Game 19 Notes & Links: Illinois at Michigan State
Jan. 21, 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.
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 107 turnovers in their first five 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 17 games. Illinois ranked ninth nationally in steals per game (11.6) and 10th in turnover margin (+6.5 per game) as of Jan. 20, leading the Big Ten in both categories.
Taking Advantage of Turnovers: The Illini have regularly out-scored opponents off turnovers this season, averaging 23.6 points off turnovers per game, a 9.2-point per game advantage over their foes. Illinois is averaging 20.7 points off miscues in over its last seven 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. She is tied for second in the Big Ten in scoring in conference play with 20.4 points per game, and has posted at least 19 points in all five Big Ten games. Her 23 points at No. 19 Georgia on Dec. 28 and 20 against Wisconsin on Jan. 3 marked 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. For the season, Crawford is averaging 15.4 points per game this season and has scored in double digits 15 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 against Wisconsin and Penn State, making 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) three-pointers in those two games. Heading into this season, she was 3-of-37 in her career, making her two games with three treys each even more impressive.
70 the Magic Number: The 70-point threshold has been close to a determining factor for the Illini defense this season, as Illinois is 7-1 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. Its only defeat came at Michigan when the Wolverines scored 69. 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 56 three-pointers on the season and is averaging 3.11 per game, which ranks 11th nationally. She has 47 percent of the Illini's total treys and no other UI 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 35-of-42 (.833) from the line, and leads the team with 6.0 rebounds per game. She also has the second-most steals on the team (34) and is tied for third with 2.4 assists per game.
Starters Carry Scoring Load: Illinois has three starters averaging double figures and two more players over 8.3 ppg. With the squad averaging 72.7 points per game, the Illini's starters are scoring 84.9 percent of the points (1,111 out of 1,308 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 15 times - including five 20-point games - and Jacqui Grant has done it 14 times, with Sarah Hartwell accomplishing it eight times. Moore is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring average (16.3 ppg), Crawford is 11th (15.4) and Grant is 27th (12.9).
Scouting the Spartans
Michigan State was ranked in the first four Associated Press polls this season but dropped out following the IPFW loss. MSU had the second-most votes of teams just outside the top 25 in this week's poll.
MSU is 7-2 at home this season compared to a 5-4 record away from Breslin Center, with the Spartans' only home losses coming to IPFW and Penn State. Michigan State is averaging 81.7 points per game at home compared to 70.2 in road and neutral games.
The Spartans may not be exceptional statistically but are good in a number of areas, ranking 22nd nationally in assists per game (17.3), 31st in field-goal percentage (.447), 37th in three-point FG percentage (.36.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.11), 42nd in scoring margin (+11.3 ppg), 46th in scoring offense (75.9) and 48th in rebound margin (+6.7). MSU is second and third in the Big Ten in scoring offense and scoring margin, respectively, and third in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and three-pointers made per game (6.9).
Junior guard Kiana Johnson spearheads MSU's offensive attack, leading the Big Ten and ranking fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.37), and standing third in the league in assists (6.3 pg). Annalise Pickrel leads the Spartans in scoring with 14.0 ppg, Aerial Powers is at 13.9 and Tori Jankoska averages 11.3 ppg. Three more players average 8.6 or more points per game, and the Spartans have four players posting 5.5 or more rebounds per game.
Series History Against Michigan State
Last Meeting With Michigan State
GodBold did a little bit of everything, adding eight rebounds - five on the offensive glass - four steals and three blocks to her 28-point afternoon. Sophomore guard Ivory Crawford added 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor, grabbing four rebounds and making three steals. And Amber Moore put in 13 points and dished a game-high four assists.
The story of the game was Illinois' tenacity, as the Orange and Blue came back repeatedly, fighting back from deficits of 13 in the first half and 11 in the second half. Illinois used a 10-0 run to grab its only lead of the game, 56-54 with 9:09 remaining, but MSU scored the next 13 points to go up 11. The Illini pulled within four with 1:05 on the clock but the Spartans' superior late foul shooting was the difference.