Big Ten Winning Big in 2004-05

Nov. 22, 2004

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The Big Ten Wins Big...
In the first two weeks of the season, Big Ten teams have combined for a 13-8 (.619) record, but have clearly dominated their opponents in margin of victory.  Of the 13 wins, League teams are averaging 80.7 points per game, compared to their opponents' 48.8 ppg -- a difference of 31.9.  Of the eight losses, which included three at the hands of top 10 teams, Big Ten squads averaged 64.0 ppg, while allowing 72.4 ppg to their opponents for an average of just 8.4 per loss.  The largest winning margins this season have come from Purdue (68, 107-39 vs. IPFW) and Illinois (50, 88-38 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff).  In the 13 Big Ten victories this season, 11 have been won by more than 14 points and eight by 30 or more points.

Buckeyes Fall to Notre Dame in Preseason WNIT Final
After winning its first three games at home by a combined score of 243-115, #10/9 Ohio State fell in a tightly-contested battle at #11/10 Notre Dame on Saturday, 66-62, in the championship game of the 2004 Preseason WNIT.  Jessica Davenport and Caity Matter were named to the All-Tournament team and led the Buckeyes to many tournament records as well.  OSU set two Preseason WNIT team records: 3-pointers in a game and 3-pointers in a tournament. Ohio State made 13 3-pointers (of 20 attempted) vs. Bowling Green and 27 during the four preseason WNIT contests.  The Buckeyes opened the tournament at home with an 89-41 win over Bowling Green and then ousted St. Joseph's, 76-29, on November 14.  OSU won its semifinal game against No. 24/21 Arizona State, 78-45, which gave Buckeye head coach Jim Foster his 550th career victory.

Pair of Coaches Looking For Milestone Wins This Week
Two Big Ten coaches are one win away from milestone victories in their respective careers, while two other League mentors reached a milestone last week.  Off to a 3-1 start this season, Ohio State's Jim Foster gained career win 550 in Columbus last Wednesday as his Buckeyes topped No. 24/21 Arizona in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.  Iowa's Lisa Bluder gained her 75th win at Iowa this past weekend as the Hawkeyes captured the KCRG TV-9 Hawkeye Challenge in Iowa City, with victories over Southern Illinois and Missouri.  Penn State's Rene Portland, in her 25th season in State College, is one victory away from 650 for her career.  Portland and the Lady Lions will look to eclipse the mark Tuesday at home against Duquesne.  Finally, Beth Combs will look for her first win at Northwestern on Monday when the Wildcats travel to West Virginia or on Wednesday at home against Western Michigan.

McCarville Returns to Golden Gopher Lineup
Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year and national player of the year candidate Janel McCarville began her 2004-05 All-America campaign on November 19, after missing a total of four weeks of practice and the first week of the season with a broken hand.  The Gophers' senior center and returning WBCA Kodak All-American broke the third metacarpal bone of her left hand in practice on October 28 and missed Minnesota's first two games at the WBCA/BTI Classic.  She returned to the lineup against Arkansas State in the first round of the Gophers' Subway Classic.  Despite recording only five points and took only five shots, McCarville pulled down eight rebounds, added eight assists and blocked three shots.  In the Classic final, McCarville collected her first double-double of the season, tallying 12 points and 14 rebounds in win over Virginia Tech.  Last season, she averaged 16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds last year in helping Minnesota to its first Final Four appearance.

Indiana's Valentin Sets Records at Free-Throw Line
Indiana's Cyndi Valentin continued her school-record of consecutive made free-throws last Friday in the Hoosiers' 60-47 loss at No. 8/8 Baylor.  Valentin went 5-for-5 from the charity stripe, moving her consecutive streak to 47 made free throws, with her last miss coming against Michigan State on January 2, 2004.  Last year, she set a new Big Ten and Hoosier record as a sophomore by converting on 92.5 percent (99-107) of her free throws.  Valentin also netted 42-of-43 attempts (.977) from the charity stripe in Conference play last year. 

OSU's Davenport Shooting Free for Valentin's Mark
While Indiana's Cyndi Valentin has currently made 47 consecutive free throws, Ohio State sophomore Jessica Davenport is proving to be quite the standout at the charity stripe as well.  In the first four games of the season, all of which were played as part of the Preseason WNIT, Davenport has connected on all 21 free throws she has attempted.

Penn State's Strom Eyes Big Ten Assists Record
Penn State senior Jess Strom needs no assistance as she climbs her way toward the top of the all-time Big Ten career assists mark.  Strom had five assists in the season opener at Texas (November 14), which was enough to move her into fourth place with 646 assists.  Strom currently has 654 assists for her career.  Northwestern's Nancy Kennelly holds the League record with 892 assists from 1988-93.

