Illinois returns home to face Alabama A&M, Michigan
Quick Hits Road Warriors: Illinois finally returns home this weekend after nine straight games on the road. The Illini last played at home on Nov. 15, a 62-54 victory over Memphis Illinois has had trips to Cleveland State, Oregon, California, Puerto Rico, Clemson, Illinois State, Chicago and Las Vegas.
On the Oregon-California-Puerto Rico trip alone, the Illini traveled a total of 8,610 miles from Champaign to Chicago then on to Portland and San Francisco before heading to San Juan for a pair of games before returning to Chicago and back home to Champaign.
Strong Schedule: Illinois has faced the ninth-toughest schedule in the nation according to RealRPI.com. At 57, the Illini are the top-ranked team with a sub-.500 record and the seventh-best RPI in the Big Ten.
The Illini are tied for fourth in the Big Ten in blocked shots at 4.8 per game with 57 through 12 contests. Individually within the conference, Karisma Penn owns third in rejections as the junior averages 2.1 per contest - only 0.5 behind the leader, Ohio State's Ashley Adams.
Penn, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, leads the conference in field-goal percentage (.556).
Scouting MichiganMichigan ranks 13th in the RPI after defeating Illinois State, 76-59. The Wolverines finish the non-conference portion of their schedule at 11-2, which included victories over traditionally strong teams in Florida, Utah, Marquette and Iowa State and a narrow nine-point defeat at Maryland. Once again, Kevin Borseth's team is playing strong defense, giving up just 54.7 points per game, which is second in the Big Ten.
After six straight losing seasons starting in 2001-02, the Wolverines are looking for their fourth winning season in the last five as well as their first NCAA bid since 2001.
Illinois leads the all-time series 40-25, but broke a five-game losing streak to the Wolverines with a 55-47 victory over Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini led 37-16 at halftime and won behind 19 points and 10 rebounds from Karisma Penn.
Scouting Alabama A&MThe Bulldogs are 5-4 on the season after an 80-68 victory over Austin Peay on Dec. 21. Alabama A&M and Illinois have a common opponent in South Carolina. The Gamecocks defeated the Illini 71-52 in Champaign in the first game of the season and downed Alabama AM 60-53 three days later in Columbia.
Shaudray Davis paces the Bulldogs at 21.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
The two teams have never met.
The Bulldogs are averaging just 14.8 turnovers per game while scoring 60.7 points per contest and giving up 61.9 point per contest. Alabama A&M has made just 31 three-pointers in the first nine games.
Facing A Challenging SlateIllini head coach Jolette Law compiled one of the toughest schedules in the country according to the combined strength of Illinois' opponents. The Orange and Blue will battle nine opponents appearing in or receiving votes for the current Associated Press top-25 weekly ranking, while the Illini have the nine-highest national strength of schedule according to RealTimeRPI.com as of Dec. 22 and the most difficult slate within the conference. In-state rival Purdue follows with the second-toughest 2011-12 campaign, owning the No. 19 spot in the rankings.
Coming So CloseIn two of its losses this season, the Illini were within one shot of securing the lead during the final minute of action as Illinois lost at Oregon, 77-74, and against Arizona State, 51-50. Had the contests swung in favor of the Orange and Blue, they would stand at 6-3 overall rather than the current record of 4-5.
After playing back-and-forth basketball over an 11-minute stretch in the second half, Illinois last led the game at Oregon, 72-71, before the Ducks scored a pair of free-throws for a one-point lead with 1:51 left. Oregon never led by more than three over the last two minutes, while Illinois got within one on a tip-in by Karisma Penn with 28 seconds remaining.
In the final contest of the San Juan Shootout, the Illini and Sun Devils competed in a back-and-forth contest throughout the majority of the game. With Illinois leading by one and time winding down, Arizona State needed a turn-around jumper with the defense in its face to secure the win.
Your Newest 1,000-point Club memberJunior Karisma Penn is quickly climbing up several career charts, including recently eclipsing the 1,000-point mark against RV/#18 Green Bay. The Shaker Heights, Ohio, native enters the Alabama A&M contest with 1,099 points, the 20th-most all-time, and is the 24th Illinois player with more than 1,000 points. Penn also ranks 16th in Illini history in career rebounds (593) and third in career blocks (160).
Illinois' Career Scoring List
Points Player Years 1. 2,160 Jenna Smith 2006-10 2. 2,089 Ashley Berggren 1994-98 3. 1,984 Jonelle Polk 1983-87 4. 1,906 Lisa Robinson 1978-82 5. 1,639 Angelina Williams 2001-05 -- 17. 1,166 Lacey Simpson 2005-10 18. 1,116 Angie McClellan 1986-89 19. 1,106 Lori Bjork 2005-08 20. 1,099 Karisma Penn 2009-
Illinois' Career Rebounding List
Rebs. Player Years 1. 1,217 Jenna Smith 2006-10 2. 1,014 Cindy Dallas 1998-04 3. 933 Jonelle Polk 1983-87 4. 900 Lacey Simpson 2005-10 5. 896 Lynnette Robinson 1978-82 -- 16. 589 Nicole Vasey 1994-98 17. 593 Karisma Penn 2009-
Illinois' Career Blocked Shots List
Blocks Player Years 1. 231 Jenna Smith 2006-10 2. 163 Lacey Simpson 2005-10 3. 160 Karisma Penn 2009-
McCully Moving Up Career Assists ListLydia McCully moved into 12th all-time at the University of Illinois in career assists with six combined against Green Bay and Arizona State. McCully now has 324 for her career, only four shy of passing Ashley Berggren (1994-98) for the sixth-best ever with the Orange and Blue.
