Williams, Byars named SEC Players of the Week

Vanderbilt senior swingman Derrick Byars and guard Caroline Williams were named the Southeastern Conference Players of the Week the league office announced on Monday. It marks the second time this season that Byars has earned the accolade.

Continuing to make his case for SEC Player of the Year, Byars put together his best week in a Vanderbilt uniform. The University of Virginia transfer scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting to go along with seven rebounds in the Commodores' 78-68 win over South Carolina on Wednesday. Three days later he tied Shan Foster for team-high honors with 24 points in Vanderbilt's 83-70 victory over No. 1 Florida on Jan. 17. Byars made 11-of-19 field goals against the Gators while tying his career high with eight assists and establishing a new personal best with five steals.

For the week, Byars shot an amazing 64.7 percent from the field (22-of-34), 46.1 percent from 3-point range (6-of-13) and averaged 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.5 steals.

The versatile Byars ranks among the SEC leaders in seven statistical categories during league play, including scoring (second at 19.7 points per game), field goal shooting (sixth at 51.8 percent), 3-point shooting (sixth at 41.3 percent), 3-pointers per game (seventh at 2.58) and steals (tied for eighth at 1.50).

Byars also has performed well under fire, averaging 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and shooting 53.6 percent from the field in eight games against ranked opponents.

Byars has led the Commodores in scoring in nine of their last 11 games, scoring 20 or more points seven times.

On the season, Byars leads Vanderbilt averaging 16.8 points and 1.4 steals. He is second on the team in rebounds (4.9) and assists (3.2) and is third in field goal shooting (48.5 percent).

Byars also won SEC Player of the Week honors for Week 11 (Jan. 12-18) after posting a game-high 23 points in a 72-67 win at then-No. 25 Kentucky on Jan. 25 after recording 15 points in Vanderbilt's 94-73 home victory against then-No. 10 Alabama on Jan. 17.

Byars is only the fourth Commodore in school history to earn the SEC Player of the Week award twice in one season, joining Matt Freije (2004), Dan Langhi (1999) and Will Perdue (1988). The SEC started handing out the weekly honor in 1985.

Williams scored 50 points in a pair of wins against league opponents Mississippi State and South Carolina last week. She broke her previous career high Thursday at Mississippi State by netting 24 points, only to return home to Memorial Gymnasium on Sunday and put up a new career high, 26 points, against South Carolina.

A native of Rockmart, Ga., Williams is the first Commodore to earn Player of the Week honors from the SEC since teammate Dee Davis won the award on Feb. 28, 2005, after wins over Alabama and Georgia.

At Mississippi State, Williams went 7-for-15 from the field, scoring 11 points in the opening minutes of the game as Vanderbilt took a 18-point lead into the half.

Sunday against South Carolina, Williams connected on 8-of-10 shots, including 6-of-8 three-pointers, to break her career high for the second time in as many games.

With her performance last week, Williams moves ahead of Maryland's Kristi Toliver for the national lead in three-point field-goal percentage. While Williams hit 12-of-20 during the week to raise her three-point percentage to 50 percent, Toliver went 4-of-15 in a pair of contests to drop below .500 for the first time in weeks.

Behind the long-range accuracy of Williams, the Commodores have led the nation in three-point field-goal percentage since a Jan. 21 victory over Georgia Tech.

In addition to her long-range prowess, Williams made 8-of-8 free throws during the week to raise her team-high free throw percentage to 91.8 percent.

Williams in one of three seniors -- along with Davis and forward Carla Thomas -- who will be honored this Thursday, Feb. 22, during Senior Day festivities following the Commodores game against LSU (8 p.m. CT tip-off).

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