Road Games are Tough Enough Without Visiting Rocky Top and the Traditions of Pat Summit
Look no one is going to kvetch too much, because even without arguably the greatest Women’s Basketball coach running the show, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers are a tough team to beat, and beating them in Knoxville is a major feat, regardless of their early season record. The Hokies drew a massively tough opponent for the final “warmup” game before heading to Chestnut Hill to start off the ACC season against Boston College.
It was always going to be a tough challenge, and there were many of us out here in Hokie Nation who were wincing a bit. Tech has triumphed over its early opponents without having to dig down and find ways of winning, or even keeping out of trouble on the court.
It was two different games all wrapped into one, and if it hadn’t been for a dominant Hokie first quarter, the outcome would have been decidedly different. The Hokies showed up at Rocky Top with a short bench and some players who haven’t struggled much this season. Struggling and overcoming the issues is always a good learning experience, and a critical part of learning to win on the road as a team. The first issue was the fact that the team was missing Ashley Owusu and backup center Clara Ford. There were several other bench players out as well, so the team was pared back to the core players, again.
Different Stars for Different Afternoons
Part of being a winning team is that the players pick each other up. Today, Liz Kitley, though playing the entire 40 minutes inside and down low, was just not on the top of her shot targeting. Tennessee decided to blanket her and work to shut her down, and out away from the basket. Liz only managed three shots out of the 13 she took from the floor. But as Georgia Amoore did in the game before her triple double, Kitley managed to find other critical ways to contribute to the Hokies’ effort. She grabbed 9 boards and blocked 3 shots. To show you how tough they played her underneath she also netted three personal fouls but kept in the game until the end. That sort of pressure opens up other opportunities, tough, and the Hokie best scorer of this game was Kayana Traylor who put in 18 points, Cayla King also stepped up big with 11 points and 3 counts of ball thievery. Georgia Amoore was again moving in double digits with 10 points, but also dished 7 assists. A major hat tip goes to D’asia Gregg who came in off the bench, notched 10 points in 20 minutes on the floor and provided an important breather for several of the starters. Taylor Soule contributed much the same level as Liz Kitley with 4 assists, and 7 rebounds.
The big issue was the type of game that Tennessee was playing, and up until this game, Tech hadn’t been challenged this hard for control underneath. It was a defensive matchup in which both teams worked hard, and the game stayed close with Tech taking the first quarter 23-13, the second went to Tennessee 11-17, the third went back to Tech 17-13, and then the fourth went to Tennessee 8-13. That still didn’t add up to enough to beat the Hokies, but it sure scared those of us watching the game on ESPN2. It was a nail biter all the way to the end.
As They Say, Though, We’ll Take It! A Win is a Win
The Hokies will be heading back home only to jump on a plane at Roanoke-Blacksburg to head to Massachusetts to give Taylor Soule and Clara Ford a chance to play on their old collegiate court. The Hokies are an intimidating 8-0, and by December 7th might actually enjoy a higher ranking.
The Lady Eagles are 7-3 but more importantly 5-1 at home. It’s going to be another big challenge for the Hokies as both teams open their ACC schedules.