Senior Lacey Simpson and the Illini are looking for their first Big Ten win Thursday when Penn State comes to Assembly Hall.
Dec. 30, 2009
Sponsor Day: Anyone that works for a Sponsor of UI Athletics will receive $2 admission by showing their business card, staff ID or any form of employment.
On The Air
TV: Big Ten Network (Lisa Cornwell, play-by-play, and Patricia Babcock McGraw, analyst)
Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS AM-1400 and WDAN AM-1490 (Dave Loane and Mike Koon)
Livestats: fightingillini.com GameTracker (http://fightingillini.cstv.com/gametracker/launch/?event=824656&school=ill&sport=wbaskbl&)
Penn State leads 23-13 overall, but Illinois leads 9-7 in Champaign
Last meeting: Illinois 58, PSU 49 on March 5, 2009 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament
Illinois: Jolette Law, 38-39 overall and at Illinois (third season)
PSU: Coquese Washington, 33-39 overall and at Penn State (third season)
The Game: Illinois (8-3, 0-1 Big Ten) looks to bounce back from Monday's conference-opening loss to Ohio State this Thursday when Penn State comes to Assembly Hall. It marks the fourth game of a five-game homestand for the Orange and Blue. The Lady Lions are 9-3 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play after beating Iowa at home Monday night in overtime, 77-73.
Back on the Tube: The Illinois-Penn State game was pushed back an hour from the original 2 p.m. starting time to accommodate a live broadcast by the Big Ten Network. The game will now tip at 3 p.m. CT with Lisa Cornwell and Patricia Babcock McGraw will call the action.
Double Trouble: Illini senior All-American Jenna Smith became the program's career double-doubles leader with her 10-point, 15-rebound performance against Ohio State on Monday. The senior now has 41 double-doubles in her career to eclipse Jonelle Polk's former record of 40. Smith has nine double-doubles in 11 games this season, which leads the nation.
What to Watch For on Thursday...
...Jenna Smith is looking for her 51st straight game of scoring in double-figures
...Smith needs 30 points to reach 1,800 for her career
...Lacey Simpson needs nine rebounds for 750 in her career
Big Ten Leaders: Illini lead the way in handful of Big Ten statistical categories. Jenna Smith leads the conference in overall rebounding (11.7) and defensive rebounding (9.45), while Lacey Simpson leads the league in steals (3.0). As a team, Illinois tops the league in field goal percentage defense (32.9) and defensive rebounding (29.45).
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 32.9 percent shooting from the field, which leads the Big Ten and ranks among the best in the nation. The Illini ranked third in the nation in FG percentage defense when the last NCAA rankings were released on Dec. 21. Only top-ranked UConn (31.0) and Savannah State (31.2) had better marks. Illinois also ranks in the top-10 in the nation in blocked shots at 6.6 per game.
Simpson Does It All: Already the Illinois career leader in steals, senior Lacey Simpson is widely known for her defense and versatility. This year, however, she has diversified her game even more. Simpson leads the Big Ten in steals once again at 3.0 per game, but she also ranks second in assists (4.64), third in assist-turnover ratio (2.22), third in three-point field goal percentage (.462), fifth in overall field goal percentage (.524) and sixth in defensive rebounds (4.91).
Fantastic Frosh: Freshmen Karisma Penn and Adrienne Godbold have made a big impact thus far for the Orange and Blue. Penn, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 12.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game and has already picked-up two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards in the first month of the season. Godbold, a 5-11 guard, scored a career-high 15 points and had three steals in the Illini's recent win over Oakland an is currently averaging 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Scouting the Lady Lions
Penn State stands at 9-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten, most recently beating Iowa 77-73 at home in overtime on Monday. The Lady Lions opened conference play on Dec. 6 with a 56-48 loss at Minnesota. Senior All-Big Ten guard Tyra Grant leads the team in scoring 19.0 points per game, while freshman point guard Alex Bentley is making a major impact (9.8 points and 4.3 assists) as well. Penn State ranks second in the league behind Illinois in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to just .331 percent shooting. The Lady Lions finished seventh in the Big Ten a season ago and were picked to finish seventh again by the coaches. Head coach Coquese Washington is in her third season at the helm of the program.
