The new year has not been kind to the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team.
After winning four straight to finish out December, the Hokies (9-9, 0-4 ACC) have dropped their first five of 2011.
The slump includes a heartbreaker against Atlantic-10 opponent Charlotte, a blowout loss at home to then-No. 24 Florida State and a sloppy performance last Sunday against No. 3-ranked Duke; a game in which Tech turned the ball over 22 times.
While some might believe Tech’s recent run of bad luck is due to a young and inexperienced roster, head coach Beth Dunkenberger thinks differently.
“What I am searching for on this team is some chemistry and some leadership,” she said after Sunday’s loss to Duke. “I don’t feel like our seniors are getting it and helping our young kids along. We’ve got some talent on this team but we don’t have a true leader. I need some help out there on that court, some leadership.”
Before the season started, it seemed as though senior point guard Nikki Davis would assume the role of Dunkenberger’s help on the floor.
But, after mustering only a 1.57 assist-to-turnover ratio through 16 games, she’s started the last two games on the bench for Tech. Those contests marked only the seventh and eighth times Davis has missed a start in three years.
Although it may seem like the Hokies need some sort of drastic turnaround to salvage their season, it might actually come down to fundamentals such as taking care of the ball and boxing out — two things the Hokies haven’t done during their current skid. During the losing streak, they’ve been outrebounded by an average of 40-35 and have turned the ball over 108 times — almost 22 times per game.
“For us to right this ship, we cannot have 22 turnovers in a game, we cannot get outrebounded by 10,” Dunkenberger said. “That’s giving another possession to a team. We have got to rebound the ball, we’ve got to quit turning the ball over so we give ourselves a chance on offense. It’s a pretty simple game.”
Two bright spots for Tech this year have been junior forward Shanel Harrison and sophomore guard Alyssa Fenyn, who have averaged 12.9 and 8.3 points per game, respectively.
Harrison also leads the team in rebounding with 6.2 boards per game.
Most of the Hokies still seem to believe that they have what it takes to be a true competitor in the ACC, it’s just a matter of, like Dunkenberger said, playing with chemistry.
“We need to come together as a team,” Fenyn said. “We need a lot of positive reinforcement. We definitely have the talent. It’s not lack of talent, if anything it’s lack of effort.”
The team can turn things around this Sunday, as it travels to Charlottesville to face rival Virginia.
The Cavaliers, like the Hokies, are still looking for their first ACC win.
It will be a pivotal game for Tech, as a victory could spark a turnaround, and a loss would signify yet another disappointing performance.
So what will the keys be for Virginia Tech on Sunday?
Protect the ball. Box out. Play hard. Play as a team.
Like a wise woman once said: “It’s a pretty simple game.”