Women's Basketball
Game 8 Notes: Illinois (6-1) at Wake Forest (6-0)

 
Adrienne Godbold and the Illini will be playing for conference pride when they battle Wake Forest on Wednesday.
Adrienne Godbold and the Illini will be playing for conference pride when they battle Wake Forest on Wednesday.
 

Dec. 1, 2009

Complete Game 8 Notes: Illinois at Wake Forest Get Acrobat Reader
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Game 8 - Illinois (6-1) at Wake Forest (6-0)

Big Ten/ACC Challenge // Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 // Winston-Salem, N.C. // 7 p.m. ET / 6 CT

On The Air
Radio: Tape delayed after Illini men's basketball on Illini Sports Network - WDWS AM-1400 (Dave Loane, play-by-play)
Online: fightingillini.com live streaming audio (subscription)
Livestats: fightingillini.com GameTracker

The Series
Wednesday's game will be the first meeting between Illinois and Wake Forest

The Coaches
Illinois: Jolette Law, 36-37 overall and at Illinois (third season)
WF: Mike Peterson, 266-205 overall (17th season) and 78-78 at Wake Forest (sixth season)

Quick Hits
• Tip-off: Illinois (6-1) will try to extend its winning streak to seven when it travels to Winston-Salem, N.C., Wednesday to face Wake Forest (6-0) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Illini are coming off a pair of victories at the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic over the weekend, while the Deamon Deacons remained perfect with a 66-25 win over Presbyterian on Sunday. The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. ET / 6 CT.

• We're Going Streakin': The six-game winning streak is the longest for an Illinois team since the 1997-98 season, when the Illini won nine straight games from Dec. 12, 1997-Jan. 16, 1998. In addition to gunning for their seventh-straight overall win, the Illini are also looking for their fourth consecutive victory away from home.

• What to Watch For: A few things to keep an eye on Wednesday night... ...Jenna Smith's next double-double will be the 39th of her career and move her to within one of the UI career double-doubles record. ...Smith needs 21 rebounds to move up to second on the UI career rebounding list past Jonelle Polk (933). ...Smith has scored in double-figures in 46 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak in the nation.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Wednesday's game is part of the third annual Big Ten/ACC Women's Basketball Challenge. The ACC won the inaugural event 8-3 in 2007 and also won last year's challenge, 7-4. Illinois is 0-2 all-time in Challenge games, falling at NC State, 61-47, in 2007 and at home against Virginia, 63-39, last year.

2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge Schedule:

Wednesday, Dec. 2
#23 Georgia Tech at Penn State (BTN)         5:30 pm CT
ILLINOIS at Wake Forest                      6 pm CT
Boston College at Iowa (BTN)                 7:30 pm CT

Thursday, Dec. 3 #12 Florida State at Indiana (BTN) 5:30 pm CT Minnesota at Maryland 6 pm CT #3 Ohio State at #11 Duke 6 pm CT Wisconsin at North Carolina State 6 pm CT Purdue at #14 Virginia 6 pm CT Michigan at Virginia Tech 6 pm CT Clemson at Northwestern (BigTenNetwork.com) 7 pm CT #4 North Carolina at #22 Michigan St. (BTN) 7:30 pm CT

• Smith Has Big Week: Wooden and Naismith Award candidate Jenna Smith had a big week for the Orange and Blue. Smith was named Big Ten Player of the Week (Nov. 30) for the fourth time in her career after averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds in three Illinois victories last week. She was also named MVP of the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic after leading Illinois to the tournament crown with 28 points and 17 rebounds in the title game vs. Alabama. Smith has posted six double-doubles in seven games this season and is averaging 20.1 points and 11.9 rebounds.

