Lone Senior Erin Wigley eclipsed the 1,000 milestone in 2006-07.
May 7, 2007
FINAL 2006-07 SEASON NOTES
8-8 Big Ten // Fourth Place
WNIT Round of 16
Advanced to the postseason for the 10th time in the last 11 years
Theresa Grentz, 671-311 overall (33 seasons), 210-156 at Illinois (12 seasons)
Resigned on April 17, 2007
Illinois finished the 2006-07 campaign with a record of 19-12 after a 66-51 loss at Kansas State in the WNIT Round of 16. The loss wrapped up a successful season in which the Illini finished fourth place in the Big Ten with an 8-8 conference mark and advanced to the postseason for the 10th time in the last 11 years.
Grentz Steps Down
Hall of Famer Theresa Grentz resigned as Illinois' women's basketball coach on April 17, 2007 after 12 seasons at Illinois. Grentz has a career record of 671-311 (.683) in 33 seasons of coaching and was 210-156 (.574) with the Illini. The Fighting Illini advanced to postseason play in 10 of 12 seasons in Champaign-Urbana, and won the school's only Big Ten title in women's basketball under Grentz's reign in 1997.
The 10th-winningest Div. I Coach in history, Grentz was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and topped the 650 mark in career wins in 2006. She coached the U.S. Olympic Team to a Bronze Medal at the 1982 Barcelona Games. Grentz has won more honors than can possibly be mentioned. She earned back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year and WBCA District Coach of the Year honors in 1997 and 1998 after leading the Illini to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen each season. This season she won the WBCA's Carol Eckman Award.
The Illini handed out their 2006-07 team awards at the 27th annual Courtsiders post-season banquet at Champaign Country Club on April 22. In addition to the awards listed below, 10 Fighting Illini received their varsity letters.
Most Outstanding Player - Lori Bjork
Best Defensive Player - Chelsea Gordon
Hustle Award - Lori Bjork
Most Improved Player - Lacey Simpson
Best Attitude Award - Megan Nyquist
Ralf Woods Free Throw Award - Lori Bjork
Scout Team Player of the Year - Mike Jedlicka
Grentz wins Eckman Award: UI coach Theresa Grentz won the WBCA's 2007 Carol Eckman Award. The award is presented annually to an active WBCA coach who exemplifies Eckman's spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and dedication to purpose. The award is named in honor of the late Carol Eckman.
Postseason Streak: With the WNIT bid, Illinois has now advanced to postseason play in 10 of the last 11 years, with only 2003-04 being the odd year out. The Illini have advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times during that streak and to the WNIT the other five.
Bjork Named Academic All-American: Illini sophomore Lori Bjork was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America third team with a 3.94 GPA in political Science. She is the first Illini to earn the honor in 25 years and is one of only two sophomores on the first three teams, joining Tennessee's Candace Parker. She was also a first team ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District honoree and won the Illini sophomore Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award for having the top GPA among all Illinois sophomore female student-athletes.
Wigley Goes Over 1,000: With six points in the regular season finale on Feb. 25, senior Erin Wigley became the 20th player in Illinois history to reach 1,000 career-points. The Moon Township, Pa., native hit a 10-foot jumper in the second half for points number 1,000 and 1,001. Wigley finished her career 1,023 career points, which puts her in a tie for 18th place on the UI career scoring list.
Bjork Breaks Trey Record: Lori Bjork passed Krista Reinking's UI single season record of 74 three's made on Feb. 18 at Indiana. She finished the season with 84 threes on the season, and led the Big Ten and ranked 14th in the nation in 3FG per game (2.71). She already ranks third on the UI career 3FG list with 137 in less than two seasons.
Glass Breaker: Freshman center Jenna Smith finished the season with 233 rebounds, breaking Kendra Gantt's UI rookie rebounding record of 226 boards (1981-82).
Illinois in the WNIT
2006-07 marked Illinois' third straight and fifth overall appearance in the postseason WNIT. After going 1-1 this season with a 59-48 home win over Utah and a 66-51 road loss to Kansas State, the Illini are 4-5 overall in the tournament. In 2005-06, Illinois beat Western Illinois, 58-37, at home in the preliminary round before dropping a 64-44 decision at Marquette in the first round. In 2005, the Illini dropped a first round road game to Indiana State, 72-60. The Orange and Blue split a pair of games at home in both 2001 and `02.
WNIT Expands to 48
The WNIT added eight more teams to bring the field to 48 for the first time in 2006-07. The top regular season finisher in each of the nation's 31 conferences who did not earn an NCAA Tournament bid received an automatic bid to the WNIT. Illinois received the automatic bid for the Big Ten by virtue of its fourth place regular season finish behind NCAA teams Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State. The tournament featured 16 first round games and 16 teams, like Illinois, that received a bye into the second round.
