Time for another Assembly

The Hoosier women try to make the most of their third straight WNIT appearance tonight at 7:05 p.m., hosting James Madison (23-9) in the first ever meeting between the schools. The winner will face Kentucky in the third round.

Indiana (18-14) is 4-0 at Assembly Hall in the event, and are hoping fans will come out for a bonus glimpse of lone senior Nikki Smith and the six freshmen that represent coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s first recruiting class.

“We play the Big Ten teams over and over, and we get really familiar with them,” said IU forward Whitney Thomas. “Then to be able to play another team and not really know much about them is great. It’s a big change, and you have to be able to adjust, and that shows if teams are good if they can adjust right away.”

Coach Jack has a slight advantage in knowledge of opponent, having coached against four of James Madison’s starting five in Colonial Athletic Association play while holding the head job at Hofstra. The coaches know each other too, as Dukes head man Kenny Brooks took his job the same year Legette-Jack started with the Pride.

“Any little extra thing that we can have will help,” Thomas added.

The CAA’s Player of the Year, senior forward Tamera Young, poses the “star player” complex that the Hooisers have had some success with this season, containing Big Ten foes Jolene Anderson and Jantel Lavender in big wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State, respectively.

Young averages 19.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg and hit for a school record 38 points in Thursday’s win over Radford in first-round action. Joining her in the starting lineup are fellow senior Jasmin Lawrence and juniors Kisha Stokes and Nina Uqdah, all of which played regular roles as youngsters against Hofstra a couple years back.

The X-Factor for the Dukes may be senior Jennifer Brown, in her second season after a transfer from Pittsburgh. Brown started 24 games this year and averages 9.4 points per outing, but has been playing a large chunk of minutes off the bench in recent games.

Five Big Ten teams, including Indiana, received invitations to the WNIT and all of them were awarded first-round byes. That makes nine of the 11 conference teams playing some postseason ball after constant criticism this season for having a “down year.”

“We’re a young conference (that’s) really rising above our critics,” Legette-Jack added. “I’m just really proud of my colleagues and our fight to move this conference to the place where we think it belongs, where it was in the past, in the top of the country.”