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South Carolina's Mitchell named AP's SEC player of the year; Wilson, Schaefer claim awards

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ATLANTA — After leading South Carolina to a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, Tiffany Mitchell was selected Tuesday as the Southeastern Conference women's player of the year by The Associated Press.

She was joined by plenty of familiar faces on the All-SEC team.

The first team also included South Carolina's A'ja Wilson, who picked up the award as the top freshman. Alaina Coates and Aleighsa Welch of the Gamecocks claimed spots on the second team.

Vic Schaefer of Mississippi State was voted coach of the year.

Mitchell, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, leads the Gamecocks in scoring at 14.4 points per game and was one of just two qualifying players in the conference to make more than half her shots (50.5 percent).

No. 3 South Carolina (30-2) shared its second straight regular-season title with Tennessee, captured the SEC Tournament for the first time, and will host 16th-seeded Savannah State on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I think my years have their own stories, from my freshman year to my sophomore year to now. All three have been completely different seasons on how people played me and how game plans were (developed) for our team," said Mitchell, who earlier won the coaches' player of the year award for the second season in a row. "Coach (Dawn) Staley's done a great job of telling me to stay the course again and stay true to our team. Don't do anything different. She said my shots are going to come, just stay within what we do and it's going to come."

Also making the first team were Mississippi's Tia Faleru, the only unanimous selection, along with Kentucky's Makayla Epps and Texas AM's Courtney Walker.

The league's top scorer, Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians, was a second-teamer.

Wilson, a 6-5 forward, made quite an impact in her college debut after picking the Gamecocks over Connecticut, Tennessee and North Carolina. She is averaging 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

"Last year I was home on my couch, sitting and watching," she said after celebrating the team landing a top seed Monday night. "Now, being here with my girls at South Carolina and all the fans, it's a great feeling."

In his third season at Mississippi State, Schaefer guided his team to school records for overall wins (26-6) and league victories (11-5). A third-place finish in the conference matched the best in school history.

The Lady Bulldogs are seeded fifth as they make their first NCAA appearance since 2010, facing Tulane in the opening round Friday at Durham, North Carolina.

"I'm certainly thrilled for my players and my staff and my university for being able to go to the NCAA Tournament, to go 26-6 in year three," Schaefer said. "In most games, with two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior on the floor, we're a really young team."

Faleru, a 6-1 forward and lone senior on the first team, leads the SEC in rebounding (10.3) while averaging 14.7 points. Epps, a 5-10 sophomore guard, is among the league leaders in scoring (14.5) and assists (3.0). Walker, a 5-8 junior guard, is averaging 14.4 points a game.

Mitchell, Faleru and Walker were repeat selections to the first team.

The second team included a pair of Tennessee players, center Isabelle Harrison and forward Cierra Burdick, along with LSU guard Danielle Ballard and Arkansas forward Jessica Jackson. Harrison was a first-teamer in 2014.

The 19th annual AP All-SEC women's team was selected by a regional media panel.


AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina contributed to this report.


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