Women's Basketball
A look Back at 2009-10

 
Jenna Smith ended her career as a three-time first team All-Big ten selection and as Illinois' all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks.
Jenna Smith ended her career as a three-time first team All-Big ten selection and as Illinois' all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks.
 

May 20, 2010

Complete 2009-10 Season Wrap-up Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Season Highlight Video
Video Index
Posting Up With Jenna

FINAL 2009-10 Season Notes

• Overall Record: 19-15 // Big Ten Record 7-11 - t-8th place
• Advanced Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal
• Advanced to WNIT Quarterfinal
• Jenna Smith named first team All-Big Ten
• Lacey Simpson named third team All-Big Ten and to Big Ten All-Defensive Team
• Karisma Penn named to Big Ten All-Freshman Team

Finishing Touch
The Fighting Illini finished the 2009-10 campaign with a 19-15 overall record and a 7-11 mark in the Big Ten to tie for eighth place. Illinois fell to top-seeded Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament and then advanced to the quarterfinals of Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) before falling at Illinois State.

Headlines
• Smith Finishes Strong: Senior center Jenna Smith wrapped up her stellar Illinois career by surpassing countless records and milestones. A three-time first team All-Big Ten selection and former All-American, Smith leaves as Illinois' all-time leader in points (2,160), rebounds (1,217), blocks (231), double-doubles (53), field goal attempts (1,639), games started (121) and minutes played (4,651). She also ranks in the UI career top-5 in several other categories, finishing second in FG made (813), FT made (488) and games played (130), and fifth in FT percentage (.811).

• Tearing Up the Big Ten: Jenna Smith re-wrote not only the Illinois record book, but also the Big Ten record book. Smith finished her career as one of just two players in conference history to rank in the career top-10 in points, rebounds and blocks as she finished 10th in points (2,160), second in rebounds (1,217) and ninth in blocks (231) on the Big Ten's all-time lists. During the 2009-10 season she broke the conference's single-season rebounding mark with 387 and had the sixth-best season FT percentage in league history (.884).

• Out of the Shadows: Though sometimes overshadowed by Smith's accomplishments, senior Lacey Simpson will also go down as one of the top players in Illinois history. Simpson is both the UI single-season (113) and career (368) steals leader and is a two-time third team All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Defensive Team player. She's also proven to be one of the most versatile players in UI history, ranking in the school's career top-5 in blocks (2nd), assists (3rd) and rebounds (4th) while also ranking 17th in scoring with over 1,100 career points.

• WNBA Dreams: Jenna Smith became the highest Illini selected in WNBA Draft history when she was chosen 14th overall (2nd pick of 2nd round) by the Washington Mystics. Smith joins Tauja Catchings, 37th overall by Phoenix in 2000, Cindy Dallas, 21st overall by San Antonio in 2004 and Angelina Williams, 18th by Phoenix in 2005, as Illinois players chosen in the WNBA draft. In addition, Lacey Simpson signed a free agent contract with the San Antonio Silver Stars after the draft and will get a shot to earn a WNBA roster spot.

• Penn Breaks Record: With 57 blocks, Karisma Penn shattered the Illinois freshman blocks record. A Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection, Penn broke the old record of 39 that was shared by current seniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson. Those two went on to rank 1-2 on the UI career blocks list. Penn's total also ranks fourth on the UI single-season blocks list.

Team Awards
The Illini handed out their 2009-10 team awards at the 30th annual Courtsiders post-season banquet at Champaign Country Club on April 11. In addition to the awards listed below, 12 Fighting Illini received their varsity letters.

Most Valuable Player: Jenna Smith
Best Defensive Player: Lacey Simpson
Most Improved: Lydia McCully
Most Courageous: Karisma Penn
Most Inspirational: Amber Moore
Coaches Award: Kersten Magrum
Sixth Man Award: Adrienne GodBold
Ralf Woods Free Throw Excellence Award: Jenna Smith

2008-09 Letterwinners: Macie Blinn, Adrienne GodBold, Fabiola Josil, Brianna Jones, Kersten Magrum, Lydia McCully, Eboni Mitchell, Karisma Penn, Lana Rukavina, Lacey Simpson, Jenna Smith, Whitney Toone.

