Rebecca Harris and the Illini are looking for a big win at #16/17 Ohio State on Thursday.
Jan. 16, 2008
On The Air
Radio: Live on WDWS AM-1400 and WDAN AM-1490 (Dave Loane and Mike Koon)
Streaming Audio: Live on fightingillini.com (requires Illini All-Access subscription)
Live Stats: fightingillini.com and ohiostatebuckeyes.com
Ohio State leads 35-15 overall and 19-4 in Columbus
Last Season: Ohio State swept 2-0 - winning 62-52 in Columbus on 1/21/07 and 69-60 in Champaign on 2/11/07
Illinois: Jolette Law, 11-5 overall and at Illinois (first season)
Ohio State: Jim Foster, 647-260 overall (30th season) and 143-35 at Ohio State (sixth season)
The Game: Illinois (11-5, 3-2) will try to take down the Big Ten leader for a second straight game when it heads to Columbus, Ohio, to take on first place and 16th-ranked Ohio State (13-3, 4-1) Thursday night. Their last time out, the Fighting Illini topped then first place Minnesota at Assembly Hall, 66-57, and enter this week's play in a five-way tie for third place in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have won four in a row after a conference-opening loss to Michigan State to take sole possession of the league lead.
Bec Blows Up: Senior guard Rebecca Harris had a career-game in the win over Minnesota last Thursday. Harris hit 7-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc to finish with a career-high 23 points and a career-high-tying six rebounds in a career-high 37 minutes.
Streakin' Jenna: Sophomore Jenna Smith currently has the longest streak of double-digit scoring games in the Big Ten, with 18 (2 from last year). Minnesota's Emily Fox is tied with Smith at 18 consecutive games in double figures.
Double-Trouble: Jenna Smith has recorded double-doubles in eight of 16 games this season, which is tied for the most in the Big Ten with Ohio State freshman Jantel Lavender. Smith, only a sophomore, has 14 double-dips in her career, which is tied for second in the Big Ten behind only Wisconsin senior Jolene Anderson's 21. Illinois is 7-1 in games when Smith records a double-double this season and is 3-4 when she hasn't.
Illini Trends: This year the Fighting Illini are...
...11-1 when allowing less than 60 points
...8-1 when shooting more FTs than their opponent
...7-1 when Jenna Smith has a double-double
...6-1 When Chelsea Gordon scores in double figures
...10-2 when scoring at least 60 points
Giant Killers: Illinois has beaten at least one top-25 opponent in 13 straight seasons, and is looking to extend that streak to 14 with a win this Thursday against the #16/17 Buckeyes. The Illini have had one game against a ranked foe so far this season, a 77-67 loss to #9/9 Oklahoma on Dec. 5.
Klein Faces Familiar Foe: Illini assistant coach Patrick Klein will be heading back home when the Illini battle the Buckeyes on Thursday. The Belpre, Ohio, native earned a B.S. in business management from OSU in 2005 and served as a graduate assistant on Jim Foster's staff for two seasons before joining Jolette Law at Illinois this past summer.
Young Guns: Thursday's game will feature two of the best young posts in the Big Ten, if not the country, in Illinois' Jenna Smith and Ohio State's Jantel Lavender. Smith, a sophomore, ranks second in the conference in scoring (18.4) and rebounding (9.9) and has been named Big Ten Player of the Week three times already this season, while the freshman Lavender ranks fourth in scoring (16.6) and is tops in rebounding (10.1). She has also won three conference Player of the Week accolades this season. Bjork's #2: Junior Lori Bjork is tied for second place on the UI career three-point field goals list. She has 168 career threes, equaling Mandy Cunningham's second place total of 168, and is within reach of Krista Reinking's school record total of 194.
Up Next: The Fighting Illini won't have a game this weekend, but will have a busy, three-game week next week. Things will kick-off with a Big Ten Network game Monday night against Iowa at Assembly Hall. Illinois will then host Michigan State next Thursday at home before heading to Purdue on Sunday, Jan. 27.
Leading the Way
Jenna Smith leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.577) and ranks in the top-5 in the league in seven other categories, including scoring (second), rebounding (second), blocks (third) and minutes (second). Lori Bjork leads the conference in FT percentage (.927). As a team, Illinois paces the league in FT percentage (.806) and rebounding defense (29), and ranks second in five other categories for all games.
In Big Ten games only, Illinois leads the league in FT percentage (.806), blocked shots (6.0), assists (15.0) and assist/TO ratio (0.99). Rebecca Harris leads the way in 3FG percentage (.533) and Chelsea Gordon is tied for the league lead in FT percentage (.909).
Breaking Down The Buckeyes
Ohio State enters Thursday's game ranked 16th in the latest Associated Press poll and is alone atop the Big Ten standings with a 4-1 conference mark. The Buckeyes, the preseason conference favorite despite losing All-American center Jessica Davenport to graduation, are gunning for their fourth straight regular season conference championship.
OSU is led by freshman center Jantel Lavender, who leads the Buckeyes in scoring (16.6 ppg) and the Big Ten in rebounding (10.1 rpg). Senior guard Marscilla Packer (14.8 ppg, 43 made threes, .410 3FG%) makes for a deadly inside-outside combo with Lavender. Junior guard Ashlee Trebilcock is nearly in double figures at 9.4 ppg, but the Buckeyes are hurt by the loss of junior forward Star Allen (8.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), who will miss the rest of the season to focus on academics.
