NEW YORK – (Staff report from Official News Release) – For the first time in league history, three players will share BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. Khyri Thomas of Creighton along with Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart of Villanova tied in the balloting by the league’s head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own players for awards. The league also announced that Providence’s Kyron Cartwright has been named BIG EAST Most Improved Player. Marquette’s Andrew Rowsey has won the BIG EAST Sixth Man Award. DePaul’s Billy Garrett Jr. has been selected for the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.
The BIG EAST will announce the remaining individual awards: Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Outstanding Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete at a press conference at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Thomas, a 6-3 sophomore guard, is the Bluejays’ defensive stopper. In BIG EAST games, he ranks eighth in the BIG EAST in steals with a 1.5 average and is eighth in defensive rebounding with a 4.3 average. He is second on the team in blocked shots with 13. Thomas is the first Bluejay to earn conference Defensive Player of the Year honors since Greg Echenique earned Missouri Valley Conference defensive honors in 2011-12.
Bridges and Hart have combined to help Villanova lead the BIG EAST in scoring defense, yielding only 63.1 points per game. The Wildcats are also first in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents 41.7 percent shooting from the floor and they are first in 3-point defense, allowing 31.1 percent from beyond the arc. Bridges, a 6-7 sophomore, ranks fourth in the league in steals with a 1.9 average and is tied for sixth in blocks with 28. Hart, a 6-5 senior, is sixth in steals with a 1.5 average.
Cartwright, a 5-11 junior, averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 assists last season, starting 10 games and averaging 24.2 minutes of playing time. His assist average ranked ninth in the BIG EAST. This year, Cartwright has averaged 11.3 points and a league-leading 6.8 assists per game while averaging 33.1 minutes of playing time. As the team’s point guard, he has directed Providence to a 20-11 overall record and a 10-8 BIG EAST mark. It’s the second straight year a Friar has been named Most Improved Player. Last year, Ben Bentil won the award.
Rowsey has been an impressive offensive force for Marquette. One of league’s top shooters, he is averaging 11.2 points per game. In all games, he leads the BIG EAST in free throw shooting, making 94.3 percent, which also ranks second in the nation. From beyond the arc, Rowsey ranks fifth in the league, hitting 45.5 percent. The 5-10 junior, who transferred from UNC-Asheville, is in his first season of competition at Marquette.
Garrett Jr. has enjoyed an exemplary career on and off the court for DePaul. On the court, he is averaging 14.9 points and 3.3 assists per contest. Among active BIG EAST players, Garrett Jr. is first in career points in league games with 914 points. He began his career winning the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year award in 2013-14. Off the court, Garrett Jr. was named to AFCA Good Works Team. He will be honored at the NCAA Final Four. Garrett, Jr. also has been advocate as a guest speaker for sickle cell disease. A finance major, he will graduate later this month ahead of his class.
BIG EAST Defensive Players of the Year
Khyri Thomas, Creighton
Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Josh Hart, Villanova
BIG EAST Most Improved Player
Kyron Cartwright, Providence
BIG EAST Sixth Man Award
Andrew Rowsey, Marquette
BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award
Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul