Jolette Law will face her alma mater when the Illini host Iowa Thursday night at Assembly Hall.
Jan. 20, 2010
Youth Group Day: $2 tickets for groups. Call the UI Athletic Ticket Office to purchase 1-866-ILLINI-1
Iowa leads 44-16 overall and 18-10 in Champaign
Last meeting: Iowa 69, Illinois 56 on Feb. 26, 2009 in Iowa City
Illinois: Jolette Law, 41-42 overall and at Illinois (3rd season)
Iowa: Lisa Bluder, 533-261 overall (26th season) and 169-119 at Iowa (10th season)
The Game: The Fighting Illini (11-6, 3-4 Big Ten) is looking to end a two-game skid when Iowa (8-10, 1-6) comes to Assembly Hall Thursday night for a 7 p.m. tip. Illinois is coming off back-to-back road losses to No. 5 Ohio State and Wisconsin, while the Hawkeyes have lost four straight, including an 81-59 defeat on Sunday at Purdue.
Queen of the Boards: Senior All-American Jenna Smith became Illinois' career rebounding leader with seven boards at Wisconsin on Sunday. Smith enters the Iowa game with 1,015 career boards, one ahead of Cindy Dallas' record of 1,014. Smith now ranks 10th on the all-time Big Ten rebounding list, just one behind Penn State's Andrea Garner for ninth place.
Simpson Nearing 1,000: Senior Lacey Simpson needs seven points to become the 23rd player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000 career point milestone.
Double-Dipping: Smith leads the Big Ten and is tied for second in the nation with 11 double-doubles this season. She is already Illinois' career double-doubles record holder with 43.
Rare Company: Jenna Smith is one of just three players in the nation to rank in the top-25 in both scoring and rebounding. Smith is 14th nationally in rebounding (10.8 rpg) and 25th in scoring (18.8 ppg) to join Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark and Ohio State's Jantel Lavender in the top-25 of both rankings.
Law Faces Alma Mater: Illinois head coach Jolette Law will be facing her alma mater this Thursday for the fourth time as a head coach. As the Hawkeyes' floor general from 1987-90, Law helped Iowa to four consecutive Big Ten titles. She was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection (1989 & 90) while playing for former Hawkeye coach and long time mentor C. Vivian Stringer. Law graduated from Iowa in 1990 with a degree in sports studies/corporate fitness. She is 0-3 against the Hawkeyes since taking the reigns Illinois.
Illini Have Strong RPI: Illinois ranks 25th in the Jan. 19 CollegeRPI.com rankings and have the 12th toughest schedule in the nation according to the site. Thursday's opponent, Iowa, is 88th in the CollegeRPI.com list. In the most recent NCAA RPI ratings (Jan. 18), the Illini came in at No. 27.
Stealing the Spotlight: Lacey Simpson leads the Big Ten and is 10th nationally in steals at 3.24 per game. During conference play she has been even better, averaging a league-best 3.86 thefts per game. She is already Illinois' career steals leader with 310.
New and Improved: With 11 wins this season, the Illini have already surpassed their win total from a year ago. Last year, Illinois finished the season 10-21.
Three Times a Charm: Jenna Smith and freshman Karisma Penn have both taken home weekly conference accolades three times this season. Smith has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week three times, while Penn has earned Freshman of the Week honors on three different occasions.
Cardiac Kids: Three of Illinois' Big Ten games have come down to the final tick. The Illini topped Wisconsin, 53-52, on Jan. 3 on a buzzer-beating lay-up by Karisma Penn as time expired. Then on Jan. 7 at Indiana, Fabiola Josil's three-pointer rattled in-and-out at the buzzer in the 50-48 loss to the Hoosiers. Finally, in last Sunday's 64-62 win over Minnesota, Adrienne GodBold's three-point play with 10.3 seconds left gave the Illini the lead before Minnesota missed a three at the buzzer.
Block Party in the USA: Led by the frontcourt trio of Jenna Smith (1.7 bpg), Karisma Penn (1.8 bpg) and Lacey Simpson (1.6 bpg), Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally in blocked shots at 6.0 per game. Smith is already the school's career blocks leader with 190 and Simpson ranks third with 144, while Penn is on pace to shatter the UI freshman blocks record of 39 that Smith and Simpson currently share. The Illini have swatted away 102 shots on the season compared to just 37 for their opponents
Scouting the Hawkeyes
Iowa is 8-10 overall and 1-6 in Big Ten play going into Thursday's game. The Hawkeyes' lone conference win came on Dec. 31 with a 61-51 home win over Wisconsin, but they have lost four straight since that victory. The Hawkeyes have also struggled away from Iowa City, going 1-5 on the road.
