Lacey Simpson and the Illini will be looking for their fourth-straight win Tuesday night when the Illini battle Illinois State.
Nov. 23, 2009
On The Air
Radio: Live on Illini Sports Network - WDWS AM-1400 (Brian Moline and Mike Koon)
Online: fightingillini.com GameTracker (free) and streaming audio (subscription)
Illinois leads 19-12 overall and 9-6 in Normal
Streak: Illinois has won seven straight and 12 of the last 13 in the series
Last Meeting: Illinois 85, Illinois State 74 on Dec. 22, 2005 in Champaign
Illinois: Jolette Law, 33-37 overall and at Illinois (third season)
ISU: Robin Pingeton, 118-74 overall and at Illinois State (seventh season)
Tip-off: Illinois (3-1) opens up a string of four-straight games away from home when it travels west on I-74 to face Illinois State at 7 p.m. Tuesday night. The Illini are looking for their fourth straight win after a 67-45 home victory over Bradley on Sunday. It is Illinois' first trip to Redbird Arena since Dec. 21, 2004, a 82-72 Illini victory.
What to Watch For: A few things to keep an eye on during Tuesday's game...
...Jenna Smith needs 14 points tie and 15 to pass Angelina Williams' career point total of 1,639 that ranks fourth on the UI career scoring list.
...Smith's next double-double will be the 37th of her career and move her to within three of the UI career double-doubles record.
...Smith has scored in double-figures in 43 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak in the nation.
Picking Up Where She Left Off: Former All-American and preseason All-Big Ten selection Jenna Smith hasn't missed a beat during the first part of her senior year. She torched Central Michigan for 31 points and 12 boards on Wednesday and has posted four double-doubles in four games. For the season she's averaging 20.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game and shooting 54.4 percent.
Offensive Explosion: After averaging just 52.8 points per game last season, the Illini are averaging 76.8 ppg this year and are shooting 48.8 percent from the field for the season, which ranks second in the Big Ten. The team's 62.5 percent shooting against Siena equals the fourth-best single-game shooting performance in school history.
Not Wasting Time: Freshman forward Karisma Penn was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for her performance in two Illini victories last week. Penn averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 blocks in wins over Central Michigan and Bradley. She has started all four games this season and has seen her production increase from game to game as she's scored 10, 18, 18 and 21 in successive games. Her stat line on Nov. 18 against CMU was impressive: 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks. She then followed that up with a career-high 21 points against Bradley on Sunday.
She Did What?: Its not unusual for senior Lacey Simpson to put up a double-double (she had 10 last season and has 15 for her career), but the way she did it on Nov. 18 against CMU certain was. Simpson collected 16 rebounds and dished out 11 assists in the UI victory. Only an off shooting night (1-8, 2 points) prevented her from getting the second triple-double in school history. In fact, Simpson's feat marked the only time besides Kim Brombolich's triple-double in 1982 that an Illini player posted double-figures in two statistical categories other than points.
Fast Breaking Illini: Illinois' added depth and athleticism has created more easy baskets than a year ago. After averaging 13.5 points per game off turnovers and 4.4 points per game from fast break points in 2008-09, the Illini have turned up the heat this year by creating 27.0 ppg off turnovers and 13.0 ppg off of fast breaks.
Utilizing the Bench: Coach Jolette Law has taken advantage of her full roster this year after being limited to only nine players a year ago. All 14 Illini played in the season-opener at Temple, and all 12 who dressed in the last two games have played significant minutes. Law is getting 23.0 points per game from her bench this season. Last year, the Illini bench averaged only 6.3 points per game and the season-high was 17. This year, the bench has contributed 17 or more points in every game.
Moore Out: Freshman guard Amber Moore tore the ACL in her left knee late in the season-opening overtime loss at Temple and will miss the rest of the season. Moore had eight points in 22 minutes of action before going down with 4:01 left in the overtime period. An MRI on Nov. 15 confirmed the tear.
Jones Day-to-Day: Freshman forward Brianna Jones missed Sunday's game against Bradley with a strained Achilles tendon. She is listed as day-to-day and could return Tuesday against ISU or this weekend at the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic.
Scouting the Redbirds
Illinois State has had an impressive start to the season, opening 2009-10 with a 61-55 win over UCLA and then taking Iowa to the ropes in a 75-67 loss in Iowa City. Most recently, ISU defeated 2009 NCAA Tournament participant South Dakota State 79-67 at home. The Redbirds are the reigning Missouri Valley Conference champions, and were picked to finish second in the league this year. Senior guard Maggie Krick is ISU's leader, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. The Redbirds have two other players averaging in double figures in senior forward Ashleen Bracey (14.3 ppg) and senior center Nicolle Lewis (11.7 ppg). ISU coach Robin Pingeton is in her seventh season with the Redbirds.
The Illinois-ISU Series: Illinois has won seven straight against the Redbirds and leads the all-time series with Illinois State 19-12, also owning a 9-6 advantage in games played in Normal. The two teams haven't met for four seasons, as Illinois beat the Redbirds 85-74 on Dec. 22, 2005 in Champaign in the last meeting between the two teams.
Watch Out for Jenna
National Radar: Senior center Jenna Smith, a former All-American and two-time first team All-Big Ten honoree, was recently named to her fourth preseason national award watch list when the Naismith Award candidates were announced last week. Smith had already been selected to three different national watch lists heading into the 2009-10 season as she's also a preseason candidate for the State Farm Wade Trophy for Division I player of the Year, the Wooden Award, which also goes to the player of the year, and the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which focuses on the student-athlete on and off the court.
