SWEET!!!!!! Sixteen That Is...
For only the second time in program history, the Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball team has made its way to the Sweet Sixteen. This time the regional finals will be played in Seattle for this group, and that will include Notre Dame, but right now, the Hokies will need to get ready for the long flight and a week off because it’s going to be March 25th before they play again. At this point the Hokies have to wait until 9:00 or so Monday to see if they face either Tennessee or Toledo.
But they are in. It wasn’t close, but it sort of was. The Lady Jackrabbits were on a 22-game winning streak and had won in overtime over USC in the first round. That was the closest seeding to outcome game that we’ve seen in a while, and SDSU was on the floor to push the Hokies hard. They certainly did that, but the Hokies managed to push hard right back.
The Opening Round was Tech from the First Bucket
The First Quarter Opened with Tech Winning the Tip and Georgia Scoring the First Points with her 100th three-pointer for the season. She wasn’t done for the evening, either.
G splashes number of the season to start the game pic.twitter.com/HWwRkt54fK— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 19, 2023
The story of the game and especially the first half, though was the punishing and stifling Hokie defense. The Jacks have an excellent offense and can score from inside and outside just like Tech can. The first quarter was going to be critical, and the most important point was that Tech was going to have to score and stop the Jackrabbits from scoring. That would allow them to open a lead, take advantage of the crowd noise (which was tremendous), and take SDSU out of the game early.
What really made a huge difference is that nearly all of Tech’s first points were from downtown. Georgia started off with a trey at the 9:48 mark, and the Jacks never got closer than the one-point difference after scoring 2 quickly afterward.
Kayana Traylor drained a 3-pointer and then Cayla King checked in from downtown for another one. That set of threes opened a seven-point lead that would ebb and flow with a 2-point bucket by Liz Kitley, and then another three from Georgia. Both teams went dry for a two-minute stretch in the 1st, and it was Georgia dropping another dime from downtown that broke the spell. (She had three buckets from deep in the first). Then another dry spell started right after Georgia bucket, and the only person to break the second scoring torpor was Liz by putting in another 2-pointer at the 37 second mark. The clock ran out with two misses from Tech, but the point gap was 12 in Tech’s favor, and SDSU just didn’t have any answers. They had scored only 7 points to the Hokies 19 and being a tournament team and being stuffed into mid-single digits for the 1st quarter is a telling blow.
Second Verse, Same as the First
The second quarter was a slightly quicker and higher scoring version of the 2nd. The first thing to note is that Liz had been having difficulty getting quality shots off. She was double teamed and sometimes tripled up underneath the basket. It took her a quarter to figure out the Jacks’ coverage scheme, and work through enough to start getting the ball in the bucket consistently. She put in five buckets in the 2nd quarter. It was nice to see Taylor Geiman come in to replace D’asia Gregg for a bit of rest. Geiman proceeded to grab a steal and drain a three pointer, seemingly to show that she could do that stuff, too, just like her starting teammates.
SDSU was certainly scoring points, they are too good to keep quiet from too long, and they had a couple of small exchange advantages here and there, but Kayana Traylor was fierce and getting points. Cayla King started shooting to take advantage of over pressures on Kitley and Amoore. She connected from downtown on two for the quarter. In the meantime, Taylor Geiman was dishing out assists to both King and Kitley. KT closed out the half with a 2-point