MOLINE — As expected, Drake's women's basketball team — perfect during conference play — cleaned up most of the annual awards Thursday.
Drake forward Lizzy Wendell, the Missouri Valley Conference's leading scorer this season at 21.1 points per game, was named the league's player of the year after the opening game of the league tournament in Moline. Wendell, a 6-foot senior, was fifth in the Valley in field goal percentage (51.1 percent), fifth in free-throw percentage (76.6 percent) and tied for second in steals with 78.
Freshman guard Becca Hittner, the only freshman on the all-conference first team that was announced Wednesday, won the freshman of the year honor. Hittner led the Valley in 3-point shooting at 52.4 percent (44 of 84), was ninth in scoring (12.3 points per game) and 11th in rebounding (six per game).
Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk, who led the Bulldogs to No. 19 in the country in The Associated Press poll this week, was named the Valley's coach of the year. She is in the middle of her third straight 20-win season, and led Drake to the first 18-0 conference mark in women's basketball history.
Baranczyk became the third coach from Drake to win the honor, joining Lisa Bluder (1995, 1997, 1998) and Lisa Stone (2001).
Evansville senior guard Camary Williams was named the league's defensive player of the year. Williams' 115 steals in 29 games led the Valley by more than 30. Northern Iowa junior guard Ellie Herzberg, the Panthers' second-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game, was the MVC Sixth Player of the Year.
Indiana State guard Wendi Bibbins was the league's newcomer of the year.