FEBRUARY 09, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA: Illinois Fighting Illini forward Karisma Penn (00) is guarded by Ohio State Buckeyes center Ashley Adams (33) during the first half at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Ben Woloszyn-USPRESSWIRE

Illinois Women's Basketball: Miami (OH) WNIT Game Preview

The Illinois Fighting Illini will host the Miami (OH) RedHawks at Assembly Hall in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

The Fighting Illini had a chance to improve their NCAA Tournament resume in the Big Ten conference tournament, but were bounced in the first round by Wisconsin. The Badgers won the game, 58-57, and held the Illini’s leading scorer, Karisma Penn, to just eight points and four rebounds.

This is Illinois’ eighth appearance in the WNIT. There last appearance was in 2010 where they advanced to the quarterfinals (their deepest run in school history). They are 8-7 all-time in the tournament and 6-1 all-time in their opening game (only first game loss happened in ’05).

The Miami (OH) RedHawks come into Thursday’s first round game with an overall record of 19-12 and a MAC conference record of 10-6. They were a “one and done” in the MAC tournament and are 5-5 in their last ten games.

The RedHawks have two players averaging double-digit points so far this season.

They are seniors Courtney Osborn (19.1 points per game) and Kirsten Olowinski (12.2 points per game). In there last game, Osborn scored 19 points while Olowinski led the team with 25 points.

Not only do Osborn and Olowinski score in bunches for the RedHawks, they also have high field goal and free throw percentages. Both players have taken over 300 shots this season. Osborn is averaging 42.2% from the field and Olowinski is averaging 50.5% from the field.

Osborn is the best free throw shooter on the team. She has attempted over 100 free throws and is shooting 77.9% from the charity stripe this season.

On the boards, Miami (OH) is led by Olowinski. She is the only player to average double-digit rebounds this season (10.4 rebounds per game). She grabbed seven rebounds in the team’s loss to Buffalo in the second round of the MAC tournament.

This will be the fifth meeting between the Fighting Illini and the RedHawks (their first since 1994). In the series, both teams are tied at 2-2.

Illinois suffered a heart breaking loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of the Big Ten conference tournament. Karisma Penn fouled out of the game and scored only eight points.

The Fighting Illini were able to keep their last game close, but the failure to get Penn going offensively was the main reason for their downfall. They were 10-2 when Karisma Penn scores 20+ points before that game. Penn is the focal point of the Illinois offense. If she is not scoring, the Illini are not winning.

Illinois should be able to get things going a lot better than they did in their loss to the Badgers. Expect the Illini to play well at home against their WNIT opponent.

If Illinois wins on Thursday, they will play the Eastern Illinois Panthers in the second round of the WNIT. Eastern Illinois defeated the Missouri Tigers, 60-58, in their first round game on Wednesday.

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Tags: Basketball Courtney Osborn Illinois Fighting Illini Karisma Penn Kirsten Olowinski Miami (OH) Redhawks WNIT Women's National Invitational Tournament Women's NIT

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