Skylar Diggins wins top Big East award
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins was honored Friday as the Big East Player of the Year after leading the Irish to their first outright regular season conference title.
The junior guard, who also was the conference's preseason player of the year, helped No. 3 Notre Dame to a 28-2 record (15-1 Big East), averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 assists.
"A national championship would mean much more to me, even a Big East championship," Diggins said after picking up the trophy at a news conference during the first day of the Big East tournament. "But, I'm grateful that the coaches saw the potential in me at the beginning of the year, and I was able to stick with that in the review."
St. John's Kim Barnes Arico earned Coach of the Year honors after a 21-8 season that included a 13-3 record in conference play and a win at Connecticut that helped the Red Storm (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) earn the tournament's No. 2 seed.
St. John's started the season 5-5, playing those first 10 games without star forward Da'Shena Stevens, who was recovering from an offseason left knee injury. They are 16-3 since her return.
"We had injuries, we had deaths in families, we had illness and the kids really overcame so much to get to where they are today," Barnes Arico said. "They are a special group and Da'Shena leads the charge."
Stevens was picked as the conference's top scholar athlete.
UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was voted the Big East Freshman of the Year by the league's 16 head coaches. She averaged 14 points for the No. 4 Huskies (26-4, 13-3).
It was the second consecutive freshman of the year award for UConn after Bria Hartley took home the trophy in 2011. Mosqueda-Lewis said it helped her to come into a program with established stars such as Hartley and Tiffany Hayes.
"It's definitely made it a lot easier for me," she said. "If people say there is pressure on me then they have definitely taken it away because Tiffany and Bria have been here before. They have experience and they've been here to help me."
It was the first season since 2006-07 that a UConn player failed to win player of the year honors in the conference, and coach Geno Auriemma did not at least share the coach of the year award.
"I think this is the first year a lot of people feel like they can beat Connecticut," Barnes Arico said. "Notre Dame probably feels like they can beat them every time they play them and a lot of people in our league feel like they have an opportunity this year."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press