The old saw is that winners find a way to win, even though they might be having problems and issues. The Lady Hokies took to Cassell Coliseum’ Carilion Court a bit on the flat side, shooting from just about anywhere. Warmups are usually encouraging with balls draining and the net splashing, but this time, with a decent enough crowd of mostly locals and holdovers for the Thanksgiving break, the team seemed a bit flat. Maybe it was the Highty-Tighties missing from the band stand, and the lack of a good sized Cassell Guard section definitely wasn’t as fun. Small, odd things can grab the subconscious and make things weird, that’s a given in life.
The champions, however, figure out a way to play through that sort of thing and find a way to win. The Hokies certainly did that this evening. UNCG sure made the first quarter, and even the first half into a serious contest. To call them feisty is not an understatement. The were prepared and played well, until the talent and time just passed them up. And they just really had no answer for Elizabeth Kitley.
The Game was Peppered by an Early Surprise
UNCG was prepared. It seemed that they also had someone paying attention to warm-ups where the Lady Hokies were having range and rotation problems. There was often a lid on the basket from relaxed shots downtown, and that always attracts some attention. The Lady Spartans coaching staff certainly did something to make their presence known. Besides being really quick, their Point Guard was tiny, and fast. Jade Gamble was 12-19 from the floor, which is nearly impossible, and pulled off some amazing off-hip layups that defied logic and physics. Her 25 points was impressive, and it was difficult for the Hokies to stop her. What they had to do was get the edge and make her the Spartan’s only consequential scorer. The thing was, that UNCG determined that it was going to do the same thing regarding Liz Kitley. Ultimately, enough Hokies scored and assisted enough that Kitley’s game high 31 points dominated the floor.
The big kicker is that at the end of the first quarter, the Hokies were barely ahead of UNCG by a solitary point, and Coach Brooks needed to find a way to help his team out. One thing that they had to cure was given the deep shooting problems, UNCG was crashing the boards and getting inside position to grab defensive rebounds. The plan was working for a while, until the Hokies started to get the ball into Kitley or get Liz out on the perimeter to get her clear enough to move into 12-foot range. If the first quarter ended 17-16 for the Hokies, the 2nd quarter started to look like Tech was going to get some difficult to stop momentum. The Hokies scored 22 points, spreading the ball around, and feeding Liz. They also stepped up the defense and held UNCG to 9 points in the period. That put Tech up 39-15 for the halftime break, and that put it in the position of not having to chase the exchange.
The second half the pressure loosened up considerably. There was a good breeze at teh backs of the Hokies, and that 22-9 run in the 2nd quarter put them in the drivers’ seat. The Hokies put up 17 points in the 3rd, to UNCG’s 16, and then they slowed things down to put in 16 while UNCG managed 10. The Lady Hokies kept up the exchange pressure even with the shooting issues. Eventually the Lady Spartans just wore down.
The Hokies closed the game on a dribble away and allowing the clock to drain off without taking a shot. Even with people rooting for Georgia to get one more shot to see if she could get past single digit scoring for the evening.
Significant Player Stats
Liz wasn’t the entire team, but she did manage to dominate the shooting and scored another double-double with 10 rebounds. When others have the lid on, it’s all about getting the ball to the hot hand, and Liz Kitley had that this evening. She finished with 13-22 from the floor and 5-6 from the charity stripe. The number of shots is pretty remarkable because no one other than Georgia took shots in the double figures. Again, Liz was the critical spark. She also dominated on defense with 3 blocks and 8 of those boards were defensive rebounds.
Normally the supporting players scoring in single digits are listed at the end, together, but this is the end, and Georgia managed to put 9 in, though her accuracy from deep was just off today. Sometimes you have one of “those days”. Georgia did figure out how to contribute heavily and positively, though. She dished out 8 assists, grabbed 4 defensive rebounds, managed a steal and a blocked shot. As point guard for the entire contest except when she was on the bench, Georgia managed the flow, and the change of pace necessary to slow down UNCG’s defense.
That last dime earned G another first— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) November 21, 2023
She’s got the most assists in a two-game span in program history pic.twitter.com/CYeP9aK09w
We are going to see her name more and more. Tilly started, put up 9 points (plus an assist) even though she only took 4 shots from the floor. She also splashed all 4 of her foul shots, hit a 3, and played solid defense. She blocked 2 shots, stole the ball once, and muscled up 4 defensive rebounds.
Rose played 20 minutes; one wonders that maybe if she’d gotten more time she’d have gotten to double digits. She scored Tech’s first points on a put back after a miss by Kitley. She was 4-8 from the floor with 5 rebounds, 2 of which were offensive boards.
Cayla King, Carleigh Wenzel, Carys Baker, Clara Strack, and Olivia Summiel
King managed to put up five shots and only ended up making a single 3 pointer, but it was at a significant point in the exchange flow. She dished 5 assists and managed to block a shot. Carleigh Wenzel came in off the bench and made an impact beyond her point total. Carys Baker matched Wenzel in points, both got 5, and took the identical number of shots from the floor. 3 each. Baker’s contribution came on a mere 6 minutes on the floor so look for her more in the future. Clara Strack and Olivia Summiel are still getting worked into the system. Strack is showing up both as a sub for Kitley, but also as a pair of tall players on the inside. When they are both on the floor together it looks like they can be pretty effective so we can look to see more of that from Coach Brooks. Summiel pulled down three rebounds in her 8 minutes.
The Game was a good warmup contest against a program that showed up to play basketball. They had some really good players who seriously challenged Virginia Tech on the court. Tech really needed some grounding after the huge runaway victory. It’s always healthy to have to work hard to find a way to get back into winning rhythm.
There is a short break in the home action for Thanksgiving and travel. The next game the Lady Hokies will be off to the Cayman Islands for their college basketball tournament. They play Kansas and then Tulane. After the Cayman Island Tournament, the Hokies will head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to play the LSU Lady Tigers for a grudge match from the Final Four game. They won’t be back to Cassell until December 6th. I didn’t mention “rest” for the road trip, did I?
I have a little time to edit more pictures and the photo essay will be up Wednesday evening with the full gallery on Facebook by Thursday.