Illinois vs. Eastern Illinois
7 p.m. today
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Alexis Smith So. 5-9 6.7
G Ivory Crawford So. 5-10 12.2
G Amber Moore Jr. 5-11 12.3
G Adrienne GodBold Sr. 5-11 16.9
C Karisma Penn Sr. 6-2 19.0
FYI: Penn holds three of the top four spots on the all-time Illini list for single-season blocks: first (78 in 2010-11), third (66 in 2012-13) and fourth (64 in 2011-12).
OFF THE BENCH
G Taylor Tuck So. 6-0 4.8
F McKenzie Piper Fr. 6-0 1.5
F Nia Oden So. 5-10 1.4
Eastern Illinois (20-11)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Kelsey Wyss Sr. 5-10 8.5
G Ta’Kenya Nixon Sr. 5-8 15.0
F Sabina Oroszova So. 6-2 5.9
F Sydney Mitchell Sr. 6-1 8.2
F Mariah King Sr. 6-2 13.9
FYI: Oroszova has blocked 58 shots, three short of the EIU single-season record set by Rachel Galligan in 2006-07.
OFF THE BENCH
G Katlyn Payne So. 5-11 5.9
G Jordyne Crunk Jr. 5-10 5.8
F Taryn Olson Jr. 6-2 2.7
Site: Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM and WDAN 1490-AM; Dave Loane (play by play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
Internet: Live stream on www.fightingillini.com/allaccess); no fee.
Series: Illinois leads 9-5. Last meeting — Illinois 65, Eastern Illinois 57 on Nov. 16, 2008 at Champaign.
FYI: Eastern Illinois has won seven of its last 10 true road games.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
For the second time in as many WNIT games, the Illini will be forced to contend with a program’s all-time leading scorer. On Thursday, it was Courtney Osborn, who went 4 for 12 from the field but still ended up with 19 points by beating a path to the foul line (10 for 10). Now comes Ta’Kenya Nixon, and as Missouri can attest, Illinois’ defense is in for a major challenge. The four-time first-team All-Ohio Valley pick racked up 27 points and scored what proved to be the game-winning basket with 19 seconds left Thursday to lift Eastern Illinois to a 60-58 road win against the Tigers in the first round of the WNIT. Besides shooting 13 of 17, the do-it-all Panther guard had five assists, four steals and three rebounds. “She absolutely was a difference-maker against Missouri,” Bollant said. “Missouri really couldn’t guard her. She got great looks ... so we have to do a better job and make sure we find her and keep her in front and make her work for every shot.”
No need for the head coaches to introduce themselves tonight. Matt Bollant of Illinois and EIU’s Lee Buchanan talked numerous times by phone when Bollant was the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay and Buchanan was an assistant in charge of EIU’s scheduling. “We were really close (to scheduling games) a couple times and it just didn’t work out,” Bollant said. “But I’ve known him ... and watched his program. He’s done a great job in continuing (the success of) that program.” Like Bollant, Buchanan is in his first season as the head coach at his current school. Buchanan succeeded Brady Sallee, who was hired by Ball State after guiding the Panthers into the postseason each of the previous three seasons. Under Buchanan, the Panthers not only recorded their fourth 20-win season in the past five years and claimed a share of the OVC title but earned the first postseason victory in program history last week at Missouri. Earlier this month, Buchanan was named OVC Coach of the Year. Bollant applauds the decision by EIU athletic director Barbara Burke to promote from within. “If a program is good and the head coach moves on, then if you’ve got a qualified assistant, I think they should hire them,” the Illini coach said. “I think too many times they don’t do that and then you see the program change, where(as) if they hire a qualified assistant, it seems it keeps going.”
A couple of former Chicago Public League rivals will square off once again tonight. Illini guard Adrienne GodBold and EIU forward Mariah King battled multiple times annually in high school while playing for Marshall and Whitney Young, respectively. Now, the seniors are back on the same court with the continuation of their college careers at stake. “I remember she was a tough post player,” GodBold said. “I don’t actually remember her style of play, but we did play against each other. Whitney Young and Marshall, always rivals, so it was always a good game. Unfortunately, we never beat them.” Both were selected second-team all-conference this season in their respective leagues. Although the 6-foot-2 King is three inches taller than GodBold, the latter could find herself matched up defensively with the Panther forward because of Illinois’ overall lack of height. “It’s a possibility,” said GodBold, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. “I’m not going to think too much about it. I’m just staying focused on the team. One player can’t beat us. Stop her. Stop all five. Then we’ll be pretty good.”
Prediction: Illinois 74, EIU 67
Not many people would have predicted an EIU victory at Missouri in the first round. Although Missouri didn’t set the world on fire this season, the Tigers did knock off ranked Tennessee and South Carolina teams in February when each visited Columbia, Mo. That should get the Illini’s attention as the Panthers bring their dangerous act into the Assembly Hall. The dynamic Nixon will be priority No. 1 for Illinois’ defense, but the Illini also will need to be aware of Eastern’s outside threats. The Panthers set a school record with 193 three-pointers this season. As always, Illinois’ ability to pressure teams into turnovers is its trump card. In 20 of the Illini’s last 22 games, only twice has an opponent turned the ball over fewer than 20 times. (N-G record: 19-11).