|Updated: 3/05/2012 1:48 pm
||Published: 3/05/2012 1:47 pm
KATY, Texas — After leading Central Arkansas to its first Southland Conference women's basketball championship, junior forward Megan Herbert has been named the league's Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, as voted on by Southland head coaches and sports information directors.
The conference announced its individual awards on Monday in conjunction with the release of the all-conference teams, and the Sugar Bears came away with their best haul to date after finishing their championship season 24-5 overall, 14-2 in the Southland and a perfect 16-0 at home.
Herbert (Rogers, Ark./Shiloh Christian) was named not only the Player of the Year, but also took home the Defensive Player of the Year award as well. Head coach Matt Daniel was named the league's Coach of the Year, and senior guard Nakeia Guiden received third-team all-conference honors. Senior guard Destinee Rogers was an honorable mention selection.
"You see a lot of individual accolades for a lot of team members, and it's a true testament to the type of team we are and the belief system we have," Daniel said. "We firmly believe that if you take care of your team, the team will take care of the individual. As a team we've had tremendous success, and now we are seeing some of that reflected in these individual awards. I'm happy to be included in that, but I'm just happy to be a part of this program."
In becoming the first Southland player since 1998 to win consecutive Player of the Year awards, Herbert was also the recipient of her first Defensive Player of the Year award, becoming just the second player in Southland history to achieve that feat. She also becomes the sixth player ever in the league to be named first-team all-conference three times.
Herbert led the Southland with 17 double-doubles this season and was second in the league in scoring (17.6), rebounding (11.1) and field goal percentage (52.9). She finished the regular season fifth in the nation in double-doubles and ninth in rebounds.
She also helped anchor one of the nation's top defenses, as the Sugar Bears allowed a Southland-best 52.5 points per game which ranks No. 17 in the country. The Sugar Bears are sixth in the nation in 3-point defense (24.8 percent) and 30th in field goal percentage defense (35.3). UCA held 22 opponents to 60 or fewer points this season and 12 of those to 50 or less. Herbert averaged six defensive rebounds per game and tied for the team lead in combined blocks and steals with 52 (31 steals, team-high 21 blocks).
"It's a big deal for her to receive the defensive award as well," Daniel said. "She helps us get stops in a lot of ways. If you look where we rank nationally on the defensive end of the floor and statistically within our league, I think it just as easily could've gone to one of a couple other people on our team. Given the success she's had, it's just another step in saying she's doing what she needs to do to help this team succeed."
In addition to Herbert's accolades, head coach Matt Daniel received his second Southland Coach of the Year award in three seasons – having also won the award in 2010. Daniel has guided the Sugar Bears to three consecutive seasons of at least 21 wins, making them the first Southland team to do so since 2002. During that span the Sugar Bears have the league's highest winning percentage at .725 with a record of 66-25.
Guiden (Twin Groves, Ark./Guy-Perkins) makes the all-conference teams for the first time after two appearances on the honorable mention list. She averaged 10.9 points and 3.3 assists in league play and tied for seventh in the league in blocks per game.
"I think it's great for her," Daniel said. "I think it shows the progress she's made as a player and the respect she's earned throughout the league. I'm really happy for her. She's been very vital to our success, and for others around the league to recognize that and place her on an all-conference team in her senior season is a great honor."
Rogers (Camden Fairview), who led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.5-to-1 and was eighth in assists (3.2) and sixth in field goal percentage (33.7) was included on the honorable mention list.
"The stat that sticks out is her assist-to-turnover ratio," Daniel said. "That is a huge, huge stat and she's been as solid as anybody. She takes care of the ball for this team, and while she doesn't do a lot of things that are flashy, she is steady and we know we can count on her every night. I'm glad she got recognized mainly for a stat that could easily be overlooked."
The Sugar Bears, who are the top seed in the Southland tournament, will face eighth-seeded Nicholls State Tuesday at 6 p.m.