Virginia Tech 62, St. John's 54
by Will Stewart, 2/27/01

New York, NY -- The Virginia Tech women unexpectedly struggled at last-place St. John's, but the Hokies prevailed, downing the Red Storm 62-54 to clinch fourth place in the Big East. With the fourth-place finish, the Hokies will get a bye in the first round of this weekend's Big East tournament.

With Tere Williams back for her second start since a recent knee injury, the Hokies were not expected to have any trouble with the last-place Red Storm, but this one was a seesaw battle all the way. It was not settled until the Hokies went on a 10-3 run to break a 49-46 game open into a 59-49 lead with four minutes to go.

Tech was led by Amy Wetzel, who had 16 points, including 4-7 from the field and 8-11 from the free throw line.

"They just came out ready to play tonight, and we weren't ready," Wetzel said of Tech's struggles. "I'm just glad we could find a way to win."

St. John's led this game 33-32 at half time. The two teams went back and forth for the entire first half, and St. John's scored the last four minutes of the half for the one-point lead.

"I'm not sure who that was on the floor in the maroon jerseys for the first 20 minutes," Tech Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "We got some good looks, we were just out of synch. They were more aggressive than us."

The Hokies were led in the first half by Sarah Hicks's 9 points and 5 rebounds. Williams started the game and went scoreless in the first half, playing just 11 minutes in the half. She left the game with about 7 minutes to go in the first half when she aggravated her injured knee.

Williams returned for the second half and scored all 8 of her points after the break. The back-and-forth lead changes continued, with neither team able to take more than a three-point lead.

St. John's went on a 6-0 run to go up 41-38 with 14 minutes to go, but the Hokies answered with an 11-3 run to go up 49-44 with just under 9 minutes to go. During the run, Ieva Kublina scored 8 of Tech's 11 points.

After a St. John's basket made it 49-46, the Hokies went on a 10-3 run that put the game away. The run was keyed by six points from Williams, and the Hokies were up 59-49 with four minutes to go.

St. John's was able to close the gap to 59-54, but three free throws by Tech's Amy Wetzel in the last two minutes made the final score 62-54. Down the stretch, St. John's inexplicably used nearly the entire shot clock on their possessions and failed to foul Tech quickly when the Hokies had the ball, basically conceding the game to Tech.

In addition to Wetzel's 16 points, Kublina had 14 points and 9 rebounds. The Hokies shot 22-44 from the field (50%) and 16-21 (76%) from the free throw line. Tech was 2-6 from beyond the three-point line, giving them just 3 three-pointers in their last three games.

"We are proud of the kids, and we want them to be proud, but this was a drain tonight. Give credit to St. John's," Henrickson said. "Bottom line is, it's a win. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't easy, but it's a win."

With the victory, the Hokies clinch 4th place in the Big East and will get a bye in the first round of this weekend's Big East tournament. Tech will face the winner of #5 Villanova and #12 St. John's at noon on Sunday, March 4th.

"Finishing in the top 4 is just a great accomplishment and really makes a statement for us in our first year in the Big East," Wetzel said. "That's huge for us. I've been on the other side of the fence, where we had to play in the first round, and I would rather have a bye and have fresh legs on Sunday."

Tech is now 20-7 overall, 11-5 in the conference. It is Virginia Tech's fourth straight 20-win season, and Henrickson has now coached 90 wins in her four years at Tech.

Of the 90 wins in four years, Henrickson deflected the credit, saying, "Give credit to the kids, because we had great players. Give credit to the assistant coaches. Other teams can talk about their history, and now we can talk about our own history. You don't win 90 games in four years without having great players, great assistant coaches, and great fan support."

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