You want Warmup Games to be Challenging, NOT Frightening!
You had to wonder where the final four team had gone when the first quarter wrapped. Tech was making things happen and doing a good job of keeping the Tribe away from the bucket, but their shots were just not falling. When the lid goes on you have to find a way to do two things: good defense and find the bucket. For the first quarter Tech did well to just get the first thing done. While it was unusual to see a 13-14 score in favor of them, the game was not out of hand, and someone somewhere was going to get the scoring party started. It just didn’t look like the buckets were coming throughout the first half.
In fact, within the first four minutes of the 1st quarter, Tech still hadn’t scored, and W&M had drained two from downtown to go up 6-0. Cayla King would get the Hokies past 0 with a three at the 4:55 mark, but then the lid went on, again. Liz Kitley, who had been smothered until that point finally dropped in a basket from the paint, but in the meantime, turnovers, and way too many missed shots left 3:08 on the clock and the Tribe with an 8-point lead. Even worse was that the Hokies only points had come from those two baskets.
There was a perceptive momentum shift soon thereafter though. Carys Baker and Georgia Amoore hit four (2 each) from the charity stripe, and W&M was having some issues getting the ball to the net. They were also finally getting called for fouls from their tough inside play and Liz Kitley scored her 3rd and 4th points from the foul line. Clara Strack hit a 2-pointer, to put the Hokies ahead 13-11 at the 1:03 mark, but Tech lost the lead on a trey from the Tribe with 6 seconds left in the quarter. But that subtle change in the exchange meant everything to the Hokies.
As the 2nd period opened, and Kitley and Amoore with obviously some new coaching instructions, started a steady scoring pulse that alternated two-point buckets to get the Hokies ahead of the exchange. Though the Tribe would nibble back that lead and go positive on the exchange in the waining three minutes of the half, the rhythm of the game had finally changed. At the 1:46 mark Kitley scored a layup that put the Hokies one point up. A block by Amoore and a steal by Kitley would highlight a little ironic inversion of the usual pattern but set Georgia up to finally sink a three with an assist by Tilly Ekh. The Hokies went into the half time break up 27-24, but that was no guarantee with this game running like it did in the 1st half. It was time for a bit of coaching up and adjusting. The Hokies needed to get better and do it fast.
The 2nd Half was Definitely Better
Though with the Tribe putting in the first 2-point basket of the 2nd half and closing the gap to +1 for the Hokies, the start of the 3rd didn’t seem like there had been much change. That would definitely not be the case, though. Tilly Ekh finally sunk a three that padded the lead a bit at 4 points. There was nearly a 2 1⁄2 minute scoring drought by both teams after that basket, though. Eventually at 4:56 Liz would drop in a two, Olivia Summiel would check in with another 2, and then Cayla King would put the Hokies up by 11 (largest lead of the game) with an emphatic shot from the top of the key.
During the closing three minutes of the third, Kitley would drop in a bucket, Georgia and Carys Baker would check in from beyond the arc, with the quarter ending in two buckets from the charity stripe by Carys. As the third closed, the Hokies were solidly ahead by steady pressure and good defense, 47-33.
The fourth quarter ended up being the equivalent of a pile driver. Carys Baker was a three-point machine eventually hitting three of the 5 shots that she put up. The Tribe was scoring some, but not nearly enough. Everyone seemed to start scoring for Tech, though. Georgia finally went into double digits and drained another three. And Tech kept making free throws. The game was basically over by the first 4 minutes and the media timeout for the quarter. Tech would cruise the remainder of the way, and the anxieties of the first quarter and half were forgotten, though I doubt Kenny Brooks is going to leave that issue in the dust bin.
Though this was a convincing victory that piled up quickly after the 2nd half started, it was the third game where the Hokies had a slow start and a struggle where there shouldn’t have been, especially in shooting. Even with three players in double digits and Cayla King close at 9, when the competition gets stiffer, the slow starts are going to hurt them. Coach Brooks will be working that angle.
Solid afternoon of work at pic.twitter.com/9HoY2j6s0W— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) December 21, 2023
Liz double-doubled again for what was more than the umpteenth time. In addition, she went over 1500 rebounds for her career. She had 23 points on 18 attempts and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. That’s a low shooting percentage of 50% for her, which is just part of the frustrating reality of the first half for the entire team. Liz would end the game with 17 rebounds, 3 Assists, 2 blocks, and a steal.
Georgia had a sort of half-in-half-out struggle bus that ended on the right route and at the correct stop. She ended up finally going into double figures in the 4th quarter with a shot from downtown. She had 5 rebounds, 7 assists, a block and a steal to end the game on a much higher note than the close at the half.
G for✌️— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) December 21, 2023
» ACCNX pic.twitter.com/d3EtfLkWPc
Carys should have made a twitter highlight; she had a super 2nd half with three critical three-pointers in a row that completely turned the Hokie’s momentum around for the entire game. She was 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, and 4-4 from the free throw line. It was a really solid contribution when the team needed it. Those 13 important points were accompanied by 2 assists.
The Remaining Contributors
Cayla King (9) on a 3 of 7 evening from downtown. Clara Strack scored 7. She grabbed 4 boards, had a block and a steal on defense. Carleigh Wenzel made the most of her time with 5 points on three shots and an old fashioned three-point play with a bucket from the line.
Everyone else contributed something. Turning the 2nd half around was an important team effort. Liz finally started hitting, and there were enough threes from Amoore, Baker, and King to make a huge difference in the critical exchanges and during the 4th quarter run.
Next up, Tech takes on Pitt to open the ACC schedule on December 31st. We are going to be there it’s going to be an important statement game.