Game 28 Notes & Links: Illinois at #16/13 Nebraska
Feb. 25, 2014
Thursday's Game: Illinois (9-18, 2-12) heads to Nebraska (21-5, 11-3) for its final road game of the regular season on Thursday to face the Huskers at 7 p.m. The Illini look to snap an eight-game losing streak, while NU has won eight straight after trouncing No. 8 Penn State, 94-74, on Monday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Illinois won in Lincoln a year ago, beating the Huskers 62-52 at the Devaney Sports Center.
Time to Hit the Road: Feb. 16 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. Thursday's game completes a stretch where the Illini play four of five games are on the road. Illinois played at Minnesota on Feb. 9, at Iowa on Feb. 13, hosted Michigan on Feb. 16 and played at Indiana on Feb. 22. The Illini wrap up the regular season at home against Iowa on Sunday.
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. That same quintet started at Indiana on Feb. 22. Jacqui Grant would have continued her starting role but was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Feb. 4 and has missed the last five games.
A Different Star Each Night: Since that lineup shakeup happened, three Illini players are averaging double figures: Ivory Crawford (12.2 ppg), Taylor Tuck (12.0 ppg) and Amber Moore (11.6 ppg). But the production has been inconsistent, as Tuck scored nine at Indiana (2/22), 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, 19 against Michigan and eight at Indiana. And Crawford has 20 against Michigan State and 18 at Minnesota, but only 12 points total against Iowa and Michigan, then 11 at Indiana. 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 3.8 ppg over the last five 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 282 turnovers in Big Ten games (20.1 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 eighth nationally in steals per game (11.1) and 12th in turnover margin (+5.67 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 20.9 points off turnovers per game, a 5.6-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. However, the Illini have only out-scored two of their last nine 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 sixth in the Big Ten in scoring in conference play with 15.7 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 14.6 points per game and has scored in double digits in 22 of 27 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 each at Indiana (2/22) and at Iowa (2/13). 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 three games, she has made 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) field goals, including 3-of-4 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.
Grant Assumes Command: Before being sidelined with mononucleosis 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.
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 14.3 in Big Ten play. 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. She then scored 15 of her 23 points at Ohio State in the first half on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 from downtown.
Moore An All-Around Threat: Senior Amber Moore has 78 three-pointers on the season and is averaging 2.89 per game, which leads the Big Ten and ranked 27th nationally through games of Feb. 23. She has 44 percent of the Illini's total treys and no other UI player has more than 22 triples this season. But Moore isn't just a long-range gunner. She also has the third-most free throws on the team, making 45-of-56 (.804) from the line, and ranks third on the team in rebounds (4.9 pg), steals (1.8 pg) and assists (2.3 pg).
Starters Carry Scoring Load: Illinois has three players who have started the vast majority of games this season averaging double figures and two more players over 7.0 ppg. With the squad averaging 68.9 points per game, the Illini's starters are scoring 81.7 percent of the points (1,513 out of 1,852 total points).
Fearsome Foursome Leads the Way: Amber Moore registered double figures in the Illini's first 13 games and 20 times total this year, and has seven 20-point efforts. Ivory Crawford has posted double figures 22 times - including six 20-point games - and Jacqui Grant has done it 17 times, with Sarah Hartwell accomplishing it nine times. Crawford took over the team scoring lead after the Michigan State game on Feb. 5 but Moore reclaimed it following the Feb. 16 Michigan contest. Moore ranks 10th in the Big Ten (14.8 ppg). Crawford is 13th (14.6 ppg) and Grant is 19th (13.4).
Moore Earns Consecutive Weekly B1G Honors: Senior Amber Moore was recognized by the Big Ten for the second-straight week on Dec. 23, earning mention on the weekly Honor Roll thanks to her 26-point performance that led Illinois to a 15-point win over UT Martin on Dec. 21. Moore was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Dec. 16 after serving as catalyst of the come-from-behind win over Seton Hall on Dec. 9. The senior scored 22 of her 24 points in the second half, including shooting 7-of-11 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range. With 43 seconds remaining, Moore made the game-tying trey to cap a 25-5 Illinois run. Her 11 rebounds resulted in her second double-double of the season and third in her career. It was Moore's second player of the week honor this season.