The Illinois-OSU Series
Ohio State leads the overall series 35-15 and holds a 19-4 edge in Columbus. The Buckeyes have won five in a row overall and four straight at home against the Illini. Illinois' last win in Columbus was a 75-73 barn-burner on Jan. 9, 2001.
Last Year Against the Buckeyes
In the first of two meetings, Illinois gave fifth-ranked Ohio State all it could handle at Value City Arena, but a slow start and poor shooting were too much to overcome in the 62-52 defeat. Danyel Crutcher and Jenna Smith each scored 12 points and Lori Bjork 11 for the Illini, who hit her 100th career three-pointer in the game. OSU's Jessica Davenport scored her 2,000th point.
In the second meeting, Illinois again put a scare into the #4 Buckeyes, but came up short, falling 69-60 in front of a season-high 6,227 fans at Assembly Hall. Lori Bjork led the Illini with 17 points and Danyel Crutcher had her 10th career double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. OSU All-American center Jessica Davenport scored 28 points and found teammate Stephanie Blanton for two backbreaking threes in the final minutes after Illinois closed to within four points.
Smith Enjoying Sophomore Surge
Illini forward Jenna Smith has taken off in her sophomore season. She took tournament MVP honors at the FIU Thanksgiving Classic and has been named Big Ten Player of the Week three times already this season. For the year, she is averaging 18.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, and is shooting 58 percent from the field. She has led the Illini in scoring 10 times and in rebounding 11 times in 16 games this season.
Raking in the Honors: Smith is the first Illini in over 20 years to pick-up three player of the week honors in the same season. Jonelle Polk was honored four times in the 1985-86 season, which is the most for an Illini in a single season. Polk and Ashley Berggren share the career mark for Illinois, with five each.
Smith Holds Her Own vs. NPOY: Smith faced her toughest competition to date when last year's AP National Player of the Year Courtney Paris came to Assembly Hall Dec. 5. Smith more than held her own against the Sooner star, hitting 7-of-9 from the field for 15 points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking two shots. Paris had her usual big numbers with 22 points and 14 rebounds, but Smith served notice that she will be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years.
Career Day: Smith scored a career-high 32 points and had 10 boards against SIU on Nov. 18. She hit 13-of-19 from the field and scored 11 straight points for the Illini at one point in the second half.
The Race To 1,000
Two Fighting Illini are approaching the 1,000-point club this year. Junior Lori Bjork is the closest with exactly 900 career points, while senior Danyel Crutcher is closing in fast on the milestone with 861 points. Bjork recently became the 23rd player in school history to crack the 900-point barrier. In its 34-year history, Illinois has produced 20 1,000 point scorers.
Toeing the Line
Illinois leads the league and ranks third in the nation in FT percentage (.806), having knocked down 232-of-288 from the charity stripe. Illinois has shot 41 more FTs than its opponents have shot on the season (288-247). For the year, Lori Bjork leads the way from the line, shooting a Big Ten best 92.7 percent (38-of-41), which would rank fifth in the nation if she weren't just shy of the NCAA minimum of 2.5 made FTs per game.
Pressure `D' Catching On
Jolette Law's pressure defense looks to be catching on fast with the Fighting Illini. Through the first 16 games Illinois is averaging 7.94 steals per game, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten, and is scoring 17 points per game off of turnovers. Sophomore Lacey Simpson leads the way, as she ranks second in the conference in steals with 2.94 thefts per game. Last year, Illinois ranked last in the Big Ten in steals at 5.55 per game.
Looking for the Right Combo
Senior Rebecca Harris replaced Lacey Simpson in the starting line-up against Indiana after Simpson missed practice time with an ankle injury and remained in the line-up against Minnesota. It was the fourth different starting combination Law has used this season.
Illinois record by starting line-up:
Join the Illini and "Think Pink" on Feb. 10!
Illinois will join over 600 other women's basketball teams in the WBCA's "Think Pink" initiative this February. For the Illini game against Indiana on Feb. 10, fans are encouraged to wear pink to Assembly Hall to help increase cancer awareness. Fans can wear their pink Illini Madness t-shirt for free admission. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the pink shirts, which are on sale at both the Green Street and Springfield Ave. Gameday Sports locations, or at the Gameday Sports merchandise stand at Assembly Hall, will go toward Coaches vs. Cancer.
Jolette Law TV Show Airs Sunday Nights
The first installment of the Jolette Law TV Show aired on Jan. 6 on WCIA-TV in Champaign. The show will air weekly at 11 p.m. on WCIA, immediately after the Bruce Weber show. It also airs nationally on the Big Ten Network Tuesdays at 1 p.m. CT. The show features game highlights and analysis, a preview of upcoming games and behind-the-scenes footage of some of your favorite Illini.
Big Ten Tournament Tickets On Sale Now
All-session tickets for the 2008 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament, presented by Xbox 360 Live, are on sale now. The 14th annual women's event returns to Indianapolis and Conseco Fieldhouse March 6-9, 2008. The 2008 tournament features all 11 Big Ten teams in action, competing in 10 games over four days to crown the 2008 champion and earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Tickets are available through all 11 Big Ten university ticket offices, the Conseco Fieldhouse box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and www.ticketmaster.com.