Chelsea Gordon and the Illini host Illinois-Chicago on Sunday afternoon.
Nov. 30, 2007
Game 8: Illinois-Chicago (3-3) at Illinois (5-2)
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007 // Assembly Hall (16,618) // Champaign, Ill.
On The Air
Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS-AM 1400 (Dave Loane and Mike Koon)
Streaming Video: Live on fightingillini.com (requires Illini All-Access subscription)
Streaming Audio: Live on fightingillini.com (requires Illini All-Access subscription)
Live Stats: fightingillini.com
Sunday will be Family/Kids Club Day at Assembly Hall. Bring the whole family for an afternoon of fun. There will be face painting, uniform try-on, a photo station and the team will be available for autographs after the game.
Illinois leads 12-3 - Last Meeting: Illinois 53, UIC 48 (11/14/2006 @ Chicago, Ill.)
Illinois: Jolette Law, 5-2 overall and at Illinois (first season)
UIC: Lisa Ryckbosch, 81-72 overall and at UIC (sixth season)
The Game: Illinois (5-2) returns home to Assembly Hall for the first time in two weeks to host sister school Illinois-Chicago (3-3) on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Illini are coming off a 61-47 loss to North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C., while the Flames are looking to bounce back from a 74-35 loss to No. 17/21 DePaul on Thursday.
Smith Rakes in Honors: Sophomore Jenna Smith claimed Most Valuable Player honors at last weekend's FIU Thanksgiving Classic and was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks on Monday, Nov. 26. Smith averaged 23.0 points and 10.0 rebs. while shooting 64 percent from the field and 93 percent from the line in leading the Illini to the Classic title. She previously earned Conference Player of the Week honors on Nov. 12.
Home Sweet Home: After going 12-3 at Assembly Hall last season, Illinois is off to a 2-1 start at home this year. The Illini hold an all-time record of 230-122 (.653) at home and 191-100 (.656) at Assembly Hall.
Up Next: The Illini host #9/9 Oklahoma at Assembly Hall in Wednesday night, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. CT. The game, which will be aired on the Big Ten Network (DirecTV Ch. 220), will be the first nationally televised Illini women's basketball game on the new network.
Breaking Down The Flames
Illinois-Chicago is 3-3 on the season after a 74-35 road loss to DePaul on Thursday night. This will be the Flames' sixth straight game against an opponent from the state of Illinois as they beat Northwestern, Eastern Illinois and Northern Illinois and lost to Bradley and DePaul. UIC is led by sophomore guard Jessica Miller, who is averaging 13.2 points per game and has hit 10 three-pointers. Sophomore guard Briana Hinkle also averages double-figures (12.3 ppg), while junior center Nikki Grobbecker pulls down a team-high 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Flames were 19-13 a year ago and finished 11-5 in the Horizon League to tie for second. That earned them their first ever post-season appearance when they were invited to the WNIT. This year, UIC was picked eighth in the league's preseason coaches poll, behind UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Butler.
The Illinois-UIC Series
Illinois leads the all-time series 12-3 after a 53-48 victory in Chicago last season. The Illini have won the last nine in the series and have won six of the seven games played in Champaign. The last time UIC came to C-U was a 70-56 Illinois victory on Dec. 21, 1994. The Flames have not won a game in the series since the 1979-80 season.
Last Year vs. the Flames
Despite shooting just 36 percent from the field and 24 percent from behind the arc, Illinois was able to hold off a second half push by Illinois-Chicago to earn a hard-fought 53-48 victory at UIC Pavilion on Nov. 14, 2006. Junior Danyel Crutcher (14 points) had a key put-back bucket to seal the game with seconds remaining as Illinois improved to 2-0 on the season. The Illini were led by Lacey Simpson's first career double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) and freshman Jenna Smith's second consecutive double-figure scoring performance (11 points).
ACC Pulls Ahead in Inaugural Challenge
The Inaugural Big Ten/ACC Women's Basketball Challenge opened on Nov. 19 as Michigan defeated Miami, 65-50, to give the Big Ten an early one-game lead. After five games this week, including Illinois-NC State, the ACC has pulled ahead 4-2. Four more games will be played on Nov. 30 and the final game will be played Dec. 2 when Penn State hosts Duke.
2007 Big Ten/ACC Challenge (ACC Leads 4-2) Nov. 19 Michigan at Miami MICH, 65-50 Nov. 28 Wake Forest at Northwestern WF, 60-45 Nov. 28 Georgia Tech at Iowa GT, 76-57 Nov. 29 Purdue at North Carolina UNC, 90-72 Nov. 29 Illinois at NC State NCSU, 61-47 Nov. 29 Clemson at Michigan State MSU, 68-51 Nov. 30 Ohio State at Maryland 7 p.m. ET ESPNU Nov. 30 Minnesota at Virginia Tech 7 p.m. ET Nov. 30 Florida State at Indiana 7 p.m. ET BTN Nov. 30 Wisconsin at Virginia 7 p.m. ET Dec. 2 Duke at Penn State 5 p.m. ET ESPN2 Illinois vs. the ACC: Illinois has a combined record of 8-12 against teams currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference after Thursday's loss to NC State. Prior to that, Illinois' last game against an ACC foe was a 72-56 loss to Virginia in Knoxville, Tenn., in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
Illini Win FIU Thanksgiving Classic
The Orange and Blue claimed their first tournament title since winning the St. Mary's Thanksgiving Tournament during the 2001-02 season by taking two games at the FIU Thanksgiving Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. The Illini easily topped SEC foe South Carolina, 91-58, in the opening round on Nov. 23, before hanging on for a 60-59 win over Big East foe Providence in the title game on Nov. 25.