Block Party in the USA
The Fighting Illini shattered the school record for blocks in a season, racking up 206 blocks on the year compared to just 82 for their opponents. That total ranks as the second-highest total in Big Ten history behind only the conference record of 211 by Michigan State in 2006-07 and easily breaks the old team record of 156 set in 2007-08. Illinois blocked a single-game school record 12 shots on Feb. 4 at Purdue and then matched that total with 12 blocks at Missouri State on March 25. Jenna Smith had a school-record seven swats in the Purdue game. For the season, Illinois ranked eighth nationally and second in the Big Ten at 6.1 bpg.

Jenna The Best Ever?
• She Shoots, She Scores: Senior Jenna Smith became Illinois' all-time leading scorer during the first round WNIT win at Western Kentucky. A three-pointer 5:18 into the first half moved her past Ashley Berggren's UI career record of 2,089 points. She then passed Deon Thomas' UI men's scoring record with 29 points in the second round WNIT win over Marquette three days later, making her the top scorer, male or female, in Illinois basketball history. Smith finished her career with 2,160 points to rank 10th on the Big Ten's all-time scoring list.

• Queen of the Boards: Smith was a monster on the boards in 2009-10, averaging 11.4 per game to lead the Big Ten and rank eighth in the nation. She finished her career with 1,217 career boards, making her the second-best rebounder in Big Ten women's history. If that weren't enough, in 2009-10 she has become the Big Ten's single-season rebounding record holder as her 387 boards topped the old mark of 374 by Ohio State's Jantel Lavender in 2008-09. Smith also had a Big Ten Tournament single-game record 19 boards on March 4 vs. Indiana.

• Smith in Elite Club: Smith was one of just seven players in the nation to average 18+ points and 10+ rebounds per game in 2009-10. With averages of 18.1 points and 11.4 boards, Smith joined Middle Tennessee State's Alysha Clark, Ohio State's Jantel Lavender, Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin, Columbia's Judie Lomax, Louisiana Tech's Shanavia Dowdell and Southern Mississippi's Pauline Love in the 18-10 club.

• With Honors: Smith was named one of 40 finalists for the State Farm Coaches All-America Team and was named to the Naismith Award Midseason top-30 in early March. Smith was also a preseason candidate for the Wade Trophy, the Wooden Award and the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and was a regional finalist for WBCA All-America honors.

• Smith Among All-Time Big Ten Elite: Smith finished her career as one of just four players in Big Ten history to reach 2,000+ career points and 1,000+ career rebounds. With 2,160 points and 1,217 boards, Smith joins former Ohio State center Jessica Davenport (2004-07), former Minnesota Golden Gopher Laura Coenen (1982-85) and current Ohio State junior Jantel Lavender in the exclusive club.

• And Then There Were Two: Smith is one of just two players in Big Ten history to rank in the conference's career top-10 in points, rebounds and blocked shots. Smith finished her career ranked 10th in points, second in rebounds and ninth in blocks to join former Buckeye Jessica Davenport as the only two players in the all-time top-10 in all three categories.

• Record Breaker: Smith will undoubtedly go down as one of the best players in school history, finishing as the Illinois career leader in points (2,160), rebounds (1,217), blocked shots (231), double-doubles (53), field goals attempted (1,639), games started (121) and minutes played (4,561). She also ranked second in field goals made, free throws made and games played. Take a look at where Smith ranks on all the Illinois record list on pages 7-8.

• Jenna's Fire Burning: Smith was on fire in the Feb. 11 win over Northwestern. Smith hit her first 11 shots of the game, including a career-high five three-pointers, and had 28 points in the first 13 minutes of the game as the Illini jumped out to a huge lead. She finished with a career-high 34 points, hitting 13-of-16 overall, 5-of-6 from downtown and 3-of-3 from the free throw line against the Wildcats.

