Game 9 Notes: Illinois (4-4) at Memphis (3-3)
Dec. 7, 2012
Illini Finish Road Swing in Memphis
Illinois has been one of the nation's top offensive squads thus far, ranking second in the Big Ten (as of Dec. 7) and 24th out of 343 Division I women's basketball teams (76.1 ppg as of Dec. 3) in scoring offense with an average of 73.6 points per game.
The Illini also have been quite unselfish, averaging 17.0 assists per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten and 15th nationally (17.7 apg as of Dec. 3). Illinois also ranks second in the Big Ten with 10.3 steals per game.
The Orange and Blue have topped 80 points in all four of its wins and have scored 70-plus points in five of eight games to this point. Last season, the Illini reached 80 twice and 70 only six times. Illinois also is averaging 80.5 points per game against teams outside the Big 12 Conference after scoring 56 against Texas Tech and 50 against Iowa State.
Included in that is a 95-point outburst against Wake Forest on Nov. 29, the highest scoring output against a BCS conference opponent since dropping 96 on Ohio State on Feb. 13, 2002.
The Illini's hot scoring start marks the first time since the Big Ten championships and NCAA Sweet Sixteen season of 1996-97 that Illinois has broken the 80-point barrier in at least four of the first six games of a campaign. The '96-97 squad topped 80 in five of its first six games.
Scouting The Tigers
So far, Memphis has wins over Illinois State, UT-Arlington and Grambling State, while falling to Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee State and Prairie View A&M. Memphis is out-scoring its foes by a 4.8-point margin and out-rebounding opponents by an average of 5.5 boards per game. They also are averaging 11.0 steals per game.
Memphis has been hit by the injury bug lately, losing starting guard Mooriah Rowser to a knee injury in the Illinois State game on Nov. 18 and starting point guard Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir to a broken hand against UT-Arlington on Nov. 21.
The game will feature a great matchup in the post, with Memphis senior Nicole Dickson facing two-time All-Big Ten Illini forward Karisma Penn. Penn leads the Big Ten in rebounding (9.4 rpg) and ranks fourth in scoring (18.9 ppg), while Dickson leads Conference-USA and ranks seventh nationally in scoring at 23.3 ppg. Dickson has scored 30-plus points in three of Memphis' last four games, scoring 30 at ETSU (11/30), 30 at UT-Arlington (11/21) and 36 at Illinois State (11/18).
Memphis was 25-8 last season, with a 13-3 conference record that placed them second in C-USA. The Tigers also posted an impressive 17-2 mark at Elma Roane Fieldhouse on the way to the WNIT second round, but lost C-USA Player of the Year Jasmine Lee, C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Ramses Lonlack and three-time All-C-USA selection Brittany Carter off that squad.
Last Time Out: Texas Tech
Texas Tech's Chynna Brown, who entered the game averaging 6.4 points, exploded for 21, and Tech out-rebounded the Illini 43-31. Amber Moore led the charge for Illinois, scoring 21 points, while Karisma Penn added 18 points and eight rebounds, and Ivory Crawford scored 11 and grabbed seven boards.
Last Meeting with Memphis
Illini in NCAA Stats
Sophomore Alexis Smith is second in the nation in assists per game (7.4). In addition, her 14 assists against Wake Forest (Nov. 29), are tied for the most in a game in the nation this year, and her 13 dimes against Cleveland State on Nov. 18 are tied for the third-most in the country.
Junior Amber Moore is 11th nationally in three-point field goals made per game (3.29) and 50th in assist/turnover ratio (2.08).
Senior Karisma Penn ranks 14th nationally in double-doubles (4), 18th in blocked shots per game (2.71), 25th in field-goal percentage (58.8 percent) and 42nd in points per game (19.0).
Illinois Flexing Its Offensive Muscles
Although it's early, Illinois is on pace for its best scoring season since the Illini averaged 76.2 points per game in 1999-2000, the year of UI's last NCAA Tournament victory. The Illini have not averaged 70 points per game since 2002-03, their last trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Penn Off to Fast Start
Penn is nearly averaging a double-double on the season, 18.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Penn leads the Big Ten in rebounding, ranks second in field-goal percentage (58.2 percent) and blocked shots (2.9 per game), and is fourth in scoring.
Penn's 30- and 29-point performances are the third- and fourth-most in a game among conference players. Only Minnesota's Rachel Banham, pouring in 34 vs. Washington State, and Illini teammate Ivory Crawford, who had 32 vs. Cleveland State, have more.
Penn has scored in double figures in 79 of her 104 (75.9 percent) collegiate games. She had 30 points vs. Tulsa, which marked her 26th career game with at least 20 points. Penn reached the 20-point mark just twice in all of 2011-12 with a pair of 21-point games, but has three such performances already this year.
The 30 points against Wake Forest tied the second-most in Penn's career. She also tallied 30 points vs. Cal Poly on Nov. 22, 2010, and had 33 vs. Michigan on Feb. 20, 2011.
Penn has moved into 11th on the Illinois career scoring list with 1,483. She needs 20 points to pass Tauja Catchings (1,502) for 10th on the list.
Penn's 27 field-goal attempts against Bradley were one shy of the Assembly Hall record by an Illini.
Smith Shores Up Point Guard Spot
Smith asserted herself in a scoring role against Colorado on Dec. 1, pouring in a career-high 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Smith had a career night dishing the ball in Illinois' 95-82 win over Wake Forest on Nov. 29, totaling a career-high 14 assists while committing only three turnovers. Her 14 helpers mark the third-most in a game in school history and are tied for the most in a game in the nation this year.
Smith had 13 assists and four turnovers vs. Cleveland State on Nov. 18. The 13 assists are tied for the fourth-most in a game in school history and the third-most in a game in the country this year.
For the season, Smith has 57 assists and 41 turnovers. She ranks leads the Big Ten with 7.1 assists per game (as of Dec. 6) and was second in the nation (as of Dec. 3) with 7.4 assists per game.
In addition to Smith, junior teammate Amber Moore has been proficient at dishing the rock, tallying 27 assists to just 13 turnovers, which is third-best in the Big Ten.
Crawford Scores in Bunches
Against Cleveland State, Crawford was 11-of-14 from the field, 4-of-4 from three-point range, and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Crawford posted a 26-point outing against Wake Forest on Nov. 29 on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Last year, Crawford averaged 6.6 points per game and reached double figures nine times. She has been in double figures in six of eight games this year.
Illini Put Together Bomb Squad
Illinois made 11 three-pointers (11-25) in the 84-52 victory over Evansville on Nov. 11, tied for third-most in a game in school history and the most in nearly nine years. The Illini made 12 treys in an 80-68 victory over Auburn on Dec. 29, 2003, and a 106-74 victory over Providence on Nov. 29, 1997. Illinois also sank 11 3-pointers in a 75-73 victory over Arizona on Dec. 8, 2002.
A total of six different Illinois players made threes against Evansville.
The Illini also made 9-of-24 three-pointers against Cleveland State and 8-of-23 against Wake Forest.