BLACKSBURG – It’s just three games into the season, but the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team has certainly come a long way. A squad that averaged just 49.3 points a contest in 2012-13 held off a late Florida run to register a 71-59 victory in nonconference action Thursday night in Cassell Coliseum.
It was the team’s third straight game scoring at least 71 points – they reached the 71-point plateau just four times all of last year – and it’s been a while since they’ve had such a streak. In December of 2007, the Hokies notched four straight games with at least 72 points, and this is the first time since the start of the 1988-89 season they opened the year with three straight games with at least 71.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Tech head coach Dennis Wolff said. “We got off to a great start and we knew that (Florida) is a good team and we weathered them coming back in.
“We really showed, and this is the second game in a row that at the five minute mark or so in the second half that they showed tremendous toughness, so I’m very proud of them.”
With the victory over the Gators, who entered the game 2-0 and were receiving votes in the most recent ESPN-USA Today Coaches Poll, the Hokies improved to 3-0.
It marks the eighth time since 2000 Tech has began a season with three straight victories and in five of them the team posted a .500 or better record – four of them saw the Hokies win at least 21 games. And the difference between last year and this year is certainly the ability for the entire roster to put the ball into the hoop.
“The difference in my mind is that we got contributions across the board from different kids and that’s a very good thing for our team,” Wolff said. “We have good skill.
“The gauge I have is that (this team) has a will to win. We were in bad foul trouble Monday night at Old Dominion … and we just dug down and the kids made tough plays.”
The depth of scoring is seen by just checking the halftime box score. At the break, the Hokies held a 39-15 advantage and senior Monet Tellier, a player closing in on 1,100 career points in a Tech uniform, had just two on 1 of 3 shooting.
Tellier did other things though – played tough defense, distributed the ball (she had six assists at the break) and rebounded (4). She ended the night with seven points, nine assists and five boards and made a big-time play late in the second half.
“We’re just a better team,” Tellier said in the difference between this year and prior years. “We have a lot better ball movement. Nobody’s being selfish and I think that’s a testament to how hard we’re working in practice.
“It’s very fun when you’re putting points up on the scoreboard. I think also, we are playing a lot better defense which allows us to get fast-break points and, like I said, I think we’re just getting better ball movement overall and people are just knocking down their shots.”
Freshman Vanessa Panousis led the offense and, at halftime, actually outscored the Gators 18-15. For the game, she hit 9 of 13 shots from the floor with a pair of threes, scored 24 points and had three assists.
Coming into the night, she was just 3 of 12 from the floor in the first two games and scored just 16 points.
“I just didn’t know (how they would defend me), it just came to me as the game went on,” she said. “I got my feet set on my shot and I wasn’t rushing it as much as the first two games.
“Scoring is not the only thing I want to do. I want to lead the team by making sure they are all organized, moving the ball well and making sure we’re together on defense and making sure everyone is getting into the game.”
In the second half, Florida did make a run at the Hokies, cutting their deficit to as little as four points at 53-49 with six minutes remaining in the game and had the ball.
However, Tellier stole a pass and scored on a fast-break layup, Panousis followed with a layup of her own and the Gators wouldn’t get closer than five points the rest of the way.
Senior Uju Ugoka notched her first double-double of the season, sixth of her Hokie career, with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Hannah Young added 10 points, her third straight game in double figures after tallying just 27 points all last year.
Florida was led by Jaterra Bonds, who scored 21 points and had eight boards, while Lily Svete added 12 points and Kayla Lewis went for nine points and 11 rebounds.
Tech, who improved to 19-40 all-time against SEC opponents with the win, will look to improve to 4-0 for just the seventh time in school history when the Hokies face Bucknell on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Cassell Coliseum.
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