BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech had four players, highlighted by senior Uju Ugoka’s fourth straight double-double, score at least 14 points to lead the Hokies to a 72-66 victory over No. 25 Michigan State Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.
Ugoka had 19 points, 10 rebounds – her six double-double of the season – and four assists, while Vanessa Panousis added 15 points and four assists, Monet Tellier had 14 points, nine boards and three assists, and Hannah Young chipped in 14 points and five rebounds.
With the win, the Hokies improved to 7-2 on the year, while Michigan State, who was led by Becca Mills’ 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, has lost its last three and is now 5-4.
“Obviously, this was a terrific win for these kids,” Tech coach Dennis Wolff said. “It was a very good game; a hard fought game. It was a similar game to the game we played in Indiana on Wednesday, except these kids really, really dug down when they needed to and all four of those girls made huge plays in the last 10 minutes of the game.”
It was a wild contest that saw the Hokies open a 13-point lead early in the first half, only to see the Spartans come back to take their own lead by three points before Tech took control heading into the locker room ahead by seven.
The Hokies’ lead was again at double figures at 55-43 after Young hit a 3-point basket with 9:35 left in the game, but Michigan State responded with 12 straight points to tie the game just three minutes later.
“It’s all about a game of runs,” Ugoka said. “We make runs, they make runs, you just stick to the game plan and play hard to the end and don’t give up.”
The Hokies turned to their four-year senior on their next possession and Tellier knocked down a 3-pointer to spark a 10-1 run and her lay-up with 1:05 remaining in the game put her team up 69-60.
“My sense of the team is that they’re resilient,” Wolff said. “So, we got down at Indiana and we never quit. This one was – we were ahead; they got back in it; we went ahead, they got back in it again. But we kept fighting until the end.
“There were a number of big possessions in the last five minutes where kids made the types of plays you have to make if you want to win the games like that.”
All that was left in the last minute of action was a couple of desperation 3-pointers made by the Spartans and a couple of made free throws by the Hokies that provided them their margin of victory.
The Hokies, who dropped a 57-29 decision at Michigan State last year, shot 45.9 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range opposed to the Spartans 39.7 and 25.9 percents.
“I think we shot the ball better, in my opinion,” Wolff said. “Now, we still didn’t shoot the ball the way we needed to from the free throw line (47.4 percent), but we shot the ball better from the floor. If you can shoot 45 percent and shoot 40 percent from 3 then, you’re in pretty good shape.
“I thought there was good balance. We got 29 points against this team last year, so, we’ve come a long way in one year.”
Tech will take a full week off before returning to action next Sunday, Dec. 15 to face USC Upstate at 2 p.m. at Cassel Coliseum.
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