WNIT First Round Game Notes - Illinois at Western Kentucky
March 18, 2010
2010 Women's National Invitation Tournament
First Round: Illinois (16-14) at Western Kentucky (21-10)
Illinois' Tournament Road
On The Air
Illinois Head Coach
Setting the Scene
Looking Ahead: The winner of the Illinois-WKU contest will advance to the second round to face the winner of Thursday's Eastern Illinois-Marquette game in Milwaukee. The date and location of the second round game have not been determined.
Postseason Streak: With the WNIT bid, Illinois has now advanced to postseason play in 12 of the last 14 years. The 2003-04 and 2008-09 seasons are the only years since 1996-97 that the Illini have not reached postseason play. The Orange and Blue have advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times during that streak and to the WNIT the other seven.
Smith Finalist for All-America Honor: Jenna Smith has been named a Regional finalist for the WBCA's State Farm All-America Team for the second time in her career (2008). This year, she joins Ohio State's Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis, Iowa's Kachine Alexander and Missouri State's Casey Garrison from Region 6.
Smith Among All-Time Big Ten Elite: Jenna Smith is one of just four players in Big Ten history to reach 2,000+ career points and 1,000+ career rebounds. With 2,087 points and 1,168 boards, Smith joins former Ohio State center Jessica Davenport (2004-07), former Minnesota Golden Gopher Laura Coenen (1982-85) and current Ohio State Buckeye Jantel Lavender in the exclusive club.
Simpson On Verge of Record: Lacey Simpson needs one steal to move into sole possession of first on the Illinois single-season steals list. She's currently tied with Allison Curtin atop the list with 102 steals on the season. Simpson's 357 career steals rank as the third-highest total in Big Ten history and put her just one behind Kim Wilburn's (OSU, 2003-06) second-place total of 358 and 15 behind Stacey Thomas' (MICH, 1997-00) all-time conference record of 372.
Queen of the Boards: Jenna Smith has been a monster on the boards this season, averaging 11.3 per game to rank 10th in the nation. She pulled down a career-high 20 boards vs. Indiana on Feb. 7 and then had a Big Ten Tournament single-game record 19 boards on March 4 vs. the Hoosiers. She became Illinois' career rebounding leader on Jan. 17 and enters Friday's game with 1,168 career boards, making her the third-best rebounder in Big Ten women's history. If that weren't enough, during the Big Ten Tournament she became the Illinois single-season rebounding record holder as her 338 boards this season broke the old mark of 335 by Lynette Robinson in 1980-81.
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 below to see where each ranks in the UI career record book heading into postseason play. See page 8 of the PDF at the top of the page for a complete list of updated records.
Smith Stat Total Rank Rebounds 1,168 1 Blocks 217 1 Double-Doubles 50 1 FG Attempts 1,593 1 Games Started 117 1 Minutes Played 4,400 1 Points 2,087 2 FG Made 788 2 FT Made 471 2 Games Played 126 2 FT Percentage .807 6 Penn Owns Frosh Record: With 48 blocks this season, Karisma Penn is the Illinois freshman blocks record holder. She broke the old record of 39 that was shared by current seniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson. Those two have gone on to rank 1-2 on the UI career blocks list, meaning Penn is ahead of their record pace after one season.
Illinois in the WNIT
Illinois has lost just once in its opening-round game, on the road at Indiana State in 2005. In each of the five other WNIT appearances the Illini have won their first game and lost the second. The Orange and Blue are 5-2 all-time in WNIT games played in Champaign and are 0-4 in games on the road.
What to Watch For on Friday
First Round Foe: Western Kentucky
Senior forward Arnika Brown earned first team All-Conference honors, while junior guard Amy McNear was named to the All-Sun Belt Second Team. Brown averages a double-double of 11.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, including a whopping 4.5 offensive boards per game, while McNear averages 11.6 points and 4.3 assists per game. As a team, WKU leads the Sun Belt in rebounding margin (+3.2) and offensive rebound percentage (.388). Head coach Mary Taylor Cowles is in her eighth season at the helm of the Western Kentucky program and is a three-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year.
The Illinois-Western Kentucky Series: The Lady Toppers own a 2-1 advantage over Illinois in the all-time series between the teams. Illinois and Western Kentucky last met in the 2002 WNIT, with the Illini winning 91-84 in Champaign. WKU defeated Illinois in Champaign on Dec. 1, 1990, 87-76, and also topped the Illini in the teams' only previous meeting in Bowling Green, 81-79, on Nov. 26, 1989.
All-Big Ten Honors
Watch Out for Jenna
Smith Makes the Cut: Smith was named to the Naismith Award Midseason top-30 in early March. 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.
Record Breaker: Smith is already the Illinois career leader in rebounds (1,168), blocked shots (217), double-doubles (50), field goals attempted (1,593), games started (117) and minutes played (4,400) and has a chance to top the scoring and field goals made list as well as she ranks second on both. Take a look at Illinois all-time records Smith has a chance to break this season on page 8.
