Macie Blinn, Lydia McCully and the Illini hope to keep their WNIT run going with a win Thursday night at Missouri State. (photo by Beth Unser)
March 24, 2010
Third Round: Illinois (18-14) at Missouri State (22-10)
Thursday, March 25, 2010 // 7 p.m. // Springfield, Mo. // JQH Arena (11,000)
Quarterfinals: Illinois-Missouri State winner vs. Kansas-Illinois State winner // Date, time and location TBD
Tickets are available at the Missouri State Athletics Box Office at JQH Arena or by calling 417-836-7678 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Prices are $20 for lower-level, $10 for upper-level or $5 for students. A Postseason Family Four Pack is also available that includes four bleachers seats for $40.
Illinois head Coach
Jolette Law, 48-50 overall and at Illinois (3rd season), 3-1 in the WNIT (2nd appearance)
Setting the Scene
The Game: The Fighting Illini (18-14) head to Springfield, Mo., this Thursday to face the Missouri State Lady Bears (22-10) in the third round of the WNIT. Tip at JHQ Arena will be at 7 p.m. Illinois continued its hot streak with a thrilling 74-72 home win over Marquette in second round action on Monday. The Orange and Blue have now won five of their last six, with the lone loss coming to 10th-ranked Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Missouri State advanced to Thursday's game with a 75-54 home win over Samford on Sunday.
Looking Ahead: The winner of the Illinois-MSU contest will advance to the quarterfinals to face the winner of Kansas and Illinois State, who play Thursday night in Normal, Ill. The date, time and location of the quarterfinal game have not been determined, but it is known that Illinois will not be able to host should it win.
Scoring Top Scorer: Senior All-America candidate Jenna Smith became Illinois' all-time leading women's scorer during the first round WNIT win at Western Kentucky. A three-pointer 5:18 into the first half moved her past Ashley Berggren's UI career record of 2,089 points. Smith finished that game with 21 points and then followed that up with 29 points in the second round win over Marquette on Monday, moving her past Deon Thomas' UI men's scoring record of 2,129 and making her the top scorer, male or female, in Illinois basketball history. Smith's current total of 2,137 points is also good for 10th on the Big Ten's all-time scoring list.
Not Done Yet: While she has put up huge numbers all season (18.5 ppg, 11.3 rpg), 2.0 bpg), Jenna Smith has stepped it up even more during postseason play. In two WNIT games she is averaging 25.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 3.5 bpg while shooting a sizzling 71 percent from the field and 93 percent from the free throw line. In all four post season games, including the Big Ten Tournament, she is averaging 21.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg and shooting 57 percent from the field and 95 percent from the line.
Simpson is Steals Leader: Senior Lacey Simpson has broken the Illinois single-season steals this season as her 107 thefts better Allison Curtin's old record of 102. Simpson's 362 career steals is the second-highest total in Big Ten history behind only Stacey Thomas' (MICH, 1997-00) all-time conference record of 372.
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 2,137 points and 1,192 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.
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 enters Thursday's game with 1,192 career boards, making her the third-best rebounder in Big Ten women's history. If that weren't enough, this season she has became the Illinois single-season rebounding record holder as her 362 boards top the old mark of 335 by Lynette Robinson in 1980-81. Smith had 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.
Name That Toone: Senior Whitney Toone doesn't want her UI career to end and she showed it with a career performance in the Illini first round WNIT win over WKU. The former Junior College transfer shattered her previous career-high of 13 points by exploding for 20 against the Lady Toppers. She had 18 of her 20 points in the first half as the Illini built up a 14-point lead, including 10 points during Illinois' 16-2 run that broke the game open, and also tied her career-high with seven rebounds in the game.
Penn Owns Frosh Record: With 51 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. Penn's total also ranks seventh on the UI single-season blocks list.
Postseason Streak: With this year's 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.
Getting Defensive: Coach Jolette Law's trademark is outstanding defense and this year's team has bought into that philosophy. The Illini are holding opponents to 35.6 percent shooting, which ranks second in the Big Ten and 24th nationally. The Illini have held their opponent to under 30 percent shooting eight times this season, most recently in the WNIT first round when they limited WKU to just 22.4 percent from the field, a low for UI opponent this season. Illinois also ranks ninth in the nation with 5.9 blocks per game.
What to Watch For on Thursday
...Jenna Smith needs one block to break her own UI single-season blocks record from last season
...Smith needs 8 rebounds for 1,200 in her career and 14 to tie for second on the Big Ten all-time rebounding list
...Smith needs a double-double for 21 on the season and sole possession of the UI single-season double-doubles record
...Smith needs 10 buckets to tie Jonelle Polk's UI career record for made field goals
...Karisma Penn needs five points to move into fifth on the UI freshman scoring list and two rebounds to move into fourth on the frosh rebounding list
...A win would advance Illinois to the quarterfinals of the WNIT for the first time in school history
Third Round Foe: Missouri State
Missouri State is 22-10 heading into Thursday's game, beating Oral Roberts and Samford handily in its first two WNIT games, both at home. The Bears finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 12-6 record and are 13-3 at home this year. As a team, MSU averages 76.8 points per game, with Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Casey Garrison leading the way at 20.3 ppg. The sophomore guard is an all-around player who also leads the Bears in rebounds (7.4 rpg) and assists (5.2 apg). All five MSU starters are underclassmen, with sophomore guard Jaleshia Roberson (14.2 ppg) and freshman forward Christiana Shorter (11.8 ppg) also scoring in double-figures. Roberson was a second team All-MVC selection and ranks 17th in the nation with 2.8 made threes per game, while Shorter was an honorable mention All-Conference pick and a member of the All-Freshman team. Head coach Nyla Milleson is in her third season at the helm of the Bears program.
