Karisma Penn and the Illini are looking for their 21st straight win over Northwestern
Feb. 27, 2010
On The Air
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Northwestern leads 31-30 overall and 16-11 in Evanston
Streak: Illinois has won 20 straight overall vs. NU and 10 straight vs. the Wildcats in Evanston
Last Meeting: Illinois 81, Northwestern 50 on Feb. 11, 2010 in Champaign
Illinois: Jolette Law, 44-49 overall and at Illinois (3rd season)
NU: Joe McKeown, 532-209 overall (24th season) and 23-35 at Northwestern (2nd season)
The Game: The Fighting Illini close out the regular season this Sunday when they head to Evanston, Ill., to face in-state rival Northwestern at 2 p.m. A lot is on the line as both teams are fighting for positions in next week's Big Ten Tournament. Illinois (14-13, 6-11) is coming off a mid-week bye after topping Purdue last Sunday, while the Wildcats (16-12, 7-10) played Thursday night at Ohio State, falling 78-47.
Jockeying for Position: Illinois enters the weekend in a tie for ninth place with Indiana and Minnesota as all three teams have 6-11 records and are one game behind 7-10 Northwestern and Michigan. If the season ended today, the Illini would be the 10 seed for next week's Big Ten Tournament. However, depending on the outcome of Sunday's games they could be seeded anywhere from No. 7 to No. 11 for the tournament. See page 5 of the PDF linked at the top of the page for a complete breakdown of Big Ten Tournament tiebreaking procedures.
Been There, Done That: This year's Illini are trying to replicate the late-season success the team has had in each of the last two years. During Jolette Law's first season in 2007-08, Illinois made a magical run to the Big Ten Tournament championship game as the No. 9 seed before losing the title to Purdue on a buzzer-beater. Then last year, the Illini finished strong again, going 6-5 in their final 11 games after starting the season 4-16.
Smith Makes the Cut: Senior All-America Candidate Jenna Smith was named to the Naismith Award Midseason top-30 list earlier this week. The prestigious Naismith Trophy is presented annually to college basketball's player of the year. Smith was also a preseason candidate for the Wade Trophy, the Wooden Award and the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
Dynamic Duo in the History Books: Seniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson will go down as two of the best players in program history. Take a look a look below to see where each ranks in the UI career record book heading into Sunday's game. See page 7 of the PDF linked at the top of the page for a complete list of updated records.
Smith Stat Total Rank Rebounds 1,126 1 Blocks 212 1 Double-Doubles 47 1 FG Attempts 1,553 1 Games Started 114 1 Minutes Played 4,281 1 Points 2,036 2 FG Made 769 2 FT Made 461 2 Games Played 123 2 FT Percentage .806 6 What to Watch For On Sunday...
Simpson Stat Total Rank Steals 342 1 Games Played 128 1 Blocks 156 2 Games Started 111 2 Minutes Played 3,910 2 Assists 430 3 Rebounds 850 5 3FG Made 78 10 Points 1,087 20
Smith Among All-Time Big Ten Elite: Jenna Smith is just the third player in Big Ten history to reach 2,000+ career points and 1,000+ career rebounds. With 2,036 points and 1,126 boards, Smith joins former Ohio State center Jessica Davenport (2004-07) and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Laura Coenen (1982-85) in the exclusive club.
Big Ten Stat Races: Heading into the final weekend of games, a couple Illini have a shot at Big Ten stat titles, which go to the leader in each stat category for conference games only. Lacey Simpson has locked up her second straight Big Ten steals crown as she leads Purdue's FahKara Malone by a wide margin (3.47 spg to 2.41 spg) and Jenna Smith leads in FT percentage at .884, ahead of Iowa's Jamie Printy (.836). The most intriguing race is for the rebounding crown, where Smith (10.7 rpg) narrowly trails Iowa's Kachine Alexander (10.9 rpg) and Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (10.8 rpg)
Queen of the Boards: Jenna Smith has been a monster on the boards this season, averaging 11.0 per game to rank 12th in the nation. She pulled down a career-high 20 boards vs. Indiana on Feb. 7 and is quickly climbing up the Big Ten career rebounding list. She became Illinois' career rebounding leader Jan. 17 and enters Sunday's game with 1,126 career boards, making her the fifth-best rebounder in Big Ten women's history. She needs five boards to move up to fourth on the list and 10 boards to jump up to third.
