MSU holds annual awards banquet

Mississippi State women’s basketball award winners: Kendra Grant (6th Man Award), Kayla Nevitt (Tommy & Terri Nusz Most Outstanding Bulldog Award), Blair Schaefer (Academic Award), Jerica James (Most Improved Award), Victoria Vivians (MVP & Miss Offense Awards), Dominique Dillingham (Co-Miss Defense & Miss Hustle Awards), Morgan William (Rookie Award), and Martha Alwal (Co-Miss Defense Award). (Mississippi State)

Mississippi State women’s basketball award winners: Kendra Grant (6th Man Award), Kayla Nevitt (Tommy & Terri Nusz Most Outstanding Bulldog Award), Blair Schaefer (Academic Award), Jerica James (Most Improved Award), Victoria Vivians (MVP & Miss Offense Awards), Dominique Dillingham (Co-Miss Defense & Miss Hustle Awards), Morgan William (Rookie Award), and Martha Alwal (Co-Miss Defense Award). (Mississippi State)

To cap a memorable 2014-15 campaign, several Bulldogs were recognized for their season’s efforts Wednesday night at the team’s annual Hail State Hoops Awards Banquet.

Wednesday’s event, held in front of a capacity crowd in the Mize Pavilion, celebrated a historic season that saw the Bulldogs set school records for overall wins (27) and SEC victories (11) while advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

Prior to handing out the team awards, Mississippi State Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin presented head coach Vic Schaefer with his SEC Coach of the Year award.

Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention and Second Team All-SEC member Victoria Vivians received Most Valuable Player and Miss Offense honors.

Vivians, the first freshman to win the 2015 Gillom Trophy, tallied 14.9 points per game in her rookie season, the third-highest average in the SEC regardless of class and tops among league rookies.

The Carthage native, who averaged 17.5 ppg against ranked opponents, led the Bulldogs in scoring 18 times while tallying 26 double-figure outings.

Vivians set an MSU freshman record with a 39-point effort against Kentucky that tied for the highest single-game output by a freshman in the nation this season.

The four-time SEC Freshman of the Week and MSU’s first USBWA National Freshman of the Week claimed the fourth-most points ever by a Bulldog freshman (505), including a 13.8 average in league games that ranked seventh overall, tops among rookies.

Sophomore guard Dominique Dillingham also claimed a pair of awards, sharing Miss Defense honors with senior Martha Alwal while also winning the Miss Hustle award for the second-consecutive season.

Dillingham averaged an SEC third-most 2.0 steals per game, but ranked second in league contests with 2.1 per game.

The Spring, Texas, native, who ranked second with 36.0 minutes per game in SEC contests, ranked fourth on the squad in rebounds (5.0 rpg), third in assists (1.8 apg) and second in blocks (0.7 bpg).

Dillingham combined with Alwal to help lead a stout defense that held foes to just 57.5 points per game while ranking third nationally in 3-point defense (33.6 percent) and 14th in turnover margin with an SEC-best +5.7.

State also finished second in the conference with 5.1 blocked shots behind an SEC-best 2.5 swats per game from Alwal. The Second Team All-SEC and All-Defensive Team selection became just the second player in SEC history to lead the conference in blocks all four years while joining two other players in league annals to record 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks.

Alwal also averaged 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds en route to finishing her heralded career ninth at MSU in scoring (1,328), second in rebounds (1,010) and first in blocks (328).

Fellow senior Kendra Grant was presented the 6th Man Award after contributing an 6.0 ppg off the bench, including a season-high 17 in a home win against Alabama.

The Richland native capped her MSU career by being the 21st Bulldog to reach 1,000 career points, finishing 14th with 1,156. Her senior campaign also saw her eclipse 100 made 3-pointers with 108, eighth-most in program annals.

Senior point guard Jerica James was tabbed the team’s Most Improved for the second year in a row. The Wynne, Ark., native started every game this season, finishing 14th in the SEC with 2.7 assists per game and bettering her assist/turnover ratio to 1.6.

Fellow point guard Morgan William earned the Rookie Award after a stellar season that saw her earn SEC All-Freshman Team laurels and a pair of SEC Freshman of the Week honors after averaging 9.1 points and an SEC fourth-most 3.6 assists per game.

The Birmingham, Ala., native led the SEC with 144 made free throws and set a school single-season record with an 84.2 percent conversion rate that ranked second in the league and third among freshmen in the Division I ranks.

For her key contribution as a team player, Kayla Nevitt won the Tommy & Terri Nusz Most Outstanding Bulldog Award. Nevitt saw action in 18 games in her first season in Maroon and White, but provided pivotal play in the non-conference portion of the season. The freshman guard scored a season-high 15 points in a season-high 19 minutes against New Orleans.

Freshman Blair Schaefer claimed the team’s Academic Award after being named to the President’s List in her inaugural collegiate semester. On the court, the Starkville native saw action in 24 games and went 18 of 19 (94.7 percent) at the free-throw line. Schaefer, who knocked down 17-straight free throws to begin the year, scored a season-high 12 points against Mississippi Valley State and gave MSU a halftime lead with a 3-pointer at the buzzer at Alabama.

Finally, the team honored the late Jean Williams with the Fan of the Year Award. Williams passed away in January following decades of supporting the Bulldogs and serving as an usher at MSU basketball and football games.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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