Women look for Big Ten win

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Derek Barichello

Women’s basketball is looking to do something it has not done in four years – win a Big Ten Tournament game.

In 2001, the sixth-seeded Illini topped the No. 11 seed Northwestern 75-60 in the first round. The Illini hope history repeats itself today at 4:30 when seventh-seeded Illinois takes on the 10th-seeded Wildcats in Indianapolis to open the Big Ten Tournament.

The Illini have already defeated Northwestern twice this season, 73-65 on Jan. 9 in Evanston and 68-33 on Feb. 17 in Champaign.

Although the Illini have not had trouble with Northwestern this season, they want to stay focused. The Illini do not have to look any further than the Wildcats’ upset of Penn State earlier in the season for proof.

“It is hard to beat a team three times in a season,” said head coach Theresa Grentz. “We just want to take care of business. Right now we just want to get to the games and play.”

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The Illini expect Thursday’s game to be more intense than the two previous meetings between the two teams.

“The higher you go, the more determined you are to win,” said senior guard Tiffanie Guthrie. “If we want to win, we are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game. We cannot bring our ‘B’ game or our ‘B+’ game if we want to win. We have to do that every game.”

Northwestern comes into Thursday’s game on an eight-game losing streak. The Wildcats have not won since their upset of Penn State on Jan. 27. The Wildcats gave 15th-ranked Minnesota a run for its money before eventually falling 70-62 to close out the regular season.

As far as the game plan, the Illini do not want to change what was successful in Feb. 17’s 35-point win. In that game, the Illini played stifling defense, holding the Wildcats to just 14 points in the first half.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” Guthrie said. “We are going to come in and play hard. We know them, and we know what we have to do to get it done.”

If the Illini are victorious on Thursday, they will advance to Friday’s quarterfinal to face Michigan State at 5.

The Illini believe if they stay on the same page they can make a run in the tournament. The Illini will have to win the tournament to receive a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

“Everyone needs to be working on the same thing at the same time on the same night,” Grentz said. “Another thing we need to do is play it all out. We need to leave everything we have on that floor.”

The Illini have not won a Big Ten Tournament in program history. The Illini reached the semifinals of the tournament in 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2001 and have advanced to the title game twice, in 1997 and 1999. The Illini are 10-11 all-time in the tournament.