Adrienne GodBold and the Illini return to Assembly Hall for the first time since Dec. 1 when they host Cal on Tuesday evening.
Dec. 27, 2010
Tied 1-1 overall, Cal leads 1-0 in Champaign
Last Meeting: Cal 67, Illinois 64 on Nov. 26, 1990 in Champaign
Illinois: Jolette Law, 54-58 overall and at Illinois (fourth season)
California: Joanne Boyle, 126-61 at Cal (sixth season) and 193-80 overall (ninth season)
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Tip-off: After a short break for the holidays, the Fighting Illini return to action Tuesday night when California Golden Bears come to Assembly Hall. It will be Illinois' first home game since NC State came to the Hall on Dec. 1. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT with WDWS AM-1400 carrying the game and BigTenNetwork.com providing streaming video online.
Among the Nation's Best: In the most recent NCAA stat rankings (Dec. 20), Illini sophomore Karisma Penn ranked eighth in the nation in double-doubles and 11th in blocked shots. She has since added another double-double to bring her season total to seven, which leads the Big Ten.
Magrum Returns: Sophomore forward Kersten Magrum returned to the court Dec. 21 at Marquette after missing the first 11 games a stress injury in her foot. She had surgery on Nov. 10 and returned to the floor six weeks later, playing six minutes against the Golden Eagles. Coach Jolette Law plans to ease Magrum back into the regular playing rotation. Magrum was a key player for the Illini during the second half of last season, starting the last 15 games and averaging 6.9 points per game during that span.
Balanced attack: While Penn leads the Illini in scoring at 16.8 ppg, the rest of the roster is incredibly balanced in terms of scoring. Seven players average at least 6.5 ppg and eight UI players score between 4.8 and 8.7 ppg.
The Fighting Illini played nine of their first 12 games away from home, logging over 15,000 miles of travel during non-conference play. Illinois made round trips to Honolulu (4,900 miles), Boulder, Colorado (1,000 miles), Columbia, South Carolina (750 miles), Rochester, Michigan (400 miles), Milwaukee (225 miles), Chicago (150 miles) and Peoria (90 miles) in a span of 37 days.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN BEARS
Cal is off to a 7-3 start after splitting a pair of games at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Tournament Dec. 19-20. The Bears topped UT Arlington 81-56 but followed that up with a 50-43 loss to Texas Tech the next day. They have also dropped games at New Mexico and at Texas A&M and have a win over Rutgers and Jolette Law mentor C. Vivian Stringer. Cal was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10 Preseason Coaches Poll after going 24-13 last year and winning the WNIT title.
The Golden Bears are led by a trio of stellar sophomores, starting with 6-3 forward DeNesha Stallworth, a 2010 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team member who is averaging 16.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg and is shooting .551 from the field. Layshia Clarendon, a 5-9 guard who averages 14.1 ppg and is shooting .462 from behind the arc, and Talia Caldwell, a 6-3 forward who is averaging 11.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg and is shooting .571 from the field, make up the other two parts of the trio.
The Illinois-Cal Series: Illinois and California are meeting for the third time overall and for the first time in 20 years. The series is tied 1-1, with the Illini winning at Cal, 77-69, in 1985 and then the Bears winning the last meeting 67-64 in Champaign in 1990.
PENN STEPPING UP
Sophomore Karisma Penn has stepped up as Illinois' go-to player this year in the absence of Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson, last year's Illini senior stars. Penn already has seven double-doubles this season, the most in the Big Ten through games of Dec. 22. Penn is averaging 16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks, totals that rank fifth, second and second in the Big Ten, respectively, and a significant increase in production from last year when she averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 boards and 1.7 blocks to earn Big Ten All-Freshman accolades.
Penn POW: Penn earned Big Ten Co-Player of the Week accolades on Dec. 20 after registering her sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds vs. UIC on Dec. 18. She also tied the UI single-game blocked shots record with seven swats against the Flames.
Only 12 games into her sophomore season, Penn is already climbing up the UI career blocks list. After breaking the UI freshman record with 57 swats last year, Penn has added 35 so far this season to bring her career total to 92, sixth-best on the UI career list.
WHERE ARE THE SENIORS?
Illinois is one of only seven Division I teams in the nation without a senior on its roster heading into the 2010-11 season, joining Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Murray State, Oral Roberts, Purdue and Rutgers. With the absence of senior leadership, Illini head coach Jolette Law has singled out redshirt junior Lydia McCully and sophomores Karisma Penn and Kersten Magrum as players who have stepped up as leaders this season.
LAST TIME OUT: ILLINI FALL AT MARQUETTE
Karisma Penn had her seventh double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Fighting Illini fell at Marquette, 73-56, in front of 3,812 screaming students on Dec. 21. The Illini (5-7) trailed by just one at the half, but the Golden Eagles (10-2) pulled away in the second half to win their 10th straight at the Al McGuire Center.
The lead see-sawed back and forth several times in the first half. Marquette opened up a 22-16 lead at one point, but the Illini responded with a 13-4 run to take a 29-26 with 1:44 left. Golden Eagles scored the last four points before the break, however, and took a 30-29 lead into the locker room.
The second half was a different story, however, as the Golden Eagles scored five quick points in the first minutes and didn't let up. By the midpoint of the half, Marquette had hit 13-of-16 shots to open up a 21-point lead. The Golden Eagles shot 63 percent in the second half, while limiting Illinois to just 32 percent shooting.
For the game, Illinois shot 41 percent overall and Marquette 52 percent. Illinois held a 33-29 rebounding edge, but had 22 turnovers, which led to 24 points for MU. The crowd was also a factor, as the Golden Eagles welcomed over 3,000 screaming students to the game on Milwaukee Public Schools Day.
Four newcomers show up on the Fighting Illini roster this season, two players and two coaches. Jolette Law and staff welcome two freshman players to the squad in Centrese McGee (Calumet City, Ill.) and Alexis Burke (Bainbridge, Ga.), while redshirt freshman Amber Moore (Detroit, Mich.) is back in the mix after missing all but one game last season with a torn ACL. All three players have made a big impact early in the season as the three freshmen are combining to average 20.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game thus far. New on the sidelines are assistant coaches Michael Peck and Usha Gilmore.