Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall has been kind to the IU women’s basketball team as of late.
After the Hoosiers took down Northwestern in overtime Feb. 4 at home, it marked their fourth-straight win, three of which have come in Bloomington.
Everything seems to finally be coming together for IU. Much of that might be due to the team's recent string of home games and the increased rest between contests compared to the rough early schedule that saw them open against some of the Big Ten’s best teams.
“I think our confidence is where it needs to be, but I don’t know if we feel a whole lot different from how we did a month ago,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “It’s been nice to be at home, and I think that’s helped our group.”
Now, the Hoosiers will look for their fifth-straight win at 7 p.m. Thursday, as the Illinois Fighting Illini travel to Assembly Hall.
A fifth win in a row would mark the longest winning streak of the season for IU and would pull them back to a .500 record in conference play after starting off their Big Ten schedule at 1-6.
Illinois looks to be IU’s best chance of extending their win streak. They come in with the conference’s worst record at 9-16 overall and still winless in the Big Ten at 0-11.
It’s been a rough stretch for Illini Coach Nancy Fahey’s team so far, as the team has been beaten by double-digits in eight of their 11 games in conference play. Their most recent loss came on Feb. 4 at home to Purdue in a 73-54 drubbing.
Despite their struggles, Illinois does boast one of the Big Ten’s most productive players in 6-foot-1 junior forward Alex Wittinger.
Wittinger comes in as the Illini’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 14 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. She’s also proven to be one the conference’s best shot blockers and offensive rebounders as she ranks third in the Big Ten in both categories.
Illinois also gets major contributions from sophomore guard Brandi Beasley, who brings in averages of 11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Sophomore forward Ali Andrews is also a constant starter and is averaging 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds.
The rest of the Illini’s starting five could be up in the air, as it has been a revolving door of players, including senior Kennedy Cattenhead, junior Jaelyne Kirkpatrick and sophomores Cierra Rice, Petra Holesinska and Courtney Joens.
Buss and Cahill have been highly productive in IU’s recent win streak. Buss is coming off a season-high 31 points against Northwestern, while Cahill finished with 17 points and six rebounds of her own.Big Ten in offensive rebounds at 12.3 per game. Wittinger has been a big part of that and averages just under four offensive rebounds a game,.
Wittinger and Beasley will be the major focal points defensively for the Hoosiers and could cause interesting match-ups for IU’s seniors in guard Tyra Buss and forward Amanda Cahill.
Buss and Cahill have been highly productive in IU’s recent win streak. Buss is coming off a season-high 31 points against Northwestern while Cahill finished with 17 points and six rebounds of her own.
In these past four victories, Buss has been averaging 24.5 points and 4.8 assists and Cahill has averages of 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. They’ll need to continue playing at a similar high level as IU looks to extend their win streak moving forward.
However, Moren said the most important thing for her team to have continued success is to keep getting better every day in practice.
“We have to continue to understand that every day we come into practice, our goal is to get better,” Moren said. “We have to accept the fact that we still have so much more room for improvement.”