• Toeing the Line: One of the most overlooked parts of Smith's game was her free throw shooting. She won the Big Ten's FT shooting crown as a senior for both all games (.884) and Big Ten games (.878) and finished the season ranked 10th in the nation in FT percentage. Her career percentage of .811 ranks fifth in Illinois history and she ranks second on the Illinois career free throws made list with 488, behind only Ashley Berggren's record of 562. She was especially good at the end of her career, making 53 of her last 56 from the charity stripe (.946).

• Double-Dipping: Smith ranked second nationally and led the Big Ten with 21 double-doubles in 2009-10. She is both the Illinois' single-season (21) and career (53) double-doubles record holder.

• From Way Downtown: Smith always had a soft touch from outside the paint, but during her final season she stepped outside more than ever before. The 6-3 center made a career-high 30 three-pointers at a 39.5 percent clip for the season, which is the seventh-highest single-season three-point field goal percentage in school history.

• Jenna Sweeps Blocks Records: Smith etched her name at the top of every blocks category in the UI record book. She became Illinois' career leader as a junior and ranks ninth in the all-time Big Ten record book with 231 swats. She also holds the top three spots on the UI single-season list (70 this season, 63 in 2008-09 and 59 in 2007-08) and broke the single-game record with seven blocks at Purdue on Feb. 4.

• Boom, Boom P-O-W: Smith was named the Big Ten Player of the Week three times in 2009-10 and six times in her career, which is the most in school history. The old record was five by Ashley Berggren from 1995-98. Smith earned back-to-back POW honors on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 and then again on Jan. 4. She was also a three-time winner during the 2007-08 season.

• Ms. Consistency: Smith scored in double-figures in a school-record 113 career games. She had a school-record streak of 54 straight games in double-figures snapped on Jan. 14 at Ohio State. At the time, it was the third-longest double-digit scoring streak in the nation.

• Working Woman: Smith didn't do all of her work on the basketball court or in the classroom during her final semester. The senior also interned with the Illinois Athletic Public Relations office during the spring term. Smith, who graduated in May with a degree in community health, got a first-hand look at what goes on behind the scenes in an athletic department. She wrote a weekly blog about the experience, called "Posting Up with Jenna" at fightingillini.com.

Lacey Simpson finished her stellar UI career as the school's career and single season steals leader.


Simpson Steals the Show
• Steals Leader: Senior Lacey Simpson broke the Illinois single-season steals record in 2009-10 with 113, bettering Allison Curtin's old record of 102. Simpson's 368 career steals is the second-highest total in Big Ten history behind only Stacey Thomas' (MICH, 1997-00) all-time record of 372 and also shattered the former UI career record by 116 steals.

• Been There, Done That: Simpson's 3.3 steals per game not only led the Big Ten for the second straight season, but also ranked seventh in the nation. Her 3.61 steals per game during conference was the highest average since Purdue's Kelly Komara averaged 3.9 thefts per game in 2001-02 and was over 1.1 steals better than her closest competition this year, Purdue's FahKara Malone (2.50 spg).

• Simpson Does It All: Simpson was always widely known for her defense and versatility. Her senior year, however, she diversified her game even more. Playing at her natural wing position, she took her habit of filling the stat sheet to another level, averaging 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, a team-high 3.7 assists and a Big Ten-leading 3.3 steals per game. She ranked in the top-15 in the conference in 10 categories (steals, assists, assist-TO ratio, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocks, FG percentage, 3FG percentage, rebounds and minutes).

• Dropping Dimes: With a team-high 127 assists, Simpson became the first player in school history to record 100+ assists in four different seasons. Her 451 career assists rank third on the Illinois all-time list.

• Making Her Point: Simpson finished 17th on the UI career scoring list with 1,166 points. She became the 23rd player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000-point milestone on Jan. 21 against Iowa. Simpson is one of just three players in Illinois history to amass over 1,000 points, 800 rebounds and 200 steals in a career. She joins Illini greats Tauja Catchings and Cindy Dallas on the elite list.

