…off to its best start since opening 10-3 in 2009-10
…looking for its 1st win at Penn State since 1998
…ranked 22nd nationally & leads B1G in turnover margin (+6.15 pg)
…ranked 28th nationally & 3rd in B1G in 3-point defense (25.5%)
…ranked 46th nationally & 3rd in Big Ten in steals (10.8 spg)
…7-1 when out-scoring opponents in the paint
…5-0 when Chatrice White has 3+ blocks
…5-1 when White leads or shares team lead in scoring
…playing Penn State only once for the 4th-straight season
…in its third season under head coach Matt Bollant
• Illini Head East to Face Penn State: Illinois (9-4, 0-1 B1G) travels to Penn State (3-10, 0-2) Sunday for a 1 p.m. CT start at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Illini have won four of their last six, while the Lady Lions have lost three in a row. • Illini in Big Ten Road Openers: Illinois is 12-20 all-time in Big Ten road openers and has lost five of its last six. The Illini’s lone win in a Big Ten road opener was last season, when the Orange and Blue beat Northwestern 76-74 in a game postponed nine days because of winter weather.
• Illini Post Best Non-Conference Mark in 8 years: Illinois finished non-conference play with a 9-3 record, its best mark prior to the start of the Big Ten schedule in eight years, since the 2006-07 squad went 10-2 to start the season. With nine wins, the Illini also have equaled their win total from 2013-14.
• Single-Game Treys Record Falls: Illinois shattered the school record for three-pointers in a single game at Valparaiso on Dec. 13, making 15-of-28 (53.6 percent). The outing surpassed the previous mark of 12 treys, which was set in 1997 and tied in 2003 and 2013. It also was the 14th time in Matt Bollant’s 75 games as Illinois’ head coach that the Illini have made 10-plus treys in a game.
• Defense Does It For Illinois: The Orange and Blue rank second in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally in turnover margin (+6.15 per game), and 46th nationally and third in the Big Ten in steals per game (10.8). The Illini also lead the Big Ten in turnovers forced (23.1 pg), and are 28th nationally and third in the Big Ten in three-point field-goal defense (25.5 percent), a marked improvement over last season’s 33.7 percent allowed.
• Teams Face Tough Sledding Versus Illini: Illinois has held opponents under 65 points in eight of its nine wins, with a 77-71 triumph over No. 9 Kentucky the only UI victory where its foe topped 65 points. The Illini also have held five teams under 20 points in a half this season: Robert Morris (15, 1st half), Southern (15, 2nd), Southern Illinois (15, 1st), Valparaiso (19, 1st) and Murray State (11, 1st).
• Illinois Turns Defense Into Offense: With that turnover margin of +6.15 per game, the Illini also have out-scored their three opponents 300-192 off turnovers for an average edge of 8.3 points per game (23.1-14.8).
• UI Finds Shooting Touch in Paradise: Illinois started the season by missing its first 24 three-pointers and was just 6-of-65 (9.2 percent) from long range through four games. But the Illini have found their touch of late, hitting 68-of-184 (36.9 percent) from downtown in the last nine games. UI also has made 38.1 percent of its treys in its last six games (56-of-147) after breaking the single-game school record with 15 bombs at Valparaiso on Dec. 13. Illinois has made 21 more three-pointers than its opponents in its last six games.
• New Faces Contribute for Illini: Illinois head coach Matt Bollant played nine players in the season-opener against IPFW and six of them were making their debut in Orange and Blue. Senior transfer Brittany Carter, junior transfer Kyley Simmons, redshirt-freshman Kennedy Cattenhead, and true-freshmen Amarah Coleman, Brooke Kissinger and Chatrice White, all saw their first game action for Illinois against the Mastodons. Through 12 games, that sextet has scored 530 of Illinois’ 915 points (57.9 percent) and has grabbed 49.1 percent of its rebounds (246 of 501).
• Crawford Comes on Strong: Senior guard Ivory Crawford – who is ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring (16.6 ppg) and 52nd nationally in steals (2.62 pg) – has scored in double-figures in Illinois’ last 10 games, including four 20-point performances. She averaged 24.3 points per game at Paradise Jam, earning all-tournament honors, and was named to the Big Ten weekly honor roll on Dec. 8 after averaging 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals in two wins the previous week.
• Crawford Starts Season Among 1,000-Point Club: Senior Ivory Crawford became only the 15th player in school history to score 1,000 points with eligibility remaining when she reached the milestone last season. She continues to climb up the list, currently standing 17th with 1,235 points. Crawford needs 88 points to pass Lynnette Robinson (1,322) for 16th place. She also stands seventh in three-pointers attempted (301), tied for seventh in career steals (211), ninth in career three-pointers made (91) and 15th in career offensive rebounds (206).
