IOWA CITY – The Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced its regional awards today, which included Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder and junior Kristi Smith. Bluder was recognized as the Region 6 Coach of the Year, while Smith was one of five student-athletes honored on the Region 6 all-America team.
This marks the second time Bluder has been named Region 6 Coach of the Year in her eight years at Iowa (2001). Earlier this month, Bluder earned her second Big Ten Coach of the Year honor (2001).
Bluder is one of eight coaches recognized: Region 1 (Connecticut's Geno Auriemma); Region 2 (North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell); Region 3 (Tennesse's Pat Summitt); Region 5 (Kansas State's Deb Patterson); Region 7 (Utah's Elaine Elliott); Region 8 (California's Joanne Boyle). The eight finalists advance to the national level of the selection process. The National Coach of the Year will be announced April 7 at the WBCA National Coach of the Year Luncheon in Tampa, FL, the site of the Women's Final Four.
Under Bluder's tutelage, the Hawkeyes finished the regular season winning 11 of their last 13 conference games to claim a share of the Big Ten championship, its first since 1998. Iowa was picked seventh in the preseason coaches poll. On Feb. 10, 2008, Bluder became the 35th Division I coach to record 500 career wins when the Hawkeyes won at Penn State (73-65). The Marion, IA, native guided three Hawkeyes to all-Big Ten status this season: Kristi Smith (first team), Johanna Solverson (second team) and Megan Skouby (Sixth Player of the Year).
Iowa ranked last in Big Ten scoring defense (71.7) and field goal percentage defense (.447) a year ago, but Bluder and the Hawkeyes improved their conference ranking to fourth in scoring defense (59.9) and first in field goal percentage defense (.388) this season.
Smith, who picks up her first regional all-America award, is one of 52 regional finalists. The All-America selection committee will review the 52 candidates and cut the list to 40 finalists March 20. The 10-member all-America team will be announced April 5 at a press conference in Tampa, FL.
Smith directs an Iowa offense that ranks fifth in Big Ten scoring offense and first in assists. The native of Thornton, CO, leads the team in scoring (13.2), steals (1.1) and free throws made (86) and attempted (108). She ranks second in assists (3.2) and 3-pointers made (50) and attempted (144). Smith became the 25th Iowa player to amass 1,000 career points in the Hawkeyes' last game vs. Purdue (March 8).
Smith, who was a first team all-conference honoree earlier this month, scored double figures 23 times this season, including netting 15 points or more a team-best 13 times. She dished out seven assists in five games this year (Dartmouth, Mississippi State, Purdue and Minnesota twice). Smith averaged 14.6 points and 3.2 assists in Iowa's last 18 games, in its drive to the Big Ten regular season co-championship. Smith ranks seventh in Iowa career 3-pointers (117) and ninth in assists (305).
Iowa (21-10) will play Georgia (22-9) in the first round of the NCAA Championships Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (CDT) in Norfolk, VA. The Hawkeyes are the ninth seed, while the Lady Bulldogs are seeded eighth.