Women's Basketball
Game 10 Notes: Oakland at Illinois Saturday Afternoon

Whitney Toone and the Illini are looking the close the non-conference season with an 8-2 record.
Whitney Toone and the Illini are looking the close the non-conference season with an 8-2 record.

Dec. 17, 2009

Complete Women's Basketball Game 10 Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Game 10 - Oakland (2-6 as of 12/16) at Illinois (7-2)

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009 // 4 p.m. // Assembly Hall (16,618) // Champaign, Ill.

Saturday's Promotions
• Boy Scout Day ($2 tickets for pre-purchased groups)
• Coach Law and the Illini players will sign autographs after the game

On The Air
Streaming Video: video.BigTenNetwork.com ($2.99)
Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS AM-1400 and WDAN AM-1490 (Dave Loane and Mike Koon)
Livestats: fightingillini.com GameTracker

The Series
Saturday's meeting will be the first between Illinois and Oakland

The Coaches
Illinois: Jolette Law, 37-38 overall and at Illinois (third season)
Oakland: Beckie Francis, 202-153 overall (13th season) and 172-105 at Oakland (10th season)

Probable Illinois Starters 
Pos. No. Name             Ht.  Yr.  PPG   RPG   Other     Highlights
G    12  Lydia McCully    5-9  So.  2.3   1.0   1.6 ast   Has stared at point guard for 38 of her 40 career games
G    21  Macie Blinn      5-11 So.  4.1   1.1   .450 3%   Hit career-high four three-pointers vs. CMU
F    22  Lacey Simpson    6-1  Sr.  9.9   6.8   2.9 stl   Ranks in the top five in Big Ten in five stat categories
F    00  Karisma Penn     6-2  Fr.  12.9  4.7   1.7 blk   Has twice been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week
C    13  Jenna Smith      6-3  Sr.  21.2  11.4  2.3 blk   Next double-doubles ties her for UI career record

Off the Bench F 1 Whitney Toone 5-10 Sr. 2.9 2.3 1.1 stl Defensive stopper provides energy off the bench G 3 Fabiola Josil 5-7 So. 3.0 1.9 1.6 ast Averaging nearly 25 mins. per game in last four F 5 Destiny Williams 6-3 Fr. 1.0 0.0 0.0 ast Helped USA U19 team win gold at `09 World Champs G 11 Eboni Mitchell 5-7 So. 1.3 0.4 0.3 ast Point guard has contributed in seven games this year G 24 Adrienne Godbold 5-11 Fr. 5.1 3.1 1.1 stl Had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting vs. Siena F 34 Lana Rukavina 6-3 So. 1.4 0.9 0.4 blk Shooting 56 percent from field this season F 44 Kersten Magrum 6-1 Fr. 2.0 1.7 0.1 ast Scored seven points in first half vs. Cal Poly F 50 Brianna Jones 6-2 Fr. 3.0 1.0 0.3 ast Has missed last six games with an Achilles injury

Injured G 42 Amber Moore 5-11 Fr. 8.0 0.0 1.0 ast Tore ACL in left knee late in season-opener at Temple

Quick Hits
• The Game: Illinois (7-2) is looking to get back to its winning ways this Saturday when Oakland comes to Assembly Hall. The Illini had won seven straight before falling to Marquette, 65-55, on Dec. 9. Since then, Illinois has had nine days off during final exams. Oakland is 2-6 on the season and has a game Thursday night against Saint Louis before heading to Champaign.

• Ball Presentations: Seniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson will be presented with game balls prior to Saturday's game in recognition of their record-breaking accomplishments at the end of last season. Smith broke the UI career blocks record in the season finale at Minnesota and Simpson became Illinois' all-time steals leader in the Big Ten Tournament opening round against Penn State.

• Near the Top: Senior All-America candidate Jenna Smith ranks second in the nation with seven double-doubles, according to the Dec. 14 NCAA statistical rankings. Smith also ranks 11th in the NCAA in rebounding (11.4) and 14th in scoring (21.2). As a team, the Illini rank fifth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.321) and 10th in blocks (6.2).

• What to Watch For on Saturday...
...Jenna Smith's next double-double will be the 40th of her career and will tie her for the UI career double-doubles record.
...Smith needs one rebound to take sole possession of second on the UI career rebounding list.
...Smith has scored in double-figures in 48 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak in the nation.
...A win would make the Illini 8-2 in non-conference play, the program's best since going 9-2 in 2006-07.

• Getting Defensive: Coach Jolette Law teaches her teams to take pride in defense and this year's Illini look to be buying into that philosophy. The Illini are holding opponents to 32.1 percent shooting from the field, which leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the NCAA. The Illini have held opponents to 38 percent shooting or less in each game this season and have twice held their opponent to less than 30 percent.

• Fast Start: The Illini's seven-game winning streak earlier in the season was the longest for a UI team since the 1997-98 Illini won nine straight games. In addition, Illinois' 7-1 start was the program's best since the 1981-82 team started off 10-0.

• Penn-sational: 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 ranks second among Big Ten freshmen in scoring (12.9 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. Her assist-turnover ratio of 2.35 ranks second in the Big Ten and 23rd in the nation and she also ranks second in the conference in steals (2.89), third in assists (4.4), fourth in field goal percentage (.540), fifth in defensive rebounds (5.33) and sixth in three-point field goal percentage (.480).

