December 4, 2014
Hokies fall to Northwestern in ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 70-45
By Marc Mullen
Northwestern (6-0) 403070
Virginia Tech (4-4) 222345
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 1,430
  • High Points: 19 - Vanessa Panousis
  • High Rebounds: 9 - Dominique Powell

BLACKSBURG – The visiting Northwestern Wildcats used a balance scoring attack to drop their women’s basketball hosts for the evening Virginia Tech, 70-45, in each teams’ 2014 edition of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge held Thursday night in Cassell Coliseum.

Maggie Lyon led the Wildcats with a team-high tying 14 points and added eight rebounds as Northwestern stayed perfect on the season, improving to 6-0. Vanessa Panousis was the top scorer for the Hokies, who fell to 4-4, as she poured in 19 points.

“I have to start off by crediting Northwestern, that’s a very good team,” Tech head coach Dennis Wolff said. “They have good players at all five positions. This is a top-20 team.

“They are well coached. They have a 6-foot-5 post player. They’ve got a girl that’s on the US National Team. They’ve got good guards and they played that way.”

The Wildcats jumped out 11-3 early and then scored six straight points to build an 11-point lead just seven minutes into the action. During that span, each starter and one player off the bench – Lauren Douglas – had already put the ball in the basket.

Tech answered with eight straight points of its own with Khadedra Croker converting an and-1 and Vanessa Panousis draining one of her five 3-point baskets on the night (one shy of the Tech Cassell record for made threes). The bucket pulled her team to with three at 19-16 with about 10 minutes left in the half and prompted a Wildcat timeout.

Northwestern responded with a seven straight points and closed out the half on a 21-6 run. The Wildcats then scored the first six points out of the locker room to push their advantage to 24 (46-24) just two minutes out of the break and never saw their lead dip below 20 the rest of the way.

“In the second part of the first half they took us out of our offense and the combination of turnovers and defensive breakdowns took us out of the game,” Wolff said. “They called timeout, because we cut it to three, and then we have a series of mistakes back-to-back and give up a three and turn the ball over and they score again.

“It just seems to deflate us and we have to somehow develop more mental toughness at those points in the games. We gave ourselves a chance when we got back in it, but we had those two bad plays back-to-back and it goes from three to nine before I even get back into my seat.”

The Wildcats played just eight players, until the game was in hand, and saw six of them reach at least seven points, with three starters scoring at least 12. They dominated the paint, using a 42-14 advantage, forced Tech into a season-high 26 turnovers, of which they held a 29-7 advantage in points off turnovers, and had a 26-2 bulge in fast-break points.

“I thought for the most part we fought defensively, but right now we’re really out of sorts offensively and until we clear some of that up we are going to struggle,” Wolff said. “I don’t like the way we’ve played the last two games (Tech lost to Florida Monday night).

“We have to be mentally tough and we have to be better with the ball and that’s the starting point right there. Teams are really pressuring Vanessa and we’re not doing a good enough job in other spots to help handle the ball.”

For Tech, Kelsey Conyers had eight points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists, while Dominique Powell grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and Sidney Cook collected seven to go with six points.

“Dominique Powell played better tonight, but we need better post play in general,” Wolff said. “We didn’t play physical enough against this team, but to take away a positive, I think Dom played well tonight. This was the most minutes she’s played all year.”

Up next for the Hokies is another home game – Tech will play six straight at home in December – on Saturday afternoon against Longwood. The game tips at 2 p.m.

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