Welcome to the twentieth opponent profile for the 2003-2004 season. Each profile will include information about the opponent’s women’s basketball team and a player or coach on the team. Web page addresses will follow each section. Look for a profile on each opponent 1-2 days before the tip-off.
The Illini enter Thursday’s game with an overall record of 10-13, 4-8 in the Big Ten, currently the seventh-best record in the conference. Illinois’ record in Big Ten games on the road is 2-4. Illinois has lost on the road at Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Penn State, while defeating Northwestern and Indiana. At Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois defeated Ohio State and Michigan, while losing to Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, and Minnesota.
The fifteen-player-deep roster is quite experienced, with five seniors and three juniors leading Coach Theresa Grentz’s squad. Of all those players, eight average double figures in minutes played, while a ninth is right behind at 9.8. The Illini also have four players averaging double figures in points per game. Unfortunately for Illini and Big Ten fans, senior Aminata Yanni has not played since injuring her ACL in a Jan. 8 game against Ohio State.
Offensively, Illinois is a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big Ten. The Fighting Illini are seventh in points per game (62.8), sixth in FG% (41.6%), tenth in 3-pt% (27.0%), and ninth in FT% (67.8%) in conference games. The Illini are also next-to-last in assists per game and rank ninth in assist to turnover ratio, getting .72 assists for every turnover they make. On the positive side, Illinois is second in the conference in offensive rebounds per game, with more than fourteen.
The Fighting Illini are also middle-of-the-pack defensively, ranking sixth in FG% defense (an eerie 41.6%, the exact same as their offensive FG%) and 3-point% defense (31.9%). With the quantity of defensive-minded teams in the conference, though, numerical rankings matter little. Illinois is pretty active on the more spectacular defensive stats, averaging almost 8 steals and more than 4 blocks per game.
Illinois is led by senior Cindy Dallas and juniors Angelina Williams and Tiffanie Guthrie. Cindy, the two-time conference rebounding champ is at it again this year, hauling down 10.5 rebounds per game in conference action. She’s also the team’s third-leading scorer in conference games at 13.8 per contest, which ranks fifteenth among all conference players. Add that she also ranks fifteenth in field goal percentage and eighth in blocks and it looks like Cindy is on her way to more post-season accolades. Perhaps if she got more field goal attempts per game, the Illini's shooting percentage would rise, as she makes more than 53% of her field goals in all games.
Tiffanie Guthrie is having a breakout season for the Illini, averaging 14.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in Big Ten play. Those numbers rank thirteenth and third, respectively, among all Big Ten players. Tiffanie is also one of the Illini’s best playmakers, with almost three assists per game in conference play. Whomever guards Tiffanie must do a great job blocking out because the junior from Trotwood, Ohio, is tops in the conference with more than four offensive rebounds per outing. Tiffanie has been on a roll recently, averaging almost 20 points and 9 boards per game in her last six outings. She was named a Big Ten co-player of the week for her work against Northwestern and Indiana.
Freshman guard Erin Wigley, who has started 21 of 23 games this year for Illinois, also looks to provide balance on the squad, as she averages 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. At 6'1", Erin may provide matchup problems for the Boilermakers. The job of defending her may fall to Lindsey at the start of the game.
The Illinois women’s basketball team’s official website can be found at:
Junior Angelina Williams, from George Washington High School in Chicago, is the offensive leader for Illinois. The left-hander averages a team-high 16.4 points per game in all contests and averages 17.3 in Big Ten contests, good for seventh overall. Angelina, who was recruited by the Boilermakers, averages more than 15 field goal attempts per game, but doesn’t get to the free throw line a lot (71 total in 22 games). Angelina recently became the seventeenth player in Illinois history to pass the 1,000 point mark in her career.
After her sophomore year, Angelina was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches, third-team by the media for averaging 15.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. While this year’s all-conference teams may be blocked up by one of the best senior classes in Big Ten history, Angelina will make her presence felt over the next year and a half in Big Ten circles: the explosive six-foot-tall athlete is able to dunk the ball and will probably be the focus of the Illini offense for the remainder of this year and next.
Angelina’s bio on the Illinois women’s basketball team’s official website can be found at:
Illinois has got some wonderful individual players on its roster, with Dallas, Guthrie, and Williams all vying for postseason all-conference honors. Doubtless that Aminata Yanni also would have been ranked among the Big Ten’s best. Freshman Erin Wigley may very well be on the All-Freshman team when the year is up and Coach Grentz is already a Hall 0f Famer in the basketball world. With such talent currently in Champaign and continually arriving, it’s hard to understand why the program isn’t among the conference elite. For one reason or another, it isn’t.
The biggest issue for this year’s Illinois squad may be depth. Yes, all those players average double-figure minutes per game, but they aren’t very productive minutes. After the Big Three and Wigley, no Illinois player averages more than 2.5 points or 2.1 rebounds per game. When Aminata Yanni went down with her ACL injury, Illinois lost its best defender and top 3-point shooter; no one has yet to step up in the latter role on a consistent basis. The team also has no point guard to speak of, with Guthrie and sometimes Williams taking over that position, possibly draining their energy and limiting their effectiveness on offense. Sophomore Maggie Acuna has been average in her last four games, with seven assists and eight turnovers against Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana, and Minnesota. Look for Dallas, Williams, Wigley, Guthrie, and Acuna to start.
Illinois has a definite advantage with Cindy Dallas in the frontcourt, as she’s bound to get her fair share of rebounds and make a good percentage of her shots. She’s a physical player, and at 6’2” can probably handle whatever style of defense Emily will throw on her. With Cindy and Tiffanie rebounding, the Illini could cause problems both on the offensive and defensive end for the Boilermakers. Boxing out will be at a premium on Thursday (isn't it always?) for whichever team wants to control the tempo.
Purdue, however, has the edge in the backcourt as Erika and Beth may be able to pressure Illinois’ guards into turnovers and poor decisions, keeping the Illini offense at bay. Erika and Beth are also much better 3-point shooters than anyone Illinois has on their roster and may be able to take advantage of that skill if Illinois plays zone defense. Also look for the Boilermaker bench to play a huge role in the game. If Katie’s confidence continues to rise, if Carol and Erin remain tough under the basket, and if Sharika and Ashley can hassle Illinois both on defense and offense, Purdue gains a big edge.
Perhaps no other Purdue player has been under more scrutiny from opposing defenses, and will remain so, as Shereka Wright. Until the Iowa/Northwestern road trip, Shereka averaged more than twice as many points per game as any of her other teammates. Defenses, however, can no longer expect her only to drive on them for layups as she's now posting up down low and taking mid-range jumpers on a more consistent basis. Add that she'll continually get to the line, and she's quite the opponent magnet. With the physical pounding she takes game after game (20 free throw attempts along against Northwestern), Shereka has to be considered among the toughest players in the country. And, perhaps, the one with the biggest bulls'-eye on her back. If Shereka exerts her will on the game (around 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists), Purdue will go a long way to recording its thirteenth consecutive win on the season.