HQ women's hoops prediction: Georgia 71, UI 59
Illinois at No. 19 Georgia,
3 p.m. Saturday
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Sarah Hartwell So. 5-10 10.2
G Ivory Crawford Jr. 5-10 12.7
G Alexis Smith Jr. 5-9 8.1
G/F Amber Moore Sr. 5-11 19.0
C Jacqui Grant Fr. 6-3 13.3
FYI: Moore, the program’s career leader in three-point field goals, is tied for second in the nation in three-pointers per game (3.67).
OFF THE BENCH
G/F Taylor Tuck Jr. 6-0 5.2
C Sarah Livingston Fr. 6-2 5.2
G Taylor Gleason Fr. 5-8 3.7
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Khaalidah Miller Sr. 5-9 11.3
G Erika Ford Jr. 5-9 10.1
G/F Krista Donald Jr. 5-11 8.0
G/F Shacobia Barbee So. 5-10 12.0
F Merritt Hempe So. 6-2 8.4
FYI: Barbee scored 17 of her season-high 18 points during the second half in Georgia’s last game Dec. 21 at Rutgers.
OFF THE BENCH
G Tiaria Griffin So. 5-7 13.9
F Halle Washington Fr. 6-2 5.8
G Marjorie Butler So. 5-8 3.2
Site: Stegeman Coliseum (10,523), Athens, Ga.
Series: Tied 2-2. Last meeting: Illinois 70, Georgia 59 on Dec. 28, 2012, at Champaign
TV: Comcast SportsNet; Matt Stewart (play-by-play) and Kiesha Brown (analyst)
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM; Dave Loane (play-by-play) and Mike Koon (analyst)
FYI: CSN Chicago is picking up the feed of Charter Sports Southeast, a regional sports network.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
1. Games against top-tier opponents have not gone well for the Illini. And it’s not just that Illinois has lost to the likes of ranked North Carolina and Colorado teams or to Arizona State and Georgia Tech squads receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll. What stands out more is that the Illini have been competitive only in stretches in these matchups, ultimately losing by margins ranging from 23 to 36 points. “We haven’t had a 40 minutes against a really great team,” UI coach Matt Bollant said. “We’ve had some moments here or there, but we just need to find a way to do that. We’re not going to be perfect, but (we need to) find a way to play as good as we can for 40 minutes and fight for 40 minutes.” Saturday — against a program that made its 500th all-time appearance in an AP poll in the preseason rankings — offers another opportunity to prove it can do just that.
2. This is a rematch of the Illini’s most impressive performance last season, a 70-59 shocker against then-No. 6 Georgia at the then-Assembly Hall. “It was a fun game, them being ranked,” said Illinois senior wing Amber Moore, who scored 11 points against the Bulldogs. “I think the difference in the game was us coming out strong and aggressive.” One year later, both teams have a decidedly different look. The Illini are without center Karisma Penn, whose double-double (27 points, 19 rebounds) against the Bulldogs earned her two National Player of the Week awards. Illinois also lost fellow senior Adrienne GodBold, the 2012-13 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Georgia’s roster took a major hit in quality and quantity. The Bulldogs had to replace five seniors from last season’s team, including three selected in the WNBA draft. Yet, Georgia opened this season with 11 straight wins. “The good programs seem to kind of reload,” Bollant said. “The young players get older and they know it’s their turn, and they step up and play like they’re supposed to. And they’ve done a great job of that.”
3. If not for a horrid start in its last game, Georgia likely would still be among the handful of Division I women’s basketball teams with perfect records. (Entering Saturday’s schedule, there were seven unbeatens). The Bulldogs turned the ball over on their first seven possessions and did not attempt a shot during the first 4 minutes, 19 seconds while spotting Rutgers a 9-0 lead. It proved to be too much to overcome in a 61-58 road loss. Remarkably, however, Georgia had a chance to send the game to overtime — even after trailing by seven points with 22 seconds left. Miller’s 30-foot shot hit the front of the rim as the final horn sounded. “I’m proud of the fact that we didn’t fold,” Bulldogs coach Andy Landers said. “They were handing it to us the first five or six minutes. I was obviously disappointed with the way we started the game. We dug ourselves a deep hole, but we fought out of it and after that opening series played reasonably well.”
Prediction: Georgia 71, Illinois 59
Location, location, location. So far this season, site has mattered a great deal to these teams. The Bulldogs are 8-0 at home. The Illini are 1-5 away from State Farm Center, including 0-3 in true road games. We’re guessing, too, revenge will be a powerful motivator for this Georgia team. (N-G prediction record: 11-1)