BLACKSBURG, Va. – The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team dropped its lone preseason exhibition game to Peach State Elite, a traveling team of former college players, by a score of 79-70 on Monday night at Cassell Coliseum.
The loss snapped a streak of 13 consecutive wins by the Hokies in exhibition contests, and they now hold a 16-7 record all-time in such games. The Elitists captured their first win in a six-game slate. They’ve lost to Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina and Georgia Tech, and will finish their schedule against Mississippi State.
“I thought we looked nervous and hesitant in the first half, and defensively, we’ve got to get better,” Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger said after the game. “But I was pleased to see us step it up a little bit in the second half, and I saw some bright sports in Brittany Gordon and Shani Grey.”
The Hokies were without redshirt senior Brittany Cook in this one, as the ACC’s leading scorer from a year ago sprained her right knee last week and is listed as day-to-day. However, several other Hokies stepped up and had excellent games in her stead, most notably Gordon. The sophomore center saw limited action as rookie, but started on Monday and turned in 10 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals. Grey led the team with 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while junior Utahya Drye added 15 points, seven boards and four assists.
The visitors had five players score in double figures, including 19 apiece by Maurita Reid and Nikki Luckhurst. Reid, who scored 26 points against the Hokies last season as a member of the Miami Hurricanes, also added eight rebounds, four assists and six steals. D’Lesha Lloyd, a former Clemson Tiger who netted 31 points against Tech last season, added 17 for the Elitists.
Things didn’t look good for Tech early on in the second half, as Peach State held a 15-point lead – 47-32 – with just over two minutes gone by. But a Shanel Harrison put-back at the 12:19 mark ignited the Hokies to a 17-2 run over 5:46 that knotted the game at 61 with 6:33 remaining. Tech couldn’t get over the hump, though, and Peach State gradually pulled away thanks to some timely steals – the Elitists had 14 thefts in the game – and late free throws.
Tech countered Peach State’s high steal total by swatting 11 shots, including three by senior Amber Hall. Both teams turned the ball over too much (Peach State had 26 turnovers, while Tech had 22), and the Hokies accomplished the rare feat of collecting more offensive rebounds (25) than defensive (23). The most telling statistics, however, were the teams’ shooting percentages. Peach State hit 45.2 percent from the field as compared to Virginia Tech’s 34.2 percent, which included an alarming 2-for-20 success rate from three-point land.
“If we’re not making 3s, we need to quit shooting 3s,” Dunkenberger said. “We don’t shoot that many in practice, so I’m not sure why we opted to do so tonight. I think nerves were a part of that – you tend to take the easiest shot you can get rather than the highest-percentage shot. We’ve been shooting the ball well from the 3-point line, but we need to go inside-out and work our way back out to it.”
Tech plays its first official game of the season this Friday at Cassell Coliseum as part of a unique tripleheader in Hokie sports. The volleyball team opens things up at 3 p.m. with a match against Boston College, while the women’s hoops team takes on UNC Greensboro at 6 p.m. The men’s basketball team caps the night with an 8 p.m. tilt against Gardner-Webb.
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