The Hokies had a Challenge, UT-Chattanooga has a Familiar Head Coach
This game was going to be a challenge for the Hokies, the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (Chattanooga from now on) is coached by Shawn Poppie who was Kenny Brooks’ assistant and then associate head coach for Brooks’ entire tenure at Tech, up until Poppie was hired as Head Coach for Chattanooga. That means Poppie not only coached most of the players on the floor for Tech, he knew all of Brooks’ offensive and defensive plays. When that happens, the game changes to either pure talent, or changing things up enough to be unpredictable for the game. Either way contests like this often settle into defensive struggles and that talent thing just looms like a buzzard over a bad smell.
The NCAA Tournament break down gave Blacksburg and Cassell the first two rounds of the brackets, with the regionals being played in Seattle. It’s pretty exciting but it can be a bit annoying for Hokie purists. The big problem is that because it’s an NCAA event, the home town partisanship must be toned down, so the opening announcements and team intros were done in overlapping fashion, with no fanfares of Tech Triumph and Enter Sandman. Interesting enough the crowd was having none of that, and someone started singing and eventually at the tip off the entire crowd was singing “Enter Sandman” a cappella. Somebody out in the Twitterverse gives you a taste.
No Enter Sandman due to NCAA regulations. No problem. Packed house of #Hokies singing it loud and proud for @HokiesWBB! First round of the tournament here we go! pic.twitter.com/MsytkDhW1S— Brooke Leonard (@abrookeleonard) March 17, 2023
The game, itself, started off a bit slowly with the teams burning off roughly four minutes before Chattanooga scored any points. By that time, the Hokies held an 8-3 lead, and UTC never managed to get closer than the 8-9 score after their 2nd 3, at the 4:23 mark. That seemed to light a fire under the Hokies, because Georgia Amoore finally drained a three, and two, with Kitley putting in four more points on two short buckets from the paint. At the end of the first quarter the Hokies were ahead by 10.
It was 18-8, and the Lady Mocs hadn’t scored for the final four minutes of the quarter.
The second quarter was just a bit less of a gap, but Tech added 13 points while UTC only added another 8.
The Half-Time Score Made a Comeback Look Pretty Remote
The Hokies had led the game from the opening bucket, and Chattanooga just couldn’t manage to get any momentum going. Even with the switch of the court ends, and their cheerleaders and fans closer, they just couldn’t seem to get past Tech’s aggressive screen.
Tech did have a bit of a dry spell, and with some advantageous exchanges, the Mocs did manage to split the 3rd quarter 11 points each with the Hokies, but that still left them with the same 15-point deficit they started the 3rd with.
Tech didn’t help themselves stretch the lead, though. They got a bit sloppy and UTC’s increased defensive pressure slowed the Hokie offense down for the 3rd, but the 4th quarter was truly a door slammer. The Hokies put up 16 points to UTC’s 6 and the buzzer sounded after KT dropped in a bucket, and the flop on the exchange ended up being a dribble away.
The Hokies will face the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits on Sunday March 19th. They won their game over USC in overtime. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a quick trip on Sunday.
There were a total of four Hokies scoring in double figures for the game. Kenny didn’t sub in many from the bench for this one, and playing time for the limited number of players was significant.
Georgia was a blistering 5 of 8 from downtown, and she also managed 3 more from 2-point range. She was one for two from the free throw line. It was obvious that Georgia was the main cog in this show since Chattanooga couldn’t manage to cover her, and Liz Kitley, and Kayana, and Taylor Soule. Everytime they’d lock down one, the other would score. Georgia also dished 2 assists and grabbed a rebound. Georgia was a serious defensive pest to the Mocs point guard #21 Addie Porter.
Elizabeth “Double-Double” Kitley
If Liz played for somebody else, she’d be a royal pain to talk about. The double-double thing would be tiresome, and nobody would want to hear it. But she’s all Hokie, and Ms. Inside is also the owner of buckets and boards for Virginia Tech. Liz put up a “modest” 12 points (4-6 from the Floor and 4-6 from the charity stripe) but swept 14 off the boards. She also made an assist and blocked a shot.
They kept saying that Traylor was a difference making player, but her uneven start of the season made lots of us in Hokie analyst land concerned. It wasn’t bad, but it was quiet and looked more like somewhere she had missed her “smooth” balance. That all dropped away as the season started closing on tournament time and KT’s solid defense finally was supplemented by her excellent offense. Who knows why? It was just a great thing to get her scoring back up to where it belonged. KT put up 12 this evening along with Liz. She was 5 of 7 from the floor and a perfect 2 of 2 from the free throw line. And for her 23 minutes on the court that was excellent. Traylor also grabbed up two steals, and four defensive rebounds to round out her stats. But they don’t have stats for how much impact you had guarding the opposition, screening them, and frustrating their attempts to put the ball in the bucket.
Soule scored 10 points for the game, but her role was definitely defensive. She pulled down 4 rebounds and dished out 3 assists for her 28 minutes on the floor. She was a solid ice-breaker who got things moving inside when the Hokies seemed to slow down a bit. Her ability to fast break the entire court makes turnovers even more dangerous than usual.
Cayla King, D’asia Gregg, Taylor Geiman
Neither Cayla nor D’asia scored any points. Both are excellent shooters, so the lack of points in the final column of the stat sheet is disappointing, but you have to think of what their roles were for this one. Both played tough defense. King played 32 minutes and took a grand total of three shots from the floor. That means that she was just too busy doing other things. Cayla pulled down 2 rebounds, blocked 2 shots, and stole the ball once. D Mo was a rebounding machine, pulling down 11 reebs, all but one defensive. She also swatted away 2 and stole 2. She only took two shots from the floor so that tells you what she was doing. Taylor Geiman came in to relieve Cayla and managed to drop in a field goal she only took 2 shots for her 7 minutes, but she definitely made her time on the floor count.
See y'all back in Cassell for Round ✌️ pic.twitter.com/GWmzuiv3Qg— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 18, 2023
Next Up, The Round of 32 and the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits. The tip-off is Sunday March 19th at 5:00 PM Eastern. We’ll be there, again with more pictures.
We’ll leave you with the post-game interview of Georgia Amoore.
Another impressive performance by @georgia_amoore— HokieSports (@hokiesports) March 17, 2023
: @ESPNU pic.twitter.com/j34JgFSGFK