The Illinois-Missouri State Series: Illinois and Missouri State have met twice before, with each team winning once at home, but have not face each other since the 1996-97 season. The Bears beat the Illini 77-62 on Dec. 10, 1997 in Springfield, while the Illini won 85-63 on Dec. 10, 1996 at Assembly Hall.
Illinois in the WNIT
This year marks Illinois' fifth postseason WNIT appearance in the last six years and its seventh overall appearance in the tournament. The Illini went 1-1 in their last appearance in 2008 and are 7-6 overall in the WNIT after Monday's win.
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 prior to this season, the Illini have won their first game and lost the second. This year marks the first time Illinois has won two games in a post season tournament (WNIT or NCAA) since making the 1998 NCAA Sweet 16. The Orange and Blue are 6-2 all-time in WNIT games played in Champaign and are 1-4 in games on the road.
This season the Fighting Illini are...
...10-0 when attempting an equal number or more free throws than their opponent
...15-2 when holding opponents to less than 60 points
...13-2 when holding opponents under 35 percent from field
...13-2 when shooting over 40 percent from the field
...11-2 when leading at halftime
...16-4 when shooting better than their opponent
...10-4 when having an equal number or fewer turnovers than their opponent
...10-7 when coming off a win in the previous game
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 18.5 points and 11.3 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 Southern Mississippi's Pauline Love in the 18-10 club.
Making 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 and is a regional finalist for WBCA All-America honors.
Record Breaker: Smith will undoubtedly go down is on of the best players in school history as she's already the Illinois career leader in points (2,137), rebounds (1,192), blocked shots (224), double-doubles (52), field goals attempted (1,617), games started (119) and minutes played (4,485) and has a chance to top the field goals made list as she ranks second on that list. Take a look at where Smith ranks on all the Illinois record list on page 8.
Just One of the Guys: Smith is not just the UI women's all-time leader in points and rebounds, but she has also eclipsed the UI men's records in both categories. Her point total of 2,137 tops Deon Thomas' men's mark of 2,129 and her rebounding total of 1,192 shatters James Augustine's men's record of 1,029.
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 10th in the nation at 88.1 percent for all games. Her career percentage of 80.9 ranks sixth in Illinois history and she ranks second on the Illinois career free throws made list with 484, behind only Ashley Berggren's record of 562. She has been especially good as of late, making 49 of her last 52 from the charity stripe (.942).
From Way Downtown: Smith has always had a soft touch from outside the paint, but this year she has stepped outside more than ever before with much success. The 6-3 center hit a career-high five threes on six attempts against Northwestern on Feb. 11 and has made a career-high 27 three-pointers so far this season. She is shooting a respectable 38.0 percent from downtown for the year.
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
Making Her Case: Senior Lacey Simpson once again made a strong case for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors but came up short in the voting as Michigan State's Alyssa DeHaan took home the honor. Simpson's 3.61 steals per game during conference play not only led the conference, but was the highest average since Purdue's Kelly Komara averaged 3.9 thefts per game in 2001-02 and was over 1.1 steals better than her closest competition this year, Purdue's FahKara Malone (2.50 spg).
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: Simpson is currently in second on the Big Ten career steals list with 362. Already the Illinois career steals leader, Simpson is 10 steals away from Stacey Thomas' (Michigan, 1997-00) Big Ten record of 372. Simpson leads the Big Ten and is seventh nationally in steals at 3.3 per game. During conference play she averaged a league-best 3.6 thefts per contest for her second-straight conference steals title.
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 9.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, a team-high 3.9 assists and a Big Ten-leading 3.3 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 125 assists this season, Simpson is the first player in school history to record 100+ assists in four different seasons. She has 449 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 (362) and games played (133). She also ranks second in blocked shots (161), games started (116) and minutes played (4,090), third in assists (449) and fifth in rebounds (885), 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.
College Grad: Simpson, a fifth-year senior, earned her bachelor's degree in sport management last May and is currently pursuing a master's degree in human resource education as she completes her final year of athletic eligibility.
Block Party in the USA
The Fighting Illini have already broken the school record for blocks in a season, racking up 188 blocks on the year compared to just 80 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 ninth in the nation and second in the Big Ten at 5.9 bpg.
This year's highly-touted freshman class was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation coming out of high school. The frosh have lived up to their billing so far, as they've combined to average 20.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game even without contributions from sharpshooter Amber Moore, who suffered a torn ACL in the season-opener. Karisma Penn, Adrienne GodBold and Kersten Magrum have made the biggest impact thus far.
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 13 games ago, Magrum has stepped-up to average 6.8 points per game and is shooting 51 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 4.0 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 5.9 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.
PINK Uniforms Up For Auction
Fighting Illini basketball fans currently have the opportunity to bid for the men's and women's uniforms worn during their 2010 "Pink" games at fightingillini.com. The online auction features a team-autographed pink women's #1 jersey and a pair of game shorts worn during Illinois' Feb. 7 Pink Zone game against Indiana, in addition an unused pair of pink game shoes. There are also 10 autographed men's jerseys, 14 pairs of shorts an two pairs of men's shoes up for auction until April 5. Portions of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and Coaches vs. Cancer.
Ultimate Basketball Challenge Set for April 14
The Illini men's and women's basketball teams will against join up with the Illinois men's and women's wheelchair basketball teams for the fifth annual Ultimate Basketball Challenge at Huff on Wednesday, April 14, at 6 p.m. The UBC is a fundraising event, with proceeds from the game benefiting the wheelchair teams, as well as Coaches vs. Cancer. Check fightingillini.com as the date approaches for ticket information.