• Comeback Kids: The Fighting Illini have posted come-from-behind victories in three-straight games, most recently overcoming a 15-point deficit against Alabama with 15:20 remaining. Illinois closed the game on a 30-6 run to come away with a 64-55 win over `Bama. The day before, the Illini trailed Cal Poly by as many as nine and were down four late in the second half before pulling away for a nine-point win. On Nov. 24 at Illinois State, the Illini trailed by seven at halftime before dominating the second half for a 66-55 win.

• Getting Defensive: Coach Jolette Law teaches her teams to take pride in defense and this year's team looks to be buying into that philosophy. The Illini are holding opponents to just 31.4 percent shooting from the field, which ranks 10th in the NCAA. In Sunday's come-from-behind win over Alabama, Illinois allowed just six points over the last 15 minutes and held the Crimson Tide to 15 percent shooting in the second half. The Illini have held opponents to under 38 percent shooting in each game this season and to under 35 percent in the last six.

• She's Diversified: Always known for her defense and versatility, senior Lacey Simpson has diversified her game even more this this year. She leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (3.88) while ranking third in the conference in steals (2.7) and fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.500).

• Not Wasting Time: Freshman forward Karisma Penn made a big impact the minute she stepped on the floor for the Illini. Penn leads all Big Ten freshmen in scoring (13.3 ppg) and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Nov. 23 for her performance in two Illini victories. Penn averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 blocks in wins over Central Michigan and Bradley to garner the accolade. 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 Nov. 22.

• Receiving Votes: Illinois is receiving votes in the latest Associated Press poll for the first time this season. The Illini have six votes in the Nov. 30 poll, while Wednesday's opponent Wake Forest is getting 11 votes. Illinois has not been ranked in the AP top-25 since Nov. 27, 2000.

• Time Change for Dec. 31: Illinois' Dec. 31 game against Penn State in Champaign has been picked up for broadcast by the Big Ten Network and will be pushed back one hour to 3 p.m. CT to accommodate a live broadcast. The game was originally set for 2 p.m. and was to be streamed at BigTenNetwork.com.

Scouting the Demon Deacons
Illinois heads to Winston-Salem to face a Wake Forest team that's an undefeated 6-0. The Demon Deacons have already had five home games this season, picking up their only road win at Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 21. Last week, Wake Forest posted convincing home wins over High Point (76-52) and Presbyterian (66-25). Junior forward Brittany Waters averages 20.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and has attempted 40 more shots than any of her teammates. Freshman forward Sandra Garcia is close to a double-double with averages of 11.8 points and 9.7 rebounds. Wake Forest played in the WNIT last season, advancing to the second round. The Demon Deacons are coached by Mike Peterson, who is in his sixth season at Wake Forest.

• The Illinois-Wake Forest Series: Wednesday marks the first-ever 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 named to four preseason national award watch lists heading into this season. Smith is a preseason candidate for the Naismith Award, the Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy, which all go to the Division I player of the Year. She is also up for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which focuses on the student-athlete on and off the court.

• Cleaning the Glass: With 83 rebounds through the first seven games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 913, which is good for third place on the UI career list. She is 21 rebounds shy of passing Jonelle Polk (933) for second on the UI list and needs 102 to pass Cindy Dallas' total of 1,014 to become the school's all-time rebounding leader. Smith is also climbing up the Illinois offensive rebounds list as she currently sits in fourth place with 304.

• Record Breaker: Smith has 1,686 career points to rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 220 points behind Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 404 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 22 games left this season, Smith needs to average 18.4 points per game the rest of the way to become the school's all-time scoring leader.

Smith already has the UI career blocked shots record of 173 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          173      1       173        0
Double-Doubles   38      2        40        3
Rebounds        913      3      1,014      102
Points         1,686     4      2,089      404
FG Made         639      6       815       178
• Double Trouble: Smith has posted double-doubles in six of the first seven games of her senior campaign to bring her career total to 38. That total is tied for second on the Illinois all-time double-doubles list and ranks second among active Big Ten players behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender. Smith is now just two double-doubles behind Jonelle Polk's school-record total of 40.

