Ill Tam043

Illinois women's head basketball coach Nancy Fahey with her before the start at State Farm Center in Champaign on Wednesday Nov. 7, 2018.Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette ¿ Illinois head coach Nancy Fahey with her before the start at State Farm Center in Champaign on Wednesday Nov. 7, 2018.

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Beat writer Joe Vozzelli Jr. breaks down the 2019-2020 schedule that was released Friday:

DATE OPPONENT

Nov. 5 vs. Chicago State

Nov. 9 vs. Holy Cross

Nov. 13 vs. Austin Peay

Nov. 16 vs. Illinois State

Nov. 24 vs. Bryant

Nov. 30 vs. Presbyterian

Dec. 5 at North Carolina

Dec. 15 vs. Evansville

Dec. 20 at Missouri

Dec. 28 vs. Northwestern

Dec. 31 at Iowa

Jan. 6 at Indiana

Jan. 9 vs. Rutgers

Jan. 12 vs. Minnesota

Jan. 16 at Purdue

Jan. 19 at Ohio State

Jan. 23 vs. Maryland

Jan. 30 at Rutgers

Feb. 2 vs. Wisconsin

Feb. 6 vs. Ohio State

Feb. 9 at Penn State

Feb. 13 vs. Indiana

Feb. 16 vs. Purdue

Feb. 19 at Michigan

Feb. 22 at Nebraska

Feb. 26 vs. Michigan State

Feb. 29 at Northwestern

Tar Heels first true test.

Illinois women’s basketball coach Nancy Fahey felt an early win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge could have been a turning point for her team last season. But the Illini couldn’t hold off Clemson and lost in OT on the road. With a rather easy schedule to start, Illinois should learn a lot about itself after a visit to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Dec. 5.

Braggin’ Rights on the line.

This will be the third straight game (14th overall) between the border schools, with Illinois going to Columbia, Mo., in 2019 after a 67-45 loss in Champaign in 2018. Neither team has been good at the same time, though, with the Tigers winning the first three followed by Illini winning eight straight and now back-to-back Missouri wins.

Wildcats first up.

Illinois will open the Big Ten season at home for the second straight year. The Illini let one get away against Northwestern last season at home, with the Wildcats rallying from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit. The game changed, however, on Veronica Burton’s half-court, buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter.

Tough stretch to finish.

The Illini play three of their final four regular season games away from State Farm Center, and the final home game in the careers of seniors (Ali Andrews, Brandi Beasley, Taylor Edwards, Petra Holesínská, Courtney Joens and Cierra Rice) is against usually-tough Michigan State. Interestingly enough, Rice grew up a Michigan State fan.

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Joe Vozzelli Jr. is a sports copy editor at The News-Gazette. His email is jvozzelli@news-gazette.com.