HQ forecast: UI women 66, Miami (Ohio) 60

HQ forecast: UI women 66, Miami (Ohio) 60

Beat writer Jeff Huth's take on today's game: Illinois vs. Miami (Ohio), 7 p.m.

Illinois (16-13)
Pos.     Name    Yr.     Ht.     PPG
G     Alexis Smith    So.     5-9     6.8
G     Ivory Crawford         So.     5-10    12.3
G     Amber Moore    Jr.     5-11    11.9
G     Adrienne GodBold    Sr.     5-11    17.0
C     Karisma Penn    Sr.     6-2     19.0
FYI: With her next three-point field goal, Moore will tie Krista Reinking (1994-98) for second place on the school career list. Moore enters with 193 three-pointers.
G     Taylor Tuck    So.     6-0     5.0
F     McKenzie Piper    Fr.     6-0     1.6
F     Nia Oden    So.     5-10     1.5

Miami (Ohio) (19-12)
Pos.    Name    Yr.     Ht.     PPG
G    Courtney Osborn    Sr.    5-10    19.1
G    Haley Robertson    Jr.        5-8    6.8
G    Hannah Robertson    Jr.        5-8    9.6
F    Hannah McCue    Fr.        6-0    12.4
F    Kirsten Olowinski    Sr.        6-1    12.2
FYI: Olowinski broke the school record for career rebounds this season and, with a current total of 1,140, now ranks second in Mid-American Conference history.
C    Kelsey Simon    Jr.    6-2    3.7
F    Jessica Rupright    Fr.    6-2    3.3
G    Courtney Larson    So.    5-9    2.2

Site: Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM; Dave Loane (play by play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Internet: Live stream on www.fightingillini.com/allaccess; no fee.
Series: Tied 2-2. Last meeting — Illinois 65, Miami (Ohio) 63 on Dec. 19, 1994 at Oxford, Ohio.
FYI: Miami is one of five Mid-American Conference teams in the WNIT, tying the  Atlantic 10 and Conference USA for the most representatives from one league. Other MAC schools in the field are Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green and Toledo.

Jeff Huth’s storylines

1 The last time the Illini appeared in a postseason tournament, current seniors Karisma Penn and Adrienne GodBold were freshmen. That one worked out pretty well, Illinois winning its first three games in the WNIT to advance to the quarterfinals before being ousted. “We had fun,” Penn said. “We’ve had some success in it.” Penn was a starter for that 2009-10 Illinois team and a key contributor during the WNIT run, averaging 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in the postseason. Now, the 6-foot-2 center knows that any game she plays could be her last as an Illini. “It’s definitely important,” Penn said. “Me and Adrienne definitely want to go out on a good note so (the goal is) definitely to go as far as we can and play as well as we can.”

2 Among the Illini’s challenges tonight will be trying to keep a rein on Miami’s career scoring leader. Courtney Osborn, a 5-10 senior guard, enters as the Mid-American Conference leader in scoring average (19.1 points) and three-pointers (90). Her 3.0 three-pointers per game ranks 11th nationally. Illini coach Matt Bollant likens Osborn to Minnesota guard Rachel Banham, the Big Ten’s No. 2 scorer. “One of the best guards in the country,” Bollant said of Osborn. “She can really shoot the ball. She’s probably a little better three-point shooter than Banham. Banham’s probably a little bit better off the dribble.” Osborn isn’t the only RedHawk that Illini defenders will need to keep an eye on. Miami ranks 17th in the nation in field goal percentage (44.2). “Really, their shooting is the best quality,” Bollant said.

3 The RedHawks roster includes several notable sports world connections, including an Illini link. Redshirt junior forward Kristin Judson is the daughter of former UI men’s basketball assistant coach — and current Illinois State aide — Rob Judson. Kristin Judson, a 2009 News-Gazette All-State Special Mention 50 pick from Normal University High, is listed as questionable for tonight’s game after missing the previous three with a foot injury. Freshman guard Maddie McCallie is the daughter of Duke women’s coach — and former Michigan State coach — Joanne P. McCallie. And junior center Kelsey Simon’s father is retired NBA forward — and former Chicago Bull — Cliff Levingston.

Prediction: Illinois 66, Miami (Ohio) 60

Are the Illini still disappointed about the late-season slide that cost them an NCAA tournament bid? Or have they moved on? The answer will go a long way in determining how the Illini fare against an opponent that can be dangerous when it’s shooting well (which is most games). Bollant is optimistic. “I thought we had our best practice of the year on Monday with great energy and enthusiasm, so that’s a good sign,” he said. “At this time of year, when they’re still enthusiastic, it means they like each other and they like what they’re doing.” (N-G record 18-11).


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