Lacey Simpson and the Illini have won three straight over Indiana.
Jan. 6, 2010
Indiana leads 30-26 overall and 18-8 in Bloomington
Last meeting: Illinois 66, Indiana 59 on Feb. 8, 2009 in Bloomington
Illinois: Jolette Law, 40-39 overall and at Illinois (third season)
Indiana: Felicia Legette-Jack, 120-109 overall (ninth season) and 66-46 at Indiana (fifth season)
The Game: The Fighting Illini (10-3, 2-1 Big Ten) hit the road for the first time since Dec. 2 when they head east to face Indiana (8-6, 1-2) Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET/6 CT. Illinois wrapped up a five-game homestand on Sunday with a thrilling 53-52 victory over Wisconsin and is 3-1 on the road this season. The Hoosiers have dropped two straight, losing at Purdue and at home against Michigan State last week. The Illinois-Indiana will be streamed live at http://video.bigtennetwork.com for $2.99.
Buzzer-Beater: Illinois topped Wisconsin Sunday on a buzzer-beating lay-up by Karisma Penn as time expired. It was the first Illini win on a shot in the final three seconds since Lydia McCully hit a jumper to top UW-Milwaukee early last season and was the first at home since Janelle Hughes hit a shot to beat Northwestern in the final seconds in 2003.
Players of the Week: Senior Jenna Smith and freshman Karisma Penn have once again been named the Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Week after leading Illinois to a pair of wins last week. It is the third such honor for each player this season. New and Improved: With 10 wins this season, the Illini have already matched their win total from last season, doing so in 18 less games.
Rare Company: All-American Jenna Smith is tied for the national lead with 10 double-doubles through games of Jan. 3. She also ranks in the top-15 nationally in both scoring (15th) and rebounding (9th), making her one of only two Division I players to rank in the top-15 in both categories.
Stealing the Show: Senior Lacey Simpson had a season-high seven steals Sunday vs. Wisconsin and is averaging 6.0 steals per game in Big Ten action. Already the Illini career steals leader, she recently became the 13th player in Big Ten history to reach the 300-steal barrier.
What to Watch For on Thursday...
...Illinois is looking for its third straight victory overall and its fourth straight win over Indiana
...Jenna Smith is looking for her 53rd straight game of scoring in double-figures
...Smith needs 19 rebounds for 1,000 in her career
Block Party in the USA: Led by the frontcourt trio of Jenna Smith (1.9 bpg), Karisma Penn (2.1 bpg) and Lacey Simpson (1.7 bpg), Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth nationally in blocked shots at 6.7 per game. Smith is already the school's career blocks leader with 186 and Simpson ranks third with 141, 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.
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 33.9 percent shooting from the field, which leads the Big Ten and ranks 16th nationally.
Big Ten Leaders: Illini lead the way in a handful of Big Ten statistical categories. Jenna Smith leads the conference in overall rebounding and defensive rebounding for both overall and conference games, while Lacey Simpson leads the league in steals for both as well and also tops the conference in blocks during conference play. As a team, Illinois tops the league in field goal percentage defense (33.9) for all games and in blocked shots for Big Ten games (7.67).
Scouting the Hoosiers
Indiana is 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, most recently losing to Michigan State at home 53-44 on Sunday. The Hoosiers beat the Spartans in East Lansing in December. Junior guard Jori Davis has developed into Indiana's top offensive player, averaging 17.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent on three-pointers. Senior guard Jamie Braun is also a threat, scoring 11.4 points per game, while sophomore forward Sasha Chaplin is the team's top rebounder (7.3 rpg). Indiana finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten last season and was picked to finish ninth this year by both the coaches and media.
The Illinois-Indiana Series: Indiana owns a 30-26 advantage in the all-time series, but the Illini have won the last three meetings, including a 66-59 victory in Bloomington on Feb. 8, 2009. The Hoosiers have an 18-8 all-time advantage in games played on their home court.
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.
Smith in Elite Club: Smith is one of just three players nationally to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. With averages of 20.7 ppg and 11.6 rpg, Smith joins Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark (23.7 ppg and 11.7 rpg) and Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (22.1 ppg and 10.1 rpg) in the 20-10 club.
Double Trouble: Smith continues to rack-up double-doubles night-in and night-out for the Orange and Blue this season. Her 10 double-doubles in 13 games leads the nation and her 42 career double-doubles makes her the program's all-time leader. The senior now has 42 in her career to eclipse Jonelle Polk's former record of 40.
Cleaning the Glass: With 151 rebounds through the first 13 games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 981 and has moved within striking distance of the Illinois career rebounding record. She needs 19 boards to reach the 1,000-rebound milestone and 34 to pass Cindy Dallas' school-record total of 1,014.
Record Breaker: Smith has 1,814 career points to rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 93 points from passing Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 276 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 16 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 (186) 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 186 1 186 - Double-Doubles 42 1 42 - Rebounds 981 2 1,014 34 Points 1,814 4 2,089 276 FG Made 689 4 815 127 Miss Consistency: Smith has extended her school-record streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 52 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (83) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (72). 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 80 of the last 81 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 81-game streak.
Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points (through games of Jan. 4) Rk Player, School Streak 1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State 83 2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State 72 3. Jenna Smith, Illinois 52 4. Dawn Evans, James Madison 44 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 is 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).
Another One Bites the Dust: Smith has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week three times this season and six times in her career, which is the most in school history. The old record was five by Ashley Berggren from 1995-98. This year, Smith earned back-to-back Player of the Week honors on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 and then again on Jan. 4. She was also a three-time winner during the 2007-08 season.
Simpson Steals the Show
Simpson Does It All: Senior Lacey Simpson is widely known for her defense and versatility. This year, however, she has diversified her game even more. Playing more at her natural wing position, she's taking her habit of filling the stat sheet to another level as she's averaging 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and Big Ten-leading 3.5 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 50.0 percent from the field (51-of-102) and 44.1 percent from downtown (15-of-34). 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 3.53 steals per game to once again pace the Big Ten and rank in the top-10 nationally. Simpson is already the school's all-time leader in steals with 301 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.
Illinois in the NCAA Rankings
In the most recent NCAA rankings (Jan. 4) Illinois ranks in the national top-25 in two categories, while Fighting Illini individuals crack the top-100 in 11 categories, including four in the top-15 as Jenna Smith is first in double-doubles, ninth in rebounding and 15th in scoring and Lacey Simpson is eighth in steals. Here is the list...
Team Category Rank Stat Blocked Shots 6 6.7 FG Percentage Defense 16 .339Fresh Impact
Indiv. Category Player Rank Stat Double-doubles Jenna Smith 1 10 Steals per game Lacey Simpson 8 3.5 Rebounds per game Jenna Smith 9 11.6 Points per game Jenna Smith 15 20.7 Blocks per game Karisma Penn 39 2.1 FG Percentage Jenna Smith 44 .524 Blocks per game Jenna Smith 49 1.6 Assist-TO ratio Lacey Simpson 49 1.9 Blocks per game Lacey Simpson 72 1.7 FT Percentage Jenna Smith 74 .833 Assists per game Lacey Simpson 97 4.2
Karisma Penn and Adrienne Godbold have made the biggest impacts thus far. Penn, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game and has already picked-up three Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, most recently on Jan. 4 after hitting the game-winning lay-up to top Wisconsin at the buzzer. She had her first career double-double on Dec. 31 against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and scored a career-high 21 points in the Nov. 22 win over Bradley.
Godbold, meanwhile, is a 5-11 guard averaging 5.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. She scored a career-high 15 points and had three steals in the Illini's recent win over Oakland on Dec. 19 and has also been key defensively.