STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Virginia Tech used experience to beat
back Missouri every time its lead was threatened.
The Hokies' four senior starters -- who have been to the NCAA
Tournament every year -- played with poise and ran a crisp offense
in the opener to hold off Missouri 82-51 Sunday night.
Dawn Chriss had 21 points, and fellow senior Carrie Mason scored
key second-half baskets as the Hokies pulled away to a first-round
Another senior, Kerri Gardin, had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Kirby Copeland, a junior, added 10 for Virginia Tech -- the No. 7
seed in the Bridgeport Regional. Next up is second-seeded
Chriss, Mason, Gardin and the fourth senior starter, Megan
Finnerty, won a first-round game for the first time since 2003 when
the Hokies beat Georgia Tech.
Missouri, which never led, cut a 15-point first-half deficit to
45-40 with about 13 minutes remaining when LaToya Bond made two
Virginia Tech, paced by a balanced offense all season, took over
from there. Mason made a 3-pointer, scored on a layup after a
steal, and connected with Copeland for another basket on a break to
give the Hokies a 13-point lead just 4 minutes later.
Finerty got in on the fun, too, having connected with Gardin on
some nice feeds in the post. The starters got an early rest and
watched the last couple of minutes from the bench with the Hokies
ahead by 30 points.
Mason took a seat to cheers from a contingent of Hokies fans
wearing orange right behind the basket. The 5-foot-7 guard hails
from Seneca, Pa., a small town about 2½ hours from State College.
Bond led Missouri with 13 points but shot just 3-of-14 from the
field. Carlynn Savant added nine points and eight rebounds for the
Tigers, who had 21 turnovers compared to 10 for Virginia Tech.
The loss spoiled a comeback campaign for Missouri, which
finished 21-10 after going 11-18 last season.
The Tigers were picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the
Big 12 Conference, but ended up a surprising fourth. Coach Cindy
Stein hoped that she could also surprise in the NCAAs after her
team was selected as a 10th seed.
The game was close early and the teams traded misses before the
Hokies went on a run. Chriss started the spurt with a 15-foot
jumper, and Copeland made a layup for a 15-4 lead before the Tigers
Missouri got within 30-25 late in the first half and narrowed
the deficit to five points early in the second half before Virginia
Tech pulled away.