March 5, 2014
NEW YORK, N.Y. – All 10 teams were represented as the BIG EAST announced its annual regular-season women’s basketball awards on Wednesday. Creighton’s Marissa Janning came away as BIG EAST Player of the Year, while it came as no surprise that Georgetown rookie center Natalie Butler was unanimously picked as Freshman of the Year. Leading his team to their first BIG EAST regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the upcoming Tournament, Doug Bruno was tabbed Coach of the Year.
Additional individual award winners were BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Liz Stratman of Butler, Scholar-Athlete of the Year Katherine Plouffe of Marquette, Sixth-Man Award went to Villanova’s Caroline Coyer, Most Improved Player was Seton Hall’s Tabatha Richardson-Smith and Eugeneia McPherson of St. John’s earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Janning was the league’s top scorer this season at 18.3 points per game overall and 19.9 against BIG EAST foes. The sophomore guard was one of eight conference players to eclipse the 30-point mark this season and one of just four to do it on multiple occasions. Her 38-point showing against Georgetown tied for the BIG EAST single-game high this season. The Bluejay floor general averaged 3.9 assists per game and shot over 41 percent from deep, making 2.8 triples per game to rank second in the league. Despite playing over 34 minutes per game, Creighton’s offense facilitator averages less than three turnovers per game as the Bluejays rank 12th in the nation in miscues per contest.
Georgetown’s Butler becomes the fourth Hoya in program history to be named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. Butler, a unanimous BIG EAST All-Freshman Team pick and All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree to boot, smashed a bevy of records this season as one of the league’s most dominant post players, including the BIG EAST regular-season rebounding record for both total boards (248) and average (13.8), the Georgetown rebounding record (401) and the league’s standard for most BIG EAST Freshman of the Week certificates (10). Her rebounding average ranks sixth nationally, while only five players in the NCAA have more double-doubles to their name this season.
Bruno has led the BIG EAST preseason favorites down their predicted path as DePaul claimed its first conference regular-season title since joining the BIG EAST in 2005-06. Ranked 25th in both major polls, the Blue Demons have a league-best 23-6 record, reaching the 20-win mark for the seventh consecutive season under Bruno’s watch and 22nd time in program history. Bruno’s high-powered offense ranks seventh in the nation in points per game, while the athletic defense lists fourth nationally in steals per game. The Blue Demons enter the BIG EAST Tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time, backed by their highest conference win total in BIG EAST history. This is Bruno’s first BIG EAST Coach of the Year certificate.
Stratman helped the Bulldogs rank fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring defense, allowing less than 66 points per. Her 2.6 blocked shots per game lead the league and rank 21st nationally, with her presence holding the opposition to less than 40 percent shooting to rank fourth in the BIG EAST. In conference play, the junior center swatted 3.1 shots per game, while her eight-rejection performance against Seton Hall was the most by a league player this season.
Plouffe carries a 3.408 grade point average, majoring in communication studies. She has been a member of the BIG EAST All-Academic team for the past two seasons, been a Dean’s List member since 2011 and was recently named to the Capital One Academic All-District 6 team. On the court, Plouffe is the BIG EAST’s No. 2 scorer this season at 17.6 points per game, and the third-leading rebounder at 9.3 boards per contest. She is the league’s active career scoring and rebounding leader with 1,495 points and 911 caroms.
Coyer came off the bench for Villanova in all 18 BIG EAST games and 25 times overall. Despite playing just 27 minutes per game, the sophomore guard ranks second on the squad in scoring (10.3) and her assist-turnover ratio, which has consistently been ranked first nationally throughout the season, now stands at No. 3 among all Division I players at 3.64.
Richardson-Smith averaged less than five points per game and played just over 12 minutes as a freshman a year ago. Fast forward to 2013-14, and the sophomore forward is the BIG EAST’s No. 3 scorer at 17.2 points per game and set the Seton Hall record for points in a game with 38, matching the single-game high by a league player this season. After not being recognized by the league a season ago, Richardson-Smith is a two-time BIG EAST Player of the Week and five-time Honor Roll member. She has started all 29 games for the Pirates, helping SHU to its highest win total in BIG EAST play since 2006-07 and most overall wins since 2009-10.
McPherson’s 2012-13 season ended just five games in after suffering a knee injury, and the fifth-year senior made her return to the court in December of 2013. St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella shifted her to point guard for the first time in her career and she has not faltered, averaging 8.5 points and 4.0 assists per game in her new role. She became the 20th 1,000-point scorer in program history and enters the postseason with 1,064 points, ranking fifth among active BIG EAST players. Off the court she is an active member of her community, involved in such causes as Dribble for the Cure, St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen and the Providence House Women’s Shelter. She carries a GPA greater than 3.0 and is currently working on graduate studies in the sports management program.