Bjork, Smith Named to All-Big Ten Teams
The Big Ten Conference announced its 2006-07 women's basketball award winners on Feb. 27, with the Illini duo of Lori Bjork and Jenna Smith collecting league honors. Bjork was a second team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media, while Smith was an honorable mention selection to the All-Conference team and was picked to the coaches All-Freshman Team. Bjork was also chosen as Illinois' honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Record Seven Illini Named Academic All-Big Ten
Seven members of Illinois' women's basketball team were named to the 2006-07 winter Academic All-Big Ten teams. That total is the most for a women's basketball team in 2006-07 and is the highest total in Illinois history.
The Fighting Illini recognized were senior Erin Wigley, junior Stephanie Chelleen and sophomores Lori Bjork, Chelsea Gordon, Danielle Gratton, Erin McCarthy and Lacey Simpson. Simpson played with freshman eligibility after taking a medical redshirt last year, but is a sophomore academically.
To earn Academic All-Big Ten status, athletes must be letterwinners, in at least their second academic year at their institution, and carry a career grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better. It is the third-straight selection for Wigley, and the second straight for Chelleen.
Bjork's Streakin' Fun While It Lasted
Sophomore Lori Bjork's consistency from behind the arc was been remarkable in 2006-07. The Johnston, Iowa, native hit at least one three-point field goal in 35 straight games, which was the third longest active streak in the nation, until she went 0-5 on the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss Penn State.
In the last game of the regular season, Bjork had her streak of making at least two threes in every game of the season snapped when she went 1-of-5 from downtown against Purdue. That streak spanned 27 games and was the longest in the nation.
Illinois had two blocked shots against Kansas State to extend its school record for blocks in a season. The Illini finished with 151 blocks, bettering the old record of 137 set in 2001-02. Freshmen Lacey Simpson and Jenna Smith led the way, each with a team-high 39 swats one year. The duo now shares the Illinois freshman blocks record, which was previously 37 by Casey Leonhardt in 1996-97.
The Illini tied a school record and set a new Kohl Center record with 11 blocked shots in the 70-62 win at Wisconsin on Jan. 14. The other time the Illini had 11 blocks was back on March 1, 1997 in a 98-76 win over Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.
Defense was one of the keys to Illinois' solid play all season, and that was no different in the WNIT win over Utah. The Illini held the Utes to just 48 points, 29 percent shooting and 14 percent from three-point land. In the upset of #20 Michigan State on Feb. 22, the Illini held the Spartans to a season-low 46 points in the victory and limited the previous week's Co-Big Ten player of the week, Alyssa DeHaan, to just eight points.
For the season, the Illini led the league in 3FG percentage defense (.269), and ranked 22nd in the nation and third in the conference in overall FG percentage defense (.362). They allowed only seven opponents to shoot over 40 percent on the season.
Domination on the Glass
Illinois was dominant on the glass all season, leading the Big Ten in rebounding offense (40.5) and defensive rebounds (28.81), while ranking second in rebounding margin (+6.3) for all games. Individually, freshman Jenna Smith led the Big Ten in offensive rebounds (3.60) and was third in overall boards (8.5) in Big Ten play. The Illini out-rebounded their opponent in 17 of the last 23 games, including two ties and twice losing the battle by a margin of one during that span.
Illinois ranked third in the Big Ten in 3FG made per game (5.26) and fourth in 3FG percentage (.348). Lori Bjork led the way, hitting 84-of-218, which made her the conference leader and ranks her 14th in the nation in three's made per game (2.71), and fifth in the conference and 31st in the nation in 3FG percentage (.385).
Big Ten Pace Setters
The Illini lead the Big Ten in three categories according to final conference stats released by the league office: 3FG% defense (.269), reb. offense (40.5), and def. rebounds (28.81); while ranking in the top-four in 11-of-19 categories. In Big Ten games, Illinois led the league in two categories: rebounding margin (+5.3), and def. rebounds (27.63). The Illini ranked in the top-five in 13-of-19 statistical categories.
Illini in the NCAA Rankings
In the final NCAA statistical rankings, Illinois ranked in the top-30 in the nation in five different categories, and Illini individuals rank in the top-100 in four different categories.
Team Category Rank Stat
Personal Fouls 7 13.7
Rebound Margin 20 6.3
FG Percentage Defense 22 36.2
FT Percentage 24 75.1
Blocked Shots 26 4.9
Bjork Makes Point
Second team All-Big Ten selection Lori Bjork hit 84 three-point FGs on the season, surpassing the old single season school record of 74 held by Krista Reinking (1995-96). Additionally, her 137 career threes in less than two seasons already puts her in third on the UI career 3FG made list. She is on pace to easily break Reinking's career mark of 194.
