The Fighting Illini are looking to get back to .500 in Big Ten play.
Jan. 12, 2011
Indiana leads 32-27 overall and 19-8 in Bloomington, Ind.
Last Meeting: Illinois 59, Indiana 53 on March 4, 2010 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis
Illinois: Jolette Law, 55-61 overall and at Illinois (fourth season)
Indiana: Felisha Legette-Jack, 134-127 overall (10th season) and 80-64 at Indiana (sixth season)
Tip-off: The Fighting Illini will try to bounce back from Sunday's heartbreaking overtime loss to Northwestern when they head to Bloomington, Ind., on Thursday to face the Indiana Hoosiers (7 p.m. ET/6 CT). Illinois (6-10 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) has dropped two straight, while Indiana (8-8, 2-2) is also looking to snap a two-game skid after back-to-back losses at Ohio State and at home versus Purdue.
Seeing Double: Sophomore forward Karisma Penn has posted 10 double-doubles so far this season to lead the Big Ten and rank third in the nation. She had a string of six straight double-doubles snapped on Sunday when she had eight points and a career-high 17 boards against Indiana.
All-Around Player: Illinois' Karisma Penn is the only player in the conference that ranks in the top-four in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. Entering Thursday's game at Indiana, the Shaker Heights, Pa., native is fourth in the conference in scoring (16.8 ppg), second in rebounding (10.4 rpg), second in blocks (2.9 bpg) and third in steals (2.4 spg). She also ranks 11th in the Big Ten in FG percentage, while her 2.9 blocks per game is good for 13th in the nation.
Three D: The Fighting Illini defense is allowing opponents to shoot just 25.6 percent from three-point range this season, which leads the Big Ten and ranks 17th nationally. Entering last Sunday's game, Northwestern was shooting 38 percent from downtown, 14th-best in the nation, but hit just 3-of-24 (12.5 percent) against the Illini.
Bench Production: The Fighting Illini bench stepped up big against Northwestern last Sunday with a season-high 46 points. Amber Moore (17 points), Adrienne GodBold (16 points) and Alexis Burke (13 points) did the damage of the Illini, combining to outscore the Wildcat bench by 41 points. For the season, Illinois' reserves are outscoring the opposing bench by an average of 22.1-13.3.
Free Throw Turnaround: Illinois appears to have turned around its early-season free throw shooting woes. Through 12 games, the Illini ranked last in the Big Ten at 61.4 percent. However, they've knocked down 51-of-68 (75.0 percent) from the charity stripe over the last four games to lift their season average to 64.7 percent. Karisma Penn has hit 23-of-30 (.767) from the line during that stretch, improving her percentage from 59.4 to 63.3.
SCOUTING THE HOOSIERS
Indiana enters Thursday's contest with an 8-8 overall record and a 2-2 conference mark. After a 2-0 Big Ten start, the Hoosiers have dropped their last two, falling at Ohio State, 83-65, and at home to Purdue, 55-50, last week. Early in the season IU had impressive wins over Clemson and Nebraska, but also has had slip-ups against Saint Louis, Toledo and Florida Gulf Coast.
The Hoosiers are led by senior Jori Davis, the Big Ten's third-leading scorer at 18.5 ppg. Davis also pulls down 6.6 boards per game and has gotten to the free throw line a Big Ten-best 137 times, making 107 (.774). Champaign native Hope Elam is averaging 10.6 ppg, while Whitney Lindsey chips in 10.5 ppg and leads the team in steals (2.5) and assists (4.3). As a team, the Hoosiers rank third in the Big Ten in steals.
The Illinois-Indiana Series: Indiana owns a 32-27 advantage over Illinois in the all-time series, and leads 19-8 in games played in Bloomington, Ind. Last season, the Hoosiers swept the two regular season matchups, winning 50-48 win in Bloomington on Jan. 7 and 67-54 in Champaign on Feb. 7. The Illini got a measure of revenge on the Hoosiers in the Big Ten Tournament, however, knocking them out in the first round, 59-53. Illinois' last win in Bloomington was on Feb. 8, 2009, 66-59. Illinois coach Jolette Law is 4-3 against the Hoosiers as a head coach.
