Game 25 Notes & Links: Illinois at Iowa
Feb. 11, 2014
Illini Hit String of Pink Games: Thursday's game at Iowa is the second in a string of three consecutive "pink" games intended to raise awareness for breast cancer and honor cancer survivors and fighters. Sunday's game at Minnesota kicked off the stretch, while Illinois' pink game is Sunday, Feb. 16, when the Illini host Michigan at 1 p.m.
Time to Hit the Road: Illinois played consecutive home games on Feb. 2 and 5 before entering its current stretch of four of five contests away from State Farm Center. The string began at Minnesota, where the Illini fell 66-61 on Feb. 9, and continues Thursday at Iowa, where the Illini last played in January 2012. After hosting Michigan on Feb. 16, Illinois plays at Indiana and Nebraska prior to wrapping up the regular season at home against the Hawkeyes. The Illini are 2-5 in true road games this season, with both wins coming in conference play.
Bollant Shakes Up Rotation: After using only three different starting lineups in the season's first 22 games, Illini head coach Matt Bollant used a completely new group of starters against No. 24 Michigan State on Feb. 5 and used that same combination at Minnesota on Feb. 9j. Ivory Crawford continued in a starting role, while Nia Oden received her third start of the year. And freshmen Taylor Gleason, Sarah Livingston and Ashley McConnell earned their first career starts.
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 223 turnovers in their first 11 Big Ten games (20.3 pg), including pressuring Wisconsin into 30 miscues, No. 14 Penn State into 27 and forcing 23 by No. 24 Michigan State, the Spartans' most in Big Ten play. UI forced a season-high 36 turnovers against Alcorn State on Nov. 17 and has caused 20-plus turnovers 15 times. Illinois ranked 10th nationally in steals per game (11.2) and 13th in turnover margin (+5.96 per game) through games of Feb. 9, leading the Big Ten in both categories.
Taking Advantage of Turnovers: The Illini have regularly out-scored opponents off turnovers this season, averaging 21.8 points off turnovers per game, a 7.1-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 Assumes Command: Before being sidelined with an illness prior to the Michigan State game on Feb. 5, freshman forward Jacqui Grant had taken over on the offensively, averaging 15.6 points in her last five contests, her best stretch of the season. She tied her career high with 22 points against Purdue on Jan. 27 then followed with 23 at Ohio State on Jan. 30, including 15 in the first half. Grant also is averaging 6.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks over that span. For the season, she has four 20-point outings and has scored in double digits in 17 of 22 games.
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. 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: Junior Ivory Crawford has become Illinois' primary offensive option in Big Ten play, especially with Jacqui Grant being sidelined by an illness since Feb. 4. She is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring in conference play with 17.9 points per game, and has posted 19 or more points in six of 11 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 15.5 points per game and has scored in double digits in 21 of 24 contests, with the 25 points against PSU a season high. She also has six 20-point games this year after entering the season with only three in her career.
Scouting the Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes are 11-3 at home but all three of those losses have come in Big Ten play as Iowa lost to Penn State on Jan. 5, Michigan State on Jan. 16 and Nebraska on Feb. 1. And all four of the Hawks' conference losses have been against RPI top-50 foes, as they also lost at Indiana on Jan. 2 to start Big Ten play.
Iowa has the 24th-best scoring offense (79.7 points per game) in the nation - and tops in the Big Ten - and also ranks 15th in field-goal percentage (46.1 percent) and assists per game (18.0 apg), and 16th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.26:1). The Hawks' also are 21st in blocked shots per game (5.2).
Junior guard Samantha Logic was named Big Ten Player of the Week Tuesday after nearly averaging a triple-double last week. She did record her second triple-double this season in Iowa's win at Penn State on Feb. 6 with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Against Northwestern on Feb. 10, she added 20 points, 10 assists and eight boards. She ranks fourth nationally in assists (7.44 per game) and also is second in the Big Ten in steals (2.3 spg).
Iowa is one of the most balanced teams in the nation, with five players averaging double figures. Since freshman Ally Disterhoft entered the starting lineup at Ohio State on Jan. 19, all five of the Hawkeyes' starters now average more than 10 points per game, and four players have made more than 20 three-pointers on the season, led by Melissa Dixon's 69.
Series History Against Iowa
Last Season Against Iowa
Karisma Penn scored a game-high 18 points, adding eight rebounds and four steals, while Adrienne Godbold scored 17 on 7-of-12 shooting with a game-high five steals. Amber Moore added 17 on 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range, and Ivory Crawford scored 14 points, including 4-of-6 from downtown.
The Illini forced Iowa into a season-high 27 turnovers and the Orange and Blue drained 11 three-pointers for the second-straight game. Illinois scored 30 points off Iowa's 27 turnovers and made 11-of-15 free throws in the second half, including 7-of-8 from the line in the game's final 3:58, while not sending the Hawkeyes to the foul line at all in the second half and only twice in the game.