Women's Basketball
Game 14 WBB Notes: Minnesota at Illinois

Amber Moore and the Illini open Big Ten Conference play against Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 at Assembly Hall.
Amber Moore and the Illini open Big Ten Conference play against Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 at Assembly Hall.

Dec. 29, 2010

Complete Illinois-Minnesota Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Game 14 - Minnesota (8-5) at Illinois (5-8)

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 // 7:30 p.m. // Assembly Hall (16,618) // Champaign, Ill.

TV: Live on Big Ten Network, Dan Kelly and Debbie Antonelli
Radio: Live on WDWS-AM 1400 and online at fightingillini.com (pay), Dave Loane and Mike Koon
Livestats: Gametracker at fightingillini.com

Illinois leads 31-23 overall and 18-8 in Champaign
Last Meeting: Illinois 61, Minnesota 48 on Jan. 31, 2010 in Minneapolis

Illinois: Jolette Law, 54-59 overall and at Illinois (fourth season)
Minnesota: Pam Borton, 242-141 overall (14th season) and 173-95 at Minnesota (10th season)

Daddy-Daughter Date Night: Kids eighth grade and under get a free youth ticket when their dad purchases an adult ticket.


• Tip-off: The Illini open Big Ten play at home on Thursday, Dec 30, against the Minnesota Gophers. The Illini are looking to snap a two-game skid, while the Gophers are coming off a win over Northern Arizona. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with the Big Ten Network and WDWS AM-1400 carrying the game.

• Big Ten Begins: This marks the third-straight season Illinois opens Big Ten Play at home. The Illini are 11-17 all-time in Big Ten openers and 5-9 when opening conference play at home. The Orange and Blue have dropped their last two conference openers, falling to Ohio State last year and Purdue in 2008-09, but prior to that they had won four straight Big Ten openers.

• 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 double-doubles against Marquette and California to bring her season total to eight, which leads the Big Ten.

* 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. Outside of Penn, five players average at least 6.3 ppg and eight UI athletes score between 4.5 and 8.6 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.

Minnesota is off to a 8-5 start after earning a win over Northern Arizona in their most recent contest, 82-74, on Dec. 22. Prior to their match-up with the Lumberjacks, the Gophers dropped a hard-fought contest at Alabama A&M, 75-68, on Dec. 14, ending a two-game win streak that featured home victories over Cal Poly, 66-52, on Dec. 12 and Southern, 63-48, on Dec. 9.

The Gophers are led by a the scoring duo of Kiara Buford and Leah Cotton. Buford leads Minnesota with 16.2 points in 12 games, good for sixth among Big Ten athletes. Cotton, the eighth-highest scorer in the conference, has come off the bench in all but one of the Gophers' 13 contests to total 15.8 points. Jackie Voigt and Kristen Dockery lead Minnesota in rebounding, pulling down an average of 7.4 and 5.5 boards per game, respectively.

• The Illinois-Minnesota Series: Illinois owns a 31-23 advantage over Minnesota in the all-time series and holds and 18-8 edge in Champaign. The Illini have won three-straight against the Gophers after a season sweep last year, as the Illini were victorious at Assembly Hall on Jan. 10 (64-62) and at Williams Arena on Jan. 31 (61-48). Adrienne GodBold's three-point play with 10.3 seconds left was the difference in last year's Illini win at Assembly Hall.

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 eight double-doubles this season, the most in the Big Ten through games of Dec. 28. Penn is averaging 16.7 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 13 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 37 so far this season to bring her career total to 94, sixth-best on the UI career list.

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.

A furious second half rally fell just short as the Illini dropped a heart-breaking contest at Assembly Hall to the California Golden Bears, 65-61. After falling behind by double-digits, the Orange and Blue battled back to within two points of tying on three occasions; however, Illinois was unable to connect on the game-tying score.

In their final push for the tying basket, the Illini cut the deficit to 54-54, with redshirt-freshman guard Amber Moore hit her only two free throw attempts of the contest with 2:26 remaining. Cal answered with an eight-point run to push their lead back to double-digits.

Sophomore forward Karisma Penn added her eight double-double of the season, and fourth consecutive, by tallying 16 points and 10 boards. Moore and true-freshman guard Centrese McGee also reached double figures in points, providing 11 and 10, respectively.

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 20.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game thus far. New on the sidelines are assistant coaches Michael Peck and Usha Gilmore.

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. Unfortunately, she had to sit out the Cal game on Dec. 28 due to a setback with the injury. Her status for the Minnesota game is unknown.

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.