Women’s basketball will open season against EIU Panthers

By Wesley Deberry

The Illinois women’s basketball team will take on the Eastern Illinois Panthers in the season opener in Charleston at 7 p.m. on Friday.

The game is only the beginning of the Illini’s weekend, though. On Sunday, the team will be back in Champaign to host UW-Milwaukee at 5 p.m.

In practice this week Illinois focused on rebounding, defensive rotation and one-on-one defense.

“It is kind of a mentality change defensively of really trying to force the issue, not reacting to the offense,” junior guard Lori Bjork said.

The Illini will need to apply their defensive know-how in their opener against Eastern Illinois. Eastern guard Jessica Huffman and forward Rachel Galligan are on Illini head coach Jolette Law’s defensive radar.

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Law said it will be difficult to stop Huffman from scoring, but Illinois must limit her touches in the game.

“It’s going to come down to team defense,” Law said.

As for Galligan, Law said she will look to 6-foot-2 senior forward Audrey Tabon to make her presence felt on defense. Law also said junior center Erin McCarthy and sophomore forward Jenna Smith may guard Galligan.

“I am not worried about it at all,” Tabon said. “Coach Law’s philosophy is if you play defense hard you can handle anybody.”

Offensively, Law said she wants a total team effort and will vary her lineup depending on who is hot.

Changing the tempo of the game by altering between small and big lineups will be part of Law’s arsenal.

Law is still unsure who the five starters will be in Friday’s game, but did say that she would like to go with an eight-woman rotation.

“We’re just going to do what we do and do it well,” Law said.

The pregame speech of Coach Law will have a different tone on Sunday as the Illini return home.

From the time that she was a player at Iowa to her coaching stint at Rutgers, Law has always been aware of the importance of protecting home court.

UW-Milwaukee will come into Champaign after having also played a game on Friday. Last year, UW-Milwaukee had problems away from home and finished the season with a 6-11 record on the road.

“We pay the bills here, this is our house,” Law said. “No one tells us what we are going to do in our house.”

Law’s laws

1. Transition defense

2. Rebounding

3. Control Tempo

4. Defensive rotation and awareness

5. Focus