Game 18 Notes & Links: Illinois at Michigan
Jan. 17, 2014
Schedule Takes a Turn: With the Northwestern game being postponed from Jan. 6 to Jan 15 because of heavy snow and high winds, the Illini are in the midst of a three-game road swing after playing their first three games at home. Like 2012-13, Illinois lost its first three home games of the Big Ten campaign. The difference was that last season, those three games were spread over 19 days instead of the 10-day span this season. A year ago, the Illini also won their first five Big Ten road games before falling at Michigan, 72-69, on Feb. 7.
Extensive BTN Coverage Starts Friday: Saturday's game is the fourth of at least seven televised contests for the Illini, when BTN airs UI's game at Michigan. Illinois has five games on TV in the month of January and at least two in February, as the final two conference games are wild-card selections that will be determined in early February.
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 92 turnovers in their first four Big Ten games, 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 ranked eighth nationally in steals per game (11.9) and 13th in turnover margin (+6.44 per game) as of Jan. 13.
Taking Advantage of Turnovers: The Illini have regularly out-scored opponents off turnovers this season, averaging 24.1 points off turnovers per game, a 9.2-point per game advantage over their foes. Illinois is averaging 26.2 points off miscues in over its last four games - including 35 against No. 14 Penn State on Jan. 9 - and UI has scored over 20 points off turnovers 10 times this season, most recently with 25 at Northwestern on Jan. 15.
Balance Leads to Victory: The Illini used a balanced effort to top Northwestern on Jan. 15, as all eight Illinois players who saw the floor scored and six totaled seven or more points. Seven of the eight Illini who played also hit a three-pointer, as Illinois went 11-of-20 (55 percent) from distance in the game. That tied the school record for most three-pointers in a Big Ten game, which the Illini broke last 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. She added 19 more at Northwestern, including 16 in the second half. Crawford is averaging 15.2 points per game this season and has scored in double digits 14 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 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) three-pointers over the last six 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 10.0 points per game in the last six and is still keeping up her assist rate, with a 3.8 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 an 8-2 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 53 three-pointers on the season and is averaging 3.12 per game, which ranks 11th nationally. She has 48 percent of the Illini's total treys and no other player has more than 14 triples this season. But Moore isn't just a long-range gunner. She also has the third-most free throws on the team, making 33-of-40 (.825) from the line, and leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. She also is tied for the team lead with 34 steals and is tied for third with 2.5 assists per game.
Starters Carry Scoring Load: Illinois has three starters averaging double figures and two more players over 8.8 ppg. With the squad averaging 73.4 points per game, the Illini's starters are scoring 84.7 percent of the points (1,057 out of 1,248 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 14 times - including five 20-point games - and Jacqui Grant has done it 13 times, with Sarah Hartwell accomplishing it eight times. Moore is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring average (16.4 ppg), Crawford is eighth (15.2) and Grant is 26th (12.8).
Scouting the Wolverines
The Wolverines are 5-3 at home this season, with losses to Xavier, Notre Dame and Michigan State. UM's only other wins over major-conference foes at home were Pittsburgh and Wisconsin.
The Wolverines rank eighth in scoring offense in the Big Ten (72.9 ppg) but are fifth in scoring defense (63.2 ppg). They have the second-best field-goal percentage (.466) in the league but are ninth in field-goal defense (.381). Michigan also is second in three-point shooting (.399) and is fourth in three-point defense (.290). The Wolverines lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin (+9.3) and fourth in assists (16.4) but are eighth in steals (6.1), 12th in turnover margin (-3.2) and seventh in three-pointers per game (6.4).
Junior guard Shannon Smith leads a balanced Michigan attack with 14.5 points per game and 3.7 assists per game. Freshman guard Siera Thompson averages 13.8 points and 3.1 assists per game, and Nicole Elmblad puts up 12.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Junior forward Cyesha Goree is the fourth double-digit scorer with 11.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Series History Against Michigan
Last Meeting With Michigan
Illinois shot 14-of-44 (31.8 percent) in the second half, compared to 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) by the Wolverines. Karisma Penn added 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, grabbed six boards and had five steals. Adrienne Godbold chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. For the game, Illinois shot 39.7 percent (29-of-73) but only 17.4 percent (4-of-23) from three-point range. Michigan was 24-of-47 (51.1 percent) from the field and 7-of-21 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc.