Dec. 21, 2010
Get to Know Her
Lana Rukavina, Illinois
6-3, Jr., F, Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling
Though she has lived her whole life in Wheeling, Ill., Illinois junior Lana Rukavina has deep roots to her Croatian heritage. Lana actually learned Croatian as a first language when she was little before mastering English. Lana's parents, Davor and Mirella, moved to the U.S. from Croatia in 1983 and each summer they take the family back to the Croatian coastline near the city of Zadar to visit over 20 family members that still live there. A psychology major, Lana hopes to return to her native land to play professionally after she earns her degree from Illinois.
With Big Ten play set to begin on Dec. 30, the majority of conference teams will begin wrapping up their non-conference schedules in the coming days. In the last week, Big Ten teams combined for a 12-3 record through games ending on Monday night. Four conference teams have 10 or more wins this season, led by Iowa and Michigan State's 11 victories, while Penn State and Northwestern boast 10 triumphs each thus far. The Big Ten Network and www.bigtennetwork.com will provide national coverage of four conference matchups this week.
Where We Rank
Four Big Ten teams were mentioned in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, including three among the top 25. Michigan State is the highest ranked conference team in the AP poll, appearing at No. 12, followed immediately by Ohio State and Iowa at Nos. 13 and 14, respectively. In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, Ohio State is the Big Ten's top team at No. 12, with Iowa at No. 13 and Michigan State checking in at No. 16. Northwestern appeared among the teams receiving votes by both polling services.
Keeping the Streak Going
Ohio State senior Jantel Lavender entered her final season having scored in double-figures in each game she played in during her career. That streak has continued thus far in 2010-11 as she has now scored 10 or more points in 112 straight contests - the longest active streak in the nation.
In the national statistics, Big Ten teams and student-athlete rank among the top in several categories. Ohio State's Jantel Lavender (third, 25.3) and Amy Jaeschke (fifth, 24.2) rank in the top five in points per game, while Jaeschke is fifth in blocks per game (4.2). Penn State's Maggie Lucas is eighth in three-point field goals made per game (3.3), while teammate Alex Bentley is 10th in assists per game (6.0), and Iowa's Jaime Printy is third in free throw percentage at .969. To find out where other Big Ten student-athletes and teams rank among the NCAA, see Page 5 of this release.
Four conference teams have reached or surpassed the 10-wins mark already this season, making the Big Ten one of only three conferences in the nation with four squads having achieved the landmark. Iowa and Michigan State have both recorded 11 wins this season, while Northwestern and Penn State each won their 10th contest last week. The Big Ten is tied with the Big East for second among all conferences with four teams having won 10 games, while the Big 12 has five teams that boast 10 or more victories.
Several conference coaches reached landmark wins last week or are nearing milestones in the coming games. With a 75-70 victory over Drake on Monday, Iowa's Lisa Bluder recorded her 200th win at the helm of the Hawkeye program. In her 11th season on the Hawkeye bench, she has amassed a record of 200-124. Meanwhile, Minnesota coach Pam Borton is on the verge of becoming the Gophers' all-time winningest coach. With her next victory, she'll win her 173rd contest, surpassing former coach Ellen Mosher-Hanson's 172 triumphs. In West Lafayette, Purdue's Sharon Versyp is just three wins shy of her 100th as the Boilermaker coach.
On the Road to Recovery
Purdue received an extra boost last week after teammate Drey Mingo returned to the lineup for the first time in nearly a month after falling ill from bacterial meningitis. Admitted to the hospital in critical condition on Nov. 23, Mingo was released on Nov. 28 but has some damage to her hearing/auditory system, the extent of which will not be known for some time. She has been medically cleared to compete by the Purdue medical staff and will play limited minutes as she continues to build back her strength and endurance.
Competing With the Best
The Big Ten has recorded five wins against ranked opponents this season, four of which have come against higher-ranked opponents. On Dec. 1, then No. 25/25 Michigan State defeated No. 15/14 Florida State and then knocked off No. 17/20 Texas on Dec. 5, the same day Indiana defeated No. 24/19 Nebraska. On Dec. 9, No. 19/19 Iowa held No. 16/15 Iowa State to its lowest scoring game of the season in a 62-40 victory.
During the non-conference season, Big Ten teams took part in three challenge events with opposing conferences. The fourth annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge took place Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 1 and 2, with the ACC earning a narrow 6-5 series win. In the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge, the Big Ten claimed a 7-5 victory as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State all earned wins for the Big Ten. Also new this year, the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and the SEC organized the Super Six Series, which pits two teams from each conference against teams from one of the five others. Michigan State and Minnesota represented the Big Ten in the inaugural event.
This season, Big Ten women's basketball will enjoy extensive broadcast coverage, as more than 90 percent of home games will be produced for a national audience. Through media agreements with the Big Ten Network, CBS Sports and ESPN, Big Ten women's basketball will be broadcast to a national television audience approximately 65 times, with numerous more games to be produced nationally on www.bigtennetwork.com.
Big Ten Tournament Primetime
Once again, each game of the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament will be televised live to a national audience. The first nine games will be televised by the Big Ten Network, while the tournament final will be televised live by ESPN2. The Big Ten Network will continue to have a presence at the tournament, with a courtside studio to provide on-site analysis during the tournament.
Home Again in Indiana
The 2011 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament will once again call Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., home. It is the 16th time in 17 years the Circle City will play host to the annual event, and the 10th straight year the women's tournament will take place in Indianapolis. The Big Ten is in the fourth year of a five-year agreement with Indianapolis to serve as the host city for the annual men's and women's postseason events. The women's tournament will begin on Thursday, March 3 and culminate with the tournament championship game on Sunday, March 7.
A Familiar Site
The conference's women's basketball teams ultimate goal at the end of the season is the 2011 NCAA Women's Final Four, to be held at a very familiar site. Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, home of the 2011 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament, will serve as the site for the final games of the 2010-11 season. The Circle City has served as the host site of the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament for the past nine seasons. Michigan State advanced to the national championship game the last time Indianapolis served as the host site of the Women's Final Four.
Keep it CLASS-y
Four Big Ten women's basketball student-athletes were named candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, the most of any conference in the nation. The award is given annually to a senior that has notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. Iowa's Kachine Alexander, Northwestern's Amy Jaeschke, Ohio State's Jantel Lavender and Wisconsin's Alyssa Karel are among the list of 30 candidates, which will be trimmed to 10 midway through the season.
Wooden Would be Proud
Three Big Ten standouts were selected to the 2010-11 John R. Wooden Award Women's Preseason Top 30 List. Iowa senior Kachine Alexander and Ohio State senior Jantel Lavender and junior Samantha Prahalis were named to the watch list, which was announced during the summer.
Wade To Go
The same three Big Ten standouts that were named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 List also made the cut for the Wade Award watch list. Iowa senior Kachine Alexander and Ohio State senior Jantel Lavender and junior Samantha Prahalis are among the standouts to earn the preseason honor.
Naismith Knows Talent
Four conference student-athletes were named to Naismith Award watch list, which was announced prior to the season. Iowa senior Kachine Alexander, Northwestern senior Amy Jaeschke, and Ohio State senior Jantel Lavender and junior Samantha Prahalis are part of the 30-member watch list, with the winner to be announced at the 2011 Women's Final Four.