Big Ten Career Assists Leaders
Player, Team ... Years ... Assists 
1.  Nancy Kennelly, NU ... 1988-93 ... 892
2. Tina Nicholson, PSU ... 1992-96 ... 826
3. Helen Darling, PSU ... 1997-00 ... 791
4. Jess Strom, PSU ... 2002-Pres. ... 654
5. Jamie Lewis, OSU ... 1997-01 ... 643

Big Ten Ranks First in WBCA/Summerville RPI Ratings
In the preseason WBCA/Summerville RPI Ratings, which measure strength of schedule, the Big Ten ranked first among all Conferences with a rating of .586.  The Pac-10 was second (.579), followed by the SEC (.573).  Penn State (.707) and Purdue (.673) ranked second and third behind Tennessee (.781) in non-conference action, while five League teams trailed the Lady Volunteers (.684) in the overall schedule.  Indiana (.618) is sixth, followed by No. 8 Michigan (.613), No. 11 Penn State (.609), No. 13 Purdue (.607) and No. 23 Wisconsin (.588).

Big Ten Opens 23rd Year of Conference Play
This year marks the 23rd season of Big Ten Women's Basketball.  Women's athletics were officially incorporated into the Big Ten in 1981-82, with basketball beginning in 1982-83.  Since its official inception, Big Ten Women's Basketball has become one of the elite conferences in the nation.  Last season, the Big Ten produced its fourth Final Four representative (Minnesota) in six years and captured 11 wins in the 2004 NCAA Championship, marking the League's all-time best win total in the Tournament.

A Brief Look at Who Returns
Six League teams return four or more starters, while nine schools welcome back at least three.  Of the League's 55 starters from last year, 39 (71 percent) return for the 2004-05 campaign.  In addition 83 letterwinners return as well.  The following is a closer look at the breakdown of each Conference school:

Team ... Starters ... Letterwinners
Illinois ... 4 ... 9
Indiana ... 5 ... 12
Iowa ... 3 ... 7
Michigan ... 2 ... 3
Michigan State ... 5 ... 8
Minnesota ... 3 ... 8
Northwestern ... 5 ... 7
Ohio State ... 4 ... 9
Penn State ... 3 ... 7
Purdue ... 1 ... 7
Wisconsin ... 4 ... 6
Total ... 39 ... 83

Lady Lions Focused on Third Straight League Title
Penn State will vie for its third-straight Big Ten regular season title this year and its sixth overall since joining the Conference in 1992-93.  This season's team returns seven players from last year's squad that went 28-6 (15-1, Big Ten) and advanced to the East Regional Final before falling to eventual NCAA champion UConn.  

Boilermakers Looking for Three-Peat as Well
Penn State will not be the only team looking for a three-peat in 2004-05.  Purdue has captured the Big Ten Tournament Championship the past two seasons and will look for its second three-peat, March 3-7, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.  Purdue won three consecutive Conference tournaments from 1998-2000.

Spartan Slogan?  "Defense Wins Championships"
Michigan State, picked second in the preseason by League coaches, should also be a tough contender for the Conference title this season.  The Spartans return 80 percent or more of the scoring, rebounding and assists from last year's team that was 22-9 overall and tied for fourth in the League at 10-6.  While Michigan State boasts an offensive 1-2 punch in juniors Liz Shimek and Lindsay Bowen (Coaches 2004-05 Preseason All-Big Ten; 2003-04 Second Team), the Spartans will look to continue to hold its spot as one of the top defensive teams in the land.  Last season, MSU led the Big Ten in scoring defense (56.1) and field goal percentage defense (.379). The Spartan defense allowed over 70 points only four times all season, and held 11 teams under 50 points.

Welcoming a Wildcat
A new era for the Northwestern women's basketball program began April 13, 2004, as Beth Combs was hired as the fifth mentor in the school's history.  Combs, who comes to Evanston after a three-year stint at Colgate, is no stranger to Big Ten basketball as she played at Illinois before graduating in 1992.

In just her third year at Colgate, Combs led the Raiders to their first Patriot League championship and their first NCAA Tournament berth.  Colgate finished 21-10, which included 10 wins in the Patriot League. For the second time in three years, Combs was named the conference's Coach of the Year. She concluded her Colgate career with a 44-45 overall record.  The Raiders, which fell 77-54 to national finalist Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, led all women's basketball programs in last year's NCAA field with a 100 percent graduation rate.

Conference Coaching Landscape Freshens Up
The 2004-05 season marks the silver anniversary for Rene Portland as head coach at Penn State, while Illinois' Theresa Grentz enters her 10th season with the Illini.  The landscape of League mentors has taken on a fairly fresh look in the past couple of years, however, as nine of the 11 Conference coaches have spent six years or less at their respective schools.  Five coaches have spent less than three years on their respective Big Ten campuses.

