Women join in madness

By Derek Barichello

On a night when the men’s basketball team unveiled its Final Four banner, the women’s basketball team unveiled new faces and a new attitude.

The Illini kicked off the 2005-06 season with Midnight Madness on Friday night in front of 13,405 fans at Assembly Hall.

“It was a lot of fun,” said senior guard Janelle Hughes. “I mean, when is the next time we’ll ever get to play in front of so many people. It was just a lot of fun.”

With Angelina Williams and Tiffanie Guthrie lost to graduation, the Illini were anxious to show that they are a different team than the one that lost in the first round of the WNIT last season.

“It was very important to show these people how hard we’ve been working,” Hughes said. “We’ve been working over the summer. It feels good to get back on the floor.”

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The evening began with the introduction of this season’s squad, starting with the six new freshmen, which Hughes said will give the team a new look.

It did not take the new freshmen long to bring the team energy. In the three-point competition, freshman guard Lori Bjork showed she could help the Illini improve their long range shooting abilities by advancing to the finals with her student partner and nailing a three- pointer in the scrimmage.

Hughes and her student partner took the title, hitting seven shots in the final.

“That’s what I do,” Hughes said. “I had to win for myself and my coaches.”

With Williams and Guthrie gone, Hughes said she would like to step up as the team’s new leader.

“I’m a senior,” Hughes said. “Who better to lead the team? We have two seniors on this team who can step up and lead us.”

After the three-point competition, the team scrimmaged for 10 minutes. In the scrimmage, forwards Danyel Crutcher and Erin Wigley led the team in scoring with seven and six points, respectively.

The new attitude was most evident when the freshmen participated in Orange Krush cheers during the men’s scrimmage.

“They have a good spirit about them,” head coach Theresa Grentz said. “They have been watching the men and want a piece of that. They’ve worked very hard this off- season.”

Overall, Grentz said it was a step forward for the program.

“It’s great for our program to get in front of a full house like this,” Grentz said. “But tonight was the men’s night, truly.”

Grentz and the women’s squad open the preseason schedule with the Orange and Blue Scrimmage Masquerade Party on Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. at Assembly Hall.