Canaan named co-player of year in Ohio Valley Conference

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BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - For just the fourth time in the 65-year history of the Ohio Valley Conference two players shared the Player of the Year Award as Murray State senior guard Isaiah Canaan and Belmont senior guard Ian Clark split the vote in balloting done by the league's head coaches and sports information directors. In additional voting Clark also took home OVC Defensive Player of the Year honors while Belmont head coach Rick Byrd was named OVC Coach of the Year and Austin Peay center Chris Horton was named OVC Freshman of the Year.

Both Canaan and Clark are candidates for the Naismith and Lou Henson National Player of the Year Awards. It marks the second-straight year Canaan has been named OVC Player of the Year and is the first award for Clark in his team's first year in the league.
 
Canaan is the 13th player in OVC history to repeat as OVC Player of the Year and third in the past six years (UT Martin's Lester Hudson won the award in 2008 and 2009 while Morehead State's Kenneth Faried won in 2010 and 2011). Canaan is the 12th different Murray State player to be named OVC Player of the Year (those 12 players have won 17 total awards) and first to repeat since Popeye Jones in 1989-90 and 1990-91. After earning first-team All-American honors a season ago and leading his team to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Canaan decided to spurn the NBA to return to the Racers. This year he improved his points/game average, increasing it to 21.6 per contest which ranks eighth nationally entering this week; he also ranked 11th nationally in 3-pointers made/game (3.07). Four times during the year he scored 30 or more points, including a season-high 35 points in a double overtime victory at Morehead State; that point total was the highest by an OVC player this season and in that game he scored 17 of his points in the overtime periods including 12 in double overtime. Canaan also ranked fourth in the OVC in assists (4.0/game) and 12th in steals (1.5/game). Canaan earned first-team All-OVC honors for the third-straight season, the first player since Faried to achieve that honor.
 
Clark was a key part of both the Belmont offensive and defensive attack in leading his team to the OVC regular season championship. Entering the postseason the senior ranks third nationally in 3-point percentage (46.2%), 12th in 3-pointers made/game (3.07), 41st in scoring (18.1 points/game) and 45th in field goal percentage (54.7%). Near the beginning of the season he was named to the Great Alaska Shootout All-Tournament Team after averaging 16.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds/game in the three contests including hitting 9-of-11 3-pointers in the semifinals against Northeastern; the nine made 3-pointers were the most in the 35-history of the event (and the eighth-most in a NCAA Division I game this season). He scored 30 or more points in three different games this season including hitting seven 3-pointers and scoring 30 points in a win over rival Lipscomb. Overall he hit four or more 3-pointers in 10 different games.
 
On the defensive side of the ball Clark drew the assignment of guarding the opponent's top player most of the season and helped Belmont rank first in the OVC in scoring defense (63.6 points/game) and second in field goal percentage defense (40.4%). He also ranked sixth in the OVC in steals/game (1.7). It marks the second year in a row that Clark has been named his conference's Defensive Player of the Year (he won the Atlantic Sun award a year ago). Clark is the second OVC player to earn both OVC Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, joining former Morehead State standout and current Denver Nugget Kenneth Faried who accomplished the feat in both 2008-09 and 2009-10. Overall this marks the fifth year the OVC Defensive Player of the Year honor has been awarded.
 
In moving his team from the Atlantic Sun to the OVC this season, Byrd, now in his 27th season at Belmont, did not miss a beat in leading the Bruins to a 14-2 Conference mark and the OVC regular season championship. Other than the league's inaugural year (1948-49) this marked the first time in OVC history that a first-year program has won the regular season crown. After topping the likes of Stanford, Middle Tennessee, South Dakota State and Ohio in the non-conference (and posting a No. 2 non-conference strength of schedule nationally), the Bruins won their first 10 OVC games before falling at Murray State; the team's only other loss during Conference play was at in-city rival Tennessee State. The regular season crown was the fourth-straight for the program who won A-Sun titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before joining the OVC; overall it is the team's sixth conference crown in the last eight years. Heading into the OVC Tournament Belmont is receiving votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today national polls.
 
In his first season with the Austin Peay program Horton took home OVC Freshman of the Week honors nine times, the second-most in OVC history. The native of Decatur, Ga. blocked 100 shots during the year, the fourth-best blocked shot total in league history. Four times during the season he recorded seven blocks in a game, which tied the Austin Peay single-game record. As of this week his 3.23 blocks/game average ranks sixth nationally. Horton also averaged 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds/game in his 31 games (all of which were starts). Overall he is the fourth Austin Peay player to win OVC Freshman of the Year honors and first since Joe Sibbitt in 1995-96.
 
ALL-OVC TEAMS
This year's first and second-team All-OVC squads include 11 players from seven OVC schools. Tennessee State led the way with three selections (one first-team, two second-team) followed by Belmont and Murray State with two picks apiece. The first and second-teams included nine seniors and two juniors.
 
