Jenna Smith will again face her hometown Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday night.
Jan. 17, 2007
Game 18: Minnesota (11-7, 3-2) at Illinois (13-4, 3-2)
Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 // 7 p.m. CT // Assembly Hall (16,618) // Champaign, Ill.
On The Air
Television: Comcast SportsNet Chicago - LIVE - (Dave Eanet and Suzie McConnell-Serio)
Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS AM 1400 and WDAN AM 1490 - LIVE - (Dave Loane and Mike Koon)
Internet: Fightingillini.com live streaming video and Gametracker
Illinois leads 26-21 - Last Meeting: Minnesota 70, Illinois 61 (12/31/06 @ Minneapolis, Minn.)
Illinois: Theresa Grentz, 665-303 overall (33rd season), 204-148 at Illinois (12th season)
Minnesota: Pam Borton, 175-87 overall (9th season), 106-40 at Minnesota (5th season)
For Openers: Illinois (13-4, 3-2) returns to Assembly Hall to host the Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-7, 3-2) on Thursday night at Assembly Hall. It is a key game for both teams as they are tied for fourth place in the Big Ten standings at 3-2. The Fighting Illini are coming off an impressive 70-62 win at Wisconsin on Sunday, while the Gophers were upset by South Dakota State at home, 59-58, in heartbreaking fashion in their last game. Thursday's game will be televised live by Comcast SportsNet Chicago with Dave Eanet and Suzie McConnell-Serio calling the action.
Twin City Connections: Freshman Jenna Smith will once again be facing her hometown team when the Illini face Minnesota on Thursday. Smith is from Bloomington, Minn., just outside the twin cities, and starred at Kennedy High School. The reigning Minnesota Ms. Basketball and AP Player of the Year struggled in her first collegiate game against the Gophers, tallying six points and six rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting at Williams arena on Dec. 31. Additionally, UI Associate Head Coach Marsha Frese spent one season at Minnesota as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator (2001-02).
Illini Trends: This year the Fighting Illini are...
...10-0 when allowing less than 60 points
...9-0 when scoring at least 70 points
...8-0 when shooting over 45 percent from the field
...12-1 when leading at halftime
...10-1 when shooting more FTs than their opponent
...7-1 at home
Block Party: Illinois tied a school record and set a new Kohl Center record with 11 blocked shots in Sunday's 70-62 win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Jenna Smith led the block party for the Illini with a career-high five swats. The other time the Illini had 11 blocks in a game was back on March 1, 1997 in a 98-76 win over Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.
Home-wreckers: Illinois' 70-62 victory at Wisconsin on Sunday was the first home loss of the season for the Badgers. UW was 9-0 at the Kohl Center prior to the Illini win.
No Harm, No Foul: According to the Jan. 14 NCAA statistics, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation in fewest personal fouls committed per game (13.4). As a result, opponents are averaging just 14.7 free throw attempts per game. However, in the first meeting vs. Minnesota this season, Illinois was whistled for a season-high 25 fouls, resulting in 36 Gopher free throws.
Board Domination: Illinois leads the Big Ten in defensive rebounds (30.47) and ranks third in overall rebounding (41.8). Illinois also ranks third in the Big Ten and 26th in the nation in rebounding margin (+7.1) and has out-rebounded its opponent in 12 of 17 games, including eight of the last nine.
Trey-mendous On Both Ends: On the defensive end of the court, the Fighting Illini lead the conference in three-point FG percentage defense (.252) and rank second in the conference and 11th in the nation in overall FG percentage defense (.343). The Orange and Blue have allowed only one opponent to shoot over 40 percent in a game all year (Indiana on 1/7 - .431).
On the offensive end, Illinois ranks third in the Big Ten in 3FG made per game (5.35) and fourth in 3FG percentage (.357). Lori Bjork leads the way, hitting 44-of-104 (.404), which makes her the conference leader and ranks her 27th in the nation in three's made per game (2.59) and second in the conference in 3FG percentage.
Big Ten Stats: In Big Ten games Illinois leads the league in free throw shooting (.833) and defensive rebounds (29.4) and ranks in the top-three in 11 different categories overall, including scoring offense, FG percentage, 3FG percentage, rebounding, blocked shots and 3FG made.
In all games, the Illini lead the league in defensive rebounding (30.47) and three-point FG percentage defense (.252) and rank in the top-four in 14 different categories.
Home Sweet Home: The 71-64 loss to Indiana on Jan. 7 snapped Illinois' eight game home winning streak. UI is 7-1 at home this season and holds an all-time record of 223-119 (.652) at home and 184-97 (.655) at Assembly Hall.
Bouncing Back: After each of their four losses this season, the Fighting Illini have bounced back with a victory in their next game. Illinois rattled off three-game and five-game winning streaks after its first two losses and then bounced back from its first Big Ten loss at Minnesota with a win at Michigan. Then on Sunday Illinois topped Wisconsin after falling to Indiana in the previous game.
TV Connection: Suzie McConnell-Serio will be the analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago's broadcast of the Illinois-Minnesota game. Serio, a former head coach of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx and the 2004 WNBA Coach of the Year, coached Illini senior Audrey Tabon at Oakland Catholic High School. Serio is also the sister of former Illinois assistant coach and current University of Colorado head coach Kathy McConnell.
