BLACKSBURG – It was easily the most anticipated arrivals to the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program since coach Dennis Wolff took over, and it was not a disappointment. In the Hokies’ 73-52 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon, junior transfer Uju Ugoka made her first appearance in a Tech uniform in front of more than 4,000 people at Cassell Coliseum.
The Lagos, Nigerian native and Gulf Coast State transfer scored a game-high 28 points – the most ever by a Hokie in a home ACC game – grabbed a game-high tying eight rebounds, had a team-high tying two steals, added an assist and drew a charge to help open the Hokies’ ACC slate with a win for the second straight year. She also came within one basket of tying the Cassell record for made field goals (14).
“This is probably as good a game as played since I’ve been the coach here,” Wolff said. “We really weren’t sure what we were going to expect with Uju being out for nine games and this is about as good as you can expect for someone’s first game back.
“This is how hard Uju plays in practice, so she comes in the game and plays this way. It’s not always going to be maybe as good as it was today statistically, but the effort will be exactly the same and that effort alone created a lot of other opportunities for us.”
“I’ve been waiting for this day because I’ve sat out for nine games and I couldn’t wait this game,” Ugoka said. “I was mentally prepared and my teammates were encouraging me. This was my first ACC game and I needed to take my time and just play my game, so that’s what I did.
“I was just feeling it. I was just so excited and the crowd was cheering for me and I could just feel the presence of everyone around me and that motivated me to keep playing hard.”
Not to be outshined, junior Monet Tellier was just as impressive as she tallied a season-high 23 points to go along with eight boards and two steals, as well, and a pair of assists.
Tellier finished a basket shy of giving Tech its first pair of players to reach 25 points or more in more than 25 years. Joyce Waddy (31) and Susan Walvius (29) were the last Hokie teammates to score at least 25 points in a single game, in a game versus Mercer on Feb. 22, 1986.
“I just mentioned that to the team. It feels good, but there should be more to come,” Tellier said of the first ACC home win in her career. “We are excited that we won this game, but it’s just one game, and we have to keep looking toward the next game.
“I didn’t have a good game last game, and I think, for this game I just got more mentally prepared. I did a couple of things different, and I just had to get back to my original routine and it paid off.”
With her first touch, Ugoka hit a baseline jumper to open the game and Tellier followed with a jumper of her own to give the Hokies a quick 4-0 lead. That pattern continued for most of the first half, as the pair scored Tech’s first 27 points.
That included Tellier hitting back-to-back 3-point baskets and when Ugoka hit a short jumper with 6:48 left to go in the first half, the Hokies were on top 27-9.
“It actually opened up a lot of things,” Tellier said of having Ugoka on the court with her. “There was one time where I screened for her and I heard the Wake Forest girls arguing with each other and it caused a lot of havoc for them.”
The second half featured much of the same, as the Hokies increased a 15-point halftime advantage into the 20s with the scoring tandem notching 16 of 18 points nine minutes out of the break.
Helping the duo get those baskets were guards Lauren Evans and Aerial Wilson, who each had a game-high tying six assists, and Alyssa Fenyn, who had four, as the team had 22 assists on 29 made baskets.
“If you look at our numbers … the team played very unselfishly and passed up on some shots to get other players shots,” said Wolff.
Wake Forest (5-6, 0-1 ACC) closed to within 15 (62-47) on back-to-back 3-pointers from Lakevia Boykin, who led three Demon Deacons in double figures with 14 points.
However, Tech closed the game on an 11-2 run before Chelsea Douglas, who had 11 points, hit a three at the buzzer to provide the final score.
Ironically, since joining the ACC, Tech is now 8-22 in games decided by 20 points or more and is 5-2 in those games versus Wake Forest. In fact, that last time the Hokies defeated a conference foe at home by 20 or more, it was against the Demon Deacons on Feb. 22, 2009.
Tech (5-5, 1-0), who last drew more than 4,000 people to a home game on Jan. 3, 2008, will take a little break before returning to the court when they welcome N.C. A&T to Cassell on Friday, Dec. 28 with a 2 p.m. tip.
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