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Rutgers women's basketball closes out season with matchups against No. 12 Michigan, No. 25 Illinois

The Rutgers women's basketball team will look to climb up the Big Ten standings when it takes on Michigan and Illinois this week. – Photo by @RutgersWBB / Twitter

The Rutgers women’s basketball team will close out its season with a road game in Ann Arbor, Michigan, against Michigan and then head back home for its last game in Piscataway against Illinois. In the previous matchups this season with both teams, the Scarlet Knights (11-17, 5-11) lost to both the Wolverines (20-7, 10-6) and the Fighting Illini (20-7, 10-6).

After falling to Wisconsin, who currently stands 12th in the Big Ten standings, by 26 points Monday night, No. 10 Rutgers faces two ranked opponents.

Thursday’s affair against the No. 12 Michigan will be a tough one for the Knights. The Wolverines score an average of 75.2 points per game (PPG) while allowing their opponents to score only 62.7 PPG, which puts Michigan second in the Big Ten by this measure.

The Wolverines shoot for an average of 47.2 percent from the field, 34.3 percent from the three-point line and hit 77.9 percent of their shots from the free throw line.

"They're a tough team, and they have a really balanced attack," head coach Coquese Washington said regarding Michigan. "Last time we played them their press kind of bothered us, so we’ve got to have a good press offense attack."

The Wolverines have three players on their roster who score at least 15.7 PPG. Leigha Brown leads the team with 18.2 PPG, while Laila Phelia averages 17 PPG and Emily Kiser racks up 15.7 PPG.

Phelia and Kiser combined for a total of 48 points during Rutgers' game against Michigan at the Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus on January 19. Washington said that she believes Brown is also a player to keep an eye on.

"Brown is just so good," Washington said. "We just got to try to corral her a little better than we did last time. I think she’s coming off of a 30-plus-point game against Ohio State. So we’ve got our work cut out for us there."

No. 25 Illinois is not a team to scoff at either. The Fighting Illini average 77.1 PPG and keep their opponents at a 64.7 PPG average which ranks them third in the conference behind the Wolverines in PPG allowed.

As of yesterday, Illinois is successful 45.9 percent of the time from the field, 38.3 percent of the time from beyond the arc and 77 percent of the time from the charity stripe.

The Fighting Illini have four players with double-digit scoring averages this season. Key players are Makira Cook, with an 18.4 PPG average, and Kendall Bostic, who has a field goal percentage of 63.5, leads the team in total rebounds with 279 (10.3 a game) and is the main generator of blocks on the team with 41 total on the season.

Illinois will look to uphold its AP Poll Top 25 status when it takes on Nebraska tonight before matching up with the Knights.

Wins against Michigan and Fighting Illini are important for Rutgers in determining the standings for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. 

"If we take care of business we don’t have to worry what happens with anybody else," Washington said. "If we don’t take care of business, then we got to start cheering for other teams ... If we take care of business now, there could be movement up for us."

The Knights and the Wolverines will tip off tomorrow night at 7 p.m. while Rutgers and Illinois will tip off at 2 p.m. on Sunday’s Senior Day at the Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus. Both games will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ as well as 88.7 WRSU-FM.

For more updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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