Sometimes You Have to Just Report
Ugh, that was so ugly it took me two days to figure out how I wanted to write it up. The Virginia Tech Hokie Women’s Basketball team traveled to Durham, NC to play the Duke Lady Blue Devils in an important ACC matchup that will probably preview some of the ACC tournament action to come in a month. There are only 8 games left in the season and the tournament is always a difficult decision to take. Do you play it hard and potentially exhaust your team winning a moderately consequential conference championship, or do you save your energy and talent for the big NCAA tournament run?
There is a reason for the pressing need to complete the regular season on a high note, though. The Tournament non-championship invitations are based on the team’s regular season record and the tournament, other than the automatic invitation for the winner, has little to do with the invitation and seeding of the NCAA.
This Game was Important
Duke and Tech were both ranked, Duke had a slightly better record and some better wins but essentially the teams were on relatively equal footing as the tip off approached. The Hokie Sports Hype Machine was pushing the buttons going into the contest, especially after the definitive win against the Wake Forest Lady Demon Deacons. There was also a clear need for a quality road win in-conference which is critical for selection Sunday.
The problem was that Duke came fully prepared to crush the Hokies’ hopes for a bit of a winning streak and some real quality win points for that critical NCAA tournament seeding. It seems that they found a serious gap in Tech’s game and took full advantage of it on Thursday evening.
Finesse vs. Blunt Force Trauma
We have been saying this since the beginning of the season, but it bears mentioning again because Kenny Brooks needs to figure it out and coach the team up or this is going to be a repeat show until the end of the season for all teams that the Hokies face. The Notre Dame loss, and the High Point first half demonstrated a serious flaw in Tech’s play style and personnel decision on using bench depth. There is also a secondary issue with the reality that two key players account for the bulk of Virginia Tech’s scoring: Liz Kitley and Georgia Amoore. They are the Ms, Inside and Ms. Outside of the Hokie offense, and if you can successfully freeze them out, the remainder of the players cannot successfully make up the points.
Duke managed to accomplish both tasks and it did it in a way that makes one’s scalp itch a bit. Duke took a page from Notre Dame’s playbook and emptied their bench. Instead of playing Tech’s finesse game, it opted for physicality in what amounted to blunt force trauma. The played 10 players in relays, were nailed for 23 personal fouls, and none of their starters played more than 30 minutes. In addition, two finished the game with four personal fouls one bench player seemed to be an enforcer with her own 4. There were also 3 players with three fouls. This is not to accuse their program of some sort of nefarious intent, it is said to demonstrate that Duke intended to be extremely physical in screening, defending, and negatively impacting Tech’s offense.
Tech Hung in For Three Quarters
Needless to say, the Hokies still managed to rally up and finish just one point down at the end of the half as the score amounted to a paltry 32-34. The real shock was that Amoore and Kitley had barely scored, and neither was hitting what they were putting up. The only real scoring success that the Hokies had was Taylor Soule. Soule can play finesse basketball very well, but her strength is a stout inside game. She’s fearless under the basket and in the alley and isn’t easily intimidated (if at all that I’ve noticed). She’s the only Hokie to score in double figures for the game, which we will note in the Stats Summary.
The Hokies Managed a Lead in the 3rd, but Then Collapse Happened
The Fourth quarter, the Hokies just couldn’t hold up against the barrage of blows. The bruising 3rd quarter that posted a near pathetic 8-7 points in favor of the Hokies and a one-point deficit game. The brutal near scoreless quarter and 40-41 deficit pretty much exhausted Tech. Duke would pour on the offensive coals against an exhausted and intimidated Hokie team. Even with the Amoore and Kitley getting a few more buckets, The Blue Devils put up 25 points to Tech’s 15. At some point, it really wouldn’t have mattered how much more the Blue Devils put in past the one-point lead they had at the end of the 3rd. Virginia Tech just didn’t have enough gas in the tank or talent on the bench to keep up with 10 players and 23 fouls.
We fall at No. 16 Duke— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 27, 2023
Back on the court Sunday pic.twitter.com/lHR5f8Q1PF
The positive stats to note are few and far in between for this one. Taylor Soule played 37 hard fought minutes where every minute that she had on the court counted. Soule put up an impressive 19 points for the evening with all but three being from the paint 9 or free-throw line. The fact remains that she accounted for a third of Tech’s points demonstrates how important she is, but also how important it is to make sure that Amoore and Kitley are scoring.
Kayla King and Kayana Traylor
This wasn’t the game to have King come back with her three-point shot working, again. She put up 9, all of which came from downtown. Traylor scored 9 and was 2-7 from 2-point range. She was 1-1 from three. She also hit two free-throws and if she could have hit the third, Traylor would have hit double digits. She also grabbed four rebounds.
Liz Kitley and Georgia Amoore
These two young women are the heart and soul of the core of this team, and if an opponent freezes one of them out, it’s a tough win for the Hokies but it can be done. If you freeze out both, then it’s disaster for Tech because of the critical number of points both put up in a game. Liz was straight up shoved out. She couldn’t get her 8–12-footer to fall, at all (provided she even got a chance to shoot). She did grab 13 boards, but when your leading scorer only puts up 9 shots and only manages to sink one you are in serious trouble. Georgia was trying with 12 total attempts from the field (9 from three), but she just wasn’t able to get the ball to drain. The constant double teams, and hard pressure didn’t allow her to set up a quality shot. She did eventually put up 7 points, though.
It’s a Warning that This Team Needs to Heed
Ladies! From now on, expect every team to come after you with their entire bench including the trainers and floor moppers. Tech has been having problems winning physical brute force contests this season. Every team they face in the remainder of the season and the tournaments will note that and prepare. Coach Brooks needs to get them ready to play street brawls instead of finesse games.
Syracuse is the next home game in the Cassell on February 2nd (Ground Hog Day). But FIRST, the Hokies are going to have to travel to Hooville to play a rematch with the Hoos in their house. That game happens tomorrow, January 29th. The tipoff is at 6pm. Let’s hope the bumps and bruises (physical and emotional) have healed up enough to double them up this season.