Block Party in the USA: The Fighting Illini have already broken the school record for blocks in a season, racking up 158 blocks on the year compared to just 69 for their opponents. The old team record of 156 was set in 2007-08. Illinois blocked a single-game school record 12 shots on Feb. 4 at Purdue, with Jenna Smith leading the way with a school-record seven swats. For the season, Illinois ranks 10th in the nation and second in the Big Ten at 5.9 bpg.
Penn On Verge of Frosh Record: With 39 blocks this season, Karisma Penn is tied atop the Illinois freshman blocks list along with current seniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson. The senior duo each swatted 39 blocks as rookies in 2006-07 and since then Smith has gone on to become the school's career blocks leader with 212, while Simpson ranks second on the UI all-time list with 156 swats.
Magrum Thriving in Starting Role: Since earning a spot in the starting lineup eight games ago, freshman Kersten Magrum has stepped-up to average 8.4 points per game and is shooting 49 percent from the field. She exploded for 12 points at Purdue on Feb. 4, and then topped that on Feb. 14 at Iowa with a career-high 14 points.
New and Improved: With 14 wins this season, the Illini have exceeded their win total from a year ago by four. Last year, Illinois finished the season 10-21.
Scouting the Wildcats
Northwestern is 16-12 overall and 7-10 in the Big Ten entering Sunday's game. The Wildcats had won two straight, before falling at Ohio State, 78-47, Thursday night. Junior center Amy Jaeschke is one of the top posts in the conference, averaging 17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and a Big Ten-leading 3.3 blocks per game. Freshman Kendall Hackney is averaging 9.0 points and 5.3 boards per game, while junior Beth Marshall averages 7.3 points and 4.1 assists per game while shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc. Marshall is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week. Head coach Joe McKeown is in his second year at Northwestern and 24th year as a head coach.
The Illinois-Northwestern Series: Illinois has won 20 straight against the Wildcats, which is the longest current winning streak of one Big Ten team over another, including an 81-50 win in Champaign on Feb. 4 of this year. NU has not beaten the Illini since Feb. 5, 1999. The `Cats dominated the early portion of the series and own a 31-30 overall advantage and a 16-11 edge in Evanston, but the Illini have won 23 of the last 24, including 10 straight in Evanston. The last time NU beat Illinois at Welsh-Ryan Arena was Feb. 23, 1996.
Last Time vs. The `Cats
Jenna Smith was sensational, scoring 28 of her career-high 34 points in the first half of Illinois' 81-50 home win over Northwestern on Feb. 11. Smith hit her first 11 shots of the game, including a career-high five three-pointers, and moved into second on the school's career scoring list as Illinois beat the Wildcats for the 20th consecutive time.
Smith scored 28 of her 34 points in the first 12:39 of the game as the Illini raced out to leads of 21-3 and 38-14 and never looked back. Her first missed field goal of the game came with 4:09 left in the half and she subbed out of the game soon afterward with Illinois leading 41-20. The Illini took a 43-24 lead into halftime behind 67 percent shooting and solid defense against the `Cats (28 percent from the field). Illinois cruised in the second half, never letting Northwestern to get closer than 16 points.
Watch Out for Jenna
Smith in Elite Club: Senior All-America candidate Jenna Smith is one of just seven players in the nation to average 18+ points and 10+ rebounds per game. With averages of 18.2 points and 11.0 boards, Smith joins Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark, Ohio State's Jantel Lavender, Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin, Columbia's Judie Lomax, Louisiana Tech's Shanavia Dowdell and Ball State's Emily Maggert in the 18-10 club.
Countdown to the Record: Smith has moved within 54 points of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of two games remaining (Sunday at Northwestern and at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament), Smith needs to average 27.0 ppg to get the mark. However, if Illinois were to play an extra game or two in the Big Ten Tournament or make the WNIT it would greatly increase Smith's chances of getting the record. Smith moved into second on the UI career scoring list after her 34-point performance against NU on Feb. 11 and went over the 2,000 point milestone on Feb. 14 at Iowa. She enters Sunday's game with 2,036 career points.
Record Breaker: Smith is already the Illinois career leader in rebounds (1,126), blocked shots (212), double-doubles (47), field goals attempted (1,553), games started (114) and minutes played (4,281) and has a chance to top the scoring and field goals made list as well.
Jenna's Fire Burning: Senior All-American Jenna Smith was on fire in the Feb. 11 win over Northwestern. Smith hit her first 11 shots of the game, including a career-high five three-pointers, and had 28 points in the first 13 minutes of the game as the Illini jumped out a huge lead. She finished with a career-high 34 points, hitting 13-of-16 overall, 5-of-6 from downtown and 3-of-3 from the free throw line against the Wildcats.
