Virginia Tech Women 81, Virginia 65
Monday, November 30, 1998

Folks, the Tech women continue to be an absolute joy to watch.  There's nothing like watching a well-coached team execute a great game plan and win against a good opponent.

The Cavaliers turned in a three-point play off the tip in this game, but Tech would go on a 15-4 run to take a 15-7 lead.  The Hokies did it with the fast break and great passing down into the post, where Tere Williams would ultimately score 21 points on near-perfect 9-10 shooting.  Williams and front court mate Michelle Houseright (14 points on 6-8 shooting) were repeatedly set up for open lay-ups by Tech guard Lisa Witherspoon.

UVa clawed their way back into the game by dumping the ball down inside, where they shot poorly but drew many fouls.  UVa would ultimately shoot a horrid 21-68 from the field (31%), but they would almost make up for it at the free throw line with crisp 20-26 shooting (77%).

The Cavaliers also hung close by ringing up a mind-blowing 20 offensive rebounds.   Time and again, the slightly taller, slightly quicker Wahoos would slash to the basket for an offensive rebound in traffic.  Tech's only saving grace was that UVa's inside players missed repeated shots from in close, due primarily to the tight, physical defense that Tech played.

By contrast, as I mentioned before, Tech's inside players had multiple wide-open lay-ups, even in the half-court offense, and that would prove to be UVa's undoing.   The Hokies shot 29-51 for the game (57%), and that's the story of the game, right there.

But back to the blow-by-blow.  UVa closed the 15-7 gap and actually took the lead late in the half, but the Hokies went into the locker room with a one-point advantage, 38-37.  At this point, it was looking like anyone's ballgame.  UVa was holding Tech sophomore sensation Tere Williams in check, and Hokie guard Amy Wetzel was picking up the slack to help the Hokies keep the lead.

Then the second half started, and UVa got run over by an orange and maroon truck.

The Hokies came out of intermission like a thoroughbred out of the gate.  Tech turned up the pressure on defense and started running the ball again, leading to many missed shots by UVa and more open lay-ups for the Hokies.  Before the Cavaliers knew what hit them, Tech had rung up 14 straight points and held a 52-37 lead.

In addition to the pressure defense and fast-breaking, Tech had made an obvious half-time adjustment to get Williams involved in the game, and she responded by going nuts.  She contributed several buckets and rebounds to the run and played with renewed intensity at just the right time.

But once again, UVa fought their way back, going on a methodical 12-4 run to close the gap to 56-49.  With the Hokies clinging to their fading lead, a critical Hokie possession saw UVa knock the ball out of bounds, leaving Tech just 2 seconds on the shot clock.

The Hokies got the ball into Maria Albertsson, who took a quick dribble and launched a deep prayer that banked in for Tech's only three-point goal of the game.   Tech had been good all game, and they finally got some luck to go with their skill.

Albertsson's heave ignited the record crowd of 5,123 and pushed the lead back to 10 at 59-49.  That seemed to break the Wahoos' back, and Tech went on to roll to a comfortable 81-65 win.

Post-Game Stats and Musings

I thought the usually-automatic Hokies struggled from the line in the first half (10-15), but they shot their customary 80% in the second half, going 12-15 to help them pull away.  Wetzel was the big contributor at the line, going 11-13 from the line in the game.

Williams is a good athlete, but Wetzel is a serious basketball player.   She can take the ball to the basket with authority and is a master at drawing contact and subsequent fouls.  She had several UVa players complaining about foul calls that occurred when Amy went to the bucket, twisted her body, and drew contact.

Witherspoon will be missed in a big way after this year.  Only 80% recovered from a serious groin pull, she nonetheless went the full 40 minutes at the point and dished out 9 assists, repeatedly setting up Williams, Houseright, and Seaver for easy buckets.

Speaking of Tech's three inside stalwarts, they shot a combined 17-21 from the field, for 81%.  Wow.

I almost didn't go, because I couldn't find anyone to go with me, but I headed into Cassell, and I'm glad I did.  The crowd was big, and loud (Cassell with only 5000 fans is still loud), and even as Tech coasted to a big win, most people stayed until the end, and then hung around and cheered the team and coach.

Congratulations to the Tech women on another big win.  And hey, you idiots who do the polling ... rank us!!!

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