Illini women’s basketball looks for rebounding, less fouls against Virginia

The quick transition from Thanksgiving break back into work or school is never easy. 

After the Illinois women’s basketball team went 1-2 at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands over break, the same will go for head coach Matt Bollant and his squad. Illinois will take on Virginia Wednesday as part of the Big Ten/ACC challenge. The Cavaliers come into the matchup with a 5-1 record.

“Virginia is a hungry team, they’re 5-1, they’re 30th in the RPI and are a really good basketball team, so we’ve got our work cut out with another great opponent,” Bollant said. 

One of the common denominators for the Illini between their two heartbreaking losses was rebounding. Illinois lost the rebounding battle by a total of 27 in the two games. This was something that both Bollant and assistant coach Mike Divilbiss focused heavily on during practice. Freshman center Chatrice White has carried the load on the glass, averaging just under nine rebounds per game, but the coaching staff is looking for others to step up in the rebounding category. 

Jacqui Grant and Brittany Carter are the two most likely candidates. As a lanky, six foot tall guard, Bollant expected Carter to contribute on the boards in the offseason. 

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“I have long arms and I can go get (rebounds),” Carter said. “I just need to use my ability to go rebound and box people out, I’m not afraid of contact so maybe just going in and hitting first and using my length to go grab (rebounds).”

Another problem the Illini have been running into over the course of the season has been foul trouble. With a young bench and little depth in the post, this is something Bollant has been looking for ways to limit. 

“We’ve got to be smarter,” Bollant said. “They called it extremely tight (at the Paradise Jam), and I would expect them to call it that way Wednesday night so we better make some adjustments.” 

Foul trouble could become a big factor against Virginia as the Illini have their hands full guarding the Cavaliers. Junior guard Faith Randolph is third in the ACC at 19.5 points per game, and senior center Sarah Imovbioh is averaging a double-double on the season. 

Randolph’s scoring will most likely need to be matched by Illini senior Ivory Crawford, who has been on fire as of late. Crawford averaged over 24 points per game in the Paradise Jam. According to junior point guard Kyley Simmons, Crawford can’t be stopped once she gets going. 

Even with the two disappointing losses, the trip to the Virgin Islands seems like it helped Illinois with much more than just their play. 

“We got to know each other on a deeper level, I got to know the girl’s families even deeper,” Carter said. “I haven’t been here too long, but they definitely are a great team and we’ve learned a lot about each other and I think we’re stronger than ever right now.” 

Brett can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter