Game 27 Notes & Links: Illinois at Indiana
Feb. 21, 2014
Time to Hit the Road: Last Sunday marked Illinois' only home game in the final 23 days of February after the Orange and Blue started 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 Saturday's game at Indiana the third of the four road contests. After facing the Hoosiers, Illinois plays at Nebraska prior to wrapping up the regular season at home against Iowa.
BTN Selects Regular-Season Finale: The Big Ten announced on Feb. 14 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 for three consecutive games starting against No. 24 Michigan State on Feb. 5. 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. Against Michigan on Feb. 16, Amber Moore replaced Oden, marking the first time that a lineup of Moore-Crawford-Gleason-McConnell-Livingston had been used. Jacqui Grant would have continued her starting role but was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Feb. 4.
A Different Star Each Night: Since that lineup shakeup happened, three Illini players are averaging double figures: Taylor Tuck (13.5 ppg), Amber Moore (12.5 ppg) and Ivory Crawford (12.5 ppg). But the production has been inconsistent, as Tuck scored 18 against Michigan (2/16) and nine at Iowa (2/13) but didn't play at Minnesota or against Michigan State. Moore had only five against Michigan State, 15 at Minnesota, 11 against Iowa and 19 against Michigan. And Crawford has 20 against Michigan State and 18 at Minnesota, but only 12 points total in Illinois' last two games. Plus, the Illini's post game - which was flourishing with Jacqui Grant in the middle - has all but disappeared recently as Sarah Livingston had 10 points at Minnesota but is averaging only 4.0 ppg over the last four games.
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 263 turnovers in Big Ten games (20.2 pg), best in the conference by 3.4 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 also forced Michigan into 21 miscues on Feb. 16, the Wolverines' most in Big Ten play and second-most this season. Illinois has caused 20-plus turnovers 16 times. Illinois ranked ninth nationally in steals per game (11.2) and 12th in turnover margin (+5.77 per game) through games of Feb. 16, leading the Big Ten in both categories.
Taking Advantage of Turnovers: The Illini have regularly out-scored opponents off turnovers this season, averaging 21.2 points off turnovers per game, a 6.4-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 two of its last eight foes in points off turnovers (17-10 vs. Indiana, 2/2; and 19-10 vs. Michigan, 2/16)
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.
Ivory Initiates Offense: Junior Ivory Crawford has become Illinois' primary offensive option in Big Ten play, especially with Jacqui Grant being sidelined since Feb. 4. She is eighth in the Big Ten in scoring in conference play with 16.1 points per game, and has posted 19 or more points in six 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. For the season, Crawford is averaging 14.8 points per game and has scored in double digits in 21 of 26 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.
Tuck Takes Off: After struggling for much of the season, junior Taylor Tuck has asserted herself on the offensive end lately, posting a career-high 18 points against Michigan on Feb. 16 and scoring nine at Iowa on Feb. 13. Tuck entered the Iowa game with only 20 points in Illinois' first 11 Big Ten games and didn't play against Michigan State (2/5) or Minnesota (2/9). In the last two games, she has made 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) field goals, including 2-of-3 three-pointers, and 5-of-7 free throws. Prior to those two games, she was 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) in Big Ten play.
Scouting the Hoosiers
Indiana's RPI has slid from No. 39 prior to playing the Illini on Feb. 2 to No. 63 on Feb. 21, according to WarrenNolan.com, out of range for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament barring a late-season run. WarrenNolan.com also pegs the Hoosiers for the 68th-best schedule in the country. But the Hoosiers are just 2-8 against RPI top-100 teams and 7-5 away from Assembly Hall, including a 1-5 Big Ten road record.
The Hoosiers take care of the ball extremely well, ranking 15th in the nation in fewest turnovers per game with 12.6 per game as of Feb. 17. IU also guards the three-pointer well, standing 23rd nationally in three-point field-goal defense (.275). Indiana allows the second-fewest treys per game among Big Ten teams in conference play (4.8), behind only Michigan State.
Freshman guard Larryn Brooks is IU's top scorer, averaging 16.4 points per game overall and 14.2 in Big Ten games, ranking sixth in the conference in all games and tied for 14th in Big Ten play. She has taken 22 percent of the Hoosiers' shots in Big Ten play but also has 69 of IU's 170 (41 percent) assists. Fellow freshman guard Taylor Agler is averaging 8.4 points per game in conference action, and Alexis Gassion is averaging 8.6 ppg in Big Ten play. Gassion exploded for 22 points against the Illini, including 4-of-5 three-pointers, on Feb. 2.
After averaging 78.3 points per game in non-conference action, Indiana is putting up only 65.2 ppg in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers' shooting percentage has dropped from 46 percent to 36.5 and their free-throw percentage has fallen from 72.4 percent to 64.1 percent. IU has increased its three-pointers per game from 7.1 in non-conference action to 8.1 in Big Ten play, but is making 3.6 fewer field goals per game.
In conference games, Indiana ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (65.2 ppg), ninth in scoring defense (71.8 ppg), 11th in scoring margin (-6.7 ppg) and 12th in free-throw percentage (64.1 percent). IU also is 12th in field-goal percentage (36.5), 11th in field-goal defense (44.9), but eighth in three-point percentage (33.2 percent) and third in three-point defense (.301). The Hoosiers also are eighth in rebounding margin (-1.2 rpg), 11th in blocked shots (3.0 bpg), eighth in steals (5.9 spg), eighth in assists (13.1 apg) and seventh in turnover margin (-0.2).
Series History Against Indiana
Last Meeting With Indiana
Illinois shot just 39.7 percent (25-of-63) from the field while allowing the Hoosiers to hit 47.5 percent (28-of-59) of their shots, including 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) of their three-pointers. IU recorded 21 assists on its 28 field goals and the Illini forced 21 turnovers but scored only 17 points off them. Illinois shot just 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) from three-point range, including 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) in the second half.
Taylor Gleason chipped in nine points in 13 minutes off the bench, her most since scoring 11 against Alcorn State on Nov. 17. Amber Moore had eight points, while Sarah Hartwell and Alexis Smith each put in seven.