Women's Basketball
Game 9 Notes: Marquette (5-2) at Illinois (7-1)

Adrienne Godbold and the Illini will be looking for their eighth straight win Wednesday night when Marquette comes to Assembly Hall.
Adrienne Godbold and the Illini will be looking for their eighth straight win Wednesday night when Marquette comes to Assembly Hall.

Dec. 8, 2009

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Game 9 - Marquette (5-2) at Illinois (7-1)

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009 // 8 p.m. // Assembly Hall (16,618) // Champaign, Ill.

Wednesday's Promotion
• Warm-A-Kid Night: Free admission to anyone who brings a coat, gloves, hat or scarf to the game. Donations go to children in the community who are in need this winter.

On The Air
TV: Big Ten Network (Brent Stover and Stephanie White)
Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS AM-1400 and WDAN AM-1490 (Brian Moline)
Livestats: fightingillini.com Gametracker

The Series
Marquette leads 3-1 overall, Illinois leads 1-0 in Champaign
Last meeting: Marquette 72, Illinois 64 on March 26, 2008 in Milwaukee in the second round of the WNIT

The Coaches
Illinois: Jolette Law, 37-37 overall and at Illinois (third season)
Marquette: Terri Mitchell, 260-148 overall and at Marquette (14th season)

Quick Hits
• Tip-off: Illinois (7-1) will look to extend its winning streak to eight when Marquette (5-2) comes to Assembly Hall on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. The Illini are coming off a 65-50 win at Wake Forest on Dec. 2 after trailing by as many as 17 in the second half. Illinois will be making its first appearance on the Big Ten Network this season, with Brent Stover and Stephanie White calling the action.

• We're Going Streakin': The Illini's current seven-game winning streak is the longest for a UI team since the 1997-98 Illini won nine straight games from Dec. 12, 1997-Jan. 16, 1998. At 7-1, the Fighting Illini are off to their best start since the 1981-82 team started off 10-0.

• At the Top: Senior All-America candidate Jenna Smith is tied for the national lead in double-doubles with six in the latest NCAA statistical rankings (Dec. 7). Lacey Simpson ranks fourth in the nation in assist-TO ratio (3.5) and the Illini rank fourth in field goal percentage defense (.315).

• Smith Has Another Big Week: Wooden and Naismith Award candidate Jenna Smith is the Big Ten Player of the Week for the second week in a row, earning co-POW honors with Ohio State's Jantel Lavender. It is Smith's fifth career weekly honor, tying her for the most in school history with Ashley Berggren.

• 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 12 rebounds to move up to second on the UI career rebounding list past Jonelle Polk (933).
...Smith has scored in double-figures in 47 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak in the nation.

• 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 31.5 percent shooting from the field, which leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the NCAA. The Illini have held opponents to under 38 percent shooting in each game this season and to under 35 percent during each game of the current seven-game winning streak.

• Not Wasting Time: Freshman forward Karisma Penn made a big impact the minute she stepped on the floor for the Illini. The Shaker Heights, Ohio, native has already picked-up two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards in the first month of the season, most recently on Dec. 7 after scoring 15 points and pulling down five boards in the comeback win at Wake Forest. Penn leads all Big Ten freshmen in scoring (13.5 ppg) and was previously named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Nov. 23 for averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 blocks in two Illini victories. She scored a career-high 21 points against Bradley on Nov. 22.

• Simpson Does It All: 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 fourth in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (3.50) while ranking third in the conference in assists (4.4), steals (2.7) and three-point field goal percentage (.524) and fifth in overall field goal percentage (.540) and defensive rebounds (5.00).

• Rock the Votes: Illinois is receiving votes in the latest Associated Press poll for the second straight week. After getting six votes in the Nov. 30 poll, the Illini are up to 12 votes in the Dec. 7 poll and are ninth among teams receiving votes. Illinois has not been ranked in the AP top-25 since Nov. 27, 2000.

• Time Change: 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.

Comeback Kids
The Fighting Illini have posted come-from-behind victories in four straight games, including 15-point and 17-point second half deficits in the last two games against Alabama and Wake Forest, respectively. Against the Crimson Tide on Nov. 29, the Illini trailed 49-34 with 15:25 remaining before closing the game on a 30-6 run and pulling away for a nine-point win. Then last Wednesday at Wake Forest, Illinois trailed 36-19 with 18:32 to play and then went on a 25-2 run to take control of the game, eventually pulling away for a 15-point win. See the chart below for details on Illinois' impressive closing runs.

