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December 11, 2012

Hokies start 2012-13 season slowly, but pick up the pace with one big week

By: Marc Mullen

Like the team, Monet Tellier started the season slowly, but her big game against Wisconsin led the Hokies to a
win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

It certainly wasn’t the start that Tech women’s basketball coach Dennis Wolff and the team wanted for the 2012-13 season, but the Hokies found themselves on the losing end of a 55-35 decision to Old Dominion in the season opener.

In its previous 1,000-plus games played in the history of the program, the team was held to 35 points or fewer just five times.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Wolff said after the season opener. “I thought we were capable of playing better than we did on offense. When you shoot 25 percent, you’re not going to give yourself a chance to win. I think defensively we had a pretty good effort. Our problems were on the offensive end.”

That trend has continued for most of the early portion of the season, as evidenced by the result nine days later when the team scored 29 points in a loss at Michigan State. However, looking ahead, the Hokies were about to embark on a stretch in which they would play eight of their next nine in Cassell Coliseum and would have a chance at two more Big Ten opponents.

The Hokies got started by knocking off George Washington, 50-31. They tied the school record for fewest points allowed in a basketball game, matching the 31 points allowed to Presbyterian on Jan. 5, 2009 (a 64-31 Tech win). In their history, the Hokies had held an opponent below 40 points on 18 occasions and never below 30.

“I’m very proud of the effort the team put forth,” Wolff said afterward. “Coming off a loss at Michigan State and the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought the team really wanted to win the game. So our effort, our defensive intensity and our rebounding were good, but we still need to improve offensively.

“I was told that this was the lowest point total ever by an opponent, which is good, but we’ve played pretty good defense in all of our games. We just need to somehow find a way to play better on offense.”

The team then dispatched Wisconsin three days later in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and improved to 4-2 on the season with a victory over Longwood that capped a three-win-in-seven-day stretch for the team.

“I told the team that this was a big week for us because we have three tough games,” Wolff said. “I was proud of our team, three games in a week, plus missing some kids. I told the team, ‘I don’t know when the last week was that a Virginia Tech women’s basketball team won three games in a week, and one being a Big Ten game.’ So this was good for us.”

To answer the coach’s question, one would find that during the 2007-08 season, Tech actually won five games in a span of 12 days, with a win over a Big Ten opponent. The Hokies won a pair of games before a win over Minnesota over a span of seven days and then won two more games in a six-day span.

Hokies win ACC/Big Ten Challenge

For the first time since 2007, Tech defeated its Big Ten opponent in the annual competition between the two conferences when the Hokies downed visiting Wisconsin 47-38 on Nov. 28 at Cassell Coliseum.

It was actually the Hokies’ first win over any Big Ten opponent in eight tries, dating back to the previously mentioned 68-62 win over Minnesota on Nov. 20, 2007, which was the Hokies’ last victory in the challenge. They had lost twice to Minnesota and Iowa, and once to each Michigan school and Penn State.

In the victory, junior guard Monet Tellier accounted for all but 12 points scored by the Hokies, as she ended the night with a team-high 17 points and a career-high nine assists, thus accounting for 35 points. She also added six rebounds and three steals. She helped the team erase a nine-point deficit midway through the second half to register the victory.

“I think, at that point, Coach had called a timeout and was really just telling us to stay aggressive on offense and make good decisions and take care of the ball,” Tellier said. “After Coach had let us out of the huddle, we kind of huddled ourselves up and said, ‘We’ve got this. Stay calm. No stupid fouls. Just play our game and stay together.’ And that’s what we did.”

After sitting out the last eight minutes of the first half, Tellier was shut out for nine minutes to start the second half. After freshman Alexis Lloyd hit a 3-pointer to make it a six-point deficit, Tellier came alive, scoring 13 of the team’s final 21 points, which included five in an 8-0 run that turned the tide in the game.

“Coach (Thomas) Joyce gave me some very good advice,” Tellier said. “He told me that I’d been sitting out, so don’t try to force anything in the second half. To start out the second half, I was forcing it a little bit. But then I sat back and relaxed, and the game started coming to me.

“I’m trying to do whatever I can for the team to win. I am confident down the stretch. I feel like I can take some of those shots for the team, but they had faith in me and their faith in me allowed me to do that.”

Freshmen helping team in many ways

Looking at the Tech women’s stats six games into the season, one would notice first that just one player is averaging more than 10 points a game – to no one’s surprise, that would be Tellier. What could go unnoticed, however, is that no player is averaging more than 29 minutes per game, a stark contrast to last year when three logged more than 34 minutes per game.

Allowing this flexibility for Wolff is that he has a deeper bench that has two of his newcomers averaging more than 25 minutes per game, with five starts each, in forward Taijah Campbell and guard Lauren Evans. Two other newcomers, Alex Kiss-Rusk and Lloyd, average around 15 minutes per game.

Campbell is leading the team in rebounds at 7.4 per game, while ranking third in scoring at 6.4 per game. Evans has grown into the starter’s role, complete with a double-double against Longwood – 10 points and 10 rebounds. Lloyd sparked the comeback win against Wisconsin, and Kiss-Rusk had eight points and four rebounds against the Badgers.

“I think that, when you’re building a house, you build part of a foundation to go forward, and we’ve done that,” Wolff said. “I think the freshmen have all been contributing pretty well. We’ve got Lauren Evans, who had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, which is not an easy thing to get.

“Taijah Campbell is going to be a good player, and she’s an ACC level player. Alexis Lloyd has helped us, and Alex Russ helped us the other night against Wisconsin. So credit goes to the people that I work with. We recruited some good kids, and the older kids have all done a good job.”