Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
With just two games left on its slate of regular season games, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is back on the hardwood to face Illinois Thursday in Champaign, Ill.
After taking down Michigan State, 67-60, at home Monday night, the Buckeyes might be looking to salvage what’s been an otherwise disappointing season.
“We played great Monday night and the win was important,” said OSU coach Jim Foster. “The team just needs to keep getting better and Illinois will be a tough test.”
The Buckeyes (15-12, 5-9 Big Ten) have struggled in conference play this year.
But the victory against the Spartans has OSU motivated heading into its contest with the Fighting Illini.
“Winning games, especially the other night, helps a lot in terms of confidence,” said senior guard Amber Stokes. “This season has been somewhat of a struggle, but winning our next two games would be huge and we’d have some momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament.”
Illinois (16-10, 9-5 Big Ten) head into the game coming off of a 13-point win against Indiana on Feb. 23.
The game against OSU is Illinois’ final home game of the season and, as such, it’s Senior Night for the likes of senior forward Karisma Penn, who averages 19.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
In a 79-73 win against OSU on Jan. 6 at the Schottenstein Center, Penn scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“That was really a bizarre game,” Foster said. “We sent them to the foul line over 30 times and we dealt with some injuries. It was very strange, but since then, I think we’ve gotten a lot better.”
In that contest against the Illini, Stokes suffered a sprained MCL in the first half that sidelined her for four additional games.
Stokes, who returned to action in a 71-56 loss to Penn State on Jan. 27, is relishing her time back on the court.
“It was a tough loss, and spraining my MCL in the first half, then not returning, was terrible,” said Stokes. “I really want this win, it would be huge.”
Senior guard Tayler Hill, who is averaging 21.2 points a game, has been a consistent force for the Buckeyes in spite of their ups and downs.
“We have to take one game at a time and play as a team,” said Hill. “Everybody needs to play their role and we just have to play defense.”
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Thursday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.