Toeing the Line: One of the most overlooked parts of Smith's game has been her free throw shooting. She's currently second in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation at 87.3 percent from the charity stripe this year, while her career percentage of 80.6 ranks sixth in Illinois history. She ranks second on the Illinois career free throws made list with 461, behind only Ashley Berggren's record of 562.
Jenna Sweeps Blocks Records: Smith has etched her name at the top of every blocked shots category in the UI record book. She became Illinois' career blocks leader last season and has a chance to reach top-10 status in the all-time Big Ten record book. She also holds the top two spots on the UI single-season blocks list (63 in 2008-09 and 59 in 2007-08) and recently broke the single-game record with seven blocks at Purdue on Feb. 4.
Working Woman: Smith isn't doing all of her work on the basketball court or in the classroom this semester. The senior is also interning with the Illinois Athletic Public relations Office during the spring term. Smith, who is set to graduate on May with a degree in community health, is getting a first-hand look at what goes on behind the scenes in an athletic department. Look for her weekly blog about the experience, called "Posting Up with Jenna" at fightingillini.com.
Simpson Steals the Show
Making Her Case: Senior Lacey Simpson has made a strong case for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors this season. She's locked up the Big Ten steals crown for the second straight season and in Big Ten games she's averaging over 1.0 spg more than her closest competition (3.47 to 2.41). She also ranks ninth in the conference in blocks and seventh in rebounding and has been a lockdown defender all season.
This year, she played the primary role in holding Penn State's Tyra Grant (19.0 ppg) to two second-half points on Dec. 31, Wisconsin's Alyssa Karel (15.0 ppg) to nine points on both Jan. 3 and Jan. 17, and Minnesota's Kiara Buford (15.1 ppg) to just two points on Jan. 10. In the second meeting with Minnesota on Jan. 31, Simpson held Buford to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting, On Feb. 4, she held Purdue's Brittany Rayburn (15.1 ppg) to nine points. Illinois went 4-2 in those six games.
Simpson Does It All: Simpson is widely known for her defense and versatility. This year, however, she has diversified her game even more. Playing more at her natural wing position, she's taking her habit of filling the stat sheet to another level as she's averaging 9.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, a team-high 3.9 assists and Big Ten-leading 3.2 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive perimeter player from the opposing team. She ranks in the top-15 in the conference in seven categories (steals, assists, assist-TO ratio, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocks and rebounds).
Simpson Climbing BT Steals List: After notching five more steals Sunday against Purdue, Simpson heads into this Sunday's game ranked fifth on the Big Ten career steals list with 342. Already the Illinois career steals leader, Simpson is four steals ahead of current Purdue senior FahKara Malone. Simpson leads the Big Ten and is ninth nationally in steals at 3.2 per game. During conference play she is averaging a league-best 3.5 thefts per contest. She needs five more steals to pass former MSU guard Kristin Haynie for fourth on the all-time Big Ten list.
Dropping Dimes: With 106 assists this season, Simpson is the first player in school history to record 100+ assists in four different seasons. She has 430 career assists to rank third on the Illinois all-time list.
Simpson Moves Into Top 20: Simpson is currently in 20th place on the UI career scoring list with 1,087 points. She enters the weekend four points behind Alicia Sheeler's 19th place total of 1,091 and is 19 points behind Lori Bjork for 18th place. Simpson became the 23rd player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000-point milestone on Jan. 21 against Iowa.
Assault on the Record Book: More evidence of Simpson's all-around prowess can be found in the Illinois record book. She already cracks the career top-5 in seven different categories and is the program's all-time leader in steals (342) and games played (128). She also ranks second in blocked shots (156), games started (111) and minutes played (3,910), third in assists (430) and fifth in rebounds (850). She's also climbing up both the three point field goals list (10th) and scoring list (20th).
Big Ten Tournament Tickets On Sale
All-session and single-session tickets for the 2010 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament went on sale to the general public on Monday, Feb. 15. Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster or by calling (800) 745-3000, and through the Conseco Fieldhouse box office. For the women's tournament, single-session ticket prices vary from $12 to $16 depending on session, while all-session tickets are available for $65.
Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis is once again the site of the women's tournament from March 4-7. The tournament features all 11 Big Ten teams competing in 10 games over four days for the 2010 tournament crown and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The bracket for the 2010 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament, along with information on tickets, travel, lodging, tournament history and more, can be found at both bigten.org and indianasportscorp.com.