes with a win Sunday at Michigan. UI coach Matt Bollant said he wasn’t among those who overlooked the Hawkeyes in the preseason. “I really felt like they were going to be really good,” he said. “They returned most of their team from last year, and they made the NCAA tournament last year.” One key graduation loss was point guard Kamille Wahlin, the first player in Iowa history with 400 assists and 200 three-pointers in a career. Filling that void, Bollant said, “was the one key question” for Iowa entering the season. It’s been answered by sophomore Samantha Logic, who leads the Big Ten in assists (7.1). “She’s stepped up and been a really good point guard,” Bollant said.
Before Wednesday’s practice, Illini redshirt junior Amber Moore brought up the fact that none of the players on the current team ever had defeated Iowa. For Karisma Penn and Adrienne GodBold, tonight might be their last chance to change that. This is the teams’ only meeting of the regular season. Unless Illinois and the Hawkeyes meet in the Big Ten tournament or in a postseason tournament, this would be the last shot the Illini’s two seniors have at the Hawkeyes. They are 0-5 against Iowa. “I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating,” Penn said. “I don’t think they’re like our rival or anything, but we definitely have lost some close games to them in the past.” None closer than last year’s 69-62 overtime defeat at Iowa City. Wahlin’s three-pointer with 10.9 seconds left in regulation sent the game into OT. “We just want to get over that hump (tonight),” Penn said.
Although Kersten Magrum’s Illini playing career is done due to a series of concussions, the redshirt junior remains involved with the team. Magrum is participating in practices in non-contact drills, assisting with passing and rebounding. She’s also on the team bench during games, and Bollant intends to keep her busy starting with tonight’s contest. “We’ll try to give her something during games to chart,” he said. ”Just try to give her student-coach type of things.” Magrum, who is on course to graduate this May, originally intended to play next season as a fifth-year senior while going to graduate school. Despite no longer playing, she would be eligible to remain on scholarship in 2013-14 under NCAA medical hardship rules covering players who become “injured or ill to the point that (they) apparently never again will be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics.” This would need approval from the Big Ten, but Magrum could receive aid during the next academic year that wouldn’t count against the team’s NCAA limit of 15 scholarships.
PREDICTION: Iowa 64, Illinois 60
It’s a really quick turnaround for the Illini following Monday night’s fast-paced game at Minnesota. Is that enough time to recover, particularly against a surging Hawkeyes team that is 11-2 since the start of December? (N-G prediction record: 12-7)