Game Notes for Illinois vs. Michigan State Thursday Night at Assembly Hall
Feb. 3, 2009
Game 23: Michigan State (15-7, 8-3) at Illinois (6-16, 2-9)Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 // 8 p.m. // Assembly Hall (16,618) // Champaign, Ill.
On The Air
On the Tube: Thursday's Illinois-Michigan State game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network with Tracy Warren and Jenean Ford calling the action. It is the ninth of at least 11 Illini games broadcast this year by BTN, CBS or ESPN2.
Dynamic Duo: Juniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson have been Illinois' go-to players all season, combining to average 28.5 points and 17.6 rebounds per game. Smith has seven double-doubles on the year and Simpson has six, making Illinois the only team in the Big Ten with two players that have five or more double-doubles. Smith and Simpson have upped their game even more as of late, as they combine to average average 28.2 points and 24.0 rebounds in the last five games, and have seven total double-doubles during that span.
The Big 5-0-0: Illinois' victory over Northwestern on Jan. 29 was the 500th in program history. Illinois has an all-time record of 500-485 in 35 years of women's basketball. Gordon Out: Illinois' lone senior, Chelsea Gordon, tore the ACL in her right knee in the Jan. 25 victory over Indiana and will miss the rest of the season. The injury ends Gordon's UI career after the Erie, Pa., native saw action in 116 games, the sixth most in school history. Gordon scored 680 points (5.9 ppg), grabbed 360 rebounds (3.1 rpg) and was twice named the team's Best Defensive Player during her Illinois career.
Dominance Over Northwestern Continues: Illinois' victory at Northwestern on Jan. 29 was the Illini's 18th straight over the Wildcats and their 10th straight in Evanston. NU has not beaten Illinois since Feb. 5, 1999, and the Orange and Blue have not lost to the Wildcats on the road since Feb. 23, 1996.
Law Inks No. 3 Recruiting Class: Jolette Law signed the best recruiting class in school history on Nov. 12, the first day of the fall signing period. The class was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz on signing day, and moved to No. 3 at the end of the early signing period. See page 6 for more information on the recruits.
What to Watch For
Scouting the Spartans
Junior 6-9 center Allyssa DeHaan is the catalyst for Michigan State on both the offensive and defensive ends, with averages of 10.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. Junior forward Aisha Jefferson leads the Spartans in scoring at 11.3 ppg, while four other players contribute at least 6.0 ppg in a balanced attack.
Michigan State is the best rebounding team in the Big Ten, owning a rebounding margin of +9.5 over its opponents. The Spartans also own the conference lead in offensive rebounds (15.27), defensive rebounds (28.14), rebounding offense (43.4) and rebounding defense (34.0) while blocking 5.64 shots per game.
The Illinois-Michigan State Series: Michigan State leads the all-time series 31-26 while the Illini own a 15-10 advantage in games played in Champaign. The Spartans won two of the three meetings between the schools in 2007-08, winning both regular season games before Illinois won 55-41 in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Thursday is the only regular season match-up between the two teams this season.
Smith is Double Trouble
Perfect 10? Smith continues to climb up the Illinois career scoring list. Her 19 points at Northwestern last Thursday give the junior 1,364 career points and move her past Cindy Dallas (1,345) and into 12th place on the UI list. Smith needs nine points against MSU to move into 11th place and 18 to crack the UI all-time top-10.
A Model of Consistency: Smith has scored in double-figures in all 22 games this year and in 30 straight games dating back to last season, the second-longest current streak in the Big Ten and the seventh-longest in the nation. In all, she has scored in double-figures in 58 of the last 59 games dating back to her freshman year.
Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points (Through games of 02/2/09) Rk Player, School Streak Next Game 1. Robyn Fairbanks, Utah Valley St. 71 Feb. 7 2. Megan Frazee, Liberty 57 Feb. 9 3. Morgan Warburton, Utah 54 Feb. 4 4. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State 52 Feb. 5 5. Sade Logan, Robert Morris 48 Feb. 7 6. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State 45 Feb. 5 7. Jenna Smith, Illinois 30 Feb. 5 8. Carlee Cassidy, Md-Bltmore Cty 28 Feb. 8 9. Chante Black, Duke 24 Feb. 5 Shavonte Zellous, Pittsburgh 24 Feb. 3
Cleaning the Glass: Smith has dominated the glass as of late, averaging 12.4 rebounds per game in the last five contests. On Jan. 15 against, Iowa, she pulled down a season-high 18 boards, the third-most in the Big Ten this season, including 12 on the offensive end. She followed that up with 12 boards Jan. 18 at Wisconsin, 15 on Jan. 25 against Indiana and 12 at Northwestern on Jan. 29. Smith currently sits eighth on the Illinois career rebounding list with 751 boards. Ashley Berggren is next on the list in seventh-place with 779.
Block Party: Smith moved into second place on the Illinois career blocks list with a pair of swats at Ohio State on Jan. 15. After adding one more on Jan. 29 at NU, the junior now has 140 blocks in less than three seasons. At her current average of 1.91 blocks per game, Kendra Gantt's 24-year old school record of 156 is within reach this season depending on how many games the Illini play. Smith currently ranks third in the Big Ten and 51st in the nation in blocks.
She Keeps Going and Going: Despite being the focal point of every defense this season and seeing constant double and triple teams, Smith has been the most durable player in the Big Ten. She leads the league in minutes at 38.4 per game and has played all 40 minutes 12 times this season. Smith has sat out just seven out of 440 minutes during conference play and just 40 out of 885 minutes throughout the season.
Smith Named to Naismith Watch List: Junior center Jenna Smith has been named to the Naismith Award Watch list. She is one of 50 players nominated for the award, which is the most prestigious national award presented annually to college basketball's player of the year.
Grand Game: Smith went over 1,000 career points when she poured in 29 during the season-opener at IPFW, becoming the 22nd player in school history to reach the milestone and the seventh fastest to do so, accomplishing the feat in 66 games.
JennaSmith13.com: Stay up-to-date on Smith's season and her quest for All-America and Big Ten Player of the Year honors at jennasmith13.com. The site will be updated throughout the season with videos, photos, stats, news and much more.
Simpson Stealing the Show
Picking Up Where She Left Off: After stellar performances at the 2008 Big Ten Tournament and WNIT, Simpson has stepped her game up even more this season. Her 10.7 points per game is nearly four points higher than her average last season and, defensively, she has taken it to another level. Simpson nearly had the second triple-double in school history with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine steals in the season-opener. She has tallied six double-doubles on the season, including four in Big Ten play, which is tied for second in the league in conference action.
Climbing the Chart: Simpson already sits in third place on the Illinois all-time steals list with 228 in less than three seasons, behind only school record holder Allison Curtin (252) and Jill Estey (246). At her current average of 3.2 steals per game, Curtin's school mark could be within reach this season depending on how many games the Illini play. Simpson leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th in the nation in steals per game (3.18). Her nine steals in the season-opener vs. IPFW set a new career-high and equaled the second most in a game in school history.
Working Woman: Simpson, a fourth-year junior, finished up her class work during the fall semester and is working as an intern in the Illinois Athletic Public Relations office this semester to complete her undergraduate degree. Simpson plans on taking the GRE this spring and beginning graduate school next year during her final year of athletic eligibility.
Lacing Up with Lacey
A Block to Remember: It took Blinn 20 games to record her first-career blocked shot and there's no doubt she'll always remember it. Blinn stuffed Ohio State All-American center Jantel Lavender on a breakaway during the Jan. 22 game in Columbus for her first swat. The block resulted in a jump ball and gave the Illini an extra possession.
McCully On Point
Triple Threat: McCully has made a case of her own to become the team's third scoring option after Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson. She has scored double-figures nine times this season, including a career-high 15 points against South Dakota State. One night later against #10 Maryland, she hit 4-of-7 from three-point land for 12 points. She leads the team from downtown on the season, hitting 23 threes at a 34 percent clip, and is third on the team and third among Big Ten freshmen in scoring at 7.7 points per game.
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