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Virginia Tech Hokies Drop a Close One to the Iowa Hawkeyes: 76-80

Wow did the Lady Hokies put a scare into Caitlin Clark and Iowa’s remaining foul bait teammates. Clark is the Lady Hawkeyes and proved it. The Lady Hokies are for real in 2023-2024 and proved that, too. GO HOKIES!!!

NCAA Womens Basketball: Iowa at Virginia Tech
Cayla King going up to try to stop Clark.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Lady Hokies Turn Out Big Even in a Close Loss

This could have been a heartbreaking and backbreaking loss. The Iowa Lady Hawkeyes are ranked #3 in the preseason polls and picked to head to the Beeg Shew again this season. The Hokies drawing a 2nd game contest against them might have seemed a cool and wonderful thing... The truth is that the Hokies needed a few more games to get into rhythm and get some of the newer players on the deeper side of the bench some time on the boards. Getting thrown to a major contest against a championship level opponent (even though the Hokies are championship level, too) wasn’t a particularly great thing.

The Lady Hokies reached down and pulled out an amazing individual and team performance to get within two buckets of a win. They did not quit, even when down as much as 10 points at times in the game and kept coming back with stops and small runs.

The Hokies really showed up big on national television, and even with the loss, proved that they belong in the high-end conversation. The big thing about that is the level of “no-quit” in this squad. Someone was always stepping up with either defense or a needed bucket. The Hokie star of the show, though, was Georgia Amoore. We’ll go over the specifics on this one, but Amoore was the Hokies leading scorer with 31 points. She was driving the offense and keeping the Hokies in the lead exchange cycle and close when things got tough.

The analysts were saying that Liz Kitley, didn’t have her best game. That’s if you call being accidentally smashed in the face and playing most of the game with a growing bruise and a fat bloody lip and still pulling off a double-double, well, that’s their nitpicking beef. She was inside, Kenny pulled her outside to change things up. She was constantly double, and triple teamed and fouled repeatedly (many uncalled) but she still managed to play the entire game and remain relevant.

The big reveal was really how the bench would respond to the heavy pressure of Caitlin and the Scrubs. The new team rose to the occasion and Hokie Nation should be proud and encouraged. When Cayla King went out with early foul trouble (Who knew that Cayla would be in there fighting for turf... right?) redshirt Freshman ready bench guard Carleigh Wenzel stepped in and started dropping threes and fighting on defense just as hard as Cayla. Eventually, Carleigh took what looked like an offensive foul (it was a charge that was called a block- about that in a bit) that was called on her to the ribs. Suddenly the Hokies were two deep into the bench, and everyone stepped up. It would have been nice to see Matilda “Tilly” Ekh hit a few more of those threes - and she’ll eventually get the range - but she had no problems putting her nose in and defending.

In short, there was absolutely nothing that the Lady Hokies should hang their heads about. They are dangerous and with a good early season non-conference schedule to build up a head of steam, and confidence, this team is going to hit the ACC schedule on a tear.

The Reality of Playing Superstars

The Iowa Lady Hawkeyes are nearly totally media Superstar Caitlin Clark and a bench of relatively solid players. Clark scored 44 points, sometimes from exasperatingly long three-point shots - done without a wink or a worry. The Hokies did manage to keep that to 5 of 16 but those five came at critical times when Tech was within a point or over by a point to break the pressure. When a single player scores more than half of a team’s points there is something different about the entire level of play. Clark is a women’s college basketball superstar and now has become a NIL media celebrity. With that comes either conscious or unconscious bias on the court. If you look at the films, Clark often carries the ball and travels before some of her shots. She does get away with some fouls, but in days when refs didn’t put up with lip, she’d have been “Technicaled” out of more than a few games for unsportsmanlike complaining to the referees and arguing calls. That’s probably the least impressive part of her game performance. She has more than enough skill and talent to allow her results to speak for themselves. The other ‘stuff’ is just not necessary.

So, the Hokies had to pull in the reality that they were playing against a media sensation. They also had to deal with the inconsistency of the referee work. In watching the inside game of Iowa, what you saw was an isolation on Kitley where she was chronically double teamed, often tripled, and roughed up on the inside where the TV analysts were bragging about Iowa having a deep enough bench to “give fouls”. In hockey they call those sorts of players “enforcers”. There were far too many fouls committed against Kitley that were not called, and she paid for that one with an unnatural quiet period between the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Some of that might have been the effects from getting clobbered in the face accidentally by Cayla, but it was so bad on the post that eventually Kenny got her out on the rim to move some more and loosen up the Iowa defense.

