BLACKSBURG – Leading by as much as 17 points in the first half and by 10 at the under-12 media timeout of the second half, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team was outscored 26-9 the rest of the night and dropped a 67-60 decision to visiting Virginia in ACC action Thursday night at Cassell Coliseum.
Ataira Franklin led the Cavaliers to the victory, scoring 23 points, which included 11 of the team’s final 13 points, to improve Virginia to 8-7 overall and 1-1 in the conference. The Hokies’ Uju Ugoka scored a game-high 24 points in the loss that lowered Tech’s record to 10-5, 0-2 in the ACC.
“Obviously, we are extremely disappointed,” Tech head coach Dennis Wolff said. “I thought we played well and hard for 35 minutes and then we got a little bit fatigued. We were in foul trouble and the last three or four minutes didn’t go anyway near how we would have liked it to go.”
Everything seemed to be going right for the Hokies in the first half as they looked to end a 14-game losing streak to Virginia. Ugoka tallied nine points in the game’s first five minutes and when Monet Tellier hit a jumper at the 13:28 mark, Tech led 20-3.
Nia Evans, who pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, also contributed four points in the first half as those three seniors combined to shoot 11 of 19 from the floor, while the rest of the team was just 4 of 18.
“We were just playing, playing hard,” Ugoka said in reference to how the team was able to breakout in the first half. “We ran the breaks really well and we just played hard.”
“The first half was how we normally play and the second half isn’t how we play at all,” Tellier said. “To lose that lead was frustrating, but we did it to ourselves.”
Tech took a 10-point lead into the locker room and maintained that advantage in the second half – pretty much trading basket for basket with the Cavaliers – until the 11:30 mark.
That’s when Virginia scored on three straight possessions to get to within striking distance and then continued to hang around until the Cavaliers’ senior leader Franklin took over down the stretch.
The Hokies led 57-52 after a Tellier basket with 7:28 left in the game, but would make just three free throws the rest of the way (on 13 possessions) as they missed five shots from the floor and turned the ball over five times as well.
“I think fatigue set in and we weren’t as locked in personal-wise as they were earlier,” Wolf said. “I will have to see it, but it looked like we missed some, and it wasn’t because of lack of effort, but we had point-blank chances we didn’t finish coupled with some missed free throws.”
Virginia never led in the game until the 1:06 mark when Franklin scored a layup after an offensive rebound and was fouled, which gave the Cavaliers’ a three-point lead. Her layup 30 seconds later – her 11th straight point – secured the win for Virginia.
“We were fine in the beginning of it and she (Franklin) missed badly, but somehow got her own rebound two or three times and that hurt us big time,” Wolff said.
Ugoka added nine rebounds to her totals, while Tellier and Vanessa Panousis each scored 10 points. Taijah Campbell chipped in six points, six boards and a career-high seven blocks, which is also an ACC individual game high for the season.
The Hokies will return to action on Sunday, Jan. 12 when they welcome Miami to Cassell Coliseum for a 2 p.m. game.
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