Moore Named B1G POW: Senior guard/forward Amber Moore was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time on Nov. 18 after averaging 25.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game in three Illini wins the previous week. She dominated against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 14, scoring 27 and pulling down a career-high 19 rebounds, scored 23 and hauled in seven boards against Valparaiso on Nov. 12, and capped the week with a 25-point performance in only 23 minutes against Alcorn State on Nov. 21.
Records Fall Against Alcorn State: Illinois broke the school record for margin of victory with its 84-point win over Alcorn State on Nov. 17, and the Lady Braves' 10-point second-half output also broke the State Farm Center mark for fewest points in a half. ASU's 15.21 field-goal percentage was the worst by an Illini opponent in school history and the Braves' seven field goals were the second-fewest by an Illini opponent.
Moore Breaks Career Treys Mark: With four treys on Nov. 12, Amber Moore broke the school record for career three-point field goals made. Moore now sits in first place with 285 career treys, surpassing Lori Bjork's 214. She also ranks fourth in Big Ten history after passing Ohio State's Caity Matter by making 6-of-12 treys in Columbus on Jan. 30. Moore needs 10 more threes to pass Michigan State's Lindsay Bowen (294). Last year, Moore broke school records for three-pointers made in a season and three-pointers attempted in a season and a career. She ranked 27th nationally through games of Feb. 24 and leads the Big Ten with 2.89 treys per game.
Big Ten Trio Assaults Treys Record List:Moore is one of three current Big Ten players moving their way up the conference record list for career three-pointers made, along with Penn State's Maggie Lucas and Nebraska's Jordan Hooper. Lucas currently stands second on that list with 350, just eight away from breaking Kelly Mazzante's record. Moore is fourth with 285 and Hooper is fifth with 279.
Scouting the Huskers
Nebraska has an RPI of 31 in the official NCAA RPI released on Feb. 24 and Charlie Creme has the Huskers as a No. 6 seed in his bracketology on ESPN.com, but that was before NU's win over Penn State on Monday. Nebraska is hosting an NCAA Tournament regional but will have to go on the road for the first and second rounds.
The Huskers drained 16 three-pointers against Penn State on Monday after entering the game averaging 6.76 treys per game. Jordan Hooper is the biggest deep threat, making 64-of-174 (36.8 percent) this season, but Tear'a Laudermill is 45-of-108 (41.7 percent) and Rachel Theriot is 31-of-71 (43.7 percent). Those three account for 75.6 percent of Nebraska's treys on the season.
Hooper is Nebraska's top scorer at 20.1 points per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten. She also is third in rebounding (9.3 rpg), leads the league in defensive rebounds (7.6 rpg) and is fifth in three-pointers per game (2.5). Theriot averages 13.7 ppg and is third in the Big Ten with 6.5 assists per game. She also leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 2.5:1 mark. Two other Huskers average double figures, with Emily Cady posting 13.2 ppg and Laudermill averaging 11.3 ppg.
Nebraska ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (75.7 ppg) and leads the league in scoring defense (62.3 ppg) for a Big Ten-best scoring margin (+13.4). The Huskers lead the conference in free-throw percentage (.785), rank fourth in field-goal (.449) and three-point percentage (.369), but are sixth (.390) and 10th (.330) in field-goal and three-point percentage defense, respectively. NU has the fourth-best rebounding margin (+6.0 rpg) and fifth in turnover margin (+0.8), but is 10th in steals (5.7 spg) and 12th in blocked shots (2.9 bpg). But they clean the defensive glass the best of any Big Ten team, collecting 75.2 percent of opponent misses and average 7.1 three-pointers per game.
Series History Against Nebraska
Last Meeting With Nebraska
Junior guard Ivory Crawford led the way for Illinois with 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting and freshman forward Jacqui Grant scored 15 on 6-of-11 from the field, but the rest of the Illini squad shot just 9-of-34 (26.4 percent) from the field, and the team shot 2-of-27 (7.4 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, Nebraska shot 47.2 percent from the field and 7-of-19 (36.8 percent). Jordan Hooper led all scorers with 22 points, while Emily Cady posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.