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Rutgers looks to sweep season series against Illinois

 – Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky

After losing by its largest margins of the season in the past two games, the Rutgers women’s basketball team looks to restore itself to its former glory Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Rutgers Athletic Center. 

Lining up against the Scarlet Knights (15-4, 5-3) will be Illinois, which suffered a 75-51 loss at the hands of Rutgers approximately three weeks ago.

The matchup featured 10 Knights contributing points. It also highlighted the importance of accountability toward fellow teammates. 

Senior center Jordan Wallace played only 11 minutes, bringing in one rebound. True freshman center Maori Davenport did what needed to be done on the boards and hauled in six rebounds. Helping her was redshirt freshman forward Tyia Singleton, contributing with her share of four rebounds.

That game was one of many contributing to a season that has not been what the Fighting Illini (10-9, 1-7) were hoping for. In their most recent game, they fell at home to Maryland by a score of 79-60, bringing their losing streak to three games. 

The only two players that started every game they dressed for so far have been Petra Holešínská and Kennedi Myles. The 5-foot-10-inch Holešínská, born in Czech Republic, is leading Illinois with an average of 14.3 points per game (PPG). 

Holešínská’s production off the glass isn’t as strong as her other strengths, though, as she sits in the middle of the pack for the Fighting Illini with 3.3 rebounds per game (RPG). Holešínská has plenty of time to dominate on the floor as she is second on the team in minutes per game, averaging 26.9 minutes per contest. 

Leading Illinois in that category is Myles with 28.5 minutes per game. She sits in second on the team in PPG with 10.2. Using her 6-foot-2-inch frame, Myles has muscled her way into the top of the leaderboard in rebounds, averaging nine RPG. 

Rutgers will also have to keep an eye on Ali Andrews. Andrews is averaging 9 PPG to go along with four RPG. 

The Knights come into the game looking for redemption after losing to both representatives of the state of Michigan in the Big Ten. They lost to Michigan State at home with a  66-55 loss and came back to the Banks from Ann Arbor with a 71-57 loss in tow. 

Rutgers has started the same unit for all but one game. Head coach C. Vivian Stringer has previously stated she will play whoever it takes to win, regardless of age. If Stringer chooses to stay with the usual starters, the Knights will look to lead-scorer junior guard Arella Guirantes. 

Guirantes is averaging 19.4 PPG, which is possible because she shares the floor with junior forward Tekia Mack. Both players are averaging 6.4 RPG. Mack has also directly helped the scoring effort with her 12.5 PPG. 

This game will be important for the starters and the bench. If the starters can break out of whatever has been holding them back, they will show that the past two games were unlucky coincidences. If the bench can pick up where the starters left off and continue what they started, this team will show the Big Ten that it is a force to be reckoned with. 

One bench player looking to make her mark is sophomore guard Zipporah Broughton. Having been sidelined by injury, Broughton has shown that she can step it up when needed. 

In the game against Michigan, she was second on the team with 13 points, with 9 of them coming from deep. Additionally, Broughton was on the hardwood for 27 minutes, logging more time than Mack and junior forward Mael Gilles. 

“(Broughton), you’ll see a lot more, and a lot more time that she’s going to be able to play,” Stringer said.

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