The Illinois-Penn State Series: Penn State owns a 23-13 advantage in the all-time series,, but Illinois leads 9-7 in Champaign. PSU took two of teams' three matchups last season. The Illini have the most recent win, however, beating the Lady Lions 58-49 in the first round of last season's Big Ten Tournament. The last Illinois home win over PSU was a 63-55 victory on March 2, 2008.
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.
Rare Company: In the most recent NCAA stat rankings that came out on Dec. 21, Smith ranked seventh in the NCAA in rebounding and 10th in scoring, making her one of just two players in the nation to rank in the top-10 in both categories (Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark is the other). Smith is also leads the NCAA with nine double-doubles and ranks 25th in the nation in blocks at 2.2 per game.
Cleaning the Glass: With 129 rebounds through the first 11 games this season, Smith has upped her career total to 959 and has moved into second on the UI career rebounding list. She needs 56 rebounds to pass Cindy Dallas' total of 1,014 and become Illinois' all-time rebounding leader. Smith leads the Big Ten and ranks seventh in the nation with her 11.7 rebounds per game.
Record Breaker: Smith has 1,770 career points to rank fourth on the UI career scoring list. She is 136 points behind Lisa Robinson's third-place total of 1,906 and is 320 points shy of breaking Ashley Berggren's Illinois career scoring record of 2,089 points. With a minimum of 18 games left this season, Smith needs to average 17.8 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 185 and the career double-doubles mark and has a good chance to finish atop several more categories before 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 185 1 185 - Double-Doubles 41 1 41 - Rebounds 959 1,014 56 Points 1,770 4 2,089 320 FG Made 673 4 815 144 Miss Consistency: Smith has extended her school-record streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 50 this season. That streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (81) and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley (69). 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 78 of the last 79 games, with only a six-point outing against Michigan on Feb. 24, 2008, getting in the way of a 79-game streak.
Current Consecutive Games of 10+ points (through games of Dec. 28) Rk Player, School Streak 1. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State 81 2. Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State 69 3. Jenna Smith, Illinois 50 4. Dawn Evans, James Madison 41 5. Alysha Clark, MTSU 36 Chastity Reed, Arkansas-LR 36 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 and approaching top-10 status in the all-time Big Ten record book, 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 1,770 career points and 959 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 9.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.0 steals per game, all while usually guarding the top offensive player from the opposing team. She ranks in the top-five in the conference in five categories (Assist/TO Ratio, steals, assists, 3FG percentage and defensive rebounds) and leads the Big Ten in steals once again.
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 52.4 percent from the field (43-of-82) and 46.2 percent from downtown (12-of-26). Simpson made just eight threes last season and shot 22 percent from behind the arc (8-of-37).
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 3.0 steals per game to once again pace the Big Ten.
Simpson is already the school's all-time leader in steals with 288 and she is approaching the all-time Big Ten top-10 list. 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.
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.
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. 21) Illinois ranks in the national top-25 in three categories, while Fighting Illini individuals crack the top-100 in 10 categories, including three in the top-10 as Jenna Smith is first in double-doubles, seventh in rebounding and 10th in scoring. Here is the list...
Team Category Rank Stat FG Percentage Defense 3 .316 Blocked Shots 9 6.4 Field Goal Percentage 25 .452
Indiv. Category Player Rank Stat Double-doubles Jenna Smith 1 8 Rebounds per game Jenna Smith 7 11.4 Points per game Jenna Smith 10 21.5 Assist-TO ratio Lacey Simpson 16 2.47 Blocks per game Jenna Smith 25 2.2 Blocks per game Karisma Penn 34 2.0 FG Percentage Jenna Smith 35 .552 Steals per game Lacey Simpson 47 2.8 FT Percentage Jenna Smith 64 .860 Assists per game Lacey Simpson 67 4.7