Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Signature wins - who has the best so far?

The Top 5 wins by Virginia's Division I schools (exam break edition):

5. Virginia Tech 67, UCF 64, Nov. 19 at UCF

Full credit to the Hokies (10-0) for being one of 11 Division I teams still undefeated (through Dec. 14), but it certainly hasn't hurt that eight of the 10 games have been held within the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum. That's why this result stands out - the Hokies took their act on the road, splashed 10 3-pointers and held off the pesky Knights to secure a Top-100 RPI win over a squad that currently has an 8-2 record.
   Stat stuffers: Sidney Cook - 17 points, 9 rebounds; Chanette Hicks - 15 points, 5 assists; Kendyl Brooks, 11 points (3-6 3FG).

4. Hampton 71, Temple 65, Dec. 7 at Hampton

You just read about how Virginia Tech likes to hang out at home. Now, meet the anti-Hokies - Hampton played eight games hither and yon before making their Convocation Center debut last week against these Owls. The contest had storylines all over the place - Hampton head coach David Six matching wits with one of his former stars at Hampton High, Temple associate head coach Way Veney; Hampton's Monnazjea Finney-Smith vs. Temple's Feyonda Fitzgerald in a battle of ex-Boo Williams AAU teammates; and area homecomings for Owls freshman center Shannen Atkinson (Smithfield) and junior guard Khadijah Berger (Hampton). As for the game, Hampton laid a defensive smackdown on Temple for three quarters, then survived a 35-point Owls blitz over the final 10 minutes to hang on. Temple advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals last season and was picked to finish second to UConn in the American Athletic Conference in 2016-17.
   Stat stuffers: Kaylah Lupoe - 21 points, 12 rebounds (third double-double in four games); Malia Tate-DeFreitas - 12 points, 5 assists; Finney-Smith - 12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists.

3. Virginia Tech 73, Georgetown 63, Nov. 13 at Virginia Tech

Three days into the season and we already had our first sign that these might not be the same ol' Hokies - Tech fell by 17 to the Hoyas a year ago in D.C. It looked as those things might go G-town's way in the rematch as well as the Hoyas were up seven early in the third quarter and by two after 30 minutes. But the Hokies owned the fourth quarter and finished with a flourish, scoring 12 of the game's final 14 points.
   Stat stuffers: Regan Magarity - 23 points, 8 rebounds; Chanette Hicks - 16 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals; Samantha Hill 14 points, 5 rebounds; Sidney Cook - 11 points, 5 rebounds.

2. Radford 68, Wake Forest 60, Dec. 10 at Wake Forest

This result highlighted a pretty sweet nine-day stretch in Highlander Country:

    - Dec. 4 - Radford rallies from two points down inside the final minute to win at Appalachian State
    - Dec. 5 - Radford sophomore Destinee Walker (three straight double-doubles) named Big South Player of the Week;
    - Dec. 8 - Highlanders roll over Western Carolina before more than 2,000 New River Valley students during the second annual Education Day;
    - Dec. 10 - Radford secures first win over Wake Forest - or any Power 5 conference school for that matter - since 2007;
    - Dec. 12 - Highlanders forward Janayla White named Big South Player of the Week while former Western Branch High star Khiana Johnson nabs the conference's weekly top freshman award.

Yep, pretty sweet, indeed.
    Stat stuffers (vs. Wake): White - 18 points, 11 rebounds; Walker - 14 points, 9 rebounds; Johnson - 13 points.
1. Virginia Tech 67, No. 16 Tennessee 63, Nov. 27 at Virginia Tech

Yeah, Tennessee isn't quite what it used to be. Yeah, even Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick agrees her team doesn't deserve to be ranked. And yeah, the Hokies beat Tennessee even more decisively last year, in the Lady Vols' own gym. But even granting all that, it still takes a heck of an effort to bring these guys down. JMU came close in their season opener. Tech got the job done.
   Stat stuffers: Chanette Hicks 24 points, 8 steals; Sidney Cook - 15 points 12 rebounds; Regan Magarity - 16 points.

Honorable mention

JMU 82, Rutgers 76 (2OT), Dec. 5 at Rutgers

We (reluctantly) left this one outside of the Top 5 because this year's Rutgers team simply hasn't been very good (3-9 record, RPI 213). After graduating two WNBA draft picks and seeing their best returning player go down with a season-ending knee injury, this Scarlet Knights edition bears little resemblance to its glorious predecessors, at least so far. That said, no game on this list - or most other lists - can match this contest for excitement. From Rutgers draining buzzer-beaters to force both overtimes to Precious Hall's school-record 46 points, this one had a little bit - no, make that a lot - of everything.

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