Game 17 Notes & Links: Illinois at Northwestern
Jan. 14, 2014
Illini, 'Cats Part of Wednesday Doubleheader: Illinois and Northwestern will square off at Welsh-Ryan Arena following the Wildcats' men's basketball game against No. 4 Michigan State. The men's game tips at 6 p.m., and the women's game will start 30 minutes after it wraps up, with 8:30 p.m. the approximate start time of the Illinois-Northwestern women's game.
Parking, Ticket Info for Wednesday: Because of the doubleheader, some ticket and parking policies are slightly different than normal at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Fans with tickets to the women's game may only take their seats following the conclusion of the men's game. Fans with tickets to the men's game may stay for the women's game. Parking is available in the east and west lots surrounding Welsh-Ryan Arena but will be very limited immediately following the men's game. Additional parking is available on local streets. A pay lot is available at the NorthShore Hospital parking garage, located at the corner of Central Street and Girard, directly across from the CTA Purple line stop, less than a half mile from Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Illini Cranking Up Defensive Pressure: A year after breaking Big Ten records for steals and turnovers forced in conference games, Illinois is back at it again in 2013-14. The Illini have forced 75 turnovers in three Big Ten games to start the conference slate, including pressuring Wisconsin into 30 miscues and No. 14 Penn State into 27. UI forced a season-high 36 turnovers against Alcorn State on Nov. 17 and has caused 20-plus turnovers in 12 of 16 games. Illinois ranks eighth nationally in steals per game (11.9) and 13th in turnover margin (+6.44 per game).
Taking Advantage of Turnovers: The Illini have regularly out-scored opponents off turnovers this season, averaging 24.1 points off turnovers per game, a 9.1-point per game advantage over their foes. Illinois is averaging 26.5 points off miscues in over its last four games - including 35 against No. 14 Penn State on Thursday - and UI has scored over 20 points off turnovers nine times this season.
Crawford Takes Center Stage: After serving as Illinois' second scoring threat through much of the non-conference slate, junior Ivory Crawford has asserted herself more on the offensive end of late. Crawford posted a game-high 23 points at No. 19 Georgia on Dec. 28 and scored 20 against Wisconsin on Jan. 3, the first back-to-back 20-point games in her career. She followed that with an efficient 25-point night against No. 14 Penn State on Jan. 9, making 8-of-13 from the field and 7-of-10 from the charity stripe, then had 19 points against No. 16 Nebraska on Jan. 12. Crawford is averaging 14.9 points per game this season and has scored in double digits 13 times, with the 25 points against PSU a season high. She has five 20-point games this year after entering the season with only three in her career.
Smith Dials It Up From Downtown: Junior guard Alexis Smith has heated up from long distance lately, making 8-of-19 (42.1 percent) three-pointers over the last five games. Prior to this run, she had been 0-of-4 on treys this season and 3-of-37 in her career. Smith is averaging 10.6 points per game in the last five and is still keeping up her assist rate, with a 3.6 average over that same span.
70 the Magic Number: The 70-point threshold has been a determining factor for the Illini defense this season, as Illinois is 7-0 when holding its opponent to 70 or fewer points. Both Seton Hall and Mississippi Valley State reached 70 points, but Illinois won both of those games. Illinois has been almost as predictable when it scores 70 or more points, holding a 7-2 mark when topping 70, with the only losses a 98-92 barn-burner against Bradley in the season-opener and an 82-76 defeat by No. 14 Penn State.
Moore An All-Around Threat: Senior Amber Moore has 51 three-pointers on the season and is averaging 3.19 per game, which ranks 11th nationally. She has 51 percent of the Illini's total treys and no other player has more than 12 triples this season. But Moore isn't just a long-range gunner. She also has the second-most free throws on the team, making 33-of-39 (.846) from the line, and leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. She also is second on the team with 33 steals and is fourth with 2.4 assists per game.
Starters Carry Scoring Load: Illinois has three starters averaging double figures and two more players over 8.6 ppg. With the squad averaging 73.2 points per game, the Illini's starters are scoring 84.9 percent of the points (995 out of 1,172 total points).
Fearsome Foursome Leads the Way: Amber Moore registered double figures in the Illini's first 13 games and has six 20-point efforts. Ivory Crawford has posted double figures 13 times - including five 20-point games - and Jacqui Grant has done it 12 times, with Sarah Hartwell accomplishing it seven times. Moore is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring average (16.9 ppg), Crawford is tied for 11th (14.9) and Grant is 26th (12.8).
Scouting the Wildcats
Northwestern is 9-1 at home this season, having left Welsh-Ryan Arena only three times prior to the conference season. The Wildcats lost at No. 17 California and beat Loyola in Chicago. They also lost to Indiana State and beat Northeastern at the Tulane DoubleTree Classic in New Orleans on Dec. 28 and 29.
The Wildcats rank ninth in scoring offense in the Big Ten (69.7 ppg) but are fifth in scoring defense (62.9 ppg). They have the best field-goal percentage defense (.345) in the league but are ninth in three-point defense (.311). Northwestern also is 10th in three-point percentage (.318). The Cats are 11th in rebounding margin (-6.4 rpg) but lead the Big Ten in blocked shots (7.3 bpg), rank second in steals (9.8 spg) and turnover margin (+3.2) and are third in assists (16.8 apg).
Northwestern has one of the top freshman classes in the country, led by Nia Coffey, who ranks tenth in the Big Ten in scoring (15.2 ppg) and sixth in rebounding (8.4 rpg). Christen Inman ranks 25th with 13.2 ppg and Ashley Deary ranks second in the Big Ten in assists (6.8 apg) and steals (2.5 spg).
The Wildcats rank second in the nation in blocked shots per game (7.3) and are 17th in field-goal percentage defense (.345). They also share the ball well, standing 30th in assists per game (16.8). Deary ranks 10th nationally in assists per game (6.8).
Series History Against Northwestern
The teams split two meetings last year, with the road team winning both games. Illinois scored a 65-47 win at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Jan. 10, 2013, after forcing Northwestern into 34 turnovers and recording 24 steals, a school record for a Big Ten game. But the Wildcats returned the favor 10 days later, scoring the game's final six points in a 62-58 victory.
Last Meeting With Northwestern
GodBold made 12-of-12 free throws, the second-most without missing in a game in school history, and added nine rebounds and four steals. Penn put in 15 points with five boards and four steals, and Ivory Crawford scored 11 while grabbing five rebounds and four steals.
Illinois didn't score in the final 3:04 of the game, going 0-for-7 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, as Northwestern scored the game's final six points and 18 of the final 26. That was a stark contrast to the first 12 minutes of the second half, when the Illini scored 30 points on 8-of-16 field-goal shooting and 12-of-12 shooting from the line.