For the first time ever, an Iowa State women’s basketball player has been awarded the Big 12 Player of the Year. Senior Bridget Carleton was honored with the award Wednesday and edged out last year's winner, Kalani Brown, from Baylor.
Carleton led the conference in scoring and had a convincing head-to-head matchup against Brown and Baylor late in the season. Brown figured to be in contention for the award despite having worse head-to-head stats compared to Carleton due to her being the best player on a Baylor team which swept the Big 12 in the regular season and earned the spot as the No. 1 team in the country.
The Player of the Year award is voted upon by the Big 12’s head coaches. Each coach is not able to vote for their own players.
Carleton has been the best player this season on an Iowa State team which is 23-7 overall and finished 13-5 in conference play and finished second in the conference after Baylor.
The last time the two teams met on Feb. 23, Carleton had a game-high in points with 28 along with eight rebounds. Twenty of her points came in the second half. Brown finished the game with 14 points and seven rebounds, but Baylor ended up winning the game 73-60 over the Cyclones.
After the game, Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said who the pick for Big 12 Player of the Year should be.
“I think today, on a national stage, against the best team in our league — there should be no doubt — no doubt who the player of the year in this league is and if anyone doesn’t vote for Bridget Carleton, then you need to come talk to me,” Fennelly said.
As the first winner of the Big 12 Player of the Year award for Fennelly and the Cyclones, Carleton has achieved an honor not even Iowa State great Angie Welle, a three-time AP All-American and Iowa State’s all-time scoring leader, was able to achieve.
Carleton said Fennelly has always stuck behind her and backed her up. Even after games where Carleton had failed to have her shot fall, she said Fennelly always drew up the same plays for her the next game.
“He has my back; he always has my back,” Carleton said. “He has had trust in me for for years now through the ups and downs — through everything.”
In her evolution as a player, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said she has seen Carleton transition from a true forward to a player who has developed into a perimeter player who can play multiple positions.
Mulkey said she expected Carleton to be a great shooter, but she said Carleton has also become a player who handles the ball well and is able to consistently penetrate defenses.
In her final season, Carleton averaged 21.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 2.3 steals and 2.6 turnovers per game. Carleton also owns a 46.6 shooting percentage from the floor and a 36.6 3-point shooting percentage.
Brown averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, 0.4 steals and 1.7 turnovers per game with 62 percent shooting from the floor.
Brown is the best player on a Baylor team which has gone 28-1 overall and 18-0 in the conference — firmly finishing as the top team in the Big 12.
“If Kalani Brown was standing there and another player in this league, who would you take?” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “She’s six-seven, so that’s my answer pretty loud and clear.”
According to the other Big 12 coaches, Carleton is that choice.