Illinois women’s basketball hosts SIU Tuesday

Illini+vs+Lehigh+on+December+6%2C+2015+at+The+State+Farm+Center.+Illini+won+76-67.

Justin Wolfe | The Daily Illini

Illini vs Lehigh on December 6, 2015 at The State Farm Center. Illini won 76-67.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

Matt Bollant described the Illinois women’s basketball team’s win over Lehigh on Sunday as a “grind-out game.”

But the Illini’s (5-1) head coach said his team must be sharper Tuesday if it wants to secure a win against Southern Illinois (4-3) at State Farm Center.

“You’re going to have games where you are just not as sharp and find a way, grind it out and we did that (Sunday),” Bollant said. “We’ll have to be sharper on Tuesday with Southern Illinois coming in and hopefully we’ll play well.”

The Illini enjoyed a strong offensive performance, shooting 45 percent from the field against LehighSO. Kyley Simmons scored all of her points from beyond the arc and led Illinois with 21 points.SO Chatrice White finished Sunday’s game with 17 points, three blocks and four steals.SO

Illinois did allow Lehigh to snag 17 offensive rebounds and score 16 second-chance pointsSO. White knows that going forward, Illinois will need to limit its opponents’ offensive rebound opportunities.

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    “Coming from this game we think that’s definitely an emphasis for us going into the next few games and just getting those defensive rebounds and keeping them off the (offensive) boards,” White said.

    Illinois will be challenged again on the glass Tuesday — the Salukis average 15.6 offensive rebounds per gameSO. But luckily for the Illini, the Salukis are a very familiar opponent.

    This is the third consecutive year Illinois is squaring off against Southern IllinoisSO. Illinois is on a two-game winning streak against Southern Illinois, winning by an average of 39.5 pointsSO. These matchups with Southern Illinois have helped Bollant prepare for Tuesday night.

    This season, the Salukis are being led by junior guard Rishonda Napier and senior forward Dyana Pierre.SO Napier is averaging 13.7 points per game while Pierre is averaging 14.2 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game.SO

    Bollant is anticipating an improved Saluki team.

    “They’re better, obviously looking at their scores,” Bollant said. “Last year Napier and Pierre were both really good players, All-Missouri Valley team. They added a couple kids who can really shoot the ball.”

    Illinois has experienced offensive success thus far, averaging 76.8 points per gameSO. But the Salukis may pose a challenge to the Illini’s offensive game. The Salukis are averaging 6.1 steals and 5.1 blocks per game.SO In its last three games, Southern Illinois’ opponents averaged 58 pointsSO.

    Illinois might have a pretty good gauge on how Tuesday might play out as the Salukis have played somewhat of a similar schedule to the Illini’s.

    So far this season, Illinois and Southern Illinois have played two mutual opponents — Tennessee State and Tennessee Martin. Both the Illini and Salukis came out victorious over Tennessee State. But against Tennessee Martin, the Salukis lost 70-63 while Illinois won 94-74.SO

    Despite the Illini dominating last year’s contest against Southern Illinois, Bollant believes the Salukis had an off night in their last meeting with Illinois. He expects Southern Illinois to have a chip on its shoulder Tuesday.

    “They did not play well in that game last year,” Bollant said. “I know that those kids have a lot of pride and they’ll be really excited on Tuesday for sure.”

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