Illinois hosts the Hoosiers on Wednesday


Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Illinois’ Alex Wittinger takes a jump shot during the game against Penn State at the State Farm Center on January 23. The Illini lost 65-56.

By Matt Gertsmeier

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On Wednesday, the Illinois women’s basketball team looks to do something it hasn’t accomplished since head coach Matt Bollant’s first season with the Illini in 2012 – beat Indiana.

The Illini (8-15, 1-11 Big Ten) hosts the Hoosiers (15-9, 7-5 Big Ten) in their second matchup of the season. Indiana beat Illinois 68-66 on Jan. 20. Of his 18-47 Big Ten record at Illinois, Bollant’s teams have gone 1-4 against Indiana.

The Hoosiers are on a two-game win streak and are 5-1 in their last six games. Illinois is currently riding a six-game losing streak.

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    Bollant noted a few takeaways from January’s meeting that he will implement into Illinois’ strategy.

    “It was a high-level game,” Bollant said. “We played really well at their place and shot a good percentage and put ourselves in a great position to win the game. We didn’t defend the dribble down the stretch the way we needed to, and penetration hurt us and a late three they hit, so (we) just (need to be) better stopping the penetration.”

    Bollant is hopeful that Illinois freshman Alex Wittinger will play Wednesday — she broke her right thumb in practice last week. Wittinger, a right-handed shooter, has been averaging 12 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the field in her 10 appearances against conference opponents.

    If Wittinger is out on Wednesday there will be more pressure on Illinois’ center Chatrice White. White finished with a career-high 35 points in Illinois’ most recent loss to Michigan, but also picked up four fouls. White has been getting into foul trouble frequently — she has picked up four fouls in five of the last seven games.

    White said she needs to do a better job of noticing early on how the officials are going to call the game.

    “(I need to) adjust to the refs, get a feel for how they’re going to ref out the game as it goes on,” White said. “And be smart and go straight up.”

    If White gets into foul trouble Wednesday, Bollant will be forced to rely on his guards and go with a smaller lineup. Sophomore guard Brooke Kissinger has been averaging a little less than 12 points in her last six games. 

    Kissinger, who usually comes off the bench, has started the last two games with Wittinger out. Five-foot-10 guard Kennedy Cattenhead has also stepped up for Illini, scoring double digits in four of her last seven contests.

    Defensively, Illinois will have its hands full. The Hoosiers are led by sophomores Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill. Buss averages 17 points and five assists in conference games while Cahill averages 16 points and nine rebounds.

    Buss is 10th in the Big Ten in scoring and Bollant anticipates she’ll be an offensive threat Wednesday.

    “She makes big shots for them,” Bollant said about Buss. “I think she does a lot for them. She has high-energy and the game at their place she didn’t shoot it well, but she got to the line, so she scores in a variety of ways.”

    Buss and Cahill also help propel Indiana’s defense. Buss is averaging a little over two steals per Big Ten game and Cahill averages just shy of one block a game. As a team, Indiana limits opponents to less than 32 percent from deep.

    The Hoosiers’ 3-point defense may cause problems for Illinois who has been stroking it from downtown as of late. In their last two games combined, the Illini are 21-for-48 from deep. Senior guard Kyley Simmons leads Illinois in 3-pointers made and is shooting 40 percent for three on the season.

    Despite Illinois’ struggles against the Hoosiers, Kissinger is optimistic about Wednesday’s game.

    “It’s just going to be fun to match up against them again because we were close last time,” Kissinger said. “Our fourth quarter didn’t go well last time we played them so (we will) fight all four quarters instead of just three and hopefully we will have a different outcome.”

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