BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech started slowly, but used a 21-2 run late in the first half and a strong second half to register a 70-52 victory over the visiting NC Central Eagles in a non-conference game at Cassell Coliseum on Sunday afternoon, the first athletic event on campus since the events that unfolded Thursday.
Using a balanced attack – the Hokies had six players score at least eight points and were led by Alyssa Fenyn’s 15 and Latorri Hines-Allen’s 14 – they improved to 3-6 on the season, while, with the loss, NC Central falls to 1-8 on the year.
“We’re still all a little numb from what happened the other day,” said head coach Dennis Wolff in regards to Thursday’s events. “I think the girls deserve a lot of credit with everyone being as upset as they are about Officer (Deriek) Crouse, and then still being in the middle of exams.
“So we were sluggish at times, but these two (Fenyn and Hines-Allen) plus ‘Ryqua (Larryqua Hall) played with a lot of energy and those hustle plays helped us.”
Jasmine Alston helped the Eagles take a 10-5 advantage early with back-to-back 3-point baskets and did not trail for most of the first half. When Chasidy Williams scored on a driving lay-up with 8:34 before intermission, she matched her teams’ largest lead of the game at six, 21-15.
However, Tech increased its defensive pressure, forced turnovers and held the Eagles to just two points over the next eight minutes to take command of the game.
“I think at that point, we changed defenses,” Wolff said. “We went to a 1-3-1 zone and got them out of their rhythm and energized us to a certain degree.”
Hines-Allen, who scored 10 first-half points, started the run with a lay-up off an offensive rebound, then converted an old-fashion three – lay-up and free throw – to pull Tech to within one at 21-20.
For the game, Tech scored 19 second-chance points and 37 points off turnovers.
“We’re a pretty good transition team, so we did a good job pushing the ball in transition,” Fenyn said. “We just wanted to focus on our team, and our plays and execute what we had to do and we did a good job of doing that.”
Nia Evans then gave the Hokies a 22-21 lead with a basket at the 6:19 mark and they never trailed again. She was a perfect 3 of 3 from the field and knocked down a free throw in the stretch, scoring seven of her eight points in the run. She helped the Hokies to 27 bench points, their most in a 40-minute game this season.
“I’ve tried not to focus on it, because it’s not going to change,” said Wolff in reference to his limited numbers. “We’ve tried to be smart in not wearing down those kids that are playing large minutes in the game … It’s up to us to keep this light and keep these kids wanting to play.”
Alston knocked down her final three of the afternoon with 40 seconds left before the break to end 21-2 run by the Hokies and made it 36-26 heading into the locker rooms.
Tech began the second half as they ended the first, using a 7-2 spurt started by Alyssa Fenyn’s third 3-pointer of the game to build a 15 point lead.
NC Central would cut its deficit to as close as eight midway through the second half, but the Hokies responded with 10 straight points and grew its lead to as many as 26 before the final outcome.
“Whoever the opponent was today, regardless of the opponent, we needed to get a win,” Wolff said. “What are message to the kids is that we need to sustain our effort a little bit longer and we have to be able to bunch together better plays in succession and we haven’t done that enough in any of our games.”
Hines-Allen added a game-high 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season and Fenyn grabbed eight. Hall, off the bench, had eight points, seven rebounds and five steals, while Monet Tellier also filled the box score with eight points, five assists and five rebounds.
Tech will take a week off before heading to Florida for a pair of contests. The Hokies will face Central Florida next Sunday at 2 p.m. and Florida Gulf Coast Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. before returning to host the Hilton Garden Inn Hokie Classic after Christmas (Dec. 28-29).
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