PENN FILLING BIG SHOES
Heading into the season, many wondered how the Illini would replace Jenna Smith, a three-time first team All-Big Ten selection and the school's all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks. While Smith left some big shoes to fill, Illinois sophomore Karisma Penn has virtually matched Smith's numbers as a sophomore, when she was named an honorable mention All-American. Take a side-by-side look at their sophomore seasons:
Stat Penn '10-11 Smith '07-08 Points per game 16.8 18.3 Rebounds per game 10.4 9.4 Blocks per game 2.9 1.7 Steals per game 2.4 1.1 Field Goal Percentage .486 .503 Minutes per game 32.8 37.3
Big Game KP: Penn has set career-highs of 30 points, 17 rebounds, seven blocks and six steals already this year and has tallied 10 double-doubles, the most in the Big Ten and third most in the nation.
Block Party: Only 16 games into her sophomore season, Penn is already climbing up the UI career blocks list. After breaking the UI freshman record with 57 swats last year, Penn has added 46 so far this season to bring her career total to 103. She currently sits sixth on the UI career blocks list and has already cracked the top-eight on the UI single season list.
Penn POW: Penn picked up her second Big Ten Player of the Week accolade of the season on Jan. 3 after averaging 19.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 2.7 blocks in three games from Dec. 27-Jan. 2. She also took home co-Player of the Week honors on Dec. 20 after going for 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in Illinois' win over UIC at the United Center on Dec. 18.
THE FIGHTING ILLINI ARE...
...5-0 when allowing less than 60 points
...1-10 when allowing 60 or more points
...6-1 when leading at halftime
...0-9 when tied or trailing at halftime
...4-1 when having fewer turnovers then the opponent
...1-8 when having more turnovers than the opponent
WHERE ARE THE SENIORS?
Illinois is one of only seven Division I teams in the nation without a senior on its roster heading into the 2010-11 season, joining Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Murray State, Oral Roberts, Purdue and Rutgers. With the absence of senior leadership, Illini head coach Jolette Law has singled out redshirt junior Lydia McCully and sophomores Karisma Penn and Kersten Magrum as players who have stepped up as leaders this season.
The Fighting Illini played nine of their first 13 non-conference games away from home, logging over 15,000 miles of travel during November and December. Illinois made round trips to Honolulu (4,900 miles), Boulder, Colorado (1,000 miles), Columbia, South Carolina (750 miles), Rochester, Michigan (400 miles), Milwaukee (225 miles), Chicago (150 miles) and Peoria (90 miles) in a span of 37 days.
LAST TIME OUT: NU WIN STREAK COMES TO AN END
The Fighting Illini dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Northwestern Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall, seeing their 21-game winning streak over the Wildcats end in dramatic fashion. NU's Beth Marshall hit a three-pointer as time expired at the end of regulation to send the game to OT, where the `Cats held on for a 69-66 win. The game marked the first win by Northwestern over the Illini since Feb. 5, 1999.
Illinois had two chances to send the game into a second overtime, but redshirt freshman Amber Moore's three with seven seconds left rattled in and out and then junior Lana Rukavina had her game-tying three blocked by NU's Amy Jaeschke with two seconds left to seal the win for the Wildcats.
Several Illini came off the bench to have big games in defeat. Amber Moore hit 5-of-9 from behind the arc for a career-high 17 points, while Adrienne GodBold set or tied career-highs with 16 points, seven rebounds, five steals and three blocks. Alexis Burke made 5-of-7 shots for 13 points. In all, the Illini bench outscored NU's bench 46-5.
Karisma Penn had her string of six straight double-doubles snapped, finishing with just eight points, but did find other ways to contribute as she pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds.
Four newcomers show up on the Fighting Illini roster this season, two players and two coaches. Jolette Law and staff welcome two freshman players to the squad in Centrese McGee (Calumet City, Ill.) and Alexis Burke (Bainbridge, Ga.), while redshirt freshman Amber Moore (Detroit, Mich.) is back in the mix after missing all but one game last season with a torn ACL. All three players have made a big impact early in the season as the three freshmen are combining to average 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game thus far. New on the sidelines are assistant coaches Michael Peck and Usha Gilmore.
Though she has lived her whole life in Wheeling, Ill., Illinois junior Lana Rukavina has deep roots to her Croatian heritage. Lana actually learned Croatian as a first language when she was little before mastering English. Lana's parents, Davor and Mirella, moved to the U.S. from Croatia in 1983 and each summer they take the family back to the Croatian coastline near the city of Zadar to visit over 20 family members that still live there. A psychology major, Lana hopes to return to her native land to play professionally after she earns her degree from Illinois.