Bjork was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America third team on Feb. 27 with a 3.94 GPA in political Science. She is the first Illini to earn the honor since Lisa Robinson was a first teamer in 1982. Bjork is one of only two sophomores on the first three teams this year, joining Tennessee's Candace Parker. She was named to the Academic All-District first team on Feb. 8 after a vote by SIDs and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Bjork hit a career-high six threes on 2/1 against Michigan, equaling the third-best single game 3FG total in UI history.
For all games, Bjork led the conference in threes made per game (2.71), ranked third in minutes (35.04), fifth 3FG percentage (.385), and seventh in scoring (14.3). In Big Ten games, she led the league in threes made per game (3.00), ranked third in minutes (36.20) and FT percentage (.875), fourth in 3FG percentage (.417), and eighth in scoring (14.9).
Bjork made the transition to point guard this season after the Illini lost Maggie Acuna and Janelle Hughes to graduation following the 2005-06 season. Bjork flourished in the role, leading the team in scoring (14.3), three-point field goals (84), FT percentage (.825) and minutes (35.1), while ranking second in assists (79).
Big Ten All-Freshman team member Jenna Smith topped all league rookies in rebounds (8.5 rpg) and ranked third in scoring (11.9) during conference games. She also led the conference in offensive boards (3.60) in league games.
Smith pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, at Indiana on Feb. 18. That total was the most by an Illini in over three seasons.
Smith broke the Illinois freshman record for rebounding with 233, breaking the old rookie record of 226 by Kendra Gantt (1982-82). She also broke the freshman blocks record along with fellow frosh Lacey Simpson with 39 on the season, breaking the old record of 37 by Casey Leonhardt (1996-97).
Smith had six double-doubles on the season, including four during Big Ten play, tops among league freshmen.
For the season, Smith is averaged 11.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, which ranked second and first on the team, respectively. Her .514 shooting percentage led Illinois and ranked sixth in the Big Ten.
Simpson Steals The Show
Redshirt freshman Lacey Simpson proved to be one of the top all-around players in the Big Ten during the 2006-07 season. She has nearly recorded triple-doubles in two games, with 12 pts, 11 rebs and 7 asst. at Purdue on 2/8, and then posting a line of 18 pts, 8 rebs and seven asst. at Iowa on 2/15.
She was the team's top defender all season, leading the team in steals (71) and blocks (39), while also leading the squad in assists (100). Additionally, she was third on the team in three-pointers made (23) and 3FG percentage (.338).
Simpson ranked in the top-12 in the Big Ten in six categories for all games: steals (4th - 2.29), A/TO ratio (9th - 1.06), assists (10th - 3.23), blocks (10th - 1.26), defensive rebs. (10th - 4.61), and overall rebs. (12th - 6.6). She also finished in the top-12 in the same six categories during Big Ten play.
The Zion, Ill., native played four games early in 2005-06 before missing the rest of the year after having internal surgery and taking a medical redshirt.
Junior forward Danyel Crutcher posted six double-doubles in 2006-07 and has 11 in her career after tallying a season-high 17 points and 10 rebounds at Iowa on 2/15. Earlier in the season, she had a career-high 15 rebound performance vs. Bradley, which was the most for an Illini in over a year, since Audrey Tabon had 15 at Florida on Dec. 9, 2005.
Crutcher stepped up for the Illini in 2006-07, especially after starting center Audrey Tabon went down with a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Crutcher is averaged 8.9 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting .506 from the field, second best on the team. Against UIC early in the season, she had a key putback with just eight seconds left to seal the victory.
Juco Transfer Provides Spark
Rebecca Harris, a 5-8 point guard who transferred from Rend Lake College prior to the 2006-07 season, stepped up offensively in Big Ten play, averaging 6.6 ppg in just 16.1 minutes per game. During league games, she shot 12-of-30 (.400) from behind the arc.
Harris scored a UI career-high 14 points against Indiana on 1/7 and hit double-figures four other times on the season.
Harris ranked second on the team in FT shooting (.804), hitting 41-of-51 on the year, and second in 3FG percentage (.364).
Gordon Getting Comfortable
Sophomore Chelsea Gordon became more and more comfortable playing the guard position this season after mainly playing in the post during high school. After averaging just 3.3 points per game as a freshman in 2005-06 while adjusting to life on the perimeter, Gordon exploded as a sophomore. She was fourth on the team in scoring at 7.9 points per game.
