March 5, 2014 11:45:45 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Shock was the operative word Tuesday for the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
Martha Alwal and Breanna Richardson had places at the front of the line.
MSU's junior center and freshman forward were "in complete shock" when they learned they had been named All-Southeastern Conference. Alwal was named First Team All-SEC and the league's co-Defensive Player of the Year by the league coaches, while Richardson was named to the All-Freshman team.
"I play in one of the best conferences in the nation with so many good players and to be included in that group is crazy," Alwal said. "I am still in awe about that."
Alwal, a 6-foot-4 center from Worthington, Minn., is averaging a career-best 15.5 points per game. She leads the league with 2.6 blocked shots (2.8 in SEC play) per game. Her 78 blocks match the total she had as a sophomore, which is fourth-most in program history. She enters today's game against Missouri (5 p.m., SportSouth) in the opening round of the SEC tournament 10 points away from claiming 1,000 points for her career. She is the only Bulldog player in history with 900 points, 700 rebounds, and 200 blocks.
Alwal said she considers the defensive award more special and credits her teammates and coaches for helping her to mature as a player.
"The coaches have been so hard on me and I never understood why. I am finally understanding," Alwal said. "I think if I continue to listen to them I can get to the next level."
Richardson, a 6-1 freshman from Conyers, Ga., said she learned about her honor at breakfast and also was in "complete shock." She also thanked her teammates for helping her to earn a "special" award.
"At the beginning of the year you always come in with dreams and you set goals, but I wasn't really playing each game to earn (All-SEC honors)," Richardson said. "I just went out each game and played.
"I feel honored, but it goes back to the coaches who are on us every day and helping us to get better and better. I feel it is mainly my coaches and my team that have helped me get where I am today."
Richardson averages 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. She has improved her scoring (10.7 ppg., 5.1 rebounds) in league play.
South Carolina's Dawn Staley, Tiffany Mitchell and Alaina Coates were named SEC Coach, Player, and Freshman of the Year, respectively.
Texas A&M's Jordan Jones shared the Defensive Player of the Year award with Alwal. Coates and Kentucky's Jennifer O'Neill were named co-6th Player of the Year. Missouri's Lianna Doty was named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Ole Miss senior guard Valencia McFarland and junior forward Tia Faleru were named Second Team All-SEC. Alabama's Ashley Williams was named to the All-Freshman Team.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.