Women's Basketball
Game 9 WBB Notes: Illinois at Colorado

Macie Blinn and the Illini had to Colorado this weekend.
Macie Blinn and the Illini had to Colorado this weekend.

Dec. 3, 2010

Complete Illinois-Colorado Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader

GAME 9 - Illinois (3-5) at Colorado (6-1)

Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010 // 5 p.m. MT / 6 CT // Coors Event Center (11,064) // Boulder, Colo.

Video: Live streaming via CUBuffs.com (pay)
Radio: Tape Delayed on WDWS-AM 1400 and live online at fightingillini.com (pay), Patrick Pfingsten, PBP)

Colorado leads 2-1 overall and 2-0 in Boulder )
Last Meeting: Colorado 78, Illinois 70 on Dec. 28, 1999 in Boulder

Illinois: Jolette Law, 52-56 overall and at Illinois (fourth season) )
Colorado: Linda Lappe, 6-1 overall and at Colorado (first season)


• Tip-off: Three days after falling to N.C. State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Fighting Illini will travel west to face Colorado in the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge Saturday evening in Boulder. Illinois is 3-5 on the season and is looking to end a three-game skid. The Illini and Buffaloes will be the front end of a double-header at the Coors Event Center, with the women's game tipping off at 5 pm MT, followed by the Colorado men hosting Oregon State 8 pm MT.

• Freshman of the Week: Illini freshman Alexis Burke was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week for her performance in four games last week. She started things off with 17 points in Illinois' win over Cal Poly and then followed that up with back to back 18 point performances against Long Beach State and #14 North Carolina in Hawaii. She nailed a career-high four three-pointers vs. UNC and was named to the Rainbow Wahine Showdown All-Tournament Team.

• Double-Duty: UI sophomore Karisma Penn has been outstanding so far this season when she has avoided foul trouble. She has posted four double-doubles in eight games and scored a career-high 30 points in the Nov. 22 win over Cal Poly.

Saturday's game is part of the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. In addition to the challenge with the ACC, Big Ten teams will take on opponents from the Big 12 Conference in second conference challenge this season. Ten inter-conference matchups will take place this weekend. This year marks the first season of an initial two-year agreement between the conferences. It began on Nov. 21 with Wisconsin falling to Kansas in an overtime thriller. While the majority of the contests will be held on Sunday, the challenge will end on Dec. 9 when Purdue visits Texas A&M.

2010 Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge Schedule

11/21	Kansas at Wisconsin (BTN)	        KU, 93-86 (OT)
12/4	Illinois at Colorado	                6 pm CT
12/5	#24 Nebraska at Indiana (BTN) 	        11 am CT
12/5	Missouri at Northwestern (BTN)	        1 pm CT
12/5	Texas Tech at Penn State 	        1 pm CT
12/5 	Kansas State at #18 Iowa 	        2 pm CT
12/5 	Michigan at #19 Iowa State 	        2 pm CT
12/5	Minnesota at #2 Baylor 	                2 pm CT
12/5	Wisconsin at Oklahoma State	        2 pm CT
12/5	#17 Texas at #25 Michigan St (BTN) 	3 pm CT
12/5 	#11 Oklahoma at #6 Ohio St (BTN) 	5 pm CT
12/9 	Purdue at #9 Texas A&M	                7 pm CT

Colorado is off to a 6-1 start after a 67-35 home win over Texas State on Wednesday. CU has played six of their seven games at home, with their lone loss coming on the road at Denver, 70-69. Illinois will be the Buffaloes first major conference opponent this season. Led by first-year head coach Linda Lappe, CU was picked to finished 12th in the preseason Big 12 Coaches poll. This will be the program's last season in the Big 12, as the Buffaloes head to the Pac-10 Conference in 2011-12.

Colorado is led by senior forward Brittany Spears, who is averaging 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and is hitting 2.1 three-pointers per game as well. Sophomore guard Chucky Jeffery has been impressive so far, averaging 16.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 3.9 steals per game. As a team, the Buffaloes are shooting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range.

• The Illini-Buffs Series: Colorado leads the all-time series 2-1 and has won both previous meetings in Boulder. This year will mark the first game between the two teams in 11 years. The Buffaloes won the most recent meeting 78-70 on Dec. 28, 1999, in Boulder. The Illini traveled out to Boulder in 2005 to play in Colorado's Coors Classic Tournament, but did not face the Buffaloes.

The fourth annual ACC/Big Ten Women's Basketball Challenge was completed Thursday night and this one came down to the final game. In the end, Duke win at Wisconsin gave the ACC bragging rights for the fourth year in a row with a 6-5 Challenge victory. The ACC won the inaugural event 8-3 in 2007 and won 7-4 in both 2008 and '09. Illinois is 1-3 all-time in Challenge games, including Wednesday's 73-57 loss to N.C. State.