Canaan, the OVC Co-Player of the Year, was the only repeat first-team selection.  He was joined on the first-team by Clark, the player with who he shared Co-Player of the Year honors, Belmont senior guard Kerron Johnson, Murray State senior forward Ed Daniel, Eastern Kentucky senior guard Mike DiNunno and Tennessee State junior guard Patrick Miller. Due to a tie in voting six individuals were named to the All-OVC first-team.
 
Johnson ranked fourth in the OVC in assists, averaging 4.7/game in his team's first year in the league. The senior also tallied 1.7 steals/game which ranked him seventh in the league while his 13.5 points/game average was 15th-best in the OVC. Johnson saved his best for last, scoring a career-high 26 points in Belmont's regular season finale victory over Jacksonville State, a win that clinched the OVC title outright for the Bruins. That game marked his fourth 20-plus point outing of the year. Earlier in the season Johnson dished out a season-high 10 assists in a road victory over Tennessee Tech and had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in a victory over rival Middle Tennessee in December.
 
Part of three-straight OVC regular season championship squads to start his career, Daniel had his best season in a Racer uniform this season, nearly doubling his scoring and rebounding totals. The forward went from averages of 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds/game to 13.5 points and 10.3 rebounds/game this year. The rebounding average ranked him 12th nationally while his 15 double-doubles were the most in the OVC and 10th-most nationally. Daniel had 20 points and a season-high 18 rebounds in a road victory over Lipscomb in November and 15 points and 11 rebounds in a win over St. John's at the Charleston Classic. Daniel ranked fourth in the OVC in field goal percentage (55.7%) during the year.
 
An All-Newcomer selection last year after transferring from Northern Illinois, DiNunno was a key force in guiding Eastern Kentucky to a school record 23 victories and No. 3 seed in the OVC Tournament. DiNunno ranked in the Top 10 in seven different OVC stat categories including first in steals (2.1/game), third in free throw percentage (86.4%), fifth in assists (4.3/game), fifth in 3-pointers made (2.7/game), sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) and eighth in each scoring (15.4 points/game) and 3-point percentage (38.9%). The senior was a consistent part of the EKU attack, averaging 35.7 minutes/contest, fourth-highest in the league.
 
An OVC All-Newcomer selection two years ago, Miller was a key part of the OVC Tournament runner-up squad as a sophomore and took another step forward this season. The junior ranked first in the OVC in assists (5.5/game), fifth in steals (1.7/game), seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) and 12th in scoring (14.6 points/game). Miller was also the catalyst for the TSU team when Robert Covington went down with an injury late in December and missed 10 games. In his absence Miller averaged a team-high 17.6 points/game to go along with 4.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds/game as TSU compiled a 7-3 record in those games. Miller had three double-doubles during the season (reaching that mark with points and assists) and nearly had a triple-double at OVC champion Belmont when he had eight points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
 
The All-OVC second-team included two players who were first-team selections last season in Tennessee State senior forward Robert Covington and Tennessee Tech senior guard Jud Dillard, and another player in Southeast Missouri State junior forward Tyler Stone who repeated as a second-team selection. The team was rounded out by Tennessee State senior forward Kellen Thornton and Jacksonville State senior forward Tarvin Gaines.
 
Due to a tie in voting six players were selected to the OVC All-Newcomer Team, which was comprised of first-year players (freshman and transfers) in the league. Included in the selections was Horton, the OVC Freshman of the Year. The other selections were Austin Peay junior guard Travis Betran, Eastern Kentucky junior Glenn Cosey and sophomore Corey Walden, Eastern Illinois junior forward Sherman Blanford and Tennessee Tech junior guard Jeremiah Samarrippas.
 
 
2012-13 All-OVC Men’s Basketball Teams/Awards
OVC Co-Players of the Year: Ian Clark, Belmont and Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
OVC Defensive Player of the Year: Ian Clark, Belmont
OVC Freshman of the Year: Chris Horton, Austin Peay
OVC Coach of the Year: Rick Byrd, Belmont
 
All-OVC First Team
Ian Clark, Belmont                                  
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Mike DiNunno, Eastern Kentucky
Kerron Johnson, Belmont
Ed Daniel, Murray State
Patrick Miller, Tennessee State
 
All-OVC Second Team
Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech
Robert Covington, Tennessee State
Kellen Thornton, Tennessee State
Tarvin Gaines, Jacksonville State            
Tyler Stone, Southeast Missouri

OVC All-Newcomer Team
Glenn Cosey, Eastern Kentucky
Travis Betran, Austin Peay
Corey Walden, Eastern Kentucky
Jeremiah Samarrippas, Tennessee Tech
Sherman Blanford, Eastern Illinois
Chris Horton, Austin Peay

From: OVC media relations

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