December 30, 2010
Strong second half propels Hokies to championship
By Marc Mullen
Vanderbilt (9-4) 343468
Virginia Tech (9-4) 195574
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 2,470
  • High Points: 23 - Monet Tellier
  • High Rebounds: 10 - Brittany Gordon

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Behind a strong second-half team effort which saw the Hokies tally 55 points, Virginia Tech battled back to register a 74-68 victory over Vanderbilt to claim the 2010 Hilton Garden Hokie Classic championship in Cassell Coliseum Thursday night.

Trailing by as many as 17 in the first half and 15 at the break, the Hokies came out of the locker room ablaze, using a 31-8 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half to stake an eight-point lead.

Vanderbilt would cut the deficit to as little as two, but Tech would hold on for the six-point win to get its 17th Hokie Classic title in 21 tries, improve to 26-2 in the past 14 years in its own tournament and defeat an SEC opponent for the first time since 2004.

“Talk about a tale of two halves, what an explosive burst there in the second half,” Virginia Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger said. “I told them, ‘Go out there and just be ready to knock down shots and let’s chip away and get back in it.’ I think we got good looks [in the first half], they just didn’t fall.

“Our players played this game and we coached this game inspired. Oreanna Crews was 100 years old when she passed away on Christmas Eve and she was our honorary coach every year. We dedicated this tournament, in particular, this game to Coach Crews and we were very pleased. I know she is smiling from up above and this one was for her.”

The catalysts of the run were Monet Tellier (Fr., Charlotte, N.C), who earned MVP honors for the Classic after scoring a season-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go with five boards, and Alyssa Fenyn (So., Newark, N.Y.), who had 14 points all after the break and three steals.

Tellier, who had just four points in the first, scored the team’s first six points in four possessions and dropped in 15 in the run. Fenyn added 11 in the stretch, including a fast-break lay-up with 13:30 to give the Hokies the lead, and another fast-break lay-up with 10:14 left put her team up 50-42.

“We talked about who wanted to step up and score and we needed people to be ready to knock down shots, whether its man or zone and [Monet] really led the way,” Dunkenberger said. “She gave us great energy, and that is one of the reasons I recruited her. I love the fire in her and we fed off of it.”

“In my head, I thought that I needed to do something to get everyone fired up,” Tellier said. “I just started screaming at the top of my lungs and hitting myself in the chest to get everyone pumped up and it worked. Once I hit my first 3, the basket was wide open and my confidence just kept building after everyone.”

Over the next five minutes, the teams traded baskets and the Hokies were up seven when Tellier layed in her 19th and final point of the half with 5:23 remaining.

Vanderbilt (9-4) made one last push using a 5-0 run to cut its deficit to a basket. Jasmine Lister, who hit just 3-of-18 from the floor and 2-of-13 from beyond the 3-point arc, knocked down a 3 and Christina Foggie converted a pair of foul shots.

At this point, Shanel Harrison (Jr., Washington, DC) and Brittany Gordon (Sr., Howard County, Md.) took control of the game for the Hokies, scoring four and three points, respectively, in a 9-2 run, pushing the lead to a game-high nine points with 1:36 remaining.

“Shanel was on fire, and Brittany played a heck of a defensive game and she rebounded the ball like crazy,” Dunkenberger said. “She is a great defender, a great athlete, and she can run for days. She got back and she played defense and she made [Stephanie Holzer] earn everything she got.”

The Hokies started the game with six straight points and led 8-2 when Tellier picked up a loose ball, drove in and scored on a lay-up at the 14:27 mark. It was her fourth point of the game, matching Harrison’s four to that point. Harrison finished with 17 points and nine boards.

However, over the next 11 minutes and 30 seconds, Vanderbilt would use a 26-3 run to take control of the game. Jence Rhoads scored six in a Commodore 10-0 run, stopped by a Gordon free throw.

Then, after Lister hit her only other three of the night, Harrison responded with a lay-up – Tech’s first basket in over eight minutes. In that span, the Hokies missed 13 shots and turned the ball over just five times.

“We got some decent looks at it and we had some shots that should have fallen and they didn’t,” Dunkenberger said. “We had some o-boards, which we should have converted and I told them ‘if we hit those shots, it’s a four-point game’ and now we aren’t nervous at all.”

Ironically, though, right after the Harrison bucket, which pulled Tech to within four at 15-11, Vanderbilt scored 13 in a row over a 3:30 stretch, highlighted by four straight turnovers that led to eight points and after Foggie’s three with 2:57 left in the half, the Commodores led 28-11.

Tech (9-4) seemed to get some life after Dunkenberger called a 30-second time-out by scoring eight points in the last 2:30 of the half as Aerial Wilson (So., Cocoa, Fla.) scored four including a fast-break lay-up to go into the half down 15.

In the second half, the Hokies turned the ball over just three times, 55.9% from the floor (19-of-34) and allowed the Commodores to hit just 2-of-13 from behind the arc.

Gordon would finish with 10 rebounds and two blocks, while Nikki Davis (Sr., Lexington, Ky.) had 11 assists, eight points, and six rebounds.

The last time the Hokies beat an SEC was a 72-59 victory over Alabama on Dec. 4, 2004. The win also pushed the team's record to 8-1 at Cassell this season.

Tech will travel to Charlotte for its next game, with a 3 p.m. start, before turning its attention to the ACC. Their league slate starts at 7 p.m. with a home game against Florida State, next Thursday, Jan. 6.

Making the 2010 All-Tournament Team was Tech’s Tellier (MVP) and Harrison, Vanderbilt’s Hannah Tuomi and Rhoads, Delaware’s Lauren Carra, and Kiara Ruffin from Alcorn State.

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

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