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Illinois women’s hoops looking for bench rotation

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Illinois women’s hoops looking for bench rotation

Illinois’ Amarah Coleman has stood out through her consistent performances this season and is currently playing sixth in the rotation.

Illinois’ Amarah Coleman has stood out through her consistent performances this season and is currently playing sixth in the rotation.

Illinois’ Amarah Coleman has stood out through her consistent performances this season and is currently playing sixth in the rotation.

Illinois’ Amarah Coleman has stood out through her consistent performances this season and is currently playing sixth in the rotation.

By Joey Figueroa

Illinois women’s basketball has just two more games before Big Ten play begins, and one of its more pressing concerns may be finding the right rotation of players to come off the bench.

In its 82-72 loss to Seton Hall on Tuesday, the Illinois starters accounted for 170 of the 200 total minutes played. Nineteen of those 30 bench minutes belonged to freshman guard Amarah Coleman, who scored 13 points in her limited time and has already established herself as the sixth player in the rotation. Coleman has embraced her role off the bench early on.

“I know that once I get in the game I’m going to play hard for my team, play defense for my team and help them win,” Coleman said. “So being on the bench has no effect on my play at all.”

Besides Coleman, senior guard Taylor Tuck was the only nonstarter to play more than one minute at Seton Hall. Tuck pushed her way into the rotation with a solid showing in Illinois’ win over Virginia last week and has averaged about seven points in 13 minutes over her past three games as the second option off the bench.

Head coach Matt Bollant acknowledged Tuck’s steady play over the past few games, but was not quick to say any players have locked down spots in the rotation just yet.

“(Tuck) played great against Virginia and kind of solidified that for now, but you never know how that might change,” Bollant said. “A couple weeks ago, Taylor wasn’t playing much at all. We’re always looking.”

Coleman is the only nonstarter to play in all 10 of Illinois’ games this season and is also the only player off the bench to average more than 11 minutes per game. At just over 10 minutes per game, freshman guard Brooke Kissinger is second in bench minutes, but has fallen out of the rotation of late due to an extended shooting slump.

In this past weekend’s blowout victory over Southern Illinois, five different Illini played at least 10 minutes off the bench, which may have been a sort of trial run for Bollant to see who can contribute in the long run. Freshman guard Kennedy Cattenhead filled up the stat sheet with four points, three rebounds and a steal in just 11 minutes, and sophomore guard Taylor Gleason grabbed five rebounds in only seven minutes of action, but neither player even stepped on the court in the next game at Seton Hall.

Bollant hasn’t ruled anyone out of the rotation, but hasn’t firmly committed to many others, either, and is looking for a few more players to become reliable options to provide depth.

“Amarah certainly has separated herself and has played pretty well and pretty consistently, and Taylor is seven, so we’re kind of looking at who’s going to be eight and nine at this point,” Bollant said. “Those kids need to be on edge and come ready and keep getting better, and we’ll see when they get their shot.”

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

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