• 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 posted come-from-behind victories in four straight games from Nov. 24-Dec. 2, including overcoming 15-point and 17-point second half deficits 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 Dec. 2 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 Grizzlies
After going 26-7 a year ago, Oakland has struggled to a 2-6 start prior to its home game against Saint Louis on Thursday. The Grizzlies were picked to finish second this season in the Summit League, identical to their finish a year ago when they went 16-2 in conference play and played in the WNIT. Freshman forward Bethany Watterworth (14.6 pts, 7.1 rebs) and senior guard Melissa Jeltema (13.3 pts, 7.3 rebs) lead the way offensively, with Watterworth being named the most recent The Summit League Player of the Week. Oakland has played two of Illinois' opponents this season, losing to Marquette 79-62 on the road on Nov. 21 and more recently taking Purdue to the wire in a 71-64 home loss on Dec. 13. After facing the Illini, Oakland will play another Big Ten team on the road, traveling to Penn State for a Dec. 21 game.

• The Illinois-Oakland Series: Saturday 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 103 rebounds through the first nine games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 933 and has moved into a tie for second on the UI career rebounding list with Jonelle Polk. She needs 82 rebounds to pass Cindy Dallas' total of 1,014 and become Illinois' all-time rebounding leader. Smith leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th in the nation with her 11.2 rebounds per game. In addition to climbing up the UI rebounding list, she is also making her way up the Illinois offensive rebounds list as she currently sits in fourth place with 307.

• Record Breaker: Smith has 1,736 career points to rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 170 points behind Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 354 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 20 games left this season, Smith needs to average 17.7 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 182 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           182     1      182      0
Double-Doubles   39      2       40      2
Rebounds         933     2     1,014     82
Points          1,736    4     2,089    354
FG Made          659     5       815     158
• Double Trouble: Smith's seven double-doubles in nine games this season ranks second in the nation (Dec. 14 NCAA rankings). Her career total is now 39, which ranks second on the Illinois all-time double-doubles list and put her second among active Big Ten players behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender. With her next double-double, Smith will tie Jonelle Polk's school-record of 40.

• Miss Consistency: Smith has extended her school-record streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 48 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (78) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (66). 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 76 of the last 77 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 77-game streak.

Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points 
(through games of Dec. 16)
Rk Player, School                 Streak
1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State      78
2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State     66
3. Jenna Smith, Illinois            48
4. Dawn Evans, James Madison        39
5. Alysha Clark, MTSU               34
• Block Party in the USA: Smith has etched her named at the top of every blocked shots category in the Illinois record book. She became Illinois' career blocks leader near the end of her junior season, holds the top two spots on the single-season blocks list (63 in 2008-09 and 59 in 2007-08) and is tied atop the single-game blocks list with her two six-block performances this season (11/28 at Cal Poly and 12/9 vs. Marquette).

• Player of the Week: Smith earned back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. The latter honor was after her 27 point, nine rebound, three block performance in Illinois' comeback win at Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. She was also named the conference's 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 1,736 career points and 933 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 9.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.9 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team. She is second in the Big Ten and ranks 23rd in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (2.35) and ranks in the top-five in the conference in five categories (Assist/TO Ratio, steals, assists, 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 (38-of-70) and 48 percent from downtown (12-of-25). 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.

• 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 2.89 steals per game, which ranks second in the conference and 35th in the nation.

Simpson is already the school's all-time leader in steals with 282. 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. 14) Illinois ranks in the national top-25 in two categories, while Fighting Illini individuals crack the top-100 in 10 categories, including three in the top-15 - Jenna Smith is second in double-doubles, 11th in rebounding and 14th in scoring. Here is the list...

Team Category           Rank   Stat
FG Percentage Defense    5     .321
Blocked Shots           10      6.2

Indiv. Category Player Rank Stat Double-doubles Jenna Smith 2 7 Rebounds per game Jenna Smith 11 11.4 Points per game Jenna Smith 14 21.2 Blocks per game Jenna Smith 23 2.3 Assist-TO ratio Lacey Simpson 23 2.35 Steals per game Lacey Simpson 35 2.9 FG Percentage Jenna Smith 51 .530 Blocks per game Karisma Penn 71 1.7 FT Percentage Jenna Smith 76 .852 Assists per game Lacey Simpson 80 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 45 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 - Karisma Penn, Adrienne Godbold, Brianna Jones, Kersten Magrum, Destiny Williams and Amber Moore 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 22.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for the Orange and Blue, even without Moore (ACL injury) and Williams (indefinite leave of absence) making an impact. Here's a closer look at the impact some of the freshmen are making:

Karisma Penn has started all nine games and is averaging 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. She has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice already, most recently on Dec. 7 after going for 15 points and five rebounds at Wake Forest. She also took home the accolade on Nov. 23 after putting up 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks against CMU on Nov. 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 eight games and started four. She is averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 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 81 minutes in the first nine games (9.0 mpg) and is contributing 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. She scored her career-high of seven points all in the first half of the Nov. 28 win at Cal Poly.

Brianna Jones played 26 minutes during the first three games 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 six games with an injury but is hoping to return soon.

Healing Illini
• Jones Day-to-Day: Freshman forward Brianna Jones missed the last six 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.