The No. 11 MSU women’s basketball team might have to send a truck to collect all the hardware they earned Monday. Senior forward Kalisha Keane, junior forward Lykendra Johnson and MSU head coach Suzy Merchant all took home the Big Ten’s top individual honors, the conference announced Monday.
Keane becomes the first player in MSU history to be voted by the coaches as the Big Ten Player of the Year, whereas Johnson becomes the second consecutive Spartan to win the Defensive Player of the Year award and Merchant the third coach to win Coach of the Year.
Keane is the Spartans’ scoring leader with 16.2 points per game, which was seventh in the conference. She is the only player in the Big Ten to rank among the top 15 in all three major shooting percentages (field goal, 3-point and free throw) and is second only to Johnson in steals.
However, some still might consider this an upset seeing as Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender won the award the past three years and led the Big Ten in both points (22.6) and rebounds (10.7) this season. Lavendar was named this year’s player of the year by the media.
“There might be players that have more points and rebounds, but no one did more for her team,” Merchant said in a press release. “For four years, she has been the most unselfish Michigan State player of all time, and for her to finish her career with this kind of award is so deserving.”
After making the switch from small forward to center, Johnson was able to finish the regular season leading the conference in steals, fourth in rebounds and sixth in blocks.
One year after former Spartan Allyssa DeHaan grabbed the Defensive Player of the Year award, Johnson was able to follow in her footsteps and accomplish the same feat.
She is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons the Spartans were able to lead the league in conference play in scoring defense, rebound margin, steals and turnovers forced.
“It is neat for Lykendra because she has come a long way,” Merchant said. “She is playing at the position she has never played before, so to compete at a high level and be successful is really rewarding for her. That’s back-to-back seasons that we have had the defensive player of the year, and that’s fitting because defense is what we are built on.”
After leading the Spartans to 25 wins — the second most in history and the first outright Big Ten title in school history — Merchant joins Joanne McCallie and Karen Langeland as MSU coaches to be named Coach of the Year.
“Getting that honor is a reflection of the team doing a great job, night in, night out, on the floor,” Merchant said in the release. “It is a very low maintenance, very committed team that has tremendous chemistry. For me to get this honor, it is more about what we have been able to accomplish throughout the season, through their hard work.”
The women never have held all three awards at once, but the men did in 2008-09, when Kalin Lucas, Travis Walton and Tom Izzo were awarded all three. The year ended with the men’s team calling themselves runners-up in the National Championship.
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