Game 21 Notes & Links: Illinois at Ohio State
Jan. 29, 2014
Looking Back at Win Over Spartans: With Thursday's game at Michigan State tied at 46, Jacqui Grant grabbed an offensive board and was fouled. After the final media timeout, Grant drained both free throws. The next trip down the court, she hit a three-pointer and, after a turnover on the next trip, she drained a jumper. On the other end, the Illini had forced three consecutive Spartan turnovers to facilitate a 7-0 run and give Illinois a lead it wouldn't relinquish. UI held MSU scoreless for 3:20 down the stretch and the Spartans scored only five points over the final 4:21. Illinois also shut down MSU's offense for 5:29 in the first half and held the Spartans to 51 points for the game, their lowest output of the season.
Illini Turn Tide on Spartans at Charity Stripe: After the Illini were whistled for 10 first-half fouls at Michigan State on Thursday, they cranked up their offensive aggressiveness, drawing 15 fouls on the Spartans in the second half. That led to Illinois landing in the bonus at the 12:52 mark and making 14-of-19 free throws from that point forward. In all, UI was 17-of-23 at the free-throw line after halftime. MSU managed only a 4-of-9 performance from the stripe in the second half.
Schedule Regains Sense of Normalcy: After a stretch where Illinois played three consecutive home games, had an open date and went on the road for three straight contests, the schedule returns to a more regular rhythm this week as the Illini hosted Purdue on Monday and travel to Ohio State on Thursday. The schedule jumble happened when UI's Northwestern game was postponed from Jan. 6 to Jan 15 because of heavy snow and high winds.
Shades of Yesteryear: 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 the Illini faced this season. Last year, Illinois also won its first five Big Ten road games. This season, the Illini are 2-1 in conference road contests, winning at Michigan State and Northwestern, and losing at Michigan.
Illini Cranking Up Defensive Pressure: After breaking Big Ten records for steals and turnovers forced in conference games last season, Illinois is back at it again in 2013-14. The Illini have forced 140 turnovers in their first seven Big Ten games (20.0 pg), 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 12 times. Illinois ranked 10th nationally in steals per game (11.4) and 11th in turnover margin (+6.37 per game) through games of Jan. 26, leading the Big Ten in both categories.
Taking Advantage of Turnovers: The Illini have regularly out-scored opponents off turnovers this season, averaging 22.8 points off turnovers per game, an 8.6-point per game advantage over their foes. Illinois 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. Illinois had a similar scenario in the win at Michigan State on Jan. 23, as seven of the eight Illini who played scored, and six made at least one three-pointer.
Grant Named to B1G Honor Roll: Freshman forward Jacqui Grant was named to the Big Ten weekly honor roll on Jan. 28 after averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game last week. She posted her third double-double of the season at Michigan State on Jan. 23 with 13 points and 10 rebounds, then tied her career high with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting against No. 19 Purdue on Jan. 27.
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 third in the Big Ten in scoring in conference play with 18.7 points per game, and has posted 19 or more points in five of seven 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 15.3 points per game and has scored in double digits 17 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.
Grant Providing Consistent Production: Jacqui Grant has been a consistent offensive threat for the Illini, averaging 13.4 points per game for the season and 14.6 in Big Ten play. She also is averaging 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game over the last three. Grant was a huge factor in the Illini's win at Michigan State on Jan. 23, posting her first double-double since Dec. 4 - and third this season - with 13 points and 10 rebounds, including nine points and five boards in the second half. With the game tied 46-46, she grabbed a crucial offensive board then hit two free throws after the final media timeout to start a personal 7-0 run and give UI a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Four nights later against No. 19 Purdue, Grant made 9-of-14 field goals on the way to tying her career high with 22 points, with 15 coming in the second half.
Smith Takes Care of the Rock: Junior guard Alexis Smith is in the midst of her best stretch of ball-handling this season, totaling 22 assists and only 10 turnovers over the last three games. She notched five assists each against Northwestern and Michigan, then added six at Michigan State and six more against No. 19 Purdue. Her 10:3 assist-to-turnover ratio was the third-best in the Big Ten from Jan. 13-19 and she is 10th in assists per game in all games (3.7) and during conference play (4.1).
70 the Magic Number: The 70-point threshold has been close to a determining factor for the Illini defense this season, as Illinois is 8-1 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.
Scouting the Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have been hard to figure out, beating Purdue by 11 at home then losing to Michigan by 15 in Columbus three days later. Then, 18 days later, OSU won by 11 in Ann Arbor before losing to Michigan State by 14 at home.
Ohio State gets it done with defense, offsetting the 11th-best offense (65.1 ppg) in the Big Ten with the fourth-best defense (63.1 ppg). The Buckeyes are third in the league in field-goal defense (.362) but ninth in three-point defense (.319), while standing eighth (.417) and 11th (.310) in field-goal and three-point offense, respectively. OSU also ranks 10th in rebounding margin at -1.7 per game and is seventh in turnover margin (-0.3 per game).
Sophomore guard Ameryst Alston is OSU's lone double-digit scorer on the year, averaging 16.7 ppg, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten. She has attempted nearly one-fourth of the team's shots and free throws on the season, but also leads the Buckeyes in assists (2.6 per game). Alston also averages the second-most minutes in the conference (36.4 mpg).
Series History Against Ohio State
Last Season Against Ohio State
It marked Illinois' first win at Ohio State in 12 years, since a 75-73 victory on Jan. 9, 2001, and snapped the Buckeyes' 31-game home winning streak, which was the second-longest in the nation. Illinois' 79 points were the most OSU has allowed this season and the Illini (8-6 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten) now have won four of their last six, including a 2-1 record against teams who are ranked or receiving votes in the national polls.
In Illinois' final home game of the year, the Illini pulled within four early in the second half, but Ohio State scored the next six points and never trailed by less than eight the rest of the way as the Buckeyes won 64-53 on the Illini's senior night on Feb. 28. Penn went out with a bang, notching her 13th double-double of the season with 24 points and 14 rebounds, and senior Adrienne Godbold added 14 points.
The Illini shot just 23.5 percent (8-of-34) in the second half, compared to 57.9 percent (11-of-19) by the Buckeyes. For the game, Ohio State out-shot the Orange and Blue 47.8 percent to 29.5 percent. Illinois also made only 2-of-15 three-pointers, tying its season low. The Illini forced 22 OSU turnovers and out-rebounded the Buckeyes 35-34, but the shooting disparity was too much to overcome.