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Caleb McConnell earns Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year



Feb 26, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) dribbles the ball as Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Caleb McConnell (22) defends during the first half at Bryce Jordan Center. Rutgers defeated Penn State 59-56. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

For a second straight season, Caleb McConnell has been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The league announced its annual honors on Tuesday. McConnell will share the award with Northwestern’s Chase Audige. McConnell is the Big Ten’s first two-time winner of the award since Ohio State’s Aaron Craft (2012, 2014) and first to do it back to back since Purdue’s Kenny Lowe (2003, 2004). In addition, McConnell was named an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Selection by the conference.

McConnell led the Big Ten in averaging 2.6 steals per game in 19 league games, which is 0.4 more than last season. Audige was second with 2.4 steals per game in conference action. In Sunday’s head to head matchup, McConnell swiped 6 steals to pass Myles Mack for second all-time in steals in program history.

Rutgers finished the Big Ten regular season No. 1 in scoring defense and defensive efficiency. McConnell was a big reason why.

The Scarlet Knight also improved his steal rate in Big Ten play from 4.4% last season to 4.7% this season. He also finished in the top 25 in the Big Ten with 4.0 defensive rebounds per game and a solid defensive rebounding rate of 13.7%. McConnell has left his mark on the program in many ways during a standout career.

“Caleb McConnell is not only the best defender in the conference, but the best in the whole country,” head coach Steve Pikiell said. “I can do so much more defensively with McConnell’s ability to guard positions 1 through 5. People always want to talk about scorers in this league. They should be talking about the amount of points Caleb takes off the board for the other team. He is paramount to our team’s defensive success night in and night out.”

Cliff Omoruyi received several honors. He was also named to the All-Big Ten Defensive Team along with McConnell. Omoruyi was also named Second Team All-Big Ten by the media and Third Team All-Big Ten by the coaches.

The big man is leading Rutgers in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots. He would be the first Rutgers player since Keith Hughes in 1990-1991 to accomplish that feat. Omoruyi is averaging 13.5 points on 51.5% shooting along with 9.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game this season. In Big Ten play, Cliff is third in league action with 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

Cam Spencer and Paul Mulcahy joined McConnell as All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selections.

Spencer is averaging 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game. He finished Big Ten play 3rd in steals, 12th in three-pointers made and 18th in assists.

Mulcahy was 4th in Big Ten play with 4.9 assists per game and 6th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2). He’s averaging 8.2 points, 4.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds this season.

Mawot Mag was named the Sportsmanship award winner for Rutgers.

Rutgers plays Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday at noon ET airing live on BTN.

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  1. BataliBoli98

    March 8, 2023 at 2:50 am

    I very much respect Chase Audige, and wish he played for RU, and his defensive stats are excellent. However, he simply doesn’t have the defensive versatility that Caleb brings to the floor and therefore I think Caleb should be the sole winner of the award. That said, I don’t watch Chase play more than 3 or 4 times throughout the season so perhaps he is deserving. Regardless, congrats to Caleb!

  2. thevinman

    March 8, 2023 at 3:53 am

    Congratulations to Caleb. We will really miss him next year.

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