Women's Basketball Opens Valley Play with Northern Iowa, Bradley

Jan. 3, 2013

Game 14 | illinois state vs. Bradley
Date: Sunday, Jan. 6 at 2:05 p.m.
Location: Normal, Ill. | Redbird Arena
Game Notes: Illinois State | Bradley
Live Stats: GameTracker
TV: WTVP - Peoria



NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State returns to Redbird Arena to open Missouri Valley Conference play, as the Redbirds host Northern Iowa Friday at 7 p.m. and Bradley Sunday at 2:05 p.m. Friday's game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, while Sunday's game will air on WTVP-Peoria.

Illinois State is 19-10 all-time in Missouri Valley Conference openers and has won six-straight. The last time ISU lost a conference opener was against Southern Illinois during the 2005-06 season, when the Salukis won, 87-65, at Redbird Arena.

The Redbirds are looking to win their second-straight matchup against Northern Iowa and win their third-straight game in Redbird Arena against the Purple Aces.

Illinois State ended the non-conference season winning seven of its last nine games.

Illinois State leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa, 38-25. The series began in 1976 and is the fourth-longest in program history. ISU started the series with a 28-3 record, which included a 22-game winning streak. Since then, UNI holds a 22-10 advantage in the series. The Redbirds have won consecutive games just once during that stretch, winning both regular-season meetings during the 2009-10 season. ISU is 23-9 in contests played in Normal, Ill.

Illinois State leads the all-time series with Bradley, 43-17. The two teams have met at least twice each year since 1984. While
Bradley has never won more than two-consecutive games over ISU, the Redbirds have five winning streaks of at least four games.
ISU is currently on a 14-game winning streak dating back to 2006, with 10 of those wins coming by double-digits. Last season, the Redbirds won both meetings by an average of 10.5 points and won both games in 2011 by an average of 14 points. ISU won both meetings in 2008 by 33 points each. Illinois State holds a 22-7 advantage of games played in Normal, Ill.

The Redbirds enter Missouri Valley Conference play with an 8-4 non-conference record, as they had one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the Valley. Two of ISU's losses came at the hands of Big Ten Conference foes (Iowa and Michigan), while
Princeton was a 2012 NCAA Tournament qualifier. Memphis was able to hang on late and grab the third-round Preseason WNIT win by two points, 76-74. Six of Illinois State's eight wins were won by double-digit margins, while two wins were against Big Ten Conference members (Northwestern and Illinois). ISU ended the non-conference season with strong road wins at Illinois (Dec. 21) and Butler (Dec. 30).

With the non-conference schedule wrapped up, the Illinois State women's basketball team is ready to open the 2012-13 Missouri
Valley Conference schedule. The Redbirds hope to open the conference schedule with a win, like they have the last few seasons.
ISU has opened Valley play with a win the last six-consecutive seasons. The last time the `Birds opened the conference season with a loss was during the 2005-06 season, when they fell to Southern Illinois (Dec. 30), 87-65, in Redbird Arena.

In 11 of Illinois State's 12 games during the 2012-13 season, the way the Redbirds go into the locker room at the half is the way they have ended each game. When leading at the half, ISU is 8-0 on the season, but when trailing or tied on their way into the locker room, the Redbirds are 0-4.

When examining Illinois State's wins and losses, a lot can be said about how the Redbirds play the field. In the eight wins, ISU is shooting 43 percent from the field (209-of-488). In the four losses, the field goal percentage drops to 33.1 percent (84-of-254).
The Redbirds are also scoring nearly 14 points less in their losses (58.2 ppg) than in their wins (71.9 ppg).

Janae Smith had to sit out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but the year-long break hasn't bothered Smith at all, as the sophomore forward is nearly averaging a double-double. Smith is averaging 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game through 12 non-conference games. She ranks in the top-five in five statistical categories in the Valley, including No. 3 in scoring and No. 2 in rebounding. Smith ranks first in defensive rebounds, averaging 6.7 per game.

Jamie Russell has both a selfish and a giving personality. She is second on the team in assists (37) and leads the Redbirds in steals (30) on the season, ranking second in the Missouri Valley Conference in steals. She is 12th in the conference in assists. She set a career-high in steals at Iowa (Nov. 11) with eight.

In ISU's 65-57 win at Butler in its final non-conference game of the regular season, Brianna Puni and Janae Smith were a force to be reckoned with down low. The duo both netted 17 points in the game, which was a career high for Puni, who was 8-of-11 from the field, also setting a career-high in both categories. Smith pulled down 11 rebounds, marking her fourth double-double of the season. Puni grabbed six boards, including five offensive boards. Her effort on the offensive end helped the Redbirds make 19 second-chance points, tying a season high.

In ISU's 65-67 win at Butler (Dec. 30), the Redbirds shot 46 percent from the field, their second-best shooting performance of the season, while the Bulldogs connected on 35 percent of their shots. ISU also had a strong advantage on the boards pulling down 13 more boards than BU, 45-32. Despite Butler's 12 blocks and 15 steals, the Redbirds won their final non-conference game.

At the conclusion of the Redbirds' conference-opener game against Northern Iowa, the ISU Athletic Department invites all former women's basketball players to a celebration in the Legend's Room. The 1982-83 team will be recognized during the game.

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