First Things! Hokie Nation It was New Year’s Eve and the Crowd was Surprising!
It was a “Townie” game, and a holiday affair to go with it, but an impressive 6,078 mostly local Hokie fans (and a few Pitt people) showed up for the 2:00 tip-off. Frankly, that’s pretty impressive. It was the biggest break crowd, by far, that I have seen since I have been going to the women’s games several years ago.
“The Strategy” Didn’t Work So Well, Did It?
There is no two ways to put this better, Tech star Center Elizabeth Kitley didn’t exactly have a “star” game for the ACC opener against the Pittsburgh Lady Pathers. She did score in the double figures, and missed a double-double by one rebound, but the lid was on for Liz, and that was mostly due to Pitt blanketing her with an aggressive very physical and constant double-team. There was just no way for her to get any sort of clean separation for getting her turnaround 8-to-12-footer to drop very often, today.
It was rough inside for Liz for the entire game. Even Coach Kenny Brooks pulled her out to the edge of the formation to give her some breathing room and open up the gaps to stop the physical pounding. Kitley is going to have to be hyper aware, and fully ready because every team in the remaining schedule (all ACC) is going to play her that way. Sometimes it will work, and most times it won’t for various reasons.
Today’s reason that it didn’t work was teamwork and huge steps up from nearly every starter and bench player who stepped onto the court. If Liz can’t be dominant, then there is this plucky, quick, and dangerous point guard who steps in and takes over from outside.
Georgia Amoore and the rest of the team had a field day. You see when you concentrate on one player and forget that not only is she supported by one of the best point guards in the country (well two countries), Georgia Amoore, but somehow Kenny Brooks has found a lineup of new players who were more than happy to contribute. Six players (including Kitley) scored in double figures for the game, and of those six, the other four most people don’t hear much about. We’ll do the details in a bit, but first we need to talk about the game and the tough 2nd quarter that got folks worrying a bit.
The Game Size and Shape
The first quarter might have been a hint of the issues to come in the second. It was a ring out fest on both sides of the court for the first minute of play. Both Amoore and Kitley missed their opening shots, but thankfully Pitt was having no luck getting the ball even near the basket so with 1 minute gone, Liz hit a short turnaround jumper to finally break the ice and get the Hokies on the board. Amoore broke the lid on her bucket next with a nifty move and a 2 from the paint.
Tilly Ekh drained a three pointer after a block and rebound by Liz, and then Georgia found the range from downtown after losing the ball once and redeeming that with a steal. It was 6:42 on the board before Pitt scored, and that was on a free throw after missing the first. Tech was still on a tear, though. Rose Micheaux scored, and then Amoore dropped in a two after missing a three and having Olivia Summiel rebound it for her.
Georgia put in another one from downtown, and Olivia Summiel put in two more. Carys Baker made her offensive presence known for the afternoon by hitting an emphatic three from the corner (she kept doing that through the game). Carys ended the quarter with a block and a possession rebound. The score was 22-5 and Pitt’s coach needed something to soothe his stomach a bit. Maybe he said something between quarters as I was getting circulation back in my legs.
After the buzzer, Pitt went on a bit of a run, and the Hokies encountered the old basket lid problem. Nothing was dropping for Tech, and Pitt kept nibbling at the score. Tech wouldn’t score until after the media break at the 4:12 mark of the 2nd. Olivia Summiel finally broke the jinx, curse, or spell (whatever it is that causes the bad juju of chronic misses) to finally stop Pitt’s shaving off deltas. They had narrowed the lead to 22-14 but Summiel’s basket finally got Tech into the exchange on a positive note.
Tech kept the edge on the 8-10 point difference in the exchange for a little over a minute. Then Matilda Ekh pulled off an old fashioned three-point play with a fouled short jumper and a free throw. Cayla King finally hit one from downtown, and Liz ended the scoring for the half with a 2-pointer. The half closed after Tech’s late run 34-16, and Pitt just never came close to threatening, again, in the 2nd half.
Pitt Really Had No Answers for Nearly Everyone Scoring in the 2nd Half
Cayla King would drain two more treys and grab a 2 on a layup. Carleigh Wenzel really showed big with some quality shots and inside play. Carys Baker hit another three, and Olivia Summiel, Tilly Ekh, and Carleigh were all dishing assists. What was happening is that if someone was in the game, they were getting a chance at hitting something. The third quarter ended 65-29 with Pitt managing 13 points, but Tech just running way with 31 for just the quarter.
