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Women's basketball Game 13 preview: Wisconsin at Illinois, 2 p.m. Sunday

Jan. 7—Lineups

Illinois (6-6, 0-2 Big Ten)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Makira Cook Sr. 5-6 13.8 Cincinnati

G Genesis Bryant Sr. 5-6 14.9 Jonesboro, Ga.

G Adalia McKenzie Jr. 5-10 10.3 Brooklyn Park, Minn.

F Brynn Shoup-Hill Jr. 6-3 4.6 Goshen, Ind.

F Kendall Bostic Sr. 6-2 12.8 Kokomo, Ind.

FYI: Cook has scored at least 17 points in the last three games for the Illini. But last Sunday's 77-71 loss at then-No. 16 Indiana was the senior point guard at her most efficient, with the Cincinnati native finishing 9 of 18 from the field while playing a season-high 39 minutes. The performance against the Hoosiers followed back-to-back 17-point games for Cook in nonconference matchups with Arkansas and UTEP, during which Cook was a combined 11 of 34 from the floor (32.4 percent).

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Jada Peebles Sr. 5-10 5.0 Raleigh, N.C.

C Camille Hobby Sr. 6-3 7.6 Jacksonville, Fla.

F Shay Bollin So. 6-3 2.3 Raynham, Mass.

Wisconsin (7-6, 0-3 Big Ten)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Brooke Schramek Sr. 6-0 9.7 Naperville

G Ronnie Porter So. 5-4 10.2 St. Paul, Minn.

G Sania Copeland So. 5-7 8.8 Kansas City, Kan.

G D'Yanis Jimenez Fr. 5-8 10.2 Cape Coral, Fla.

F Serah Williams So. 6-4 16.1 Brooklyn, N.Y.

FYI: Williams is the only Big Ten player to rank in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, with the All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection from last season averaging 16.1 points (ninth), 9.0 rebounds (second) and 2.9 blocks (first). Nebraska junior center/forward Alexis Markowski is the lone conference player other than Williams in the top 10 in both scoring (17.2) and rebounding (9.9).

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Natalie Leuzinger Sr. 5-8 8.1 Monroe, Wis.

G Halle Douglass Sr. 6-2 3.7 Lake Forest

F Ana Guillen Fr. 6-0 1.2 Badalona, Spain

Details

➜ Site: State Farm Center (15,544); Champaign.

➜ Radio: Mike Koon will have the call on WDWS 1400-AM and 93.9-FM.

➜ Steaming: BTN plus (subscription).

➜ Series: Tied at 41-41.

➜ Last meeting: Illinois won 79-63 against Wisconsin on Dec. 29, 2022, in Madison, Wis.

➜ FYI: The Illini have now won four of the last five games against the Badgers with the 16-point victory by Illinois last season at the Kohl Center featuring 20-point games from two Illini. Adalia McKenzie poured in a still-career-high 26 points with Makira Cook delivering 20 points, as well, for Illinois. Julie Pospisilova, who is now playing overseas in Europe, led Wisconsin with 18 points in that loss.

Beat writer Joe Vozzelli's storylines

Cook has 'the look' of confidence again

The way Makira Cook closed out 2023 is the version of the senior point guard Illinois will hope to have the rest of the season. That Cook had been out nearly three full weeks in November with a concussion explains her slow start to the 2023-24 season. But Cook showed in a season-best scoring performance on New Year's Eve at Indiana what made her an All-Big Ten First Team guard last season with her pull-up and step-back jumper both working. And a swagger about her, too.

"She had that look in her eye," Illinois coach Shauna Green said. "She hit that one jump shot, and I think shushed the (Indiana) crowd. That's great. That's when you know someone's back and really feeling it and just really into the moment, and that's what I want these guys to be. It was fun to watch ... and hopefully, like I said, we can continue to have her play at that level. (Kendall Bostic) played well and if can get all of these guys clicking offensively on the same night, we can beat anybody in the country. I firmly believe that."

Starting a new year with added rest

Sunday's Big Ten home matchup with Wisconsin marks the fifth time this season Illinois had a full week in between games. That's about to change with 16 regular-season Big Ten games left on the schedule and only one six-day layover the rest of the way. Otherwise, it's basically a midweek/weekend Big Ten slate for the Illini. Where Illinois stands with an 0-2 league record and 0-6 mark against major-conference opponents this season makes it a critical stretch for Green and Co.

"These guys feel it," the Illinois coach said. "They know it. I don't have to ram it down their throats saying, 'We need to win a game.' They understand that."

Crash course in Big Ten post play

What's unique about this part of the Illini schedule is Bostic will face three of the Big Ten's best post players in consecutive games. It started with All-American and Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes on Dec. 31 with Holmes delivering 30 points and seven rebounds. Bostic countered with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Next up for Bostic is Wisconsin sophomore forward Serah Williams on Sunday at State Farm Center followed by Nebraska's Alexis Markowski on Thursday night in Lincoln, Neb.

The undersized Illinois forward spoke Saturday about the challenge of playing all three back-to-back-to-back.

"Holmes, she'll bury you deep and there's really not a whole lot you can do if you get behind her," Bostic said. "Williams is a little more athletic, I would say. She's going to crash the boards relentlessly. She might throw up some wild shots at times, but a lot of times she's getting her (own) rebound because she's seeing where the ball goes, fighting that position and she runs the floor pretty well, and then Markowski will bury you deep and shoot the three."

The News-Gazette's Pick

Illinois 75, Wisconsin 62

The Illini have to win this game. The Badgers are in a full-on rebuild with third-year coach Marisa Moseley now 26-47 in Madison, Wis. Positive signs emerged in the loss at Indiana, like Makira Cook's second-half takeover, but Illinois has to start stacking wins. Winning Sunday's matchup with Wisconsin would be a good place to start ahead of playing games at Nebraska, at Northwestern and at home against Rutgers (N-G prediction record: 9-3).