Smith, Gordon Nab Tournament Honors: Jenna Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the Classic after averaging 23.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in leading the Illini to the title. In addition, junior guard Chelsea Gordon also had a great weekend and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Gordon averaged 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds to go along with solid defense to help the Illini bring home the hardware.
Smith Off to Fast Start
Illini forward Jenna Smith has taken off at the start of her sophomore season. She took tournament MVP honors at the FIU Thanksgiving Classic and was named Big Ten Player of the week on Monday for the second time this season. For the year, she is averaging 20.6 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field and 84 percent from the line. She has led the Illini in scoring five times in seven games this season and in rebounding six times already.
Conference Leader: Smith ranks in the top-four in the Big Ten in seven categories and is the leader in two, rebounding (10.3) and defensive rebounds (6.7). She also ranks second in scoring (20.6), offensive rebounds (3.57) and minutes (36.57).
Career Day: Smith scored a career-high 32 points and had 10 boards against SIU on Nov. 18. She hit 13-of-19 from the field and scored 11 straight points for the Illini at one point in the second half.
Double-Trouble: Smith has recorded double-doubles in five of seven games this season and has 11 in her career, which is tied for second in the Big Ten behind only Wisconsin senior Jolene Anderson's 20. Illinois has won all five games in which Smith has recorded a double-double this season and lost both in which she hasn't.
Big Ten Player of the Week, Part 1: Smith got her sophomore campaign off to a fast start, setting or tying career-highs in points, rebounds and assists in the first two games. In the opening weekend Smith averaged 19.0 points, 16.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.5 blocks while shooting 67 percent from the field (14-of-21) and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Her 19 rebounds in the opener against Eastern Illinois tied for the seventh most in school history and were the most for an Illini in 18 years.
Toeing the Line
Illinois has done an excellent job getting to the line this season, and an even better job of converting those chances. Illinois leads the Big Ten in FT attempts per game (23.1) and in FT percentage (.802), having knocked down 130-of-162 from the charity stripe. Illinois hit 49-of-57 (.860) en route to the FIU Thanksgiving Classic crown. For the season, Lori Bjork (.920) and Rebecca Harris (.875) lead the way from the line.
Pressure `D' Already Catching On
Jolette Law's pressure defense looks to be catching on fast with the Fighting Illini. Through the first seven games Illinois is averaging 9.53 steals per game and is allowing just 57.0 points per game, both of which rank fourth in the Big Ten. Sophomore Lacey Simpson leads the way, as she ranks second in the Big Ten with 3.3 thefts per game. Last year, Illinois ranked last in the Big Ten in steals at 5.55 per game.
Bec Has Career Game
Senior Rebecca Harris had career-highs in points (15) and assists (6) in the win over South Carolina on Nov. 23. Her previous career-highs were 14 points and four assists, both set last season.
Bjork Hits 150
Junior Lori Bjork knocked down 4-of-6 from three-point range against South Carolina on Nov. 23 and is 15-of-36 for the season (.417). She now has 152 career three-pointers, which ranks third on the UI career list and is just 16 behind Mandy Cunningham's second place total of 168. Bjork, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, ranks fourth in the Big Ten in three's made per game (2.14).
Illini in the Rankings
After last season's fourth place Big Ten finish, expectations are high for Illinois in 2007-08, and some voters have taken notice. The Orange and Blue were ranked 21st in the CBS Sportsline.com/Basketball News Preseason Top-25 and have received votes in each of this year's Associated Press polls. This week, the Illini received three votes, ranking 44th overall.
More Illini Tidbits
Scoring Big: Illinois' 91 points scored in the win over South Carolina in the opening round of the FIU Thanksgiving Classic were the most since it put up 94 against Michigan on Feb. 1, 2004.
Jolette Law Era Off to Fast Start
New Illini head coach Jolette Law has equaled the best seven-game start in school history at 5-2. Laura Golden also got her UI career off to a 5-2 start in 1984-85.
Law began her career with a pair of 20+ victories. She picked up her first-career victory on Nov. 9 with the win over EIU and her first win at Assembly Hall two days later when the Illini downed UW-Milwaukee. Law was named Illinois' head coach on May 11 after spending 12 seasons as an assistant at Rutgers, including the last four as associate head coach. In her short time in Champaign, Law has already established herself as one of the hardest workers in the game. She hired a young, energetic staff to help instill a new work ethic, winning attitude and up-tempo style that is based on pressure defense.