December 14, 2008
Harrison helps Hokies defeat JMU in overtime
By Matt Kovatch - Inside Hokie Sports
123F
James Madison (3-4) 2240870
Virginia Tech (6-2) 34281072
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 2,037
  • High Points: 20 - Utahya Drye
  • High Rebounds: 10 - Shanel Harrison

BLACKSBURG, Va. – The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team hadn’t played a game in 10 days, but it made up for lost time by going an extra session with in-state rival James Madison and defeating the visiting Dukes 72-70 in overtime on Sunday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.

“I’m extremely proud of our team’s effort tonight,” Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger said after the game. “I thought we played very hard and hung together in tough times. We did what we had to do to win the game. It was a great and exciting game to watch, and it was very similar to what we’ll see in the ACC. We still have work to do, but I’m very proud of the way we stepped up.”

It was a furious ending to a game that saw the Hokies (6-2) in front for much of the contest. Tech led 34-22 at the half and the lead fluctuated between eight and 12 points until four minutes remained in regulation.

That’s when JMU point guard Dawn Evans, who entered the contest ranked second in the nation in scoring at 26.7 points per game, took over. With the Dukes down 58-50 at the final media timeout, Evans went on a personal 9-2 run to cut Tech’s lead to 60-59 at the 1:11 mark.

The Dukes (3-4) seemingly captured the game when Courtney Hamner nailed a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds on the clock to make it 62-60, but Tech’s Shanel Harrison was inexplicably fouled on a desperation heave from about 35 feet right before the buzzer. The 6-foot freshman, who scored 11 points in the first half on her way to a career-high 14 for the game, went to the line with three shots to decide the outcome.

“I’ve watched Shanel play for years and the thing that I like about her is that she wants the ball in her hands at the end of the game,” Dunkenberger said. “I’ve seen her in that situation time and time again in AAU. When her team is down, she doesn’t run from it; she wants the ball. I felt pretty good about her going to the line.”

Harrison converted the first free throw, missed the second and made the third to send the Hokies into overtime for the first time this season.

“We were very confident when we went into overtime,” said Tech junior Utahya Drye, who also added career highs of 20 points and six steals. “We knew the score was 0-0. We knew we had to play hard for five minutes and give it all we had. And coming off of two losses, we were hungry to get a win. So we stuck together and came out on top.”

It didn’t look like the Hokies would come out on top when the bonus session began, as Evans quickly added two buckets to add to her game-high total of 21 points and give JMU a four-point lead. But a Drye layup and a pair of Lindsay Biggs free throws sandwiched a hoop by JMU’s Kisha Stokes before Tech’s Laura Haskins scored on a backdoor cut from Drye to knot the game at 68 with 2:33 remaining.

One minute later, Evans missed a jumper that Haskins collected and pushed ahead to a leaking Biggs, who laid it in ahead of the pack to give Tech the lead. The Dukes’ Jalissa Taylor answered with 32.2 ticks on the clock to tie it at 70, but Biggs was fouled with 21.1 seconds left. She hit only one free throw to give the Dukes some hope, and Hamner once again let a 3-pointer fly in hopes of deflating the Hokies again.

The shot was off, though, and Harrison came up with a huge rebound – one of her career-best 10 for the game – before racing to half-court with the ball in an effort to run out the clock. She was fouled with 1.6 ticks left and hit the first shot to ice the game for the Hokies.

“Shanel had the best week of practice she’s had since coming to Tech,” Dunkenberger said of Harrison’s breakout performance. “She stepped it up and had a different level of energy over the past week. Because of that, she was the first person off the bench. If she keeps playing like that, she’ll find more and more minutes.”

In addition the career highs by Drye and Harrison, Biggs added 19 points – including five of Tech’s 10 in overtime – and tied a personal best with eight rebounds. Sarah Williams added 17 points for JMU.

The Hokies will now travel to South Padre Island, Texas for a pair of games next weekend. They open play on Friday with a 6 p.m. tip-off against IUPUI, and will face either Jacksonville or Southern Methodist on Saturday.

For updates on Virginia Tech women's basketball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_WBBall).

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