Again, there is just no room to be disappointed in this. It was the second game of the season, and this team went toe to toe, all the way to the final whistle. It’s a long season, and maybe these two teams will be faced off against each other again. If you know what I mean?

Meaningful Stats for the Hokies

Well, we come to the section of the game wrap where we go over the highlights, and it was Kitley last time. This time it’s every Hokie’s favorite Aussie, Georgia Amoore who absolutely killed it in Charlotte. Liz made a big comeback, but this was an Amoore kind of evening.

Georgia Amoore (FOR THREEEE!!!)

If Liz Kitley is the stately interior presence of this team, Georgia Amoore is its personality. She was just on fire in Charlotte, and if the Hokies could have squeezed a bit more, offensively, out of everyone else, they’d have won this one. Georgia finished with a team high and game #2 31 points from the floor. That effort included an amazing 7 of 14 from three-point range including a half-court splash. Shooting 50% from downtown is just phenomenal. She was also perfect from the charity stripe at 4-4 and had 3 assists. It just would have been nice to see those numbers accompanied by a “W”, but no one with a basketball brain is going to forget that performance this early in the season. One suspects that there is much more to come.

Elizabeth “Ms. Double-Double even in Trouble” Kitley

Liz had a tough game, and I don’t mean that she was struggling. She most certainly wasn’t, but she was triple teamed and always doubled. She was pushed, shoved, elbowed, and fouled repeatedly in her usual mid post position. It was hard for her to get her turn-around jumper to drop, and the lack of foul calls on contested shots is seriously annoying. Iowa got away with a whole lot. But eventually Liz caught some air and got moving in the 2nd half. Kitley still put in 16 points on seven made shots from the floor and was 2 for 2 from the foul line. IF the refs had been calling the fouls that deserved attention inside, she’d have had the opportunity to drop a few more from the stripe. Kitley also pulled down 16 rebounds, 3 stuffs, and a steal to beef up her defensive chops.

But things were what they were, and Liz is going to be challenged like that all season, from teams that can afford to throw double and triple teams at her all game. It’s going to be more physical inside than it was last season.

Carleigh Wenzel

We are highlighting not only a double-digit performance, but the arrival of a player. Carleigh played a bit less than half the game. She seemed to be a favorite target of the referee’s whistles, and eventually fouled out, but in those 17 minutes on the floor, Wenzel put up 11 points on a blistering 4-4 from the floor (that included a 2-2 from beyond the arc) and also managed a block and a board. The problem came in with a blocking foul that really should have been called a charge, and some bruises caused by the incident. Wenzel put on a game face in Charlotte, and figures to be a serious threat off the bench this season. If she can keep out of foul trouble her time on the court will also improve her scoring.

Tilly Ekh, Cayla King, Carys Baker, and Olivia Summiel

Tilly Ekh came up big in this one. with Cayla and Carleigh both having foul trouble, Tech needed a big defensive presence on the court. Ekh can also score, so she was challenged to do both things. She ended up playing 31 minutes, with 7 points, and 7 boards. She was having a bit of a timing and rhythm flow with her outside shooting, but that’s going to get better as she adjusts to the team and the flow of Brooks’s offensive patterns.

Cayla was Cayla. She was tough, uncompromising inside, and ended up in foul trouble too early in the contest. She did drop two treys for a total of 6 points, but her time on the court was mostly defensive, when she was out there.

The fun surprise of the game was freshman Carys Baker who came in to cover for players in foul trouble and hung with the best. She had a solid performance that will only get better over time. She only got to play 13 minutes, but against a team like Iowa those are critical, and she showed up well.

Olivia Summiel took to the court and didn’t score a bunch (2 points). She had a bit of a targeting problem, but she was a significant contributor on defense with 8 rebounds and a blocked shot.

If This Game was a Month from Now - It’d be Way Different

The 2023-2024 Hokie Women’s basketball team is different this season because of the losses from graduation and the portal. What the portal taketh away, it giveth in return and this season’s mostly new team has talent but needs some seasoning.

If that’s the case, and Coach Brooks gets things moving in that direction, there is little standing in the way of another run deep for this year’s Lady Hokies.

Nobody likes hanging an “L” on the schedule, but a four point drop in a street fight against a team expected to be in the 2024 final four, again. Well, that’s not a horrible thing. Tech held everyone else to 36 points, and limited Clark to a lower percentage than she’s used to, especially from beyond the arc.

Put this one in the “lots of things learned, more to learn, and more to do” category.

The next games are back home in Blacksburg after a 5-day break to refresh and get ready. Tech plays Houston Christian at 6pm on November 16th and UNC-Greensboro at 6pm on the 20th.