Illinois women’s hoops travels to Seton Hall

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Illinois’ Chatrice White attempts a contested layup during the game against Virginia on Wednesday.

By Joey Figueroa

After traveling a mere 200 miles for its first true road game, the Illinois women’s basketball team will make the long trip to South Orange, New Jersey, for a matchup against Seton Hall on Tuesday.

The Illini (7-2) will arrive in South Orange on a two-game winning streak that includes a pair of 20-point and 40-point blowouts. The Pirates (8-1) boast a seven-game winning streak of their own.

“I’ve heard that they’re very athletic and a very good team,” freshman center Chatrice White said. “Even if they are, we’re just going to play our game and pick up our energy and our defense will just come with it.”

The Illinois defense will look to slow down two high-scoring guards, Daisha Simmons and Ka-Deidre Simmons, who are both averaging over 17 points per game this season. Ka-Deidre Simmons has already earned Big East player of the week honors this season and is an efficient scorer, shooting 45.2 percentage from the field.

“They’re really complete guards,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “They penetrate really well, they shoot the three and they’re really hard to guard.”

Illinois has made a habit of limiting its opponents’ top scorers and will look to do the same against Seton Hall, even though the Pirates have four different players averaging double-digit scoring.

Seton Hall, at No. 41, is just three spots below Illinois in the NCAA RPI rankings. The eight teams Seton Hall has defeated have an average RPI ranking of 167.

Bollant said Illinois has faced a top-50 strength of schedule and is happy with how the Illini have responded to the early tests.

“Hopefully it prepares us well,” Bollant said. “We want to have some early tests, we’re young with a lot of new kids, but they’ve responded really well to the new tests. We’re growing and getting better, and hopefully, we can learn to be consistent and play for 40 minutes.”

For some of the younger players on Illinois’ team, this will be the longest they have traveled to play on an opponent’s home court.

“I think it’s going to be a good test for us because we’re going to be doing that multiple times a week once Big Ten season starts up,” White said.

Illinois played Seton Hall for just the first time in school history last season in Champaign, and the two teams may be expecting another thriller — the Illini edged out a 71-70 victory after being down 20 points. Bollant expects another hard-fought game this time around.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a great game,” Bollant said. “You watch them on tape, and you can tell they’re a lot better basketball team, but so are we, so I expect a really good match-up.”

Joey can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeyfigueroa3.