28 Eight Years (Well really 8, but Still)!
February 2, 1995, that’s the date. Remember it for the significance of the event last evening. The Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball team has had its worst trouble with one team in the past generation and a half and that team has been the Louisville Lady Cardinals. The history between the squads hasn’t been huge, since they didn’t exist in the same conference so only played each other occasionally. Up until that point the teams were pretty evenly matched in record with the Hokies nudging the Cards out a bit. The Hokies and Cardinals didn’t play against each other until the series picked back up with Louisville’s addition to the ACC in 2015. Since then, it’s been all Lousiville and the games weren’t very often close. The Hokies fixed that problem last evening and the event was even noted by ESPN-W. So, really, it’s been eight long years, but we won’t count the gap. It’s been a long long time since the Hokies have tasted a ‘W’ against the Cardinals.
No. 13 Virginia Tech gets their first win over Louisville SINCE 1995 pic.twitter.com/t5jaN5rwg1— espnW (@espnW) January 13, 2023
The First Half was an Accordion of Small Leads
The Lady Cardinals came to Blacksburg unranked, which seems a bit odd given their record and the relative quality of ACC Women’s Basketball in general, but that very sore spot of the Hokies being forced to eat a decade of “L’s” finally ended.
There wasn’t a single bucket to spare, for the effort, either. The Hokies took the first quarter with a quarter ending eight-point run that pushed the scoring gap to 6 at 20-14 for the first break. That really didn’t tell you how close the game was, though. That 8-point run started at the 2:23 mark with Tech behind by 2 and not even breaking into the teens in points. The run started with a game tying layup by Elizabeth Kitley at 14 a piece. Coach Kenny Brooks chose to freshen the group up by subbing in Kayana Traylor and Taylor Soule for Cayla King and Kitley. Soule picked up the run game a bit by forcing the issue and drawing a foul. She missed a free through but made one putting Tech on top and sparking a bit of spirit into the squad on the floor. Georgia Amoore hit a short jumper and after working a turnover with 4 seconds left in the quarter G got the ball to Taylor Geiman who hit to close the quarter with a big three.
The Hokies managed to stay ahead of the Cardinals for the 2nd quarter, but some issues on the court, and a couple of no basket stretches over the ten-minute period allowed the Cardinals to narrow the scoring gap to 36-32 at the half buzzer. More than anything it was a momentum shifting push. The Cardinals were playing a very physical game and frankly getting away with fouls that they should have been called for, including some pretty stiff arguments with the refs. That would boil over in the 3rd, and unfortunately not inure to the Hokies’ favor.
The Second Half Put the Shoe on the Other Foot
Tech opened the second with that four-point lead unfortunately Louisville had left the court at the end of the first with a head of steam and looked like they had figured out something to elbow their way past the Hokies. Two minutes and 20 seconds into the 3rd, and several exchanges later the Cardinals tied it up 38 all and started the constant pressure of exchanges with small Hokie leads matched by Louisville tying it back up. Louisville took the lead at the lead at roughly the four-minute mark of the quarter and started the Hokies off on a stretch behind the power curve of the basket exchange. There were at least six lead changes during that period with no team dominating. The one sour note in the quarter was a technical foul called on Taylor Soule for evidently complaining about an uncalled foul and unlike the vociferously complaining Cardinals, she was called for the T. Louisville would end the quarter with its first period ending lead of the game, but that had been narrowed at the buzzer to one point, by a nice bucket from downtown by Kayana Traylor.
The fourth and deciding period didn’t change much of the game dynamics as it left the third. The Cardinals had a narrow lead, and managed to keep it going up no more than 3 until they hit a three pointer at roughly the halfway point (70-65). Liz Kitley put a dent in that rather quickly as she grabbed a layup that drew a foul for an old fashioned 3-point play. It was then that the excitement started for the Hokies. With the clock at 2:33 and the score at 75-71 and that four-point gap looking too big to close, Kayana Traylor hit a critical three pointer. Traylor then grabbed a critical rebound after a second missed free throw by Louisville (Kitley had been called for a foul on a shot attempt). The ball ended up in Georgia Amoore’s hands and with a nifty step back, she drained the shot for three points and the lead 77-75.
G— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 13, 2023
» https://t.co/5g7aqFudv3 pic.twitter.com/xRtcAIVu6h
From that point on, Louisville was behind the scoring exchange and only managed to tie it 77-77. Amoore would drop another 2 points into the bucket, Kitley and Amoore would each hit a free throw, and Louisville would go scoreless for the final 35 seconds of the game despite repeated timeouts and final jumper at the buzzer. Cayla King nabbed the final rebound of the game at the buzzer to slam the door.
Highlights from ACCN
No. 13 Virginia Tech takes down Louisville 81-79 in Blacksburg! @HokiesWBB | #ACCWBB pic.twitter.com/1Qx8lGmFvN— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) January 13, 2023
The Hokies had four players in double figures for this one. And even if they didn’t score a ton, every player who clocked time, contributed significant effort. Even with high scorers this was a real team win and every single point, defensive success, and rally stopping or putback inducing rebound was critical.
The big player of the game was Taylor Soule. First, she wasn’t putting up with any of the “stuff” being dished out by the Cardinals. She was fearless in driving to the basket and had no problems putting up shots when she was clear to (sometimes even if she wasn’t particularly clear, either.) Soule finished 9 of 14 from the floor, and though we’d like to see her it a bit higher percentage she had a critical 6 of 9 from the charity stripe. Soule ended up with 28 of 40 minutes on the floor and made every single one of them count. Soule did eventually foul out but not before becoming the leading scorer for the game.
Liz double-doubled again. She managed a mere 14 rebounds - five of which were very critical offensive boards that allowed for putbacks. Her 20 points were entirely from the paint and six from free throws, though uncharacteristically missing 3 of the 9 that she shot. Kitley played 39 of the 40 minutes, getting a quick break before the half but nothing more. For all the rough inside play Liz was called for only a single personal foul.
Not enough people noted the stealth performance of the game. Kayana Traylor played a significant part in the contest, especially from downtown. She was 6 of 9 from outside the arc, and also a perfect 2 for 2 from the stripe. Traylor would net 17 points two blocks and a steal for her considerable 31 minutes on the floor.
G had a slow start. The lid just seemed to be on, and the heavy full court press put on by the Cardinals was throwing her shooting timing off. It certainly didn’t negatively impact her quality of play, nor her role as the team QB on the court. Amoore did end the scoring with that final free throw bucket and bury that critical go ahead three pointer in the 4th. Eventually she ended up nibbling and chomping past the double-digit mark at 13 points and dished out 8 assists.
Cayla King, Taylor Geiman, and D’Asia Gregg
Each of them made a bucket, Geiman’s first half three-pointer putting a period ending exclamation point on things. Their contributions were in the difficult jobs of screening out and defending against the Louisville offense. King managed a block and a steal. Geiman only played 8 minutes so three points for 8 minutes on the court is a future note stat that the coaches might take into consideration for floor time in future games.
The Win Prevented a Skid and Boosted Confidence
The Hokies had a rough go of it on the road in Miami. They needed to prove to both other teams and mostly to themselves that they could win a tough fought close game. So, this was a satisfying result. The lead in this game changed hands 13 times and was tied 17 times. That’s close!