Basketball releases 2004-05 schedule

Illinois guard Aminata Yani (30) goes up for a layup in the second half against Butler at Assembly Hall on Dec. 10, 2003. Illinois won 78-50. Daily Illini File Photo

Carol Matteucci

Illinois guard Aminata Yani (30) goes up for a layup in the second half against Butler at Assembly Hall on Dec. 10, 2003. Illinois won 78-50. Daily Illini File Photo

By Courtney Linehan

Women’s basketball released its 2004-05 schedule Tuesday. The team will play 30 games before the Big Ten tournament, including 13 in Champaign.

Play begins with the exhibition Orange and Blue Scrimmage Nov. 2 at Assembly Hall. The regular season will start against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Nov. 20.

While the Illini will be up against some top teams from around the nation, six of their toughest opponents will be conference foes Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue – all teams that made it to the NCAA tournament last season.

Head coach Theresa Grentz said playing a tough regular season schedule only makes her team stronger when March rolls around.

“I think that it prepares the players for the postseason,” Grentz said. “It also gives us the opportunity to go against the top teams in the country instead of just reading about them.”

But Grentz cautioned that the team will have to beat its own demons before taking on outside opponents.

“If you ask who is our biggest competition, it might just be ourselves,” Grentz said. “If we play as a team, play together and be the best we can be, we’ll have a likely chance to do well.”

One highlight of the schedule is a Nov. 23 matchup against St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. While guard Kira Mowen and forwards Audrey Tabon and Erin Wigley, all sophomores, are from around Pittsburgh, the trip to Pennsylvania will be most meaningful for Grentz, who grew up in the Philadelphia area and coached at St. Joseph’s.

“It was a long time ago,” Grentz said. “For me it will be more memorable from having grown up in that area.”

Illinois will then head to New Jersey on Nov. 27 to take on St. Peter’s. Grentz said she hopes the trip east will be educational for her team.

“I think you can read things about New York, Ground Zero and different things in Philadelphia, but this is a great chance to see them and even learn,” Grentz said.

No matter how much the team learns off the court, it’s what the seniors can teach the younger players about the game that Grentz thinks will determine how successful the Illini this season.

“It’s key that we have strong leadership from our seniors – our captains on the floor, in the locker room and in practice,” Grentz said. “We just need to play one team at a time. I know that’s probably a clich‚, but that’s just what we have to do.”