Gordon was the lone bright spot in the loss to Ole Miss on Dec. 2, scoring a career-high 21 points and pulling down seven rebounds. It was the third time in a five-game span that Gordon eclipsed her previous career-high in points. In the victory at Saint Louis, the Erie, Pa., native hit 6-of-7 from the field and 3-of-3 from behind the arc for what was then a career-best 17 points, and on Nov. 20, she poured in 16 points at Northern Illinois, which was a career-high at the time.
Don't Call It a Comeback
Sophomore forward Danielle Gratton returned to action Jan. 18 vs. Minnesota after missing 15 games with a stress fracture in her left foot. Gratton scored 45 points in 172 minutes of action since the return. She had a season-high seven points and three assists on Jan. 28 vs. Northwestern.
More Illini Headlines
Illini Trends: In 2006-07 the Fighting Illini were...
...15-1 when allowing less than 60 points
...17-2 when leading at halftime
...15-2 when shooting more FTs than their opponent
...11-1 when scoring 70 or more points
...12-4 in night games
...12-3 at home
Giant Killers: After the 56-46 win over #20/20 Michigan State on Feb. 22, Illinois has now beaten at least one ranked opponent in each of the last 13 seasons. The Illini were 1-5 against ranked foes on the season.
Home Sweet Home: Illinois finished the season 12-3 at Assembly Hall on the season and had an eight-game home winning streak early in the year. The Illini hold an all-time record of 228-121 (.652) at home and 189-99 (.655) at Assembly Hall.
Non-Conference Record: The Dec. 21 win over Bradley ended Illinois' non-conference season at 10-2, the best ever non-conference mark for a UI squad. Illinois has finished the non-conference portion of the schedule with two losses on three other occasions since 1982-83, when the Big Ten started sponsoring women's basketball - 2004-05 (9-2), 1996-97 (8-2) and 1986-87 (7-2) - but had never reached 10 wins until this season.
Grentz Gets #200: Illinois' 74-47 victory over IPFW on Dec. 17 was the 200th win at Illinois for head coach Theresa Grentz. Grentz finished 210-156 in her 12 seasons with the Illini and 671-311 overall in her 33-year career, which ranks her 10th on the all-time Division I wins list. She is the Illinois career wins leader.
Dishing the Rock: Illinois racked up a season-high 27 assists on 33 made baskets in the Dec. 9 won over Rhode Island. Lori Bjork (7), Lacey Simpson (6), Jenna Smith (5) and Rebecca Harris (4) all set career-highs in the game, while the team total was the most for an Illini team since March 14, 2002, when they had 27 assists in a first round WNIT win over Western Kentucky.
UC Dominance: Illinois' 73-48 win over Rhode Island on Dec. 9 was fourth in a row in the annual Lexus December To Remember Classic at the United Center in Chicago. Illinois is now 6-2 overall at the home of the Chicago Bulls, and has won the last four at the UC by an average of 34.3 points.
Redshirt-sophomore guard Megan Nyquist did not play during the 2006-07 season because of a bad back. She sat out all of her freshman season with a torn ACL and missed all but four games in 2005-06 after re-injuring the knee. Nyquist was the 74th-ranked senior in 2004 according to Blue Star Report.
Senior center Audrey Tabon tore the ACL in her right knee in the Orange and Blue Scrimmage on Oct. 29 and missed the entire 2006-07 season. Tabon started 26 games in 2005-06 and ranked fifth in the Big Ten in rebounding (7.2 per game). The Pittsburgh, Pa., native won the team's Most Improved Award after the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. She had surgery on the knee on Nov. 21 and plans to return for a fifth year in 2007-08.
With nine of 12 players measured at 6-0 or taller, Illinois was one of the tallest teams in the country in 2006-07. Led by 6-5 sophomore center Erin McCarthy, the Illini had an average height of 6 feet, 0.75 inches, which made Illinois the third-tallest team in the nation. Wake Forest topped the list with an average height of 6 feet, 1.27 inches. Below is a pre-season listing of the tallest teams in the country for the 2006-07 season by average height:
Rk. Team Avg. Ht. (Inches)
1. Wake Forest 73.27
2. Marquette 72.82
3. ILLINOIS 72.75
4. Auburn 72.62
5. Texas 72.57
Illini Sign Two for 2007-08
Illinois signed two student-athletes to national letters of intent on Nov. 8, the first day of the early signing period. Chelsea Buher, a 5-11 guard from Lawrenceville, Ill., and Lydia McCully, a 5-9 point guard from Bedford Heights, Ohio, will both join the Fighting Illini for the 2007-08 season. McCully is ranked No. 46 in the senior class by Blue Star Report, while Buher comes in at No. 85 on the list. As a class, Blue Star ranks the duo 21st in the nation and fourth in the Big Ten. It is the eighth Top-25 recruiting class for Grentz in her 12 seasons at Illinois.