Cotton is "day-to-day," expected to play next week

After a nail-biting 73-71 victory in overtime on Dec. 9 against Saint Joseph's, the Central Michigan women's basketball team will gear up for one last home game before the new year. 

The Chippewas (7-3) will square off against Illinois (4-6) on Dec. 19 at McGuirk Arena.

CMU has won six of its last seven games, with the only loss being by 11 points on the road against Purdue.

The Chippewas lost senior forward Jewel Cotton to a high ankle sprain against Saint Joseph's, but is expected to play against Illinois according to Head Coach Sue Guevara. Cotton is also expected to get an MRI to confirm the news.

"We fully expect her to go a week from today," Guevara said. "I don't know who would play in her place yet if she's not able to play. I've been playing around a lot with that in my head. I'm going to see how we do things in practice first."

The Chippewas' strength and conditioning coach will have Cotton do some workouts to prepare for Monday's game, even though she is "good with keeping up with her cardio," according to Guevara. 

Cotton leads the Chippewas offensively with 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. She began the first three games of the season coming off the bench, but started the next seven games. She won Co-Sixth Player of the Year in the Mid-American Conference last season.

Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini haven't won a road game all year (0-2), losing by a combined 25 points in those two games. 

Illinois is led on offense by sophomore forward Alex Wittinger and freshman guard Brandi Beasley. Wittinger averages 13 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while Beasley averages 10.3 points and six rebounds per game. Beasley is also tied for second on the team in made 3's and Wittinger has 33 more rebounds (93) than the second highest on the team (60). 

The Chippewas gave up five 3-pointers to Alyssa Monaghan from Saint Joseph's last week. Guevara said team will be practicing situational defense.

"We have to do a better job of adjusting during the game when we're in our zone," Guevara said. "When you have shooters (like Monaghan), we have to do a better job of matching up in the zone and we have to do a better job of recognizing that. Our 3-point defense needs to be a lot better than it is; that's one of the weaknesses we need to work on when we're playing man-to-man."

Guevara also says she has been showing her team a lot of tape during the past couple weeks due to finals week and the short amount of time she has with her team. 

CMU will play Illinois on Friday, Dec. 19, at McGuirk Arena at 7 p.m. The team will not play another game at home until 2017.