25 Rene Portland, PSU
10 Theresa Grentz, ILL
6 Kristy Curry, PUR
5 Kathi Bennett, IND
5 Lisa Bluder, IOWA
5 Joanne P. McCallie, MSU
3 Pam Borton, MINN
3 Jim Foster, OSU
2 Cheryl Burnett, MICH
2 Lisa Stone, WIS
1 Beth Combs, NU Ranks Two Big Ten Stars as "Fresh Faces"
Ohio State's Caity Matter and Penn State's Tanisha Wright are two of five student-athletes who have been selected by as "Fresh Faces" to watch for in 2004-05.

Several standout players, including Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen, Penn State's Kelly Mazzante and Purdue's Shereka Wright, held the spotlight last season, but have since graduated.  A new search of talented stars was conducted by and Matter and Wright were tabbed by ESPN's Nancy Lieberman and Mechelle Voepel as "fresh faces whose spotlights are about to get bigger."  Matter was the Buckeyes' leading scorer in 2003-04 with 14.8 points per game, while Wright averaged 14.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year and was tabbed honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press for the second straight year.  Here are what the experts had to say on the two Big Ten standouts:

Caity Matter, Ohio State, 5-9, senior
"One of the Big Ten's top shooters should get more recognition this year with the Buckeyes contending for the league title." -- Mechelle Voepel

Tanisha Wright, Penn State, 5-11, senior
"The only player in Big Ten history to twice win league defensive player of the year honors can also score without hesitation. She's always been a slasher; last season she really improved her outside shot." -- Nancy Lieberman

"Very versatile, strong player and solid defender who becomes the centerpiece for her team now that Kelly Mazzante is gone." -- Mechelle Voepel

Big Ten Continues to Boast FAN-tastic Figures
The Big Ten will look to continue its dominance in national attendance this season, as last year's total of 778,125 was a Conference record and ranked second nationally (Big 12).  Over the 2003-04 season, an average of 5,085 fans -- also a Conference record -- attended Big Ten games.  The Big Ten has led the nation in attendance seven of the last 12 years, most recently in 1999.

Three League Schools Drastically Improve Attendance
Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota ranked in the top five in the nation for increased attendance last season.  Purdue (2nd) averaged 10,105 fans per game -- an increase of 3,051 per game.  Penn State (4th) took in 9,670 (+2,899) last year, while Minnesota (5th) improved 1,903 to 9,703.

May I Check Your ID Please?
will undoubtedly be one of the youngest teams in the nation this season, sporting a 10-person roster that includes eight freshman and sophomores, no juniors and two seniors. The Wolverines welcome seven freshmen to the fold in 2004-05 after losing standout seniors Jennifer Smith and Stephanie Gandy to graduation.  Highlighting the seven incoming freshmen are Missouri Miss Basketball Katie Dierdorf (6-0, F), Michigan Miss Basketball Krista Clement (5-9, G), AAU All-American Becky Flippin (5-6, G), Jessica Starling (6-0, G) and Ta'Shia Walker (6-0, F).

Michigan's two seniors, Tabitha Pool and BreAnne McPhilamy, will carry a heavy load this season for second-year head coach Cheryl Burnett.  Pool was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection last season after averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds last year, while McPhilamy will be called upon to provide interior defense and rebounding after playing just 6.0 minutes per game a year ago.

Second ACL Injury to Keep Iowa's Richards Sidelined
Iowa's Lindsay Richards underwent successful surgery July 7 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee after sustaining the injury during a summer practice in early-June.  The junior point guard will likely be sidelined for two to three months and is expected to rejoin Iowa in January.

This is the second time in as many years she has undergone surgery to repair a damaged ACL in her right knee. Richards' first ACL injury came in a home game against Denver on December 12, 2002.  An Academic All-Big Ten selection last year, Richards ranked fifth on the team in scoring (5.4 ppg) and free throw percentage (39-51, .765), second in assists (85) and fourth in steals (27) last season.

Indiana's DeMuth Out for Season With ACL Injury
Indiana forward Jenny DeMuth will miss the 2004-05 season due to a torn ACL in her left knee.  DeMuth, the Big Ten's and Indiana's top returning scorer (18.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.7 rpg), injured her knee just five minutes into the Hoosiers' first official practice at Midnight Madness on October 16.

DeMuth, who was selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team, was a Second Team All-Big Ten honoree selection by the media and Third Team All-Big Ten selection by the Conference coaches. She was the highest-scoring non-senior in the Big Ten last season and was the only conference player to rank in the top five in the Big Ten in both scoring and rebounding. She ranked fifth in each category with 18.3 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game, respectively. DeMuth finished the season with 532 points, a mark that ranks fifth in school history.

