All-Big Ten performer Karisma Penn returns for her senior season in 2012-13.
Aug. 31, 2012
Champaign, Ill. -
Illinois head coach Matt Bollant, his staff and players have already made good on a promise to be fan-friendly and involved in the community since arriving on campus in the spring. Not only will fans get a chance to get to know the team off the court, but the team will spend much of its game days inside the friendly confines of Assembly Hall. The schedule includes 19 home games (including two exhibitions) and both conference challenge games at the Hall.
From the start of the season until Jan. 6, the Illini will venture away from home just three times, to the Junkaroo Jam on Grand Bahama Island (Nov. 23-24), to Texas Tech (Dec. 5) and Memphis (Dec. 9).
"To have so many home games is a huge plus, especially bringing in a new staff," Bollant said. "In wanting to get the community excited about women's basketball, there are a lot of opportunities for them to come out and see us at home. When you play quality teams at home, it's really exciting for our program."
The Illini open the Junkaroo Jam against Tulsa and will either meet Iowa State or Loyola Marymount the following day. Coaches Bollant and Mike Divilbiss are familiar with the Cyclones. While at Green Bay, the duo helped engineer an upset of Iowa State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament in Ames.
Illinois faces nine teams who made the NCAA Tournament last year, including two of the them twice, and a pair of teams (Texas Tech and Memphis) who played in the WNIT.
The Illini host Millkin (Oct. 30) and Concordia of Illinois (Nov. 6) in exhibition games before opening the regular season at home against two teams from the Missouri Valley -- Evansville (Nov. 11) and Bradley (Nov. 15). Illinois gets a return trip from Cleveland State on Nov. 18 before setting out for the Bahamas and later hosts a third Valley team in in-state rival Illinois State on Dec. 21.
In year's past, Illinois has played just one exhibition game. In adding another exhibition game, Bollant said. "I think playing another game under the lights will be beneficial for this team, especially since we expect great things from this group. It will help our team work through things in a live game situation."
Eight of Illinois' 19 home games are on weekends, including a pair of Saturday games -- against Colorado (Dec. 1) and Indiana (Feb. 23). The week after Thanksgiving Illinois hosts the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Nov. 29 against Wake Forest and then the Big Ten/Big XXII Challenge on Dec. 1 against Colorado.
The rest of the home non-conference slate features dates with UAB (Dec. 3), Paul Westhead's running offense of Oregon (Dec. 12) and Andy Landers' Georgia Bulldogs (Dec. 28), a team that earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
The Big Ten season opens Jan. 2 at home against Purdue. Illinois plays 16 conference games, facing Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State twice and the rest of the league just once each. The Illini end the season with four of its last six at home.
Game times and television allocation will be announced in the coming weeks.
Illinois has already started individual workouts and will begin full-team practices the first week of October in preparation for the season.
"I think the best way to prepare the team to play this schedule is to practice right," Bollant said. "The players have done a nice job buying in and we've been pleased with the progress thus far."
Season ticket orders are now being accepted. The cost is $75 for reserved season tickets and $25 for general admission season tickets. Fans can purchase a combination volleyball/women's basketball general admission season ticket (31 events) for just $35. Single-game women's basketball tickets go on sale in mid-October and are $5 per ticket.