• Assault on the Record Book: Simpson cracked the Illinois career top-5 in seven different categories. She is the program's all-time leader in steals (368) and games played (135) and also ranks second in blocked shots (163), games started (118) and minutes played (4,165), third in assists (451) and fourth in rebounds (900). See pages 7-8 for a complete list of updated Illini and Big Ten records.

• College Grad: Simpson, a fifth-year senior, earned her bachelor's degree in sport management in May of 2009 and spent the 2009-10 season pursuing a master's degree in human resource education as she completed her final year of athletic eligibility.

Fresh Impact
This year's highly-touted freshman class was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation coming out of high school. The frosh lived up to their billing, as they combined to average 20.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game even without contributions from sharpshooter Amber Moore, who suffered a torn ACL in the season-opener. Karisma Penn, Adrienne GodBold and Kersten Magrum made the biggest impact.

• Top Frosh: A 6-2 forward, Penn was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team and averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week a conference-high four times, including March 1 after a huge all-around game at Northwestern on Feb. 28. On Jan. 3, Penn hit the game-winning lay-up to top Wisconsin at the buzzer. She had her first career double-double on Dec. 31 against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and scored a career-high 21 points twice, first on Nov. 22 over Bradley and also on Jan. 14 at Ohio State.

• Finding Her Role: After earning a spot in the starting lineup on Jan. 28, Magrum stepped-up to average 6.9 points per game and shoot 46 percent from the field. The 6-1 forward exploded for 12 points at Purdue on Feb. 4, and then topped that on Feb. 14 at Iowa with a career-high 14 points. A gym-rat, Magrum upped her scoring average from 1.8 to 4.3 points per game after making her first start against Michigan.

• Captain Clutch: GodBold came up big during crunch time during her rookie season. The 5-11 guard had a game-winning three-point play with 10 seconds left in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 10 and also had a key bucket late in overtime during the WNIT second round win over Marquette. For the season, GodBold averaged 5.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game. She scored a career-high 15 points and had three steals in the Illini's win over Oakland on Dec. 19. She was key defensively for the Illini all season, taking some of the defensive load off of Lacey Simpson.

No Sophomore Slump
There was a lot of talk about Illinois' talented freshman class heading into the season, but the sophomore class of Macie Blinn, Lydia McCully, Fabiola Josil and Eboni Mitchell proved they shouldn't be overlooked.

McCully stepped up to average 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in six postseason games and was named the team Most Improved Player at the post season banquet. She scored a season-high 14 points at Missouri State on March 25. Blinn was key in Illinois' comeback win over Minnesota on Jan. 10, scoring five second-half points, and then followed that up with five points at Ohio State on Jan. 14. Josil, meanwhile, provided steady ball handling and leadership at the point throughout the season. Mitchell made the most of her limited minutes, despite suffering a broken nose in practice in December and having to wear a face mask.

In addition to the sophomores, second-year transfer Whitney Toone made a big impact as well. She shattered her previous career-high of 13 points by exploding for 20 against WKU in the first round of the WNIT. She had 18 of her 20 points in the first half and also tied her career-high with seven rebounds in the game. Toone made 11 starts this season and provided a big spark with her defensive intensity early in the season, particularly against Alabama on Nov. 29 (career-high three steals, five offensive rebounds, four points and three assists). She scored 12 points at Ohio State on Jan. 14.

More Fighting Illini Tidbits
• New and Improved: With 19 wins on the season, the Illini exceeded their win total from 2008-09 by nine. That year, they finished with a 10-21 record.

• Classroom Success: Sophomores Macie Blinn and Fabiola Josil were named to the winter Academic All-Big Ten team. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a career GPA of 3.0 or better.

• Dominance Over Northwestern Continues: After sweeping the Wildcats once again (81-50 on Feb. 11 in Champaign and 58-48 on Feb. 28 in Evanston), Illinois has now won 21 straight against the Wildcats overall and 11 straight against the `Cats in Evanston. NU has not beaten Illinois since Feb. 5, 1999, and has not topped the Illini at Welsh-Ryan Arena since 1996. The 21 straight overall victories is the longest current streak of one Big Ten team over another.

