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December 18, 2013

Making their points

By: Marc Mullen

The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team won six games in November largely behind increased production on the offensive end of the floor

Uju Ugoka recorded four double-doubles in the month of November and has been the Hokies’ most consistent weapon during the early part of the 2013-14 season.

It has been quite a start for the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team, as the Hokies opened the 2013-14 season with five straight victories and won six total games during the month of November.

The first four came with relative ease, as the Hokies dispatched of Howard by 52 points – Tech’s largest margin of victory since Dec. 28, 2004 (vs. Southern Miss) – knocked off Old Dominion and Florida by 12 points each, and beat Bucknell by 38 all while scoring at least 70 points of their own. All came in a nine-day span.

“I’m really proud of the girls – four games, nine days, and they still have a lot of life and a lot of energy,” Tech head coach Dennis Wolff said after the Bucknell win. “I told them in the locker room, I’ve coached a lot of games and I don’t know if I’ve had a stat line where there were 28 assists and only nine turnovers. We are happy to be 4-0.”

It took a shot at the buzzer by senior Monet Tellier in regulation and an overtime period at Hofstra for the Hokies to register their fifth straight win, marking the first time since the 2008-09 season that the team had started 5-0 and only the fifth time in school history.

But again, the team, which struggled to score points at times last year, eclipsed the 70-point threshold and became the first Tech team since the 1985-86 Hokies to open the season by scoring at least 70 in five straight games.

“We were a little sluggish at first. I think, with the week off, we weren’t quite as sharp as we had been in the first four games, but they [his players] showed a lot of toughness at the end of the game and in the overtime period,” Wolff said in Hempstead, N.Y., that night. “Obviously Monet’s shot was big. If you want to have a good season, then you need to win games like this, so I’m really proud of the girls.”

Tech lost its first game to a visiting Richmond squad, but rebounded with a win over Presbyterian on Nov. 30 which gave Wolff his 300th career victory as a head coach and gave the Hokies the most wins in a single month by a Tech team since December of 2007 (six).

They will play just five games in December, which includes a pair of Big Ten foes and then ring in the New Year with a trip to Hampton, Va., before opening conference play at Boston College. The Hokies averaged almost 72 points per game in November with a more balanced offensive attack, but will need to keep that going to, as Wolff said, “have a good season.”


Senior Uju Ugoka has established herself as one of the primary weapons on Wolff’s roster. Plagued by a disjointed first season in Blacksburg – the transfer missed nine games to start the year for eligibility reasons and then missed four more because of injury – Ugoka has shined so far this year.

She tallied four double-doubles in November, tying her number of double-doubles from all of last year, but she seems to perform her best when her team needs her the most. In Tech’s only two losses this year – the team also lost at Indiana on Dec. 4 – she scored 59 points and grabbed 28 rebounds combined, which included a career-high 17 boards versus Richmond to go with 27 points.

Against the Hoosiers, she scored 26 second-half points to pull the team back from a 19-point deficit and make it a one-possession game late. She netted a career-high 32 points, with 11 rebounds, to mark just the third time a Tech player had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a regulation game.

“It all comes from the defensive side. Play good defense and the offense will come,” Ugoka said after the Bucknell win. “I just try to be patient on offense and let the game come to me and look for open shots.

“I’ve been working on my mid-range jumper, and I told my teammates that I feel so comfortable with that, but not all the time is it going to fall in. But if I keep shooting and it keeps going in, I’m hot and I’m just going to keep taking it. If not, I’ll take it to the basket.”

Jenny Root (32 and 13) at Morehead State on Feb. 25, 1992, and Joyce Waddy (31 and 11) versus Mercer on Feb. 22, 1986, are the only other two Hokies to book a 30-plus-point, 10-plus-rebound efforts in a regulation game. The 32 points were also tied for the sixth-most ever scored by a Hokie.


In the blowout victory over Bucknell at Cassell Coliseum on Nov. 17, Tech set the school record for 3 pointers made in a single game with 13 and tied the program record for assists in a game in the building (done three times) with 28.

Helping the team to the record was sophomore Hannah Young, who had two in the game, and has knocked down at least two in a game five times this season. She made just five total last year in 21 games.

“It’s just all hard work. Getting into the gym every day and putting up shots that we take in games helps us make those,” Young said after that contest. “I think having a whole preseason, which I didn’t have last year, has helped a lot. I’ve been in the gym working on my game, and it’s obviously coming through now. So I’m happy.”

Young also missed the first nine games of last season because of eligibility issues, and Wolff thought about redshirting her, but ultimately did not.

“I’ve had confidence in her ever since she stepped on campus,” Wolff said. “I thought 100 percent she could do this. I put her in a bad situation last year, but I had every thought since the minute she came here that she could play like this.”


Freshman Vanessa Panousis is certainly one of the reasons why the Hokies have been able to score more baskets this season, as the true point guard with international experience leads the Tech offense.

Not only can she distribute, but the Australian native also can put the ball in the basket. She scored in double figures four times in November, which included a 24-point effort in the win over the Florida Gators on Nov. 14.

“I just didn’t know [how they would defend me]. It just came to me as the game went on,” she said after the victory. “I got my feet set on my shot, and I wasn’t rushing it as much as the first two games.

“Scoring is not the only thing I want to do. I want to lead the team by making sure they are all organized, moving the ball well and making sure we’re together on defense and making sure everyone is getting into the game.”

It’s early, but she’s averaging more than four assists per game, and if she continues the pace, she would shatter the record for assists in a season by a freshman currently held by Carrie Mason (2002-03) with 106.


Entering the season, Tellier was sitting in 21st position on the school’s all-time scoring list. Just eight games into the season, she already has passed a number of former Tech players, and she sat in the 13th spot with 1,132 career points heading into a home game against Michigan State.

She’s also been moving up the charts in career 3-pointers made, as she sat in fifth all-time with 89 after making one against Indiana. But in postgame press conferences, those things don’t seem to matter to Tellier as much as this year’s success.

“We’re just a better team,” Tellier said in the difference between this year and prior years. “We have a lot better ball movement. Nobody’s being selfish, and I think that’s a testament to how hard we’re working in practice.

“It’s very fun when you’re putting points up on the scoreboard. I think also we are playing a lot better defense, which allows us to get fastbreak points, and like I said, I think we’re just getting better ball movement overall and people are just knocking down their shots.”