HQ prediction: Iowa 72, UI women 67
No. 25 Iowa at Illinois
3 p.m. today
IOWA (22-7, 10-5 Big Ten)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Samantha Logic Jr. 5-9 14.1
G Melissa Dixon Jr. 5-8 13.3
G Theairra Taylor Sr. 5-11 11.9
G Ally Disterhoft Fr. 6-0 12.8
C Bethany Doolittle Jr. 6-4 13.9
FYI: With three triple-doubles this season, Logic set a Big Ten women’s single-season record.
OFF THE BENCH
F Kali Peschel So. 6-1 4.7
G Alexa Kastanek Fr. 5-10 4.3
F Claire Till So. 6-0 2.6
Illinois (9-19, 2-13 Big Ten)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Ivory Crawford Jr. 5-10 14.6
G Taylor Gleason Fr. 5-8 4.1
G Ashley McConnell Fr. 5-9 2.0
G/F Amber Moore Sr. 5-11 14.9
C Jacqui Grant Fr. 6-3 13.4
FYI: Crawford ranks third in the Big Ten in steals per game in conference-only games at 2.4.
OFF THE BENCH
G Alexis Smith Jr. 5-9 7.4
G/F Taylor Tuck Jr. 6-0 4.6
F Nia Oden Jr. 5-10 2.7
Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign.
Series: Iowa leads 50-17. Last meeting: Iowa 69, Illinois 55 on Feb. 13, 2014, at Iowa City, Iowa.
TV: BTN; Lisa Byington (play by play) and Stephanie White (analyst).
Radio: WDWS 1400-AM and WDAN 1490-AM; Dave Loane (play by play) and Mike Koon (analyst).
FYI: Entering its final home game of the season, Illinois has averaged 1,852 fans in 13 games at SFC. The team averaged 1,926 last season in 18 home dates.
Jeff Huth’s storylines
1 The Illini are hoping to avoid a dubious distinction. No team in the history of the program has gone without a Big Ten home victory in any season since the conference began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982-83. That streak is on the line today as the Illini take an 0-7 Big Ten home record into their regular season finale against the Hawkeyes. The closest Illinois has come to going winless at home during an entire Big Ten race was during the 2010-11 season, when coach Jolette Law’s second-to-last Illini team went 1-7. “We’re trying to get a home win absolutely (today),” Illini coach Matt Bollant said. “That’s the focus and the goal, and we’ll work to make it happen.” Illinois’ all-time best Big Ten home record occurred in 1997-98, when coach Theresa Grentz’s team was 8-0 en route to a second-place finish at 12-4. The Big Ten has played both 18- and 16-game conference schedules in women’s basketball, meaning there have been years when Illinois had nine conference home games instead of the current eight. Next season, with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to its ranks, the Big Ten will return to an 18-game league race with nine home dates.
2 For the second consecutive year, Illinois has set a new program record for three-pointers in a single season. After sinking 184 treys in 2012-13, the current Illini are at 187 and counting. The new record was set Thursday at Nebraska, when Illinois racked up 10 threes in 25 attempts (40.0 percent). It marked the eighth time this season that the Illini finished in double figures in makes from beyond the arc. Bollant says Illinois has leaned more on the trey this season than he would like because the team lacks a strong inside presence, particularly in the absence of 6-foot-3 center Jacqui Grant (mononucleosis). “We’d like to be a team that works inside-out a little more than we have been,” he said. “Last year, we did some with (All-America center) Karisma (Penn). And I think we can shoot a better percentage in the future, as well.” Although Illinois is averaging 7.0 three-pointers per game in conference play — third highest in the league — it ranks 11th in three-point shooting percentage (30.9). Bollant’s Wisconsin-Green Bay teams had a reputation for capitalizing from beyond the arc. In his debut season there, in 2007-08, the Phoenix shot 42.8 percent on treys.
3 Coaches’ and media ballots for the Big Ten’s individual awards and all-conference teams are due to the conference office tonight. With the Illini mired in last place, it raises the question of whether they might receive little, if any, support. If so, Bollant understands. “I think the top teams deserve to have the most players,” he said. “I’ve always felt that way and voted that way.” The last time Illinois was shut out in all-conference balloting was after the 1993-94 season, when the Illini finished 10th at 5-13. The last time Illinois receive no higher than honorable-mention recognition was following the 2005-06 campaign, when it tied for seventh at 6-10. The Big Ten allows coaches to vote for their own players. “I’m used to where you can’t vote for your own, but I think it’s OK,” Bollant said.
4 It’s not set in stone, but Bollant walked away from Saturday’s practice expecting Grant to play today after missing a month due to mononucleosis. The freshman, sidelined for the last six games, last played on Feb. 2. “I think she’s actually going to start,” Bollant said. “She practiced (Saturday) and did really well. I don’t think she’s going to be able to play more than three or four minutes at a time, but she looked good today.” Bollant indicated he would consult with the team’s athletic trainer, Sam Laingen, today before a final decision is made. “I’m not 100 percent yet ... but we’re considering it,” the UI coach said.
Iowa 72, Illinois 67
There’s plenty at stake today for the Hawkeyes, who are vying for a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament and the first-round bye that comes with it. Iowa enters tied for fourth place with No. 19 Purdue but is on a roll, having won eight of its last 10 — and 10 of 13 since starting the conference race 0-2. Meanwhile, the Illini are coming off one of their best performances during their current nine-game losing streak. If not for a 3-of-10 performance at the foul line Thursday, Illinois might have pulled off a shocker at No. 16 Nebraska instead of falling 72-65. That dropped the Illini’s record against ranked opponents this season to 0-8. (N-G prediction record: 23-5).