Minnesota is 11-7 on the season and 3-2 in the Big Ten after back-to-back thrilling finishes. On Jan. 11, the Gophers edged Northwestern, 65-63, on a last second shot by Emily Fox. However, three days later the tables were turned on UM in controversial fashion during a non-conference tilt with South Dakota State. SDSU's Maria Boever hit a lay-up as time expired for a 59-58 victory. Officials reviewed the play for several minutes on the courtside video monitor and upheld the basket.
Senior Kelly Roysland (14.8 ppg) leads a Gopher squad that includes eight freshmen on the 11 player roster. Roysland exploded for 27 points and hit five treys in the Dec. 31 meeting between the two teams. Freshman Ashley Ellis-Milan is the team's top rebounder, pulling down 8.3 boards per game. The Gophers are led by Pam Borton, who is in her fifth season at Minnesota.
The Illinois-Minnesota Series
Illinois leads the all-time series vs. the Gophers 26-21, but has lost the last five in a row and eight of the last nine, including a 70-62 defeat in Minneapolis earlier this season. Prior to the recent struggles, however, Illinois owned the Gophers, winning 11 straight in the series from 1996-2001. The Illini are 15-7 against the Gophers in Champaign, but have dropped the last two in a row. Illinois' last win over Minnesota was on Jan. 26, 2003 (94-80) at Assembly Hall. Theresa Grentz is 13-8 in her career against the Gophers, 12-8 while at Illinois and 1-0 while at Rutgers.
Last Time against the Gophers
Illinois' let one slip away earlier this season on New Years Eve in Minneapolis, falling to the Golden Gophers 70-61 after leading by as many as 10 in the second half. The loss snapped the Fighting Illini's five-game winning streak. Chelsea Gordon led the Orange and Blue with 17 points. Illinois had 22 turnovers for the game and had trouble adjusting to Minnesota's full court press for much of the game. The Illini also committed a season-high 25 fouls, sending UM to the line 36 times, where they made 26.
Illinois hits the road to face No. 5/7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET/1 CT. OSU will be for first ranked foe for the Illini this season. Following that, the Orange and Blue will have another mid-week bye before hosting Northwestern on Sunday, Jan. 28.
Bjork Makes Point
Sophomore sharpshooter Lori Bjork has been on fire all season for the Orange and Blue. She has hit at least two three-pointers in every game this season and has made at least one trey in 24 straight games dating back to last season, which is an Illinois school record.
Bjork needs only three three-pointers to reach 100 for her career, a milestone that only four other Illinois players have reached. Krista Reinking holds the UI career record for threes made with 194. Additionally, Bjork's 44 treys so far this season already cracks the single season top ten list. The school record for threes in a season is 74 for Reinking in 1995-96.
The Johnston, Iowa, native has hit 34 of her last 36 free throws (.944) dating back to the Ole Miss game, including the last seven in a row.
Bjork leads the Big Ten in threes made per game at 2.59, her .404 shooting percentage beyond the arc (44-of-109) ranks second in the league, and her scoring average of 14.5 is seventh in the conference for all game. In Big Ten games she leads the league in FT percentage (.950) and minutes played (36.4).
Bjork has made the transition to point guard this season after the Illini lost Maggie Acuna and Janelle Hughes to graduation last spring. She has flourished in the role, leading the team in scoring (14.5), assists (54), three-point field goals (44) and minutes (34.6).
Redshirt freshman Lacey Simpson has proven to be a tremendous all-around player this season. Simpson ranks in the top-10 in the Big Ten in four categories: steals (2nd - 2.88), blocked shots (7th - 1.53), defensive rebounding (9th - 5.06) and overall rebounding (10th - 7.2). In Big Ten games, she ranks in the top 15 in the league in eight different categories.
Simpson showed that she will be a force to be reckoned with early in 2006-07. She posted game-highs in points (17) and rebounds (7) in Illinois' season-opening win over Butler, then followed that up with her first career double-double (12 p, 12 r) in the UIC.
The Zion, Ill., native played four games early last season before missing the rest of the year after having internal surgery and taking a medical redshirt.
Illinois' lone true freshman, Jenna Smith, has wasted no time making an impact with her new team. Her double-double vs. Florida on Dec. 5 (22 p, 10 r) was the first of her career and the 22 points shattered her previous career high of 14. She added a second double-double at Michigan on Jan. 4 with game-highs in points (15) and rebounds (10).
For the season, Smith is averaging 10.4 points, which ranks second on the team, and 7.2 rebounds per game, which is tied for the team lead. Her .496 shooting percentage is second on the team and ranks 11th in the Big Ten.
The Bloomington, Minn., native scored double figures in each of her first two games as an Illini (10 vs. Butler and 11 vs. UIC) and poured in a game-high 14 points against Northern Colorado, including making 6-of-6 from the line.
Wigley Nearing 1,000
Senior Erin Wigley is inching closer to becoming the 20th player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000 point milestone. After scoring a team-high 15 points at Wisconsin on Sunday, the Moon Township, Pa., native has 944 career points.
JuCo Transfer Harris Coming On
Rebecca Harris, a 5-8 point guard who transferred from Rend Lake College prior to this season, scored a UI career-high 14 points against Indiana on Jan. 7 and has been coming on offensively as of late. After scoring just 27 points in her first seven games (3.9 ppg), she has poured in 74 in her last nine (8.2). She is averaging 6.3 points in just 17.4 minutes per game this season. She leads the team in FT shooting, hitting 26-of-30 on the year (86.7 percent).
Harris was slowed early in the season by a sprained ankle and missed the game vs. Saint Joseph's due to a death in the family, but has played 15+ minutes in eight of the last 10 games, even earning a start in the win over Bradley.