Illini women’s basketball hits road again to face Iowa

Illinois’ Ivory Crawford (22) shoots the ball during the game against Indiana at State Farm Center on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.The Illini lost 77-58.

There aren’t many “easy” wins in the Big Ten, and Iowa (19-6 overall, 7-4 Big Ten) certainly isn’t one of them.

At a time when the Illinois women’s basketball team (9-15, 2-10) is desperate for a win, it must pack up and hit the road to face one of the most lethal offensive teams in the nation. The Illini are currently on a five-game losing streak, and their immediate future isn’t looking any brighter. Plagued with a starting lineup devoid of experience and offense, Illinois has to try to contain the conference’s top offense, which is scoring just a shade under 80 points per game and ranks 15th in the country in field goal percentage (46.1 percent) and assists per game (18.0).

“They’re really skilled,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “They probably pass and shoot as well as anyone in the Big Ten and are one of the best teams in the country with how they pass and shoot. It’s almost like they have four point guards out there.”

Iowa’s biggest threat is guard Samantha Logic, who has proved that she can do just about everything on the court. The 5-foot-9 guard is averaging a triple-double in the Hawkeyes’ last two games, scoring 17.5 points per game to go along with 10 assists and 10 rebounds per game. She achieved the feat for the second time this season in a win against Penn State on Feb. 6.

“We’ve just got to look out for her,” junior guard Ivory Crawford said. “We’d be dumb not to look out for someone who’s been doing this.”

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    Bollant said Logic must be contained in one-on-one coverage, as she excels in penetration to the hoop and has the IQ to get the ball to an open shooter if help defense is needed. Unfortunately for Illinois, Logic is not the only threatening player capable of aiding in the defeat of the Illini. Iowa has five players averaging double digits in scoring per game, and four of them can knock down the three. Illinois will have to closely monitor junior guard Melissa Dixon, who is tied with senior guard Amber Moore for the most 3-point field goals made (69) in the Big Ten.

    Defensively, the Hawkeyes also present the conference’s most intimidating presence in the post in 6-foot-4 Bethany Doolittle. The junior ranks eighth in the nation in blocks per game (3.4) and fourth in total blocks (81). Doolittle also holds her own on the offensive end, as she shoots a sky-high 56.2 percent from the floor, which ranks first in the conference, and scores 14.0 points per game, good for second on the team.

    “Their offense is a big concern for us,” Bollant said. “They just put up 90 against Northwestern on Monday night, and they’ve had a ton of games where they’ve scored high 80s or around 90. They’re just really good offensively.”

    Illinois will again be without freshman Jacqui Grant, who was diagnosed with mono a week ago. Her absence may cause problems in the paint against Doolittle; however, guards Taylor Gleason and Crawford have proven to be stout defensively against opposing guards. Illinois will have to rely on man coverage play against an intelligent guard like Logic, and the team will have to hope either Gleason or Crawford can keep her out of the paint.

    Blake can be reached at [email protected].