Sophomore Karisma Penn has stepped up as Illinois' go-to player this year in the absence of Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson, last year's Illini senior stars. Penn poured in a career-high 30 points against Cal Poly and then had a career-high 14 rebounds later in the week against Ole Miss. For the season, she has four double-doubles in eight games. Overall, Penn is averaging 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks through eight games, a significant increase in production from last year when she averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 boards and 1.7 blocks to earn Big Ten All-Freshman accolades. The key for Penn is staying in the game, as she has played less than 25 minutes three times this season due to foul trouble.

Illinois is one of only seven Division I teams in the nation without a senior on its roster heading into the 2010-11 season, joining Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Murray State, Oral Roberts, Purdue and Rutgers. With the absence of senior leadership, Illini head coach Jolette Law has singled out redshirt junior Lydia McCully and sophomores Karisma Penn and Kersten Magrum as players who have stepped up as leaders this season.

Illinois fell behind early and could never recover, as North Carolina State pulled away for a 73-57 win Wednesday night at Assembly Hall in the fourth annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Karisma Penn led the travel-weary Illini with 12 points and 12 rebounds, her fourth double-double of the season, but that wasn't enough overcome a season-high 26 turnovers.

Penn had four blocks and two steals to go along with her double-double. Freshman Centrese McGee joined Penn in double-figures, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds, while sophomore Adrienne GodBold added nine points, three assists and three steals. Junior Lana Rukavina tied her career-high with eight points and freshman Alexis Burke also chipped in eight points and four rebounds.

The Fighting Illini shot 37.5 percent from the field and were just 1-of-11 (.091) from three-point range and 8-of-18 (.444) from the free throw line. N.C. State (4-4) shot 42 percent for the game and outrebounded the Illini 46-38.

The Fighting Illini went 1-2 over the weekend in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Honolulu. Illinois topped Long Beach State in the opening round, 69-48, before falling to #14 North Carolina, 87-58, and Ole Miss, 70-61, in consecutive days. Illini Freshman Alexis Burke was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 13.3 points per game over the weekend.

True-freshmen Centrese McGee and Burke combined for 36 points and 15 rebounds to lead Illinois to a 69-48 victory over Long Beach State in the opening round of the tournament. The Illini led by 13 at halftime, 43-30, and then put the game away with a 13-2 run to start the second half, pushing the lead to 56-32 and cruising the rest of the way.

In the semifinals, Illinois faced its toughest test of the season so far in #14 North Carolina. The Illini hung with the up-tempo Tar Heels for most of the first half, leading 23-19 at one point, before eventually falling 87-58. Sophomore Karisma Penn scored six points in the first three minutes of play, but was plagued by foul trouble, playing only 20 minutes for the game.

In the third place game on Sunday, the Fighting Illini dominated Ole Miss early, leading by as many as 14 late in the first half, but the Rebels used a big second half to pull away for a 70-61 win. Karisma Penn had 24 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the Fighting Illini.

The Illini put up some impressive numbers in their 104-63 win over Cal Poly on Nov. 22. Take a look at a few notes from the Illini victory:
• The 104 points marked the first time Illinois broke 100 in nine years, since a 101-91 win over Minnesota on Feb. 4, 2001. It was the most points for an Illini squad since a 112-73 win over W. Michigan on 11/15/99.
• Illinois' 28 assists are the most in a game since Dec. 5, 1987, when they had 31 dimes against Ball State, and tied the six-highest total in school history.
• Illinois' 45 made field goals equal the second-most in a game for an Illini team behind only the school record of 50 vs. Bradley in 1982
• The 10 made threes by the Illini ties for the fourth most in school history and is the most since hitting 12 vs. Auburn in 2003.
• The 41-point win marked Illinois' largest margin of victory since beating IPFW by 49 (86-37) on 2/22/05.
Karisma Penn had a career-game, scoring 30 points on 14-of-22 shooting and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Four newcomers show up on the Fighting Illini roster this season, two players and two coaches. Jolette Law and staff welcome two freshman players to the squad in Centrese McGee (Calumet City, Ill.) and Alexis Burke (Bainbridge, Ga.), while redshirt freshman Amber Moore (Detroit, Mich.) is back in the mix after missing all but one game last season with a torn ACL. All three players have made a big impact early in the season as the three freshmen are combining to average 22.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game thus far. New on the sidelines are assistant coaches Michael Peck and Usha Gilmore.

Coach Jolette Law added walk-on Courtney Owens to the Fighting Illini roster in late November. Owens is a 5-10 sophomore guard from Oak Brook, Ill. She was a three-year starter at York High School, where she averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds as a senior in 2008-09. Owens suited up for the first time at Bradley on Nov. 19 and saw her first playing time on Nov. 22 vs. Cal Poly.