Law takes pressure off Smith, Simpson

A lot has been asked of Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson during the last two seasons.

As two of only three returning upperclassmen last season, the duo recorded more than half of the Illini’s points and rebounds while leading a team that included five freshmen.

This year, the pressure to lead didn’t get much lighter.

Smith and Simpson are the only four-year seniors on a team with five freshmen and five sophomores.

“We were asking them to do a lot,” head coach Jolette Law said. “Take care of themselves and get ready to embark into the future — what is my life going to be about after this? — and then, on top of that, I need to make sure I carry everyone else.”

So after not starting her seniors in a loss against Michigan on Jan. 28, Law decided to take the pressure of leadership off of her seniors.

“I put a lot on them, but at the middle of the season, I told them: ‘Relax, take care of yourselves. We’ll be the captains, the coaches will be the captains, we’ll lead.’ We just told them to focus on them,” Law said after Sunday’s 61-57 win against Purdue.

“My seniors have done a lot. Any time you’re a senior, there’s a lot of added pressure. We have five freshmen, we’re a very young group.”

Josil benched

Fabiola Josil has averaged 16.2 minutes per game in 24 games this season but has seen her playing time take a hit during the last four games and didn’t play at all Sunday.

Injury isn’t the reason for the decrease in playing time for the point guard, who started 25 games last season but only three this year.

“She’s fine,” Law said. “It’s just right now I feel comfortable with the group that was out on the floor, and I just rolled with that group, but she’s fine.”

Smith leads record books

With 2,036 career points, Smith is only 54 points away from breaking the school record held by Ashley Berggren.

With only one regular-season game left, Smith’s achievement of the record will largely depend on how deep the Illini go in the Big Ten Tournament, and if they play in the NIT.

The Illini need to pick up one more win in order to be eligible for the postseason.

Smith has also managed to pass James Augustine as the all-time leading rebounder at Illinois — in either men’s or women’s basketball.

Smith is the Illini’ women’s all-time leader in rebounds, blocks, double-doubles, field-goal attempts, games started and minutes played.

She still contends that she doesn’t receive updates on where she stands and doesn’t really care much about any of the accolades.

“I don’t really worry about it, I’m worried about getting Ws,” she said.