Notre Dame 75, Virginia Tech 64
by Will Stewart, 1/3/01

Blacksburg, VA -- The Hokie women's team roared back from a 15-point second half deficit to close within 2 points of third-ranked Notre Dame, but in the end, the Irish had too much Ruth Riley for Tech to overcome.

Notre Dame's 6-5 center stormed her way to 27 points on 11-16 shooting, dominating the shorter Virginia Tech players and leading the Irish to the win. In addition to her 27 points, Riley had 8 rebounds and 6 blocks and caused the Hokie interior players fits all night on offense and defense.

The Hokies fell behind 46-31 early in the second half and appeared to be left for dead, but an inspired comeback, led by Tech's Ieva Kublina, brought the Hokies to within 2 points at 54-52 with 8:53 to go.

With the crowd of 3,418 rocking Cassell Coliseum, Tech was able to hang on for a while and stayed within three points, down 64-61 with 3:34 to go. But a two-minute scoring drought by the Hokies let Notre Dame spurt ahead to a 69-61 lead with 1:10 to go, and the Hokies were done.

Sarah Hicks hit a three pointer for Tech to close it to 69-64 with 55.6 seconds to go, but the Hokies were unable to put anymore points on the board, and Notre Dame made their free throws down the stretch for the final 11-point margin.

The Hokies were led in defeat by Tere Williams with 17 points, and Kublina, who scored all 11 of her points in the second half. Chrystal Starling led the Hokies in rebounding with 6, and three Tech players logged 4 rebounds each.

The Hokies started out strong, unintimidated by their highly-ranked, taller visitors. Spurred by two three-pointers by Sarah Hicks, the Hokies led 12-9 with 16:04 to go in the first half. But Hicks picked up her second foul with 15:43 to go and had to take a seat.

Notre Dame played zone defense the rest of the half, and without Hicks, the Hokies were unable to present a three-point threat. The Hokies stayed with Notre Dame for a while, tying it up at 18-18 on a shot by Starling with 12:25 to go, but then the Fighting Irish used a 21-11 run to end the half up by ten points, 39-29.

Looking for a strong start in the second half, the Hokies instead got the opposite. Notre Dame stretched the lead to 46-31 with 18:18 to go and threatened to blow the sputtering Hokies out of the building.

Enter Ieva Kublina. Tech's 6-4 freshman center came in and led a rousing Hokie comeback. In the span of just three and a half minutes, Kublina hit 3 three-pointers, the last coming with 14:43 to go and closing the gap to 52-45.

From there, the Hokies continued to chip away at Notre Dame's lead, and the closest Tech got was 54-52 with 8:53 to go, capping a 21-8 Tech run over a span of 9:25. The two teams played cat and mouse, and with 3:34 to go, Tech's Amy Wetzel scored on a jumper to make it 64-61, Notre Dame. From there, the Tech offense fizzled, and the Irish pulled away.

One player who caused nearly as much trouble for the Hokies as Riley was Notre Dame's Niele Ivey, a water-bug guard who tallied 18 points and 7 assists, including 2 of Notre Dame's 3 three-pointers.

The Hokies were outscored 42-16 in the paint but were only outrebounded 30-29 by the taller Irish. Tech made up some of the scoring difference by going 8-17 from behind the arc versus Notre Dame's 3-8.

The one disparity that did the Hokies in came at the free throw line, where Notre Dame shot 16-18 and Tech only went 6-7. For the game, 18 fouls were called on the Hokies, compared to just 11 on Notre Dame. Tech's Amy Wetzel was unable to draw fouls with her trademark bull-rush drive to the basket, negating an important part of her game and helping to limit her to 10 points on 5-12 shooting.

The Hokies' next game is Sunday at 4 pm in Cassell Coliseum against Miami. Note that this is a change from the original start time of 7:00.

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