Anderson and Lavender share Big Ten Player of the Year honors

The media and coaches were in disagreement over the top league player.

Mark Heise

The Big Ten Player of the Year was split between two players this year, Ohio State freshman center Jantel Lavender and Wisconsin senior guard Jolene Anderson.

Lavender was voted player of the year by the coaches this season, and deservedly so, as she led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship as a freshman with 17.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Lavender cemented the argument for her to take home the honor in the last game of the season, carrying Ohio State on her back with 36 points and 16 boards to narrowly beat Penn State 87-84, clinching the championship.

But the idea of sending an upperclassman home with the award stuck with the 22-member media panel that voted for Anderson in lieu of Lavender.

In the media’s defense, Anderson led the Big Ten with 19.8 points per game, and was an integral part in all of the Badgers’ wins.

But there were only nine wins; nine wins in a year Wisconsin was expected to finish in the top three in the conference and instead sit in eighth place.

A 2-6 start to the Big Ten season had a lot to do with that, and in that time, Anderson was unable to carry the load, leading her team in scoring just twice, putting up 42 points in a loss to Iowa while tallying 30 points while falling to Michigan.

Anderson’s average dropped more than 22 points for the other six games, averaging just 13.7 points per game. Lavender meanwhile averaged 21.3 points in the six games Ohio State played that were decided by five points or less.

The preference given to seniors is generally overlooked, as after four years of service, many voters believe the veterans usually deserve recognition. But the glaring holes in this year’s choice may cause some question in future years.

Coach of the year

There wasn’t much debate over who deserved this award, as Iowa coach Lisa Bluder turned her Hawkeyes around from a 6-10 season in 2007 to a 13-5 record and share of the regular season conference championship this year.

Bluder carried essentially the same team she had last year, but successfully constructed an offensive power that continued to work even when one or two of her scoring leaders were off the floor.

“No matter what happens in my coaching career at this point, I could walk away satisfied,” Bluder said on Iowa’s athletics Web site. “It shows we can do things the right way and be successful.”

Bluder has been named coach of the year five times in her career, twice in the Big Ten.

Gophers honored

Junior guard Emily Fox, senior forward Leslie Knight and sophomore center Ashley Ellis-Milan each earned Big Ten honors.

Fox was voted on to the First Team All-Big Ten, Knight was selected to the second team, while Ellis-Milan received honorable mention.

Sophomore guard Brittany McCoy, the Gophers’ defensive stopper all season, and Fox, who averages 2.9 steals per game, did not make the Big Ten All-defensive team.