Friday, December 6, 2013

Ugoka puts Virginia Tech on her back

Virginia Tech wound up losing to Indiana by six points Wednesday, but for a while there it looked as though the Hokies might lose by 26.

Uju Ugoka wasn't going out like that, though. So with Tech down 18 and less than 10 minutes remaining, the senior forward scored her team's next 13 points on an assortment of jumpers, layups and free throws to get the Hokies to within single digits. After a Hannah Young 3-pointer got Tech a little closer, Ugoka got another layup. Then another Young 3-pointer, and yet another Ugoka bucket.

That gave her 17 of Tech's 23 points in the furious run that got the Hokies to within three inside the two-minute mark. The Hoosiers wound up hanging on, but that was one heck of a Uju Show (with special guest appearances by Young).

Ugoka finished with a career-high 32 points, 26 in the second half, and 11 rebounds in the latest of a series of outstanding individual efforts. On Nov. 11 at Old Dominion, foul trouble limited Ugoka to just 10 minutes and two points in a 73-61 victory. In the six games since, she's averaged 22.5 points and 11.6 rebounds and posted five double-doubles.

Ironically, monster numbers from Ugoka may actually be a bad sign for Tech. On Nov. 27, the senior star put racked up 27 points and 17 boards against Richmond in a game the Hokies lost by eight. Clearly this team operates best when multiple players get theirs instead of Ugoka having to be the whole freakin' show.

On Wednesday, it didn't help that Indiana countered Ugoka's effort with a electric solo performance of its own. First-year guard Larryn Brooks went off for a Hoosiers freshman-record 37 points and made all 11 of her free throws, including six in the final 36 seconds to seal off Tech's comeback bid.

And according to Hooisers coach Curt Miller, offense wasn't even Brooks' biggest contribution.

"We believe the key to Virginia Tech is their freshman Australian point guard (Vanessa Panousis)," Miller told the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. "And Larryn shut her out, and played 40 minutes tonight. So you can write all you want about her offense, but what she did to win the game was at the defensive end."

Panousis, who began played second among Hokies in scoring at 12.9 ppg, was 0 of 8 from the field against the Hoosiers and didn't attempt a free throw in 32 minutes.

Fortunately for the Hokies (6-2), they have a great opportunity to end the week on a high Saturday at 2 p.m. when No. 25 Michigan State (5-3) visits Cassell Coliseum. A year ago, the Tech offense was at its most feeble - and given Tech's offensive struggles in 2012-13, that's really saying something - in a 57-29 loss to the Spartans in East Lansing, Mich.

Fortunately for Tech fans, this team ain't that team.

By the way, do yourself a favor and click on the Indiana Daily Student link a few paragraphs back. The picture of Brooks driving on Ugoka is flat-out awesome. 

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