• Miss Consistency: Smith has extended her school-record streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 46 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (74) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (64). 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 74 of the last 75 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 75-game streak.

Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points (through games of Nov. 30)

Rk Player, School                Streak   
1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State     74
2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State    64
3. Jenna Smith, Illinois           46
4. Dawn Evans, James Madison       37
5. Janae Voelker, Oral Roberts     34
• Big Ten Leader: With 1,686 career points and 913 career rebounds, Smith is the Big Ten Conference's active leader in both stat categories.

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 9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.7 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team. She leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (3.88) and is shooting 50 percent from three-point range this year.

• Outside Improvement: Known primarily for her defense, Simpson worked hard on her offensive game in the offseason, particularly her outside shot. That work has paid off thus far, as she's shooting 51 percent from the field (29-of-57) and 50 percent from downtown (10-of-20). Simpson made just eight threes last season and shot 22 percent from behind the arc (8-of-37).

• Second-Half Takeover: Simpson willed Illinois to victory on Nov. 28 against Cal Poly. The Illini trailed for most of the second half, but Simpson took over down the stretch, hitting 7-for-7 from the field and scoring all 15 of her points in the second half in the come-from-behind Illini victory.

• She Did What?: Its not unusual for senior 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 certainly 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.

• Stop, Thief!: 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 2.71 steals per game.

She is already the school's all-time leader in steals with 274. 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.

• 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.

Illinois in the NCAA Rankings
In the most recent NCAA rankings (Dec. 1) Illinois ranks in the national top-25 in two categories, while Fighting Illini individuals crack the top-100 in eight categories, including two in the top-10 - Lacey Simpson is fifth in assist-turnover ratio and Jenna Smith is ninth in rebounds per game. Here is the list...

Team Category           Rank    Stat    
FG Percentage Defense    10     .314
Blocked Shots            16      5.9

Indiv. Category Player Rank Stat Assist-TO ratio Lacey Simpson 5 3.88 Rebounds per game Jenna Smith 9 11.9 Points per game Jenna Smith 29 20.1 Blocks per game Karisma Penn 37 2.0 Steals per game Lacey Simpson 68 2.7 Blocks per game Jenna Smith 81 1.7 FG Percentage Jenna Smith 93 .490 Assists per game Lacey Simpson 97 4.4

No Sophomore Slump
There was a lot of talk about Illinois' talented freshman class heading into this season, but thus far, the sophomore class and second-year transfer Whitney Toone have proven they shouldn't be overlooked. Toone has provided a big spark off the bench with her defensive intensity, particularly against Alabama on Nov. 29 (career-high three steals, five offensive rebounds, four points and three assists). In addition, sophomore's Macie Blinn and Fabiola Josil have been very effective as of late. Blinn is hitting 46.7 percent from three-point range this season and Josil has provided steady ball handling and leadership at the point.

Fresh Impact
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 23.3 points and 10.1 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 seven games and is averaging 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the week on 11/23 after putting up 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks against CMU on 11/18 before dropping a career-high 21 points against Bradley. Her presence inside is taking some pressure away from All-American center Jenna Smith.

Adrienne Godbold has played big minutes in all seven games and started four. She is averaging 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, but more importantly is active defensively. She broke out for 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from downtown against Siena.

Kersten Magrum has played 70 minutes in the first seven games and is contributing 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. She scored her career-high of seven points all in the first half of the 11/28 win at Cal Poly.

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 has missed the last four games with an injury but is expected to return soon.

New Look Illini
• 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 21.6 ppg off turnovers and 10.8 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. Law is getting 19.9 points per game from her bench this season and the bench has contributed 17 or more points in six of seven games thus far. Last year, the Illini bench averaged only 6.3 points per game and the season-high was 17.

Healing Illini
• Jones Day-to-Day: Freshman forward Brianna Jones missed the last four games with a strained Achilles tendon. She is listed as day-to-day and could return for Wednesday's game or next week against Marquette.

• 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.

HEADLINES