All-Big Ten Honors
Senior Jenna Smith was named a first team All-Big Ten selection for the third year in a row when the conference announced 2009-10 award winners on March 1. She joins Ashley Berggren as the only Illini named to the first team three times. Smith was a unanimous first team choice by the media. Senior Lacey Simpson was named third team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention by the coaches and was also named to the All-Defensive Team for the second straight season. Additionally, Karisma Penn was named to the All-Freshman Team and Kersten Magrum was tabbed as Illinois' Sportsmanship honoree.

Illinois in the WNIT
Illinois' postseason WNIT appearance was its fifth in the last six years and its seventh overall in the tournament. The Illini won three games in the 64-team tournament before falling in the quarterfinals to Illinois State, 53-51. This year marked the first time Illinois won three games in a post season tournament (WNIT or NCAA) in school history. The Orange and Blue are now 8-7 overall in WNIT play, including a 6-2 mark at home and a 2-5 record in games on the road, with both wins coming this season.

With this year's WNIT bid, Illinois has advanced to postseason play in 12 of the last 14 years. The 2003-04 and 2008-09 seasons are the only years since 1996-97 that the Illini did not reach postseason play. The Orange and Blue advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times during that streak and to the WNIT seven times.

Big Ten Tournament Review
Entering the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 9 seed, the Fighting Illini hoped to replicate their magical 2008 run to the title game when they were also seeded ninth. Illinois won its first round game against Indiana to advance to the quarterfinals for the sixth-straight season, but top-seeded Ohio State proved too much to overcome in the quarterfinals.

First Round vs. Indiana: In the first round matchup with the Hoosiers, spirited play by seniors Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson led the Illini to a win. Smith pulled down a tournament record 19 rebounds to go along with a game-high 23 points and four blocks, while Simpson added 12 points, eight steals, seven rebounds and six assists in the 59-53 Illini victory at Conseco Fieldhouse. The UI win avenged two regular season losses to the Hoosiers. The Illini trailed just once in the game and pulled away to a double-digit lead in the second half, but the Hoosiers wouldn't go away. They battled back to within two during the final minute before Simpson, Smith and sophomore Lydia McCully each knocked down a pair of free throws to put the game away.

Quarterfinals vs. #10 Ohio State: Illinois cut a 16-point second-half deficit to six late in the game, but could get no closer in a 66-55 loss to the Buckeyes. Jenna Smith had 13 points and 11 rebounds to become both the Big Ten Tournament's career rebounding leader and the Illinois single-season rebounding record holder. The Illini cut a nine-point halftime deficit to four, 33-29, with five quick points to start the second half. However, the Buckeyes responded with a 20-8 run to push their lead out to 53-37 with 9:47 remaining. The Illini wouldn't go quietly though, as they would go on a 12-2 run to close within 57-51 at the 5:03 mark. After a stop on the defensive end, the Illini had two great looks to cut the lead even more, but a three-pointer by Smith and a long jumper by Lacey Simpson were both off the mark and the Illini would get no closer from that point on.

Illini Big Ten Tourney Notes
• Third-year Illini head coach Jolette Law is 5-3 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament, with the Illini being the lower seed in every game
• Jenna Smith set a Big Ten Tournament single-game record with 19 rebounds against Indiana in the first round on March 4. The previous tournament record was 18
• Smith pulled down 84 rebounds in nine career Big Ten Tournament games, making her the all-time leading rebounder in tournament history
• Lacey Simpson's eight steals against Indiana on March 4 ties for the second-most steals in a Big Ten Tournament game behind only Janel McCarville's single-game record of 10 in on March 5, 2004
• Simpson's 25 steals in Big Ten Tournament games ties her for third on the all-time tournament list. Her 17 total blocks in the BTT ties her for fourth on the all-time list

HEADLINES