STARKVILLE, Miss. – On the eve of Mississippi State’s SEC Tournament opener against Missouri, junior Martha Alwal was tabbed First Team All-SEC and co-Defensive Player of the Year by league coaches while Breanna Richardson was selected to the all-freshman team.
Alwal, who earned all-defensive team honors for the second-straight season, becomes MSU’s first selection to the first team since Alexis Rack in 2010 and the first Bulldog to claim three league honors since Armelie Lumanu was named defensive player of the year along with all-defensive and all-second team accolades that same season.
Richardson became MSU’s first rookie to receive the honor since Alwal claimed the accolade in 2012.
Alwal, Richardson and the Bulldogs head to Duluth, Ga., Wednesday to open the 2014 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament against Missouri. Tip for the contest is 5 p.m. CST on Fox Sports or SportSouth. Fans can also watch the game online on ESPN3.
The contest will also be broadcast in the Golden Triangle and surrounding areas on WMXU-FM 106.1, and live audio will be available to HailStateTV subscribers at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive.
Alwal enters Wednesday’s SEC Tournament 10 points away from claiming 1,000 points for her career. She is the only Bulldog player in history to claim 900 points, 700 rebounds and 200 blocks.
The C Spire Gillom Trophy finalist has enjoyed a banner season offensively, averaging a career-best 15.5 points and a 50.3 percent shooting percentage that is third in the SEC.
“I was very overwhelmed when I found out I received these awards because it’s such an honor to be selected by the coaches with all of the great players in the SEC,” Alwal said. “I have worked hard this season to become a better basketball player, but these honors would not have been possible without the constant support and encouragement I have received from my teammates and coaches.”
The Worthington, Minn., native once again ranked as the league’s top shot blocker, pacing the SEC with 2.6 blocks overall and 2.8 in SEC play. Her 78 swats tied her sophomore total for fourth-most in MSU season history.
Alwal ranked third in the conference on the boards, averaging 9.1 during the 16-game SEC slate and 8.9 for the season.
“Seeing how overwhelmed Martha was when I told her about these honors is the reason you get into coaching. To know where she was as a freshman to see where she is today is a testament to her and the work she has put in with our staff,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “She has had a great season playing in the best conference in the country against the best players in the nation night in and night out.”
She claimed 10 double-doubles this season to become the SEC’s active career leader with 29 for her heralded career. She also tops current SEC players in career blocks with 238, a mark that is sixth among active NCAA Division I players.
Alwal averaged 17.4 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.6 blocks the last five games of the season as Mississippi State (18-12, 5-11 SEC) clinched its first winning season since 2009-10.
The two-time SEC Player of the Week recorded MSU’s first 20-point, 20-rebound game since 1988 and the SEC’s first since 2008 when she scored 25 points and grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds against in-state rival Ole Miss. The 23 boards top the SEC this season, giving her the SEC’s highest single-game rebounding total for the third-straight year.
Richardson has been a welcome addition along with Alwal on the frontcourt this season. The Conyers, Ga., native averaged 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, but she stepped up her play in league action, averaging 10.7 points on 44.8 percent shooting and 5.1 rebounds.
“It’s a great honor. I appreciate the league coaches for selecting me,” Richardson said. “It shows the hard work I put in trying to improve every day has paid off. It’s a great honor and I am very blessed.”
Richardson was fifth among freshman in scoring in conference play and second in free-throw percentage (69.4 percent).
“We’re proud of all our freshmen because they have all contributed to our program in a big way. We’re very excited for Breanna because she has worked hard and earned that accolade,” Schaefer said. “Big things are still to come for all of our freshman, especially Breanna. I know her family is excited for her, and our staff is as well. I’m very proud of my staff for helping her develop through the season.”
She claimed over half of her 14 double-digit scoring games in SEC play, including 17 points against No. 12 Kentucky last Thursday and a season-best 18 in the year’s first meeting against Ole Miss.
“I’m appreciative to the other coaches in the Southeastern Conference for their acknowledgement of our players and their accomplishments. It speaks volumes for them and the true professionals they are. I appreciate them voting for our players,” Schaefer said.
Richardson and Alwal both had big outings in the regular-season meeting against Missouri (17-12, 6-10 SEC), a game State won in Starkville 69-62.
Alwal recorded one of her nine double-doubles with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Richardson tallied 15 points. Fellow rookie Dominique Dillingham paced the Dawgs with 21 points, the most by a Bulldog rookie since Tysheka Grimes had 28 against South Carolina in 2007.
Defending the 3-point arc will be key once again as Missouri enters the contest second in the SEC with a 37.6 percent conversion rate behind the arc. In the season’s first meeting, State held the Tigers to 6-of-19 (31.6 percent), three below their season average.Bri Kulas, who had 14 points in the season’s first meeting, rates second in the SEC in scoring at 18.6 points per game. Junior Morgan Eye tops the conference with 3.7 3-pointers per game and a 44.0 percent tally behind the arc.