The Illinois Fighting Illini will play the Wisconsin Badgers at Sears Centre Arena (Hoffman Estates, Illinois) in the first round of the Big Ten conference tournament.
The Fighting Illini were defeated by the #23 Purdue Boilermakers, 76-65, in their season finale on March 3rd. Although they lost the game, senior Karisma Penn became the 15th player in Big Ten history to grab 1,000 career rebounds. She finished the game against Purdue with 23 points and eight rebounds.
This game will be the third meeting between Illinois and Wisconsin this season. Illinois is 2-0 against Wisconsin this season. In their first meeting, the Illini beat the Badgers, 64-56. They beat the Badgers, 60-53, in their second meeting. Adrienne GodBold has scored a combined 34 points against the Badgers this season. Penn also recorded a double-double (26 points and 14 rebounds) in the last meeting.
Wisconsin comes into Thursday’s match-up with an overall record of 11-18 and a Big Ten record of 3-13. The Badgers are 2-8 in their last ten games and have lost five straight games.
The Badgers have two players averaging double-digit points so far this season.
They are junior Morgan Paige (16.1 points per game) and sophomore Jacki Gulczynski (12.6 points per game).
In the first meeting, both Paige and Gulczynski recorded double-digit points with 23 and 10 points respectively. However, Gulczynski only scored four points in their last meeting with Illinois. Paige led her team with 14 points in the last meeting.
Morgan Paige is among the best scorers in the Big Ten. She is currently ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring.
The Badgers are ranked eleventh in the conference in scoring offense, but they stay in games with their defense.
They are ranked sixth in scoring defense (59.1 points per game).
On the boards, Wisconsin is led by Jacki Gulczynski (5.9 rebounds per game), junior Cassie Rochel (9.2 rebounds per game), and senior Tiera Stephen (6.4 rebounds per game).
In the last meeting, both Rochel and Stephen accounted for 22 of their team’s 39 rebounds. Rochel led the team with 12 rebounds and Stephen hauled in 10 rebounds of her own.
Rochel is ranked third in the Big Ten in rebounding this season. As a team, Wisconsin is ranked eighth in rebounding margin (+0.1).
This will be the 66th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Badgers. Illinois leads the series, 34-31.
One bright spot for the Fighting Illini is that they are 4-1 in first round games of the Big Ten conference tournament. Illinois will enter the conference tournament as the 6th-seed and Wisconsin will enter as the 11th-seed. The winner will play the 3rd-seeded Purdue Boilermakers on Friday.
The Illini are trying to come back from back-to-back losses to the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Purdue Boilermakers. Illinois has been a consistent team all year, but is powered by Penn and GodBold.
Penn has been the scoring and rebounding threat for the Illini this season. The team is 10-3 when she scored 20+ points. GodBold can score, but is better defensively. This past season, GodBold took home the award for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
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