Record Breaker: Smith's 1,625 career points places her fifth on the UI career scoring list. She is 14 points behind Angelina Williams' fourth-place total of 1,639 and is 464 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points, giving her a realistic shot of surpassing the mark (Smith has scored 640 and 573 points the last two seasons).
Smith already has the UI career blocked shots record of 165 and has a chance to finish atop several more categories when her career comes to a close. Take a look at Illinois records Smith has a chance to break this season.
Smith in the Illini Record Book
Stat Total Rank Record Needs Blocks 165 1 165 0 Double-Doubles 36 3 40 5 Rebounds 874 4 1,014 141 Points 1,625 5 2,089 465 FG Made 620 6 815 196 Double Trouble: Smith has posted double-doubles in the first four games of her senior campaign to bring her career total to 36. That total is second among active Big Ten players behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender. Smith is now just two double-doubles behind Lynette Robinson's second place total of 38 and four behind Jonelle Polk's school record of 40.
Big Ten Leader: With 1,625 career points and 874 career rebounds, Smith is the Big Ten Conference's active leader in both stat categories.
Miss Consistency: Smith has extended her streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 43 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (71) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (62). The streak started on Feb. 28, 2008, during her sophomore season and continued through all of last season. In all, Smith has scored in double-figures in 71 of the last 72 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 72-game streak.
Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points
(through games of Nov. 22)
Rk Player, School Streak 1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State 71 2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State 62 3. Jenna Smith, Illinois 43 4. Dawn Evans, James Madison 35 5. Janae Voelker, Oral Roberts 33 Monica Wright, Virginia 33 Cleaning the Glass: With 44 rebounds through the first four games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 874, which is good for fourth place on the UI career list. She is 23 rebounds shy of passing Lynnette Robinson for third on the list. Smith is also climbing up the school's offensive rebounds list as she currently sits in fourth place with 299, just ahead of Sarah Sharp's fourth-place total of 296.
Rare Air: Smith is just the fourth player in school history to score over 1,500 points and grab 800 rebounds in a career, joining Jonelle Polk, Kendra Gantt and Tauja Catchings.
Simpson Steals the Show
Winging It: Senior forward Lacey Simpson is back to her natural wing position and is thriving after playing power forward last season with the Illini's limited roster. She's taking her habit of filling the stat sheet to another level as she's averaging 9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 4.0 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team.
Taking the Big Ten By Storm: Simpson ranks in the top-two in the conference in four categories and in the top-10 in nine different stat categories. She leads the league in steals (4.0 spg) and assist-turnover ratio (4.60-1) and ranks second in field goal percentage (.600) and assists (5.75 spg).
Second Half Spark: Simpson sparked the Illini's second-half onslaught against Bradley on Sunday, hitting all four of her shots while scoring nine points and adding seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the second half after missing most of the first half in foul trouble.
Outside Improvement: Known primarily for her defense, Simpson worked hard on her offensive game, particularly her outside shot, in the offseason. That work has paid off thus far, as she's shooting 60 percent from the field (15-of-25) and 55 percent from downtown (6-of-11). Simpson made just eight threes last season and shot 22 percent from behind the arc.
Triple-Double Waiting to Happen: Simpson is still looking for that elusive triple double, but has been close several times in her career, especially recently. On 11/18 against Central Michigan, only an off shooting night (1-of-8 for 2 points) kept her from getting one as she pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds and dished out 11 assists. The game before against Siena, Simpson had seven points, six assists and six steals in only 14 minutes against the Saints, leaving one to wonder what kind of numbers she could have put up for a whole game.
Getting Defensive: Simpson led the Big Ten and ranked ninth in the nation in steals, averaging 3.13 per game last season. She became the first Illinois player named to the Big Ten's All-Defensive Team since the honor began in 2005-06. So far this year, she is averaging 4.33 steals per game.
Steals Record Falls: Simpson broke Allison Curtin's career steals record last season and currently has 268 for her career. Her season total of 97 steals in 2008-09 ranks No. 2 on the UI single-season list and her nine steals vs. IPFW on 11/14/08 set a new career-high and equaled the second most in a game in school history.
Rare Company: Simpson was one of only three players in the nation to average at least 3.0 steals and 9.0 rebounds per game in 2008-09. The other two were Louisville's Angel McCaughtry (9.3 rpg, 4.2 spg) and IUPUI's Jernisha Cann (10.9 rpg, 3.6 spg). Simpson averaged 9.1 rpg and 3.1 steals per game on the season.
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.
This year's highly-touted, six-player freshman class was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation coming out of high school. All six - Destiny Williams (No. 8 HoopGurlz), Karisma Penn (No. 18 HoopGurlz), Adrienne Godbold (No. 36 Hoopgurlz), Brianna Jones (No. 43 Blue Star), Kersten Magrum (No. 149 Blue Star) and Amber Moore (No. 109 Blue Star) made their Fighting Illini debuts in the season-opener at Temple and, so far, several have made big impacts. Collectively, the freshmen are combining to average 28.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for the Orange and Blue. Here's a closer look at the impact some of the freshmen are making:
Karisma Penn has started all four games and is averaging 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. She opened her career with 10 points in her debut, then had 18 points and four steals in the win over Siena on 11/15. She followed that up with 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks against CMU on 11/18 before dropping a career-high 21 points Sunday against Bradley. Her presence inside is taking some pressure away from All-American center Jenna Smith.
Adrienne Godbold has started all four games and is averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. She broke out for 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from downtown against Siena.
Kersten Magrum has played 50 minutes in the first four games and is contributing 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
Brianna Jones played 26 minutes during the opening week and chipped in 3.0 points and 1.0 rebounds per game while hitting 3-of-6 from the field. She missed Sunday's game vs. Bradley with an injury but is expected to return soon.