Jenna Smith in second in the Big Ten in both scoring (19.9) and rebounding (10.1).
Dec. 17, 2007
Game 11: Illinois (7-3) at Missouri (6-4)
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007 // 6:30 p.m. // Mizzou Arena (15,061) // Columbia, Mo.
On The Air
TV: Fox Sports Midwest and MetroSports in Kansas City (Beau Baehman and Patti Phillips)
Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS-AM 1400 and WDAN-AM 1490 (Dave Loane and Mike Koon)
Streaming Audio: Live on fightingillini.com (requires Illini All-Access subscription)
Live Stats: fightingillini.com GameTracker
Illinois leads 6-3
Last Meeting: Illinois 70, Missouri 67 (12/21/02 @ St. Louis, Mo., in the Busch Braggin' Rights Game)
Illinois: Jolette Law, 7-3 overall and at Illinois (first season)
Missouri: Cindy Stein, 221-149 overall (13th season) and 155-125 at Missouri (10th season)
The Game: Illinois (7-3) returns to action Wednesday night after 11 days off for final exams. The Illini, who are coming off a 73-46 win over Chicago State at the United Center on Dec. 8, will travel to Columbia, Mo., for a match-up against the Missouri Tigers (6-4) at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised live by Fox Sports Midwest.
Big Ten Leaders: The Illini are at or near the top of several categories in the latest Big Ten statistical rankings. Jenna Smith leads the league in defensive rebounds (7.0), FG percentage (.626) and minutes (36.7), while ranking second in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (10.1). Lacey Simpson leads the league in steals (3.4) and Lori Bjork in FT percentage (.935). As a team, the Orange and Blue top the league in FT percentage (.814) and rebounding defense (28.7) and rank second in scoring margin (+9.6), FG percentage (.456) and blocked shots (4.5).
Up Next: The Illini will take a few days off for the holidays before starting Big Ten Conference play at Northwestern on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. That game will be televised by the Big Ten Network and will be the first conference game of the season. Following that, Illinois will return home to host the Wisconsin Badgers at Assembly hall on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. after the Illini men host Tennessee State at 3 p.m.
Breaking Down The Tigers
Missouri is 6-4 overall and 5-2 at home after splitting a pair of overtime games at Mizzou Arena in the last week. The Tigers fell to Stephen F. Austin, 84-81, in OT on Dec. 8, but came back to top UMKC, 75-73, in extra time on Dec. 15. The Illini and Tigers have one opponent in common so far, as the Orange and Blue topped Eastern Illinois, 86-56, on the road to open the season, while MU beat the Panthers, 69-51, at home in its second game of the season.
Mizzou is led by the high-scoring duo of junior guard Alyssa Hollins (17.8 ppg, 26 3FGM) and sophomore forward Jessra Johnson (17.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg). Freshman forward Shakara Jones also carries a big part of the load, averaging 13.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Tigers have hit 70 three-pointers on the season, but are shooting just 62 percent from the free throw line as a team.
Familiar Faces on Mizzou Bench
Three Mizzou coaches will be facing their alma mater when the Illini come to town on Wednesday. Head coach Cindy Stein (1984), Associate Head Coach Lynette Robinson (1982) and Assistant Coach Allison Guth (2002) all played for the Fighting Illini and earned their degrees from the University of Illinois.
Stein, a native of Peoria, Ill., played two seasons for the Illini from 1981-83 after transferring from Illinois Central College. She amassed 323 assists with the Orange and Blue, which still ranks sixth on the UI career assists list. She earned a degree from Illinois in 1984 and returned to Champaign as an assistant coach from 1993-95.
Robinson played for the Illini from 1978-82 and still appears on several career and single season lists. She is the UI single season rebounding leader with 335 in 1980-81 and is 13th on the all-time scoring list. Robinson was a CoSIDA Academic All-America honorable mention pick as a senior and was named to the Illinois All-Decade team in 1991.
Guth, a native of Arlington Heights, Ill., was a three-year letterwinner for the Fighting Illini from 2002-04 and also played for the UI women's golf team as a freshman. She left Illinois in 2004 with a degree in marketing.
The Illinois-Mizzou Series
Illinois leads the series 6-3 and has won the last six in a row. The Illini are 2-1 vs. the Tigers in Columbia. The last time the two teams met there was on Nov. 30, 1996, an 82-66 Illini victory. The last three meetings between Illinois and Mizzou were in St. Louis as doubleheaders with the Busch Braggin' Rights series between the two men's teams. Illinois won all three of those meetings, the most recent by a score of 70-67 on Dec. 21, 2002.
