When You’re Hot, You’re Hot (old Jerry Reed song for the youthful)
Kenny Brooks has been on a multi-year mission, to build a championship women’s basketball team at Virginia Tech. He’s been making steady progress, and the last three years have gotten the program to the point that the NCAA women’s basketball world is finally sitting up and taking a bit of notice. The Hokies have just closed the door on their best ACC finish since joining the conference (14-4).
The Hokies are tied for 2nd place in the conference with Duke that has posted 5 overall loses. Notre Dame has the same overall 24-4 record, but beat Tech, before the streak started, so they lead at 15-3. The question for the ACC scheduling drones would be why did Notre Dame only play Tech once this season? That was typically messed up. Well, we shall see if Tech gets some revenge in the ACC Tournament.
Virginia Tech finishes the season on a win streak that has included everything but an OT to show how many ways they can win. The last game against UNC was a “hang-in-there and play for the last bucket” sort of game. This one was very much a door slamming Cayla King 3-pointer nod... (which was happening several times in the game)
The Final Regular Season Game for 2022/23
The Hokies started the scoring with a 2-pointer from Kitley on an assist from Traylor. A couple of misses in the exchanges left the Jackets ahead by 2 (2-4) when the player the announcers seemed to gloss over for the game, Cayla King dropped in one of her shots from downtown at the almost the six-minute mark. The Hokies were up by one, and never gave up the lead from that point on.
Taylor Soule closed out the scoring for the first quarter with a nice layup on an emphatic inside move. Coach Brooks even had the opportunity to pull Kitley from the floor for a minute before the quarter closed with the Hokies in front by 8, 18-10.
The 2nd quarter started much like the first, with Kitley dropping in another two, and just trading baskets with the Jackets for nearly half the quarter. Georgia Tech finally hit from beyond the arc for a three-pointer which narrowed the Hokie lead to 7 points as the commercial break timeout neared. That poked the bear, so to speak, because Kayana Traylor answered with her own three, and then another two on a fast break from a defensive rebound by Kitley. The Traylor-Kitley scoring rip didn’t stop, there, either. The pair kept up the pressure and stretched the lead to 18 points with one more basket each before the Yellow Jackets found the bucket, again. Georgia Tech did close out the half with two unanswered threes, but the Hokies trotted off with a 37-25 lead, and GT having no real answers.
The Second Half Was... Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Tech kept up steady pressure for the first two and a half minutes of the quarter and stretched the lead back to double digits, but a bit of fumbly fingers and a missed layup resulted in a three-point shot from GT. That narrowed the lead to 9, and once again the Hokies rallied up to go on another mini-run sparked by an Amoore two. Again, Cayla came up with another shot from downtown to close out the quarter with Virginia Tech in a relatively comfortable lead, 56-40.
The fourth quarter was largely a push pull with little or no real Georgia Tech opportunities to do more than get the ‘W’ in the box for the Hokies. The team basically froze out the clock as much as possible, using every second of the shot clock and lots of passing and maneuvering to just play keep away. The 22 total points for the quarter shows how a well-executed post Dean Smith stall goes. Even Liz Kitley, before being pulled for the game, late, took a shot from beyond the arc. She missed but just taking it was telling. It’s not that the Hokies weren’t taking the game seriously, it’s that it was over by the end of the 3rd, and it was time to celebrate one of the best seasons for Virginia Tech, ever.
It was a cruise, and Kenny Brooks, being ever classy, was keeping the foot on the gas just enough to bring the limo home with a nice ‘W’ flag, and not rub it in.
So, we don’t have too many big numbers or names to plug in, here. Coach Brooks didn’t sub in very many bench players, and the scoring looked very much like the UNC breakdown. Of note, Liz Kitley didn’t break any huge records, and neither did Georgia Amoore. Kitley did bag her 52nd double-double and push past her personal scoring record. But no one seemed to want to stand on the accelerator and bury the Yellow Jackets. It was just a gracious - we’re going to beat you by double digits, but we respect your game chops sort of win.
Liz was a scoring machine for this one. She put up 29 points, all coming from either short or the charity stripe (26-3). She also pulled down 11 boards and slapped away a shot that Kayana Traylor took to the bucket. In all, it was a dominant performance inside, without a ton of hoopla and certainly with no braggadocio from Kitley. She just confidently got her job done with aplomb and celebrated with her teammates.
Defense ➡️➡️➡️ Offense pic.twitter.com/ka1aaz1hlI— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 27, 2023
KT seems to have found her feet and her hot hand. She had another stellar game and took full advantage of the blanket guarding of both Amoore and Kitley (both of whom were often doubled teamed and more). Well, if you do that, Kayana has picked up on the reality that she’s pretty fantastic, too. She’s going to make you pay if you forget that she’s there. This time she put in a 50% from the floor 14 points, she also grabbed 7 boards, a steal and dished 5 assists.
KT with the blow by ⛹️♀️— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 26, 2023
We lead 33-19 pic.twitter.com/L0zYpXIPiT
It’s been a bit too long for Cayla to show up in the double-digit category. She’s been playing mostly defense for the stretch, and her threes just haven’t been falling the few times that she’s gotten the opportunity to take a shot. For this one, King gets the mention because she got the shots and the points. She still plays D and setup, but she was 2 of 5 from downtown, and a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe (including a big 4-point play foul shot). King also managed to add a steal and two assists to her stat line.
Cayla four-point play pic.twitter.com/gUzroaZKVg— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 26, 2023
Georgia Amoore, Taylor Soule, and D’asia Gregg
It would normally be a bit shocking to see Amoore out of the double figures list, but this game was not seemingly a grand dominant outing for her. That is until you look back at how she was guarded, what it took to get a quality shot off because of that, and what other things Georgia does for this team. She absolutely dominated in the Point Guard role. She ran a quality offense and did sink 8 points. Frankly by the 4th quarter she had tons of opportunities to take a few high-quality shots that would have probably fallen, especially as the defensive flow switched to KT and Liz, but G did her PG thing. In the end Georgia handed out 7 assists, and also chipped in 2 rebounds and 2 steals.
G top of the key, splash— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 26, 2023
» 42 pic.twitter.com/A53zDsWgwN
Taylor Soule was another big defensive factor, she only took 7 shots, but matched that with 7 rebounds, a steal, and 2 assists. D’asia Gregg was the only bench player to play more than a few minutes, but Gregg did manage to grab 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. She only took 3 shots for the entire 24 minutes that she played.
It Just Wasn’t a Scoring Fest (except for Liz, that is)
It’s not obvious because of the double-digit differential, but Georgia Tech put up a fight. But the Virginia Tech defense held them to only a single player in double digits. This was not a runaway contest and the Hokies needed to play top notch quality defense to keep the Yellow Jackets, who have some really good up and coming players, from challenging closer than high single digits. It was also a factor of not rubbing it into a team playing a clean game with 20 personal fouls between the teams. Virginia Tech was the better and top 10 ranked team, that was obvious, but at this point in the season grabbing the win without rubbing it in is the best tactic. The Hokies could very well see GT in Greensboro for the ACC Championship Tournament, so making an opponent a bitter enemy is not a good plan of action.
Next Up - The ACC Tournament
Tech, by finishing tied for 2nd place in the Conference gets a double bye and won’t be playing until Friday, March 3rd, in the quarter finals. That game will be telecast on the ACC Network at 8:00. They will face either Georgia Tech, Boston College (1st round) or Miami (2nd round), which is why the warning about rubbing it in from above. If GT goes on a rip, they could show up on Friday evening.