Game 26 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. Michigan
Feb. 15, 2014
Illini Hit String of Pink Games: Sunday's game against Michigan is the last in a string of three consecutive "pink" games intended to raise awareness for breast cancer and honor cancer survivors and fighters. Last Sunday's game at Minnesota kicked off the stretch, while Thursday's game at Iowa was the Hawkeyes' pink game.
Time to Hit the Road: Sunday marks Illinois' only home game in the last 23 days of February after starting the month with consecutive contests at State Farm Center. The Illini are currently in a stretch where four of five games are on the road, with Sunday's game against Michigan the only home date. Following Sunday's game, Illinois plays at Indiana and Nebraska prior to wrapping up the regular season at home against Iowa.
BTN Selects Regular-Season Finale: The Big Ten announced Friday that Illinois' regular-season finale against Iowa on March 2 at State Farm Center will air live on the Big Ten Network at 3 p.m. CT. It marks the Illini's eighth regular-season game to appear on the network, and all games in the Big Ten Tournament also will be televised.
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 now has used that same combination in the last three contests. 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. Jacqui Grant would have continued her starting role but was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Feb. 4.
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 242 turnovers in Big Ten games (20.2 pg), best in the conference by 3.8 turnovers per game. That includes 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 15th in turnover margin (+5.64 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 21.1 points off turnovers per game, a 6.1-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. However, the Illini have only out-scored one of its last seven foes in points off turnovers (17-10 vs. Indiana, 2/2/14)
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.
Scouting the Wolverines
The Wolverines finish with a tough final four games, at Illinois, at Indiana, home against Iowa and at Penn State.The Wolverines are 4-1 on the road in conference play but only 2-5 at Crisler Center.
The Wolverines rank eighth in scoring offense in the Big Ten (69.3 ppg) but are fifth in scoring defense (64.7 ppg). They have the fifth-best field-goal percentage (.464) in the league but are ninth in field-goal defense (.407). Michigan also is second in three-point shooting (.381) and is fifth in three-point defense (.321). The Wolverines are second in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (+7.5) but seventh in assists (15.3), eighth in steals (5.9), 10th in turnover margin (-2.5) and eighth in three-pointers per game (6.0).
A balanced Michigan attack is led by a pair of guards: junior Shannon Smith (13.7 ppg) and freshman Siera Thompson (13.7 ppg). Nicole Elmblad puts up 12.0 points and grabs 7.6 rebounds per game. Junior forward Cyesha Goree is the fourth double-digit scorer with 11.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Goree also is the best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten, averaging 4.0 offensive boards per game.
Series History Against Michigan
Last Meeting With Michigan
Crawford scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half then Grant took over in the second half, putting in 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-3 three-pointers. For the game, the freshman from Park Ridge, Ill., was 6-of-9 from the floor, 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, and blocked a career-high five shots.
The Illini shot 43.9 percent (25-of-57) from the floor, compared to Michigan's 43.5 percent (20-of-46), but the Wolverines were 20-of-24 from the foul line, while Illinois was just 3-of-7. Illinois out-scored Michigan 26-16 in the paint and 14-6 off turnovers.