Dec. 12, 2005
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A Look at the Week Ahead...
Big Ten women's basketball action is taking place during five of the seven days this week, beginning with Michigan and Minnesota on Tuesday. The Wolverines host Fordham, while the Golden Gophers travel to South Carolina. Both Northwestern and Wisconsin hit the road on Wednesday, while the week's marquee matchup takes place in Columbus on Thursday. A rare pre-conference top-four showdown will take place when No. 3/3 LSU plays No. 4/4 Ohio State. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern will host opponents over the weekend, while Indiana and Penn State hit the road.
Four Big Ten Teams Ranked in Nation's Top 25
Four conference squads were ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls this past week. Ohio State was ranked fourth and Minnesota was 14th in both polls. Michigan State was ranked No. 13/15, while No. 24/23 Purdue rounded out the Big Ten contingent.
Buckeyes Stay Perfect
Ohio State has defeated two consecutive ranked opponents and will face No. 3/3 LSU this Thursday. At 6-0 on the season, the Buckeyes are the lone remaining undefeated team in the conference. In last week's NCAA rankings, Ohio State rated first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 40.2 points per game. While that margin has increased slightly to 43.0, OSU is still outscoring its opponents by 33.8 points. Last week's margin of victory of 38.4 also ranked first in the NCAA national ratings.
All Eyes on Davenport vs. Augustus
A national viewing audience will be able to watch a head-to-head battle between National Player of the Year candidates Jessica Davenport of Ohio State and Seimone Augustus of LSU on Thursday, Dec. 15. ESPN2 will televise the game when the Lady Tigers travel to Columbus to face the Buckeyes at 7:30 p.m. ET. In 2005, Augustus claimed National Player of the Year honors as a junior, however Davenport was a finalist for each award as a sophomore.
Three seniors currently sit atop the scoring rankings in the Big Ten, including two that rank over 20 points per game. Michigan State's Liz Shimek leads the conference with 21.0 points per contest, while Iowa's Crystal Smith is averaging 20.8. Indiana's Cyndi Valentin has scored an average of 17.9 points over nine games this year.
Home For The Holidays
Illinois, which opened the season with seven of its first eight games away from home, finished the rough stretch with a 2-2 road record and a 2-1 neutral site mark. The Fighting Illini, 5-3 on the season, will now have a three-game homestand before hitting the road once again on Jan. 1 to open conference play. Illinois is currently holding opponents to just 54.2 points per game (2nd in Big Ten) and .344 shooting (2nd), both of which are on pace to set school records.
Another One for the Road
Indiana has also found early success on the road. The Hoosiers, above .500 for the first time this season, have posted three road wins in 2005, which have already matched their total road wins from last year.
The Two for Turnovers
Ohio State and Purdue hold a commanding advantage over the rest of the league teams in turnover margin as both the Buckeyes and the Boilermakers are hounding their opponents this season. OSU leads the conference with a +10.67 turnover margin, having caused 130, while only committing 66. In fact, the Buckeyes have forced at least 15 turnovers in all six games this season. Purdue has made 130 turnovers, but has caused 173 for a margin of +5.38. Four other Big Ten schools currently post a positive margin, however the closest team to the top two is Michigan State at +1.25.
A Race to the Stripe
Adrienne Squire of Penn State currently leads the conference in free-throw shooting, as she has not missed one attempt this year. The Lady Lion sophomore is a perfect 22-of-22 this year over eight games. She also hit all 10 of her attempts last year and is inching closer to the all-time record for consecutive free throws made at Penn State, which is 42 and held by current assistant coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl.
Indiana's Cyndi Valentin ranks second behind Squire, having missed only two of her 45 attempts this year for a .956 average. Valentin, who was 11-of-11 at the line in a win over Boston University this past weekend, has made 27 consecutive free throws, which ranks third in school history. She already owns the school record of 48 and is the Big Ten record holder in free-throw percentage, having made 99-of-107 (.925) attempts in 2003-04.
News From the Perimeter
Several team highs were either set or challenged this past week from beyond the arc. Purdue equaled a league-best total of nine three-pointers in a win over Valparaiso, while Minnesota matched the conference's season-best on 8-of-12 (.667) shooting from the perimeter. Iowa fell just one attempt shy of matching the league's top mark this year, as the Hawkeyes recorded 23 shots from downtown.
Individually, Purdue's Katie Gearlds finished the Valparaiso game with six three-pointers, which tied the league's best mark with Penn State's Adrienne Squire. Indiana's Nikki Smith also matched the best percentage this season, shooting 5-of-7 (.714) against Eastern Michigan, which ties MSU's Lindsay Bowen in her performance against Tennessee.
Helvey Makes 4-for-30?
This past week, Michigan's Kelly Helvey scored a career-high 30 points to become the fourth Big Ten student-athlete to eclipse the 30-point mark this season. Two weeks ago, Penn State's Kamela Gissendanner totaled 34 points in a home win over No. 24/24 Texas Tech. Iowa's Crystal Smith posted 46 points in a loss at Louisiana Tech on Nov. 22, while Northwestern's Ifeoma Okonkwo recorded 31 in a win at Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 26.
Boarding Up For Winter
Two season highs were set this past week in rebounding as Ohio State's Jessica Davenport and Indiana's Angela Hawkins each posted impressive totals. Davenport recorded a career-high 18 rebounds along with 15 points to record her 22nd career double-double in a win at No. 24 USC. In addition to her 12 points, Hawkins registered 16 rebounds for her the 10th career double-double.
Stealing Her Way to 300
Ohio State's Kim Wilburn is just seven steals shy of becoming just the 11th player in Big Ten history to record 300 career steals. Michigan's Stacey Thomas holds the record of 372, while other notables include Kristin Haynie (MSU, `01-05) in 3rd at 346 and Jess Strom (PSU, `02-05) in 10th at 310.
Double The Fun
Five Big Ten players -- Ohio State's Jessica Davenport (22 career), Indiana's Jenny DeMuth (13), Michigan's Kelly Helvey (3), Northwestern's Ifeoma Okonkwo (6) and Michigan State's Liz Shimek (26) -- lead a group of 20 conference players that have recorded double-doubles this season. Davenport tops the list with four, while the remaining four players have posted three apiece.
A total of 23 Big Ten players have put together at least two straight games of double-figure scoring. Two standouts -- Ohio State's Jessica Davenport and Iowa's Crystal Smith -- have streaks that have been maintained since the end of last season. Davenport has scored in double-figures 25 times (6 in 2005-06), followed by Smith's 18 (7). Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson has scored in double figures in each of her nine games this season.
Having a Grand Ol' Time
Six active conference student-athletes have eclipsed 1,000 points for their respective careers. Ohio State's Debbie Merrill, a transfer from Cincinnati, leads all players with 1,454 career points. Michigan State's Lindsay Bowen (1,435) and Liz Shimek (1,351) are ranked second and third, followed by Indiana's Cyndi Valentin (1,295) and Jenny DeMuth (1,213) and Ohio State's Jessica Davenport (1,169).
NCAA National Notables
Several Big Ten student-athletes and teams are nationally ranked in many categories as of Dec. 6, which are listed on page five. Penn State's Adrienne Squire ranks first (1.000) in FT percentage, followed by Ohio State's Jessica Davenport (4th, .691 FG%) and Kim Wilburn (7th, 4.4 steals). OSU also leads in scoring defense, scoring margin and turnovers per game.