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January 17, 2012

Awesome in opener

By: Marc Mullen

The Tech women’s basketball team played arguably its best game of the season in a 22-point win at Clemson in its ACC opener

The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team has certainly seen its fair share of scoring droughts this season, but its ACC opener at Clemson on Jan. 2 saw the shoe sitting on the other foot in a 55-33 victory over the Tigers.

Aerial Wilson

Head Coach Dennis Wolff has been praising his defense’s efforts all season. He had seen his team limit opponents to just 58.9 points a contest heading into ACC play, and he mentioned how the offensive continuity needed to improve. Fortunately, it did against the Tigers.

“We only got 55 points, but our execution on offense has improved,” Wolff said. “We can finish plays, and that’s where we still have sort of an Achilles’ heel. Also, if we had shot better from the free-throw line, we could probably have had 70 points. Then I would have thought it was what it should have looked like. The score of that game should have been 70-33.”

On that Monday evening in Littlejohn Coliseum, the Hokies held Clemson to just three points through the game’s first 13 minutes while their offense poured in 32. The 29-point advantage marked their largest lead of the season, surpassing the 26-point lead they held against NC Central in their Dec. 11 victory. By the final buzzer, the Tech defense had held Clemson to its lowest offensive output in its program’s history and its second lowest shooting percentage (.205, 9 for 44).

The 22-point victory was the largest for the Hokies in more than a year, dating back to when they outscored Alcorn State by 43 points in the opening round of the 2010 Hilton Garden Hokie Classic. Other notes included: the biggest road win since a 27-point win at Radford on Nov. 25, 2009; the largest conference win since a 24-point victory over Wake Forest on Feb. 22, 2009; and the largest conference win on the road since a 40-point blowout at the Demon Deacons on Jan. 18, 2007.

However, most importantly to Wolff and the Hokies is that Tech won its conference opener. The Hokies last won their conference opener on Jan. 2, 2007, against Wake Forest.

“I think this win was important for a number of reasons,” Wolff said. “I think there has been a lot of speculation that we wouldn’t win a [conference] game. I think there was a feeling that Clemson had a home game, and that we wouldn’t be able to beat them.

“We’ve been able to get three or four days of good practice and lumping all of that together gives you hope that we are improving.”


The defense did shine in the Hokies’ conference-opening win at Clemson, but junior guard Aerial Wilson also grabbed the headline, as she registered a career-high of 24 points in the victory.

The Cocoa, Fla. native hit seven shots from the field, which she has done two times already this season, and on one occasion, she hit eight. However, she hit a pair of 3-pointers and was 8 of 12 from the free-throw line against the Tigers to mark her first career game with at least 20 points.

“Aerial was not hesitating, and that’s something we have been encouraging her to do,” Wolff said. “We want her to be ready to shoot and make aggressive plays, and to her credit, she did that in the game.”

She started the game with 11 points in the first 10 minutes of play, and after she knocked down a 3-pointer with 7:28 left in the first half – to give her 16 points on the night – the Hokies were comfortably ahead 32-3.

Wilson outscored the entire Clemson offense in the first half (18-14), as the 18 points matched her previous career high. She also added four rebounds, three assists and two steals to her totals.


Through her first 29 games played at Virginia Tech, sophomore forward Latorri Hines-Allen had scored in double figures just three times – ironically, those games had come in each of the three previous Hokie overtime games. Those were also her highest rebounding games as well, with the most being a seven-board effort against Charlotte this year.

Since Nov. 30, she has turned into a rebounding machine, notching six games with at least seven rebounds and four games in double figures. Two of them corresponded with double figures in points, giving the Montclair, N.J. native her first two double-doubles of her Tech career.

“She’s played very hard for us of late,” Wolff said. “On the defensive end, and in terms of rebounding, she’s been going after the ball as hard as anyone has the entire year.”

Her first double-double was a career-high 14-point performance with 10 rebounds in a win over NC Central on Dec. 11 and the second was a 13-point and career-high tying 12-rebound effort against Cincinnati on Dec. 29. Hines-Allen had eight points and 10 rebounds – and added a career-high four steals – in the Hokies’ ACC-opening win at Clemson.


Limited to just five minutes in Tech’s first five games – with four “Did Not Plays” – freshman guard Larryqua Hall has seen her playing time increase since then, playing in all nine games since Nov. 26, with two starts and at least 11 minutes of action in each contest.

Hall never seems to have a shortage of energy on the court, excelling at what some call the “hustle plays.” In her limited time, her numbers (after the Clemson game) included 17 steals, tied for third on the team, 21 offensive rebounds, third on the team, and her 4.0 rebounding average is fourth.

“Ryqua is one of these kids that is hard to pinpoint what is the best thing she does, but she just plays so hard,” Wolff said. “She comes in and gives us a lot of energy, seven offensive rebounds in one game, getting a hand on balls, going for loose balls. She’s done a great job at upping our intensity level when she comes into a game.”

The Marietta, Ga., native’s effort can be summed up in her stat line from the NC Central victory on Dec. 11 when she had five steals and seven offensive rebounds. Her best game as a Hokie, so far, came in that one, as she added eight points. She had five-point, 11-rebound effort in Tech’s win over UMBC on Dec. 29 as well.