The Illini rank among the national leaders in blocked shots.
Jan. 2, 2010
Illinois leads 30-27 overall and 18-8 in Champaign
Last meeting: Wisconsin 61, Illinois 43 on Jan. 18, 2009 in Madison, Wis.
Illinois: Jolette Law, 39-39 overall and at Illinois (third season)
Wisconsin: Lisa Stone, 476-214 overall (25th season) and 102-96 at Wisconsin (seventh season)
The Game: Illinois (9-3, 1-1 Big Ten) closes out its five-game homestand by hosting Wisconsin (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) this Sunday at 3 p.m. The Fighting Illini are 2-2 on the homestand so far and are coming off a 69-60 win over Penn State on Thursday. The Badgers lost at Iowa on Thursday, 61-51. The Illinois-Wisconsin game can be heard live on the Illini Sports Network and will be streamed live at http://video.bigtennetwork.com for $2.99.
What to Watch For on Sunday...
...A win by the Illini would make them 10-3 overall and match their win total from last season
...Jenna Smith is looking for her 52nd straight game of scoring in double-figures
...Smith needs four points to reach 1,800 for her career
...Smith needs two free throws to move into second on the UI career free throws made list
...Lacey Simpson needs three rebounds for 750 in her career
...Simpson needs six steals for 300 in her career
Double Trouble: Illini senior All-American Jenna Smith continues to rack-up double-doubles night-in and night-out for the Orange and Blue. She has 10 double-doubles in 12 games this season to lead the nation and recently became the program's career double-doubles leader. The senior now has 42 in her career to eclipse Jonelle Polk's former record of 40. Smith is the only player in the Big Ten averaging a double-double this season.
Big Ten Leaders: Illini lead the way in handful of Big Ten statistical categories. Jenna Smith leads the conference in overall rebounding (11.9) and defensive rebounding (9.42), while Lacey Simpson leads the league in steals (3.3). As a team, Illinois tops the league in field goal percentage defense (33.3) and defensive rebounding (29.58).
Getting Defensive: Coach Jolette Law teaches her teams to take pride in defense and this year's Illini look to be buying into that philosophy. The Illini are holding opponents to 33.3 percent shooting from the field, which leads the Big Ten and ranks among the nation's best. The Illini ranked third in the nation in FG percentage defense when the last NCAA rankings were released on Dec. 21. Only top-ranked UConn (31.0) and Savannah State (31.2) had better marks than the Illini's 31.6 at the time.
Block Party in the USA: Led by the frontcourt trio of Jenna Smith (2.0 bpg), Karisma Penn (2.2 bpg) and Lacey Simpson (1.8 bpg), Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten and in the top-10 in the nation in blocked shots at 6.92 per game. Smith is already the school's career blocks leader with 185 and Simpson ranks third with 140, while Penn is on pace to shatter the UI freshman blocks record of 39 that Smith and Simpson currently share. As a team, Illinois has had 10 blocks in a game three different times this season, just missing the school record of 11.
Simpson Does It All: Already the Illinois career leader in steals, senior Lacey Simpson is widely known for her defense and versatility. This year, however, she has diversified her game even more. Simpson leads the Big Ten in steals once again at 3.3 per game and also ranks in the leagues top-10 in six other categories including third in assists (4.33), fourth in assist-turnover ratio (1.86), fifth in defensive rebounds (4.92) and sixth in three-point field goal percentage (.438).
Fantastic Frosh: Freshmen Karisma Penn and Adrienne Godbold have made a big impact thus far for the Orange and Blue. Penn, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game and has already picked-up two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards. Godbold, a 5-11 guard, scored a career-high 15 points and had three steals in the Illini's recent win over Oakland on 12/19 an is currently averaging 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. She has also been key defensively, helping hold Penn State star Tyra Grant to just two second-half points in the Illini win on Thursday.
Scouting the Badgers
Wisconsin stands at 11-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten after a 61-51 loss at Iowa on Thursday. The Badgers topped No. 24 Michigan State at home on Monday, 62-54, for their lone Big Ten win. Junior guard Alyssa Karel averages 15.0 points to lead the way for the Badgers. She has scored 20 or more points in three straight games. The rest of the UW attack is balanced as six players average between 5 and 8.1 points per game. Junior forward Tara Steinbauer, a high school teammate of Illinois' Jenna Smith, is the Badgers' top rebounder at 6.9 per game. The Badgers finished seventh in the Big Ten a season ago and were picked to finish seventh by the media and 10th by the coaches this year.
The Illinois-Wisconsin Series: Illinois owns a 30-27 advantage in the all-time series and also leads 18-8 in Champaign. The Badgers won both meetings last season, winning 53-38 at Assembly Hall and 61-43 in Madison.
Watch Out for Jenna
National Radar: Senior center Jenna Smith, a former All-American and two-time first team All-Big Ten honoree, was named to four preseason national award watch lists heading into this season. Smith is a preseason candidate for the Naismith Award, the Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy, which all go to the Division I player of the Year. She is also up for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which focuses on the student-athlete on and off the court.
Rare Company: In the most recent NCAA stat rankings that came out on Dec. 21, Smith ranked seventh in the NCAA in rebounding and 10th in scoring, making her one of just two players in the nation to rank in the top-10 in both categories (Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark is the other). Smith also leads the NCAA with 10 double-doubles this season.
Cleaning the Glass: With 143 rebounds through the first 12 games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 973 and has moved into second on the UI career rebounding list. She needs 27 boards to reach the 1,000-rebound milestone and 42 to pass Cindy Dallas' school-record total of 1,014. Smith leads the Big Ten with her 11.9 rebounds per game.