Illinois' Career Assists List
Assists Player Years 1. 550 Jill Estey 1989-93 2. 507 Jenny Johnson 1984-88 3. 451 Lacey Simpson 2005-10 4. 391 Michelle Vossen 1980-84 5. 342 Tauja Catchings 1996-00 6. 328 Ashley Berggren 1994-98 7. 324 Lydia McCully 2008-
Magrum Returns From InjuryAfter starting 15 games and averaging 4.3 points per contest as a freshman in 2009, Kersten Magrum missed all but three games last season suffering from a stress fracture in her right foot. Following her recovery, Magrum has returned strong, scoring in double-figures in six games, including a career-best 24-point, 12-rebound performance against the Ducks on Nov. 18. Magrum also has a pair of double-doubles through the first nine games, tallying 10 points and 10 rebounds against Memphis on Nov. 15 in addition to her career-best night against Oregon. On the year, Magrum is second in points (11.7) and rebounds (7.2) per game among Illini and is shooting .405 (34-for-84) from the field and .857 (36-for-42) from the charity stripe.
Block Party One Of The Best In School HistoryIllinois had 12 blocked shots in its victory over Memphis on Nov. 15 - tied for the second most in a game in school history. Four of the top five single-game blocks totals have come during the Jolette Law era. Adrienne GodBold and Karisma Penn each recorded four rejections during the contest while Kersten Magrum and Taylor Tuck added a pair of blocks each as well. The record is 13, set on Jan. 27, 2011 vs. Penn State.
McGee Suffers Season-Ending InjurySophomore guard Centrese McGee will miss the 2011-12 season after suffering an ACL tear in her right knee just prior to the start of the school year. The Calumet City native had surgery on Oct. 6 to correct the injury and will use the current season as a redshirt year as she recovers.
McGee started all 32 games for the Fighting Illini during her freshman campaign, averaging 5.7 points per game and ranking second on the team in rebounding at 5.3 per contest. She led all Big Ten freshmen in rebounding while ranking second among those first-year players in steals (1.2 per game). Following the season, she received the Coaches' Award at the team's annual banquet and was Illinois' representative on the Big Ten Sportsmanship Team.
A Full FifteenFor the first time under Jolette Law, the Illini have a full complement of players on the roster. Returning 10 players from a year ago, the Illini added an impressive class of five for this season.
The incoming class includes two players from state championship teams -- Alexis Smith (West Islip, N.Y./St. John the Baptist H.S.) and Taylor Tuck (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook H.S.) and all five players who have excelled in the classroom. The rest of the class includes Ivory Crawford (Chicago, Ill./Proviso East H.S.), the No. 88 ranked player in the class (No. 6 in Illinois) according to Blue Star Basketball; Nia Oden (Brooklyn, N.Y./Christ the King H.S.), the 30th-ranked wing player in the class according to ESPN HoopGurlz; and Kierra Morris (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park Academy), a first team all-state performer.
The returnees had a combined for 266 starts coming into the season from Lydia McCully (93), Macie Blinn (23), Eboni Mitchell (18), Lana Rukavina (34), Adrienne GodBold (5), Karisma Penn (65), Kersten Magrum (15) and Amber Moore (13).
Big Ten Tournament Tickets On Sale NowAll-session tickets for the 2012 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the Illinois Athletics ticket office, Conseco Fieldhouse box office, Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis is the site of the tournament from March 1-4. All-session tickets are available for $50 through January 31, which marks a 30-percent discount off the regular price of $70. Fans wishing to purchase all-session tickets within their university's fan block for their respective team's games only are encouraged to contact their school's ticket office.
Illini to See Plenty of TV, Internet CoverageThe Illini will appear on national television at least seven times this season. In addition, 13 more games will be streamed live online on the Big Ten Digital Network and FightingIllini.com All-Access.
For the season, all 16 Big Ten Conference games and all Illinois home games will be either nationally televised or streamed online. In addition, all 10 Big Ten Tournament games will be televised, with the Big Ten Network airing the first three rounds and ESPN2 broadcasting the championship game.
Law Locks Up Two for 2012-13Illinois head coach Jolette Law has announced the signing of 6-0 guard Mckenzie Piper (Iowa City, Iowa/Iowa City West H.S.) and 6-3 forward Nia Moore (Bolingbrook, Ill./H.S.) as members of the 2012-13 Illini class.
Piper committed to Illinois in June following Elite Camp after considering Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa State and Iowa among others. Piper averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and shot 41 percent from the field in helping Iowa City West to the championship game of the Class 4A state tournament last season. The three-star recruit also played for All Iowa Attack and is ranked as the 59th best guard in the class by HoopGurlz.
Moore committed to Illinois in October after also considering Notre Dame, Auburn and Wisconsin. She is the second player from the highly successful Bolingbrook High School program to join the Illini, along with current freshmen Taylor Tuck. Moore was the starting center for the 2011 IHSA Class 4A champions, who won the last three state titles in the largest class in Illinois. Moore is a three-star recruit according to HoopGurlz and transferred to Bolingbrook after playing her first two years at Morgan Park High School. HoopGurlz ranks her as the 82nd best forward in the class nationally and evaluates her as a "shot blocker/changer."