WKU's Kelly, Brown, Duck And Cowles Earn Postseason Sun Belt Conference Honors

By: Chris Glowacki, WKU Athletic Media Relations
By: Chris Glowacki, WKU Athletic Media Relations

Bowling Green, Ky. — Following a championship regular season, four members of the Western Kentucky University women‘s basketball program were rewarded for their efforts when the Sun Belt Conference released its postseason awards on Tuesday.

Senior All-American Crystal Kelly — the all-time leading scorer in both WKU and Sun Belt history — was named the 2008 SBC Player of the Year, and was selected to the all-conference first team for the fourth straight season. Junior forward Dominique Duck joined Kelly on the all-conference squad as a second-team selection. In addition, Arnika Brown was named the league’s Freshman of the Year, and head coach Mary Taylor Cowles was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year for the third time in her six seasons at the helm of the Lady Topper program.

Kelly joins Lillie Mason, Shala Reese and Tiffany Porter-Talbert as the only four Lady Toppers to ever earn Sun Belt Player-of-the-Year accolades. She also becomes just the third player in league history to earn both Player and Freshman of the Year in a career — joining Porter-Talbert and Louisiana Tech’s Vickie Johnson. She is also one of just five players in league history to earn all-conference honors each of her four years. Kelly enters her final conference tournament with 2,744 career points — the 13th best scoring total in NCAA Division I history. She has rewritten the WKU record books, and in a three-game stretch in December took over the top spot on three prestigious lists. She moved past Mason to become WKU’s career scoring leader on Dec. 20 against North Carolina, then two days later at Troy she became the league’s all-time scoring leader as she passed South Alabama’s Adrian Vickers. She then became the top rebounder in Lady Topper history in a win over Missouri State, again moving past Mason.

In her senior season, Kelly has averaged 23.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Her scoring average is fifth-best in the nation, and she also ranks ninth in the country — and first in the Sun Belt — in rebounding. Her .648 field-goal percentage stands best in the nation, and she is also the conference leader with a free-throw percentage of .827 in the best in the league. Kelly has scored in double figures in 28 of WKU’s 30 game thus far in the season, reaching the 20-point mark 21 times. She also had eight games with at least 30 points — including a school-record 42 in her final Diddle Arena performance against Louisiana-Monroe. She has also posted 17 double-doubles on the year, including becoming just the second player to finish with a 20-20 night when she went for 22 points and 20 rebounds against South Alabama. She also remains a candidate for three of the top national awards in college basketball — the WBCA Wade Trophy, the Naismith Award and the John R. Wooden Award.

Duck joined Kelly on the all-conference team for the second straight year, as she earned third-team honors in 2007. A 10.8-point-per-game scorer this season, the junior forward has reached double figures in 21 games — including a stretch of 11 straight through December and the first half of January. Duck ranks among the conference leaders in scoring, field goal percentage (.481) and blocked shots (30). She has now scored over 300 points in back-to-back seasons, and is just 21 points shy of establishing a new career high during her third season on the Hill.

Brown made an immediate impact on the Lady Toppers once becoming eligible in December after completing her transfer year. In 20 games, she has averaged 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, posting three double-doubles during that stretch. Brown has scored in double figures in nearly half of her games, and pulled down double-figure rebounds six times. She has also been a 57-percent shooter from the field. Brown has added another dimension to the WKU front court, collecting 70 of her 152 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor. She has also recorded at least five offensive rebounds in seven games so far this season.

For Cowles, she now joins legendary coaches Paul Sanderford (WKU) and Leon Barmore (Louisiana Tech) as the only three-time Coach-of-the-Year recipient in league history. She has guided the Lady Toppers to a 20-win season for the sixth time in as many years at the helm, and has guided WKU to the Sun Belt Conference East Division title for the fifth time in that span. Cowles was also named the league’s top coach in both 2003 and 2006. The 23 wins for the Lady Toppers this season are the most regular-season victories during Cowles’ tenure, and the 16-2 Sun Belt Conference record represents the most league wins in the history of the Lady Topper program.

The Lady Toppers enter the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the #1 seed, and will open postseason play on Saturday (March 8) at 12:30 p.m. (CST) in the quarterfinals at the Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala. WKU will have to wait to find out its quarterfinal opponent, as it will face the winner of a first-round game between North Texas and New Orleans. That game will take place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in Denton, Texas.

Sun Belt Conference All-Conference Women’s Basketball Team

First Team

Nikya Hughes (UALR, Sr., F/C)

LaQuetta Ferguson (FIU, Sr., G)

Amber Holt (Middle Tennessee, Sr., F)

Amy Lewis (Troy, Sr., G)

Crystal Kelly (WKU, Sr., F)

Second Team

Anshel Cooper (UALR, So., G)

Kim Sitzmann (UALR, So., G)

Le’Della English (New Orleans, Sr., G)

Amber Jackson (North Texas, Jr., F)

Dominique Duck (WKU, Jr., F)

Third Team

Veronica Smith (Arkansas State, So., G)

Carla Stubbs (Florida Atlantic, So. G)

Iva Ciglar (FIU, Jr., G)

Alicia McDaniel (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., G)

Shannon Lloyd (ULM, Sr., C)

Player of the Year

Crystal Kelly (WKU, Sr., F)

Defensive Player of the Year

Amber Holt (Middle Tennessee, Sr., F)

Newcomer of the Year

Brittany Helm (New Orleans, So., G)

Freshman of the Year

Arnika Brown (WKU, Fr., F)

Coach of the Year

Mary Taylor Cowles, WKU

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