Big Sky Conference officials have announced the All-Big Sky Conference teams and they have a heavy North Dakota feel. Four different UND players were recognized Monday with senior Madi Buck highlighting the group as the Big Sky Player of the Year. Sophomore Mia Loyd was named to the second team while junior Emily Evers tallied co-sixth woman of the year and sophomore Kelsey Knox collected top newcomer honors.
Buck, after earning all-conference honorable mention honors last season, was awarded the top spot by a vote of the other coaches in the league. At the regular season's end, she sits amongst the league leaders in a host of statistical categories. She is fourth in scoring (16.3 ppg), fifth in rebounding (7.5 rpg), seventh in free throw percentage (.816) and ninth in steals (1.8 spg). Her 37-point outburst against North Dakota State on Dec. 14 stands as the most points scored by a Big Sky player this season and she was a three-time Player of the Week honoree.
She becomes UND's first-ever league player of the year and just second since transitioning to NCAA Division I (2010- Kayla Bagaason, Great West). Buck is the 10th player to earn the conference MVP in program history.
Loyd started just one game as a freshman but has been a mainstay in the UND lineup as a sophomore, leading the league in rebounding at 5-foot-11. Her 9.0 rebounds per game are a full board better than any other player in the conference and her 22-rebound performance on Dec. 18 stands as the most by a league player this season. She is tied with Buck for the conference lead in double-doubles with eight and her 13.7 points per game average is eighth in the league.
Evers started 21 games a season ago but has been the first off the bench for North Dakota this season. Averaging just over 16 minutes per game, Evers still manages to post nearly eight points and six rebounds per contest to go along with 41 total blocks, second-most on the team. The Grand Forks, N.D., native has three double-doubles on the season.
Knox, a sophomore transfer from Johnson County Community College, has asserted herself into the starting lineup in her first season at UND. Following the loss of Megan Lauck to a season-ending injury, Knox has started 23 contests and has produced overall numbers of 5.3 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game.
The quartet of North Dakota honorees have helped UND to its first-ever Big Sky Conference regular season co-championship and the first seed in the upcoming league tournament set to start Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. UND has earned a bye into the semifinal round and will play the lowest remaining seed on Friday at 5:00 p.m.