Record Breaker: Smith has 1,796 career points to rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 110 points behind Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 294 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 17 games left this season, Smith needs to average 17.3 points per game the rest of the way to become the school's all-time scoring leader.
Smith already has the UI career blocked shots record (185) and the career double-doubles mark (42) and has a good chance to finish atop several more categories before her career comes to a close. Take a look at Illinois records Smith has a chance to break this season:
Smith in the Illini Record Book Stat Total Rank Record Needs Blocks 185 1 185 - Double-Doubles 42 1 42 - Rebounds 973 2 1,014 42 Points 1,796 4 2,089 294 FG Made 682 4 815 135 Miss Consistency: Smith has extended her school-record streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 51 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (82) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (71). The streak started on Feb. 28, 2008, during her sophomore season and continued through all of last season. In all, Smith has scored in double-figures in 79 of the last 80 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 80-game streak.
Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points (through games of Jan. 2) Rk Player, School Streak 1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State 82 2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State 71 3. Jenna Smith, Illinois 51 4. Dawn Evans, James Madison 43 5. Chastity Reed, Arkansas-LR 38 Smith Sweeps Blocks Records: Smith has etched her named at the top of every blocked shots category in the Illinois record book. She became Illinois' career blocks leader near the end of her junior season and approaching top-10 status in the all-time Big Ten record book. She also holds the top two spots on the single-season blocks list (63 in 2008-09 and 59 in 2007-08) and is tied atop the single-game blocks list with her two six-block performances this season (11/28 at Cal Poly and 12/9 vs. Marquette).
Player of the Week: Smith earned back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. The latter honor was after her 27 point, nine rebound, three block performance in Illinois' comeback win at Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. She was also named the conference's Player of the Week on Nov. 30 after averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds in three Illinois victories. She was named MVP of the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic after leading Illinois to the tournament crown with 28 points and 17 rebounds in the title game vs. Alabama. Smith has been honored five times as the conference's Player of the Week, which ties her for the most in school history with Ashley Berggren.
Big Ten Leader: With 1,796 career points and 973 career rebounds, Smith is the Big Ten Conference's active leader in both stat categories.
Simpson Steals the Show
Winging It: Senior forward Lacey Simpson is thriving at her natural wing position after playing power forward last season with the Illini's limited roster. She's taking her habit of filling the stat sheet to another level as she's averaging 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and Big Ten-leading 3.3 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team. She ranks in the top-10 in the conference in seven categories (steals, assists, assist-TO ratio, defensive rebounds, 3FG percentage, overall FG percentage and blocks).
Outside Improvement: Known primarily for her defense, Simpson worked hard on her offensive game in the offseason, particularly her outside shot. That work has paid off thus far, as she's shooting 50.5 percent from the field (48-of-95) and 43.8 percent from downtown (14-of-32). Simpson made just eight threes all of last season and shot 39 percent overall and 22 percent from behind the arc.
Stop, Thief!: Simpson led the Big Ten and ranked ninth in the nation in steals last season and she's on pace to do the same this year. So far in 2009-10 she is averaging 3.25 steals per game to once again pace the Big Ten and rank among the nation's leaders.
Simpson is already the school's all-time leader in steals with 294 and she is approaching the all-time Big Ten top-10 list. Her season total of 97 steals in 2008-09 ranks No. 2 on the UI single-season list and her nine steals vs. IPFW on 11/14/08 set a new career-high and equaled the second most in a game in school history.
She Did What?: It's not unusual for Simpson to put up a double-double (she had 10 last season and has 15 for her career), but the way she did it on Nov. 18 against CMU certainly was. Simpson collected 16 rebounds and dished out 11 assists in the UI victory. Only an off shooting night (1-8, 2 points) prevented her from getting the second triple-double in school history. In fact, Simpson's feat marked the only time besides Kim Brombolich's triple-double in 1982 that an Illini player posted double-figures in two statistical categories other than points.
College Grad: Simpson, a fifth-year senior, earned her bachelor's degree in sport management last May and is currently pursuing a master's degree in human resource education as she completes her final year of athletic eligibility.
This year's highly-touted freshman class was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation coming out of high school. The frosh have lived up to their billing so far, as they've combined to average 22.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Orange and Blue, even without Amber Moore (ACL injury) and Destiny Williams (indefinite leave of absence) making an impact. Here's a closer look at the impact the other four freshmen are making:
Karisma Penn has started all 12 games and is averaging 12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. She has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice already, most recently on Dec. 7 after going for 15 points and five rebounds at Wake Forest. She also took home the accolade on Nov. 23 after putting up 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks against CMU on Nov. 18 before dropping a career-high 21 points against Bradley. She had her first career double-double on Dec. 31 against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five blocks.
Adrienne Godbold has played big minutes in all 12 games and started four. She is averaging 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, but more importantly is active defensively. She broke out for 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, tied her career-high with three steals against Oakland on Dec. 19 and had a career-high three blocks against Ohio State on Dec. 28. In the Dec. 31 win over Penn State she helped lock down PSU's Tyra Grant by holding her just two second-half points.
Kersten Magrum has played 119 minutes in the first 12 games (9.9 mpg) and is contributing 2.4 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. She scored her career-high of seven points all in the first half of the Nov. 28 win at Cal Poly and then equaled that total with seven points against Ohio State on Dec. 28.
Brianna Jones played 26 minutes during the first three games and chipped in 3.0 points and 1.0 rebounds per game while hitting 3-of-6 from the field. She then missed the seven games with an Achilles injury before returning to the floor for two minutes against Ohio State on Dec. 28 and four minutes on Dec. 31. She is easing her way back into the rotation and is expected to help inside when she's back to 100 percent.