Janning and Plouffe were unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team selections, as was DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko and Jasmine Penny, and Aliyyah Handford of St. John’s. Seton Hall’s Ka-Deidre Simmons and Villanova’s Devon Kane also earned first-team recognition.
Hrynko is the BIG EAST’s steals (2.8) and assists (5.7) leader, while ranking third on DePaul with a 12.7 points per game average. She, along with the team’s leading scorer Penny (15.7 points per game), have fueled the DePaul offense which ranks seventh nationally in scoring at 84.0 points per game. The Blue Demons have eclipsed the 90-point mark 10 times this season.
Handford ranks fifth in the league in scoring (15.9) and steals (1.8). She led the Red Storm to their program-record 11-game BIG EAST winning streak as St. John’s jumped as high as No. 22 in the AP Poll. Simmons is the No. 4 scorer in the conference (16.4) and ranks second in assists (5.3) and fourth in steals (2.2). Combined with Richardson-Smith, the duo led the Pirates to score nearly 71 points per game, ranking third in the BIG EAST. Kane is Villanova’s leading scorer (12.4), shooting 46 percent from the field and averaging 4.4 dishes per game to list sixth among all league players.
Butler’s Daress McClung, Creighton’s McKenzie Fujan and Sarah Nelson, Georgetown’s Butler and Andrea White and Providence’s Alexis Harris joined Richardson-Smith on the All-BIG EAST Second Team, all earning the recognition for the first time. McClung (15.4) and White (15.8) led their respective squads in scoring, while Nelson and Fujan list second and third, respectively, behind Janning, while Nelson is the top rebounder at 7.9 boards per game. Harris was one of four BIG EAST players with multiple 30-point games and had five 20-point games despite entering the season with just five double-digit scoring performances in her two previous seasons with the Friars.
Stratman, Megan Rogowski of DePaul and Amber Thompson of St. John’s were named Honorable Mention selections. Rogowski is the top three-point shooter in the BIG EAST at 46.8 percent, while Thompson has 11 double-digit rebound performances to her credit this season and seven double-doubles.
Natalie Butler was one of four unanimous All-Freshman Team honorees, joined by teammate Faith Woodard, DePaul’s Jessica January and Providence’s Sarah Beal. Jade Walker (St. John’s), Sidney Cook (Seton Hall) and Maddison Blackwell (Xavier) were also named to the rookie squad. Woodard (10.3) and Beal (11.8) join Butler as the only rookies averaging greater than 10 points per game, while Beal is the leading newcomer assist-maker at 4.7 dishes per game. Walker came off the bench in 26 games for St. John’s, averaging 4.2 points and shooting over 55 percent from the floor, while Cook was the No. 2 freshman rebounder behind Butler at 6.5 caroms per contest. Blackwell came on strong late, registering three double-doubles.
All 10 teams will compete at the 2014 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Tournament, set for March 8-11 in Chicago, Ill., and Rosemont, Ill. No. 10 Providence and No. 7 Seton Hall will kick off the postseason on Saturday at 4 p.m. (CST).
BIG EAST Player of the Year
Marissa Janning, Creighton
BIG EAST Coach of the Year
Doug Bruno, DePaul
BIG EAST Freshman of the Year
Natalie Butler, Georgetown^
BIG EAST Sixth-Man Award
Caroline Coyer, Villanova
BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year
Liz Stratman, Butler
BIG EAST Most Improved Player
Tabatha Richardson-Smith, Seton Hall
BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award
Eugeneia McPherson, St. John’s
All-BIG EAST First Team
Marissa Janning, Creighton^
Brittany Hrynko DePaul^
Jasmine Penny, DePaul^
Katherine Plouffe, Marquette^
Aliyyah Handford, St. John’s^
Ka-Deidre Simmons, Seton Hall
Devon Kane, Villanova
All-BIG EAST Second Team
Daress McClung, Butler
McKenzie Fujan, Creighton
Sarah Nelson, Creighton
Natalie Butler, Georgetown
Andrea White, Georgetown
Alexis Harris, Providence
Tabatha Richardson-Smith, Seton Hall
All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Megan Rogowski, DePaul
Liz Stratman, Butler
Amber Thompson, St. John’s
BIG EAST All-Freshman Team
Jessica January, DePaul^
Natalie Butler, Georgetown^
Faith Woodard, Georgetown^
Sarah Beal, Providence^
Jade Walker, St. John’s
Sidney Cook, Seton Hall
Maddison Blackwell, Xavier