Game            SH Deficit    Time      Closing Run    Final
at Illinois St.       7       20:00        38-20       62-51
at Cal Poly           7       10:08        22-6        56-47
vs. Alabama          15       15:25        30-6        64-55
at Wake Forest       17       18:32        46-14       65-50
Scouting the Golden Eagles
Marquette owns a 5-2 record heading into the game at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, with its losses coming at Michigan, 67-50, and against No. 7 Duke, 74-43, in Cancun, Mexico. The Golden Eagles are coming off of a home win on Dec. 3 against NJIT, 81-41. Marquette has a balanced scoring attack, with six players who average 7.7 points or more on the season. Sophomore forward Jessica Pachko leads the way, averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, while senior guard Lauren Thomas-Johnson averages 10.3 points per game. Junior guard Angel Robinson (8.4 ppg, 31 assists) was named preseason All-BIG EAST and had a triple-double earlier this season against Oakland. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish 10th in the 16-team BIG EAST after going 17-16 last season and advancing to the third round of the WNIT. Head coach Terri Mitchell is in her 13th season as Marquette head coach. After facing the Illini, Marquette will host Wisconsin on Dec. 11.

• The Illinois-Marquette Series: Marquette owns a 3-1 advantage over the Illini in the all-time series, most recently winning 72-64 in the WNIT in Milwaukee on March 26, 2008. In fact, the last two meetings between the Illini and Marquette have been in the WNIT and both were won by MU. Illinois' one win over the Golden Eagles came during the only meeting in Champaign on Dec. 7, 1997 (Illinois 99, Marquette 68).

• Familiar Face: Illinois senior Jenna Smith will see a familiar face when the Illini and Golden Eagles take the floor. Smith and MU guard Angel Robinson are both from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and played on the same club team up through high school. The two remain close friends today.

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 92 rebounds through the first eight games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 922, which is good for third place on the UI career list. She is 12 rebounds shy of passing Jonelle Polk (933) for second on the UI list and needs 93 to pass Cindy Dallas' total of 1,014 and 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 1,713 career points to rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 193 points behind Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 377 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 21 games left this season, Smith needs to average 18.0 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 176 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           176      1        176       0
Double-Doubles    38      2         40       3
Rebounds         922      3       1,014     93
Points          1,713     4       2,089     377
FG Made          648      5        815      169
• Double Trouble: Smith is tied for the NCAA lead with six double-doubles so far this year (Dec. 7 NCAA rankings). Her career total is now 38, which ties her 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 47 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (76) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (65). 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 75 of the last 76 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 76-game streak.

Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points
(through games of Dec. 7)

Rk Player, School                Streak
1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State     76
2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State    65
3. Jenna Smith, Illinois           47
4. Dawn Evans, James Madison       39
5. Heather Bowman, Gonzaga         37
• Player of the Week: Smith earned her second straight Big Ten Player of the Week accolade after going for 27 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in Illinois' come-back win at Wake Forest. She was also named Big Ten Player of the Week on Nov. 30 after averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds in three Illinois victories. She was 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 been honored five times as the conference's Player of the Week, which ties her for the most in school history with Ashley Berggren.

• Big Ten Leader: With 1,713 career points and 922 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 thriving at her natural wing position 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 10.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team. She leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (3.50) and ranks in the top-five in the conference in six categories (Assist/TO Ratio, steals, assists, 3FG percentage, FG percentage and defensive rebounds).

• 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 54 percent from the field (34-of-63) and 52 percent from downtown (11-of-21). Simpson made just eight threes last season and shot 22 percent from behind the arc (8-of-37).

• She Did What?: It's 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.

Illinois in the NCAA Rankings
In the most recent NCAA rankings (Dec. 7) Illinois ranks in the national top-25 in three categories, while Fighting Illini individuals crack the top-100 in 10 categories, including two in the top-10 - Jenna Smith is tied for first in double-doubles and Lacey Simpson is fourth in assist-turnover ratio. Here is the list...

Team Category          Rank     Stat
FG Percentage Defense    4      .315
Blocked Shots           15       5.8
W-L Percentage          24      .875

Indiv. Category Player Rank Stat Double-doubles Jenna Smith 1 6 Assist-TO ratio Lacey Simpson 4 3.5 Points per game Jenna Smith 12 21.0 Rebounds per game Jenna Smith 12 11.5 Blocks per game Jenna Smith 47 1.9 Steals per game Lacey Simpson 64 2.6 Blocks per game Karisma Penn 68 1.8 FG Percentage Jenna Smith 72 .509 FT Percentage Jenna Smith 81 .849 Assists per game Lacey Simpson 89 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 43.8 percent from three-point range this season and Josil has provided steady ball handling and leadership at the point.

Healing Illini
• Jones Day-to-Day: Freshman forward Brianna Jones missed the last five games with a strained Achilles tendon. She is listed as day-to-day and is expected to return to action soon.

• 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 and surgery is scheduled for late December.