HQ women's hoops prediction: UI 90, Valpo 63
Valparaiso at Illinois, 7 p.m. Tuesday
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Sarah Hartwell So. 5-10 18.0
G Taylor Tuck Jr. 6-0 8.0
G Ivory Crawford Jr. 5-10 24.0
F Amber Moore Sr. 5-11 21.0
F Jacqui Grant Fr. 6-3 12.0
FYI: Grant produced a double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) in her college debut.
OFF THE BENCH
G Taylor Gleason Fr. 5-8 4.0
F Sarah Livingston Fr. 6-2 5.0
G Ashley McConnell Fr. 5-9 —
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Abby Dean So. 5-10 11.0
G Lexi Miller So. 5-7 15.0
G Charae Richardson Sr. 5-7 15.0
F Jessi Wiedemann So. 6-0 6.0
F Sharon Karungi Jr. 6-2 0.0
FYI: Dean matched a career high in the Crusaders’ opener with 11 points.
OFF THE BENCH
G Faith Miller Fr. 5-7 0.0
C Liz Horton Sr. 6-1 9.0
Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign.
Series: Illinois leads 1-0.
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM, Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst).
FYI: The Illini were 11-7 in home games last season.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
The Illini had no trouble scoring in their season opener. Their 92 points was the second-highest total under second-year coach Matt Bollant, and their 12 three-pointers tied a single-game program record. Defense was another matter. Bradley racked up 57 second-half points en route to 98 and shot 51.5 percent for the game, including 46.7 percent from three-point range. It was the most points allowed by Illinois since it permitted 101 on Feb. 15, 2001, at Penn State. “I don’t remember ever giving up 98,” said Bollant, in his 12th year as a college head coach. “It’s kind of humbling. ... Obviously, we didn’t dictate the way we need to defensively. The foul trouble hurt us.” Two of the seven Illini who played fouled out, and another finished with four fouls. Before fouling out, redshirt sophomore point guard Sarah Hartwell scored 18 points and contributed three assists in 22 minutes in her UI debut. “She was really good, so we’ve got to keep her out of foul trouble.”
Bollant raised concerns about rebounding after his team was outboarded 42-40 in its lone exhibition game by a Cardinal Stritch team with one player as tall as 6-foot. What transpired last Friday at Bradley amplified his unease about this phase of the game. The Braves outrebounded Illinois 48-32 and scored 20 second-chance points off 20 offensive rebounds. “It’s definitely been a concern,” Bollant said. “We have not been good on the glass, and we have to be better. We want to make the glass about quickness and aggression, and I don’t think we’ve done that.” Freshman center Jacqui Grant grabbed 14 rebounds, but three of the six other Illini who played did not have a rebound, and that trio logged between 13 and 24 minutes. This UI team is adjusting to the loss of the top two rebounders on last season’s team, including the program’s No. 2 career rebounder, Karisma Penn. “It’s definitely going to be an area that we have to focus on,” Bollant said. “We need all five people to rebound.”
If you think Illinois has been hit hard by injuries, consider the case of Valparaiso. There’s a reason only two Crusaders appear in the Off The Bench list; that’s all Valpo is expected to have available Tuesday night. Coach Tracey Dorow — a former Illinois State player (1990-1993) — also had only seven players in uniform for the opener against Saint Louis on Sunday. When two starters fouled out, the Crusaders held their breath and managed to finish the game with five players. How did Valpo get in this fix? Four players currently are injured or sidelined due to illness. One of them, former New Jersey All-Stater Sarah Godwin (knee), is out for the season. In addition, two players are sitting out the season under NCAA transfer rules. Meanwhile, Illini point guard Alexis Smith was scheduled to have her mid-ankle sprain re-examined Tuesday, and Bollant is hopeful she is closer to returning to the court.
Prediction: Illinois 90, Valparaiso 63
The Crusaders are more short-handed than the Illini, and they were picked to finish last in the nine-team Horizon League. Illinois should be eager to address problems exposed in the season opener. (N-G prediction record: 0-1)