The 4th quarter opened up with Pitt trying to figure out who to cover where. If they double teamed Kitley, they got their lights shot out by one of the other players. If they didn’t double Liz, then she shook free and played loose from the outside to make it possible for the rest of the team to go inside. Clara Strack was getting serious time, and no one was really noticing. Tilly opened the scoring with a bucket from downtown, and that pretty much summed up the entire 4th quarter.
By the official media break at the 4:53 mark, Georgia sank a 2-pointer, and everyone went to their respective benches to talk it over. the Hokies were up 40, and the crowd was getting hungry for Bojangles sausage biscuits (season promotion by the chain). Because that 2-pointer put the Hokies at 76, and then 77 because she hit the free throw from the foul that she drew.
Carleigh Wenzel would close out Tech’s scoring with a free throw to put the Hokies up 91-40 a ticky-tac foul allowed Pitt to narrow that up a bit with one of two from the charity stripe, and then Tech dribbled away the remaining time without taking a shot.
It was a dominating performance by the team. It was also really nice to see everyone back up Kitley when the other team worked to take her off her game. They are going to have to do more of this, and probably every game from now on.
In general, the score differential was something to note, along with some other factoids. Evan Hughes tweeted out the following:
• Largest margin of victory in an ACC game— Evan Hughes (@EvanKHughes) December 31, 2023
• First time six players scored in double figures in an ACC game
• Finished 2023 with a 17-0 record at Cassell Coliseum
What a way to close a banner year for @HokiesWBB. How ‘bout them Hokies?!
It was Georgia’s team this holiday Sunday. She led the scoring with 20 points. That’s 7 of 13 with a solid 3 of 8 of that coming from downtown. She was a perfect 3-3 from the charity stripe, and also pulled down 3 rebounds and dished 3 assists. Georgia also managed to grab 2 steals to stop Pitt from rallying. It was an absolutely solid performance to pick up her buddy Liz.
Matilda “Tilly” Ekh
What a great game for our transfer to open her ACC competition. Tilly was 6 of 10 from the field with three of those being treys (She was 3-6 from downtown). She also dished out 4 assists and her 16 points mostly came at critical times to break icy buckets or push back the Lady Panthers from getting any momentum.
Tech needed a good bench player who could also start if needed and would make a big difference in games. Wenzel did that for the Pitt game. She put up 11 points. That was 3 of 5 from the floor, and those three made shots were all from beyond the arc. Wenzel dished out 4 assists and grabbed three rebounds in the game. It was a solid performance for her 19 minutes on the floor.
Georgia went through a dry spell, and Cayla has been struggling with hitting her favorite shots, too. Well, this game King looked like she might have gotten a handle on things and is on her way to smoothing things out again. Cayla put up 11 points with 3 treys and a rare bucket from the paint on a layup. She also grabbed up 3 rebounds and dished out 3 assists to go with it.
Our surprise double-double of the game goes to Liv. She played a super game, was everywhere on the court, and managed not only 10 points but was both a perfect 4 for 4 from the floor and 2 for 2 from the free throw line. It was a super 19-minute foray into ACC play. Summiel pulled down 11 rebounds 3 of which were offensive. She also managed 2 steals, 2 blocks and an Assist. For not even playing a full half, Liv was tonic.
Unfortunately, there was no double-double for Liz. She missed that by one with 9 rebounds. She only hit 5 of her 15 shot attempts, and the reality was there wasn’t that much room for her to even have a chance to clear and get some shooting rhythm going. Even blanketed, Liz did manage those 9 rebounds. She also made 10 points count and dished out 2 assists and blocked a shot.
Carys Baker, Rose Micheaux, and Clara Strack
Oh, could someone have dished out the ball to Carys one more time from the corner! She drained 3 from beyond the arc, and actually only took three shots. She was 100% and hot. Baker also grabbed three boards and blocked a shot. Both Clara and Rose scored a single bucket, but Strack’s job seemed to be relieving Kitley for a few minutes to allow her some breathing room. Strack also pulled down two rebounds, pushed out an assist, and blocked a shot. Micheaux only took 2 shots for her time on the floor. She grabbed up two rebounds and blocked a shot.
The set up from G, the shot from CB— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) December 31, 2023
» ACCNX pic.twitter.com/V08y4YMHjs
It was Truly a Team Win
This was a good start for the ACC schedule. The differential was impressive, and the peer status of the opponent will help greatly in the impression on the sports analysts voting on Monday. There have been murmurings about the Hokies not being as good this season, and a game like this definitely helps to put that nonsense to bed, quickly.