Iowa has been plagued by injuries this season. Senior JoAnn Hamlin is out indefinitely after having a blood clot removed from her leg, while four other players missed extended time due to injuries. For the season, junior guard Kachine Alexander leads the way offensively, averaging 14.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Jaime Printy has come on strong in her first season, averaging 14.1 points per game, while sophomore guard Kamille Wahlin also contributes 14.0 points per game. The Hawkeyes finished tied for second in the Big Ten last year, making the NCAA Tournament, and were picked to finish fifth in the league this year.
The Illinois-Iowa Series: Iowa owns a 44-16 advantage over Illinois in the all-time series, including a 18-10 advantage in games played in Champaign. The Hawkeyes have won nine of the last 10 match-ups between the two teams, with the last Illinois win during that span coming on Feb. 15, 2007, 74-69 victory in Iowa City. The Illini haven't beaten the Hawkeyes in Champaign since 2003.
Watch Out for Jenna
Slowed, but Not Out: Senior Jenna Smith suffered a strained hamstring during the first minute of the Ohio State game on Jan. 14, but is expected to play on Thursday vs. Iowa. She returned to play 28 minutes against the Buckeyes after sustaining the injury and then saw 38 minutes of action at Wisconsin on Sunday despite still feeling lingering effects of the injury.
Join the Club: Jenna Smith is one of just seven players nationally to average over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. With averages of 18.8 ppg and 10.9 rpg, Smith joins Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark, Ohio State's Jantel Lavender, Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin, Louisiana Tech's Shanavia Dowdell, Ball State's Emily Maggert and Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike in the 18-10 club.
Smith Among All-Time Big Ten Elite: With 1,865 career points and 1,015 career rebounds, Smith is just the sixth player in Big Ten history to reach both the 1,800-point and 1,000-rebound milestones. Only Laura Coenen (Minnesota), Jessica Davenport (Ohio State), Tracey Hall (Ohio State), Denise Jackson (Indiana) and Janel McCarville (Minnesota) have accomplished the feat since the official inception of Big Ten women's basketball in 1982-83.
Record Breaker: Smith's 1,865 career points rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 42 points from passing Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 225 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 12 games left, Smith needs to average 18.8 points per game the rest of the way to become the school's all-time scoring leader.
Smith already has the UI career blocked shots record (190) and the career double-doubles mark (43) and has a good chance to finish atop several more categories before her career comes to a close. Take a look at Illinois records Smith has a chance to break this season:
Smith in the Illini Record Book Stat Total Rank Record Needs Rebounds 1,015 1 1,015 - Blocks 190 1 190 - Double-Doubles 43 1 43 - Points 1,865 4 2,089 225 FG Made 705 4 815 111 Toe-ing the Line: One of the most overlooked parts of Smith's game has been her free throw shooting. Smith currently ranks second on the Illinois career free throws made list. She is now 428-for-537 (.797) for her career. Ashley Berggren is Illinois' all-time leader with 562 makes. Smith currently sits in sixth place on the UI all-time FT percentage list with her 79.7 clip.
National Radar: Senior center Jenna Smith, a former All-American and two-time first team All-Big Ten honoree, was named to four preseason national award watch lists heading into this season. Smith is a preseason candidate for the Naismith Award, the Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy, which all go to the Division I Player of the Year. She is also up for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which focuses on the student-athlete on and off the court.
Working Woman: Smith won't be doing all of her work on the basketball court or in the classroom this semester. The senior will also be working an internship with the Illinois Athletic Public Relations Office during the spring term. Smith, who is set to graduate on May with a degree in community health, will get a first-hand looks at what goes on behind the scenes in an athletic department. Looks for her weekly blog about the experience at fightingillini.com.
