NEW ORLEANS - Middle Tennessee women's basketball continues to add hardware to its trophy case, as Ebony Rowe was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, along with her joining senior Anne Marie Lanning as All-Sun Belt First Team recipients.
The league office unveiled the annual award winners Thursday prior to the Sun Belt Tournament, which begins Saturday in Hot Springs, Ark.
Rowe becomes just the second Blue Raider in school history to receive the Freshman of the Year nod, earning her spot along with Patrice Holmes in 2002. Five total Middle Tennessee players have been named a conference freshman of the year, including the program's Ohio Valley Conference history.
She also becomes the first freshman Blue Raider to be tabbed to the First Team since Krystle Horton in 2004. Holmes also was selected to the team in 2002.
Rowe, a Lexington, Ky., native set a Sun Belt single-season freshman record with four Player of the Week accolades. She finished the regular season with 15 double-doubles, nine in league action, and averages of 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds to rank second and first, respectively, in the conference statistics. She is the only player to be listed among the top-five freshmen nationally for both categories.
The Blue Raider pair are the only two players on this year's roster to start all 29 games.
Lanning, a Murfreesboro, Tenn., product is the only active senior on the young Middle Tennessee squad. She ranks second in scoring to Rowe with 13.4 ppg, raising her total to 16.0 per game in conference play to place third among the league leaders. She is among the conference top five for free throw percentage (80-of-94, 85.1), 3-pointers made (70), 3-point percentage (70-of-168, 41.7) and minutes per game (38.7). Lanning became the school's 25th member of the 1,000-point club Jan. 23 against Denver and has since risen to 20th on the list. She also ranks third in school history for 3-pointers made (240) and games played (127).
It marks the second-straight season in which two Blue Raiders were named to the First Team, joining Alysha Clark and Brandi Brown from last year. Sixteen Middle Tennessee players have garnered All-Sun Belt First Team honors, including nine in head coach Rick Insell's six seasons.
Overall, 22 Blue Raiders have collected All-Sun Belt honors, either First, Second or Third Team selections, with 15 of those playing under Insell's watch.
Middle Tennessee captured the league's East Division outright for the third-straight year with a 14-2 conference record and 23-6 overall mark. The Blue Raiders will enter the Sun Belt Tournament as the No. 1 seed from the East and face either Arkansas State or Florida Atlantic in the quarterfinals at Noon Sunday in Hot Springs, Ark.
All-Sun Belt First Team:
Anne Marie Lanning, Middle Tennessee, Sr., G
Ebony Rowe, Middle Tennessee, Fr., F
Chastity Reed, UALR, Sr., F
Kaetlyn Murdoch, Denver, Jr., F
Arnika Brown, Western Kentucky, Sr., F
Freshman of the Year: Ebony Rowe, Middle Tennessee, F
Senior James Washington received Second Team All-Sun Belt honors as announced by the league office on Thursday.
It is the first such honor for Washington who has led the Blue Raiders throughout the 2010-11 season both as a point guard and scorer. The St. Louis, Mo., native has posted double figure scoring in all but eight games for the Blue Raiders.
Washington has scored 20 or more points seven times this season. He currently ranks in the Top-15 in the Sun Belt in five statistical categories and is first in free throws.
“I thought that James was very deserving of the award. There are a number of talented perimeter players in our league and I thought that he had a really good senior year. Hopefully he will carry that over into the conference tournament,” head coach Kermit Davis said.
Against Auburn, Washington posted a season high 25 points after going 7 for 11 from the field, which included four three-pointers. He dished out a season high seven assists against South Alabama as the Blue Raiders took an 85-62 win.
Washington has made seven or more free throws in a single game six times and has not missed any attempts 12 times. He currently ranks second in the league in free throws with a .850 percentage and in Sun Belt action is first with a .882 percentage.
At UL-Lafayette, he made all nine of his free throws and ended the game with 23 points, which included five treys. Against North Texas, the Blue Raiders kept chipping away and took the lead on a layup by Washington never looking back although the Mean Green tried to take it away.
Washington ended the game with eight points but dished out three assists and had two steals in the win. At rival Western Kentucky, scored 24 points after making five three pointers and all seven of his free throw attempts.
“The first, second and third teams are full of talented players. I really thought that Jason Jones would make an All-Sun Belt team and that he is very deserving. I nominated Trevor Ottley for Defensive Player of the Year but he was beat out by a very good player in Brett Royster. I think that it shows the quality of depth in the league which should make for an outstanding tournament,” Davis said.
Washington along with fellow seniors Rod Emanuel and Trevor Ottley will continue to lead the Blue Raiders at the Sun Belt Championships as they have done throughout the season. Middle Tennessee opens the tournament on Sunday, March 6 at 9 p.m. after receiving a first round bye. The Blue Raiders will face the winner of FIU vs. Denver in the quarterfinals.