United Center Dominance Continues
Illinois continued its recent dominance in the annual Lexus December To Remember Classic at the United Center with a 73-46 win over Chicago State on Dec. 8. The Illini are now 7-2 all-time at the home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks, and have won the last five in a row by an average of 33 points.
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 for the second time on Nov. 26. For the year, she is averaging 19.9 points and 10.1 rebounds, which both rank second in the Big Ten. She's shooting 63 percent from the field and 85 percent from the line. She has led the Illini in scoring and rebounding seven times in 10 games this season.
Smith Holds Her Own vs. NPOY: Smith faced her toughest competition to date when last year's AP National Player of the Year Courtney Paris came to Assembly Hall Dec. 5. Smith more than held her own against the Sooner star, hitting 7-of-9 from the field for 15 points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking two shots. Paris had her usual big numbers with 22 points and 14 rebounds, but Smith served notice that she will be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years.
Among the Leaders: Smith ranks in the top-six in the Big Ten in eight categories. She leads the league in FG percentage (.626), defensive rebounds (7.0) and minutes (36.7), ranks second in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (10.1), third in blocks (2.1), fifth in offensive rebounds (3.1) and sixth in FT percentage (.849). Nationally, Smith ranks in the top-40 in four categories, most notably FG percentage, where she ranks 8th.
Smith Rakes in Honors: Smith has been collecting her share of early-season honors thus far. She has been named Big Ten Player of the Week on two occasions this season (Nov. 12 and Nov. 26) and claimed Most Valuable Player honors at the FIU Thanksgiving Classic after leading Illinois to the title.
Double-Trouble: Smith has recorded double-doubles in six of 10 games this season and has 12 in her career, which is second in the Big Ten behind only Wisconsin senior Jolene Anderson's 20. Illinois has won all six games in which Smith has recorded a double-double this season and lost three of the four in which she hasn't.
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.
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 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.
Big Ten Player of the Week, Part 2: Smith collected her second weekly Big Ten honor on Nov. 26 after averaging 23.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game while leading Illinois to the FIU Thanksgiving Classic title with wins over South Carolina and Providence. Smith had 29 points and 10 rebounds in the title game against the Friars.
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 league and ranks fifth in the nation in FT percentage (.814), having knocked down 166-of-204 from the charity stripe. Illinois has hit 36-off-42 (.852) from the line in the last three games and has made 18 more FTs than its opponents have shot on the season (166-148). For the year, Lori Bjork leads the way from the line, shooting a Big Ten best 93.5 percent (29-of-31).
Pressure `D' Catching On
Jolette Law's pressure defense looks to be catching on fast with the Fighting Illini. Through the first 10 games Illinois is averaging 8.90 steals per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten. Sophomore Lacey Simpson leads the way, as she leads the conference in steals with 3.40 thefts per game. Last year, Illinois ranked last in the Big Ten in steals at 5.55 per game.
Crutch Cracks the Lineup
Senior forward Danyel Crutcher, who started 30 games a year ago, cracked the starting line-up for the first time this season Dec. 5 vs. Oklahoma and then again against Chicago State on Dec. 8. The move appears to have paid off, as Crutcher is averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and is shooting 65 percent from the field since the change. She replaced Audrey Tabon in the line-up, who started the first eight games of the season.
Illinois record by starting line-up:
More Illini Tidbits
Bjork Moving Up Chart: Junior Lori Bjork hit her 150th career three-pointer in the blowout win over South Carolina on Nov. 23. She has hit 18-of-55 on the season and now has 155 career three-pointers, which ranks third on the UI career list and is just 13 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 (2.00).
Illini Claim FIU Title: 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.
Illini Make BTN Debut: The Illini made their first-ever appearance on the new Big Ten Network Dec. 5 against Oklahoma. Illinois is scheduled to make at least six more regular season appearances on the BTN this season. The next time the Illini will be televised on the BTN is on Dec. 27 at Northwestern.
Home Sweet Home: After going 12-3 at Assembly Hall last season, Illinois is off to a 3-2 start at home this year. The Illini hold an all-time record of 231-123 (.653) at home and 192-101 (.655) at Assembly Hall.
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.
Law Era Off to Fast Start
New Illini head coach Jolette Law is off to the best 10-game start in school history at 7-3. Laura Golden, who started off 6-4 in 1984-85, previously had the best 10-game start.
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.