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    Illinois Opens Exhibition Season Tuesday
    Alexis Smith will start at point guard for Illinois to start the season.

    Alexis Smith will start at point guard for Illinois to start the season.

    Oct. 29, 2012

    Champaign, Ill. -

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    There is a chill in the air and the leaves are nearly off the trees in Central Illinois. That can me only one thing: basketball season is here. For the Fighting Illini women's basketball team, the season begins Tuesday night with an exhibition game against Marian University from Indiana (Tip off at 7 p.m.). The year brings extra excitement as first-year head coach Matt Bollant brings a winning tradition with him from Green Bay.

    "It's a fun time of year," Bollant said. "You're starting to see basketball games and you're looking at other scores. We've been playing against ourselves for a month. It will be interesting to see where we are against an outside opponent."

    Illinois returns four starters from last year's team with sophomore Alexis Smith replacing Lydia McCully at the point guard spot. The rest of the line-up is expected to include senior Karisma Penn, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, redshirt juniors Kersten Magrum and Amber Moore, and sophomore Ivory Crawford.

    "Our second team is also really athletic," Bollant said. "It's going to be exciting to see our athleticism against somebody else. We think it's pretty good, but it's hard to know until you go against somebody else. We'll also see how quickly our players are going to be able to pick up the system and apply it to game situations."

    Marian is an NAIA Division II school from Indianapolis with an enrollment of 2,200. The Knights return nine letterwinners from a team that finished 18-10 and placed sixth in the Crossroads League.

    "It will be good preparation because they are like the first four teams we play in that they are skilled, smart and shoot the ball well," Bollant said of his match-up against Marian. "They have four seniors so they are bringing a veteran team in here. I expect them to come in here and give us a fight."

    Not only has Bollant been busy preparing his team and hitting the recruiting trail, but also making every appearance he can around the community and the area selling his team's aggressive style of play, one that will be fan friendly. The Illini have already sold 700 season tickets for the year. Season tickets for the 18-date home schedule are just $75 for public reserved, $60 for faculty/staff reserved, $40 for student/youth reserved, and $25 for general admission seating. U of I students are admitted free. All single-game tickets are just $5. Fans can purchase tickets by calling 866-Illini-1 or by visiting the Assembly Hall Box Office.

    "There is a buzz around the community," Bollant said. "People want to come and check it out. If we can put a good product on the floor, which I know we're going to make happen, they will come back."

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