Illinois looks to pull off upset win at Indiana in final game of 2020


Ryan Ash

The Illinois women’s basketball team comes together during the game against Valparaiso on Dec. 2.

By Nithin Reddy, Assistant Video Editor

The Illinois women’s basketball team will take on No. 20 Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington after a three-week hiatus due to two postponements following coronavirus outbreaks within the Michigan and Southern Illinois programs.

Neither games have been canceled, but head coach Nancy Fahey says the team is making sure the Michigan game is prioritized first. Since Southern Illinois is a non-conference opponent, it’s unlikely the game will be rescheduled.

In the Illini’s last game, they lost to Nebraska in large part because of the play of Cornhusker guard Sam Haiby. Throughout the game, and especially in the second half, the Illini were unable to contain Haiby’s dribble-drive, and she finished with a career-high 33 points.

The Hoosiers could cause similar problems, as they use a three-guard lineup in Ali Patberg, Grace Berger and Jaelynn Penn, all of whom can score inside and out.

“We have to stop their attack because we know they’re great attacking guards, closeout short of them and keep our hands up,” said sophomore guard Jeanae Terry.

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Indiana also has one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. Through two conference games, the Hoosiers have allowed 45 and 54 points in wins over Nebraska and Minnesota, respectively. The Illini will likely need Terry to replicate her performance a season ago against Indiana when she had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists while making three 3-pointers.

For an Illini team that has struggled to score this season, it is not a good sign that the Hoosiers have allowed opponents to shoot just 31% from the field and 27% from three.

The Illini will be big underdogs going in, but that doesn’t faze Fahey, who is looking for her first win against Indiana since arriving at Illinois.

“They’re good and we know that, but that’s the Big Ten,” Fahey said. “There’s six ranked teams and two others that are receiving votes. We make sure (our players) know who they’re playing and what their strengths are and why they’re one of the top teams in the country.”

For the Illini to come out of Bloomington with an upset win, they will likely need good production from redshirt junior center Eva Rubin. Despite some scoring struggles early, Rubin is essential when anchoring the Illini’s defense. At 6-foot-5, she’s a big reason why teams have yet to have success scoring inside and will be needed against Indiana.

Junior forward and backup center Geovana Lopes will miss the game, as she is dealing with an injury in her left knee. Lopes has had knee problems in the past as she tore her ACL and meniscus in her right knee when she was playing basketball in Brazil.

With perimeter defense being key for Illinois, expect Fahey to lean heavily on junior guard J-Naya Ephraim and sophomore guard Jada Peebles. The two are among the best defenders on the team, and Peebles has shot the ball well in the Illini’s last two games.

Tip-off is Thursday at noon and the team will come right back to Champaign as they face Iowa this weekend.



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