Toeing the Line: One of the most overlooked parts of Smith's game has been her free throw shooting. She won the Big Ten's FT shooting crown with the best percentage (.878) during conference games and she currently leads the Big Ten and ranks 12th in the nation at 87.6 percent for all games. Her career percentage of 80.7 ranks sixth in Illinois history and she ranks second on the Illinois career free throws made list with 471, behind only Ashley Berggren's record of 562.
Jenna's Fire Burning: 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 to 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.
Double-Dipping: Smith ranks 12th nationally and second in the Big Ten with 18 double-doubles this season. She is already Illinois' career double-doubles record holder with 50.
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 in 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
Simpson is not only outstanding in the steals department, but she also ranks ninth in the conference in blocks and sixth in rebounding while also serving as a lockdown defender while guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing team all season.
Climbing BT Charts: After notching nine steals in two Big Ten Tournament games, Simpson heads into the WNIT ranked third on the Big Ten career steals list with 357. Already the Illinois career steals leader, Simpson is 13 steals ahead of current Purdue senior FahKara Malone on the Big Ten list. Simpson leads the Big Ten and is seventh nationally in steals at 3.4 per game. During conference play she averaged a league-best 3.6 thefts per contest for her second-straight conference steals title. She needs two more steals to pass former Buckeye Kim Wilburn for second on the conference's all-time list.
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 9.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, a team-high 4.0 assists and a Big Ten-leading 3.4 steals per game. She ranks in the top-15 in the conference in eight categories (steals, assists, assist-TO ratio, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocks, FG percentage and rebounds).
Dropping Dimes: With a team-high 119 assists this season, Simpson is the first player in school history to record 100+ assists in four different seasons. She has 443 career assists to rank third on the Illinois all-time list.
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 (357) and games played (131). She also ranks second in blocked shots (161), games started (114) and minutes played (4,019), third in assists (443) and fifth in rebounds (871), while also climbing up both the three point field goals list (10th) and scoring (17th) lists. See page 8 for a complete list of updated Illini and Big Ten records.
Block Party in the USA
Penn There, Done That: Penn, a 6-2 forward, was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team and is averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week a conference-high four times this season, most recently on March 1 after a huge all-around game at Northwestern on Feb. 28.
On Jan. 3, Penn hit the game-winning lay-up to top Wisconsin at the buzzer. She had her first career double-double on Dec. 31 against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and has scored a career-high 21 points twice thus far, first on Nov. 22 over Bradley and most recently on Jan. 14 at Ohio State.
Starting to Find Her Role: Since earning a spot in the starting lineup 11 games ago, Magrum has stepped-up to average 7.0 points per game and is shooting 48 percent from the field. The 6-1 forward exploded for 12 points at Purdue on Feb. 4, and then topped that on Feb. 14 at Iowa with a career-high 14 points. A gym-rat, Magrum has upper her scoring average from 1.8 to 3.9 points per game since making her first start on Jan. 28.
Captain Clutch: GodBold has come up big during crunch time this season. The 5-11 guard had a game-winning three-point play with 10 seconds left in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 10 and is averaging 5.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game for the season. She scored a career-high 15 points and had three steals in the Illini's win over Oakland on Dec. 19 and she has been key defensively for the Illini all season, taking some of the defensive load off of Lacey Simpson.
More Fighting Illini Tidbits
Getting Defensive: Coach Jolette Law teaches her teams to take pride in defense and this year's Illini look to be buying into that philosophy. In addition to ranking ninth in the nation in blocks, the Illini are holding opponents to 36.1 percent shooting from the field, which ranks second in the Big Ten and 31st nationally. The Illini have held their opponent to under 30 percent shooting seven times this season, most recently in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament when they held Indiana to just 27.4 percent from the field.
Dominance Over Northwestern Continues: After sweeping the Wildcats once again this season (81-50 on Feb. 11 in Champaign and 58-48 on Feb. 28 in Evanston), Illinois has now won 21 straight against the Wildcats overall and 11 straight against the `Cats in Evanston. NU has not beaten Illinois since Feb. 5, 1999, and has not topped the Illini at Welsh-Ryan Arena since 1996. The 21 straight overall victories is the longest current streak of one Big Ten team over another.
Big Ten Stat Champs: Illinois players finished atop a pair of Big Ten stat categories during conference play. Lacey Simpson repeated as the conference steals champion as she averaged 3.61 steals per game in Big Ten action to easily outpace second-place FahKara Malone (2.50 spg). Meanwhile, Jenna Smith finished conference play atop the free throw percentage chart by hitting at a sizzling 87.8 percent from the charity stripe. Smith also just missed the rebounding crown, finishing tied for second at 10.8 rebounds per game, just behind Kachine Alexander's conference-leading total of 11.1.
Illini Big Ten Tourney Notes
Ultimate Basketball Challenge Set for April 14