• Simmons Steps Up: Junior guard Kyley Simmons missed her first 10 three-pointers and only scored 12 points in Illinois’ first three games before sitting out the Southern game with a shoulder injury. But she returned with a vengeance at Paradise Jam, hitting 11-of-26 three-pointers and scoring 50 points in three games (16.7 ppg). She hit 11-of-12 free throws – including 9-of-10 in the game’s final 2:15 – to seal the win over Kentucky, then drained four treys against USF and a career-high five against Oklahoma. Over Illinois’ last nine games, Simmons is averaging 11.1 ppg and has hit 25-of-56 three-pointers (44.6 percent). She now stands tied for sixth in the Big Ten with 2.3 three-pointers made per game and is seventh in three-point shooting percentage at 39.1 percent. She also is sixth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9:1) and minutes played (34.6 per game).
• White Announces Her Presence with Authority: Chatrice White, who has already been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice (Dec. 8 & Nov. 24), is one of only six Big Ten players to rank in the top 15 in the conference in scoring (15th, 15.0 ppg) and rebounding (11th, 7.6 rpg). She has scored in double figures in 12 of Illinois’ 13 games and has recorded four double-doubles. White also is fifth in blocks (2.0 bpg) and seventh in offensive rebounds (3.2 pg). White’s latest Big Ten honor came after averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in Illinois’ two wins over Virginia and Southern Illinois.
• Grant Gets Going: After a slow start to the season, sophomore forward Jacqui Grant has been more consistent of late, averaging 9.5 points per game in the last 11 contests with five double-digit scoring outings. In Illlinois’ first two games, Grant scored just eight total points on 2-of-15 shooting. But she’s turned it around lately, posting 104 points on 45-of-93 shooting in UI’s last 11 games.
• Carter Makes It All Stick: Senior guard Brittany Carter has proved to be an extremely valuable part of the Illini team in her first season in Champaign, serving as Illinois’ “glue player.” She broke out at Valpo (Dec. 13), scoring a season-high 22 points – including 4-of-4 from three-point range – to go with six rebounds and six steals. Carter is averaging 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals – second-best on the squad – this season, and ranks sixth in the Big Ten in steals. She has one double-double and four double-digit scoring outings, as well as 5+ rebounds in 11 games, 2+ assists in 10 games and 2+ steals in eight games.
Scouting the Nittany Lions
• Penn State is off to one of the worst starts in program history, standing 3-10 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten after losses to Iowa and Michigan. The Lady Lions are 3-4 at home but haven’t beaten an opponent ranked higher than 237 in the RPI according to RealTimeRPI.com. The Illini and PSU have two common opponents in Seton Hall and South Florida. Illinois and the Lady Lions lost to both the Pirates and Bulls.
• PSU clearly misses Maggie Lucas on the perimeter, as it is shooting just 23.7 percent from three-point range and has only made 33-of-139 from long distance thus far. The Lady Lions rank 336th out of 343 Division I teams with 2.5 treys per game.
• Penn State stands 21st nationally in blocked shots per game (5.6) but is ranked worse than 100th in every other statistical category, including 186th in scoring offense (64.7 ppg) and 233rd in scoring defense (68.0 ppg) PSU also allows opponents to shoot three-pointers at a 32.6 percent rate, 245th-best in the nation.
• Redshirt-freshman Lindsey Spann leads the Lady Lions and ranks 11th in the Big Ten in scoring with 16.1 points per game and has made 15 of PSU’s 33 three-pointers on the season.
• Junior Candice Agee is sixth in the Big Ten in blocks with 1.9 per game, while sophomore Sierra Moore is 13th with 3.7 assists per game. Series History Against Penn State
Illinois trails the all-time series with Penn State by a 30-14 margin, and PSU holds a 16-2 margin in games played in University Park. The Lady Lions have won seven straight in the series against the Illini and 11 in a row at home. Illinois’ last victory in the series came on Dec. 31, 2009, in Champaign, and its last win in University Park came in 1998.
Last Season Against Penn State
Illinois led the entire first half but No. 14 Penn State shot 63 percent from the field and made nine more free throws than the Illini attempted as the Lady Lions overcame an early 12-point deficit to win, 82-76, at State Farm Center on Jan. 9, 2014. The Orange and Blue hit 10-of-35 three-pointers and forced PSU into a season-high 27 turnovers, but the Lions hit 29-of-35 free throws compared to only 12-of-20 by the Illini. Illinois trailed by 19 with 4:47 remaining, but UI began a rally from there. The Illini cut the margin to 80-70 with 1:27 left, then hit two treys in the next 64 seconds to pull within four. But PSU beat Illinois’ pressure as the Illini tried to foul, then Maggie Lucas drained two free throws to ice the Lions victory.