Simpson Steals the Show
Simpson Does It All: Senior Lacey Simpson is widely known for her defense and versatility. This year, however, she has diversified her game even more. Playing more at her natural wing position, she's taking her habit of filling the stat sheet to another level as she's averaging 9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, a team-high 4.0 assists and Big Ten-leading 3.2 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team. She ranks in the top-10 in the conference in seven categories (steals, assists, assist-TO ratio, defensive rebounds, 3FG percentage, overall FG percentage and blocks).
Assault on the Record Book: More evidence of Simpson's all-around prowess can be found in the Illinois record book. She already cracks the career top-3 in three different categories and is in the top-10 in four. She currently is the program's all-time steals leader (310), ranks third in blocked shots (144) and assists (392) and ninth in rebounds (777). She's also climbing up both the three point field goals list (13th) and scoring list (23).
Lockdown Defender: Simpson not only leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th in the nation in steals, she also has a knack for locking down the opposing team's top perimeter scorer. Recently, she played the primary role in holding Penn State's Tyra Grant (19.0 ppg) to two second-half points on Dec. 31, Wisconsin's Alyssa Karel (15.0 ppg) to nine points on both Jan. 3 and Jan. 17, and Minnesota's Kiara Buford (15.1 ppg) to just two points on Jan. 10. Illinois went 3-1 in those four games thanks in part to Simpson's defense.
Outside Improvement: Known primarily for her defense, Simpson worked hard on her offensive game in the offseason, particularly her outside shot. That work has paid off thus far, as she's shooting 46.2 percent from the field (66-of-143) and 41.3 percent from downtown (19-of-46). Simpson made just eight threes all of last season and shot 39 percent overall and 22 percent from behind the arc.
College Grad: Simpson, a fifth-year senior, earned her bachelor's degree in sport management last May and is currently pursuing a master's degree in human resource education as she completes her final year of athletic eligibility.
This year's highly-touted freshman class was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation coming out of high school. The frosh have lived up to their billing so far, as they've combined to average 20.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for the Orange and Blue, even without Amber Moore (ACL injury) making an impact.
Karisma Penn and Adrienne GodBold have made the biggest impact thus far. Penn, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game and has already picked-up three Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, most recently on Jan. 4 after hitting the game-winning lay-up to top Wisconsin at the buzzer. She had her first career double-double on Dec. 31 against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and has scored a career-high 21 points twice thus far, first on Nov. 22 over Bradley and most recently on Jan. 14 at Ohio State.
Godbold, meanwhile, is a 5-11 guard averaging 6.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. She had a game-winning three point play with 10 seconds left in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 10. Earlier in the season, she scored a career-high 15 points and had three steals in the Illini's win over Oakland on Dec. 19 and recently she had a solid game at Indiana with 11 points and five boards. She has also been key defensively for the Orange and Blue, taking some of the defensive load off of Lacey Simpson.
Illinois in the NCAA Rankings
In the most recent NCAA rankings (Jan. 18) Illinois ranks in the national top-50 in two categories, while Fighting Illini individuals crack the top-100 in 10 categories, including four in the top-25 as Jenna Smith is second in double-doubles, 14th in rebounding and 25th in scoring, while Lacey Simpson is 10th in steals. Here is the list...
Team Category Rank Stat Blocked Shots 9 6.0 FG Percentage Defense 31 .356No Sophomore Slump
Indiv. Category Player Rank Stat Double-doubles Jenna Smith 2 11 Steals per game Lacey Simpson 10 3.2 Rebounds per game Jenna Smith 14 10.9 Points per game Jenna Smith 25 18.8 FT Percentage Jenna Smith 35 .856 Assist-TO ratio Lacey Simpson 39 1.84 FG Percentage Jenna Smith 51 .507 Blocks per game Karisma Penn 59 1.8 Blocks per game Jenna Smith 70 1.7 Blocks per game Lacey Simpson 95 1.5
In addition to Toone, sophomores Macie Blinn, Lydia McCully, Fabiola Josil and Eboni Mitchell have been very effective as well. Blinn was key in Illinois' comeback win over Minnesota on Jan. 10, scoring five second-half points, and then followed that up with five points at Ohio State on Jan. 14. McCully scored nine points vs. the Gophers and a season-high 10 at Ohio State, and Josil has provided steady ball handling and leadership at the point throughout the season. Meanwhile, Mitchell has made the most of her limited minutes, including scoring two points and dishing out three assists in just eight minutes vs. Minnesota.