Hoosiers' Gathing Receives Sixth Year of Eligibility
Despite losing Jenny DeMuth, Indiana's top returning scorer and rebounder, the Hoosiers will have the services of sixth-year senior Jamie Gathing this season.  After sitting out the 2000-01 and 2003-04 seasons due to medical redshirts, Gathing received her sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA office and will play a lead role for the Hoosiers during the 2004-05 campaign.  Gathing averaged 7.7 ppg in Indiana's final three games during her junior year.

Gathing was also a member of this past summer's Big Ten Foreign Tour.  The Hoosier senior averaged 5.3 ppg and 4.5 rpg during the four-game Tour and helped lead the squad to an undefeated record.

A Final Four in December?
Coming off its first Final Four appearance in school history, Minnesota makes its 2004-05 television debut when the Gophers host another 2004 Final Four squad, No. 3/2 LSU, on Tuesday, December 14. National player of the year candidates Janel McCarville of Minnesota and LSU's Seimone Augustus will battle head-to-head when the two teams meet on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET.

Purdue to Battle Duke in a "Blockbuster"
As a part of a doubleheader with the Purdue men's team battling Evansville, the Lady Boilermakers will face Duke in the Boilermaker BlockBuster at Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday, December 18.  The game will be at 4:30 p.m. and is a rematch of the 1999 NCAA title game.

Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors, who is a former Purdue assistant, will have to have her Blue Devils ready as Purdue is 27-8 all-time in Indianapolis and has won its last seven straight in Conseco.

Badgers Host Conference Champs on CBS
The Wisconsin Badgers will also gain national exposure this season, as on Saturday, January 8, CBS will be in Madison to televise the noon EST tip-off featuring UW and Penn State.  Last year in Madison, Wisconsin nearly upset the then-No. 9 Lady Lions, but fell in the final seconds of the game, 60-59.

Boilers and Bucks to Battle in Big Ten/Big East Challenge
The second annual Big Ten/Big East Challenge will be played on Saturday, January 16 on ESPN2 and will feature Conference teams Purdue and Ohio State.

Purdue, the defending Big Ten Tournament Champion, plays at Notre Dame at 5 p.m. ET in a rematch of last year's Challenge contest, which the Boilermakers won at home, 76-63. The two programs are no strangers to each other, as both teams battled in the 2001 NCAA Championship Final, which Notre Dame won 68-66. Since that matchup, Purdue has won the last four games. Preceding the Purdue vs. Notre Dame contest, Ohio State hosts Rutgers at 3 p.m. ET. In last year's inaugural Challenge, Rutgers upended the Buckeyes, 56-53, in Piscataway, N.J. 

Points Come in Pairs
Before Indiana's Jenny DeMuth suffered a season-ending injury in mid-October, she and teammate Cyndi Valentin made up the League's top returning scoring tandem.  Illinois' Angelina Williams and Tiffanie Guthrie now hold the title as the highest-scoring returning duo in the Big Ten.

Big Ten's Highest-Scoring Duos
1. Jenny DeMuth/Cyndi Valentin (Indiana) 33.8
2. Angelina Williams/Tiffanie Guthrie (Illinois) 29.8
3. Caity Matter/Jessica Davenport (Ohio State) 27.4
4. Tanisha Wright/Jess Strom (Penn State) 25.3
5. Lindsay Bowen/Liz Shimek (Michigan State) 23.9

Big Ten Undefeated 4-0 on Foreign Tour This Summer
This past summer, a Big Ten squad made up of 12 players from all 11 League schools traveled and competed in Australia on the 2004 Big Ten Women's Basketball Foreign Tour. 

For the second straight year, the Big Ten Foreign Tour team went undefeated, compiling a 4-0 mark against teams from down under.  The Big Ten opened with a 65-43 victory over Parramatta ABA, followed by an 84-51 win over NSW Waraths.  History was made in the third game of the Tour as the Conference defeated Logan Thunder 114-57 -- The win marked the largest point total (114) and the second largest margin of victory (57) in the 12-year history of the Tour. The previous bests (113, 90) were set during the 1995 Tour in Japan when the Foreign Tour team defeated the Yokosuka Lady Hawks, 113-23.

The Big Ten team, led by Indiana head coach Kathi Bennett and her staff, concluded the Tour with a 75-64 win over the Southern District Spartans.

Michigan State junior Lindsay Bowen finished the Tour with a team-high scoring average of 16.5 points per game and recorded two straight 20-plus scoring games, including a Tour high 22 points against the Waraths.  Ohio State's Jessica Davenport averaged 15.0 ppg over the four- game circuit, including two 16-point contests.  Both Davenport and Bowen scored in double figures in each of the four Tour games.  Purdue's Sharika Webb led the squad in assists (4.5 apg) in each of the four Tour games.

The Big Ten Foreign Tour squad has gone 46-18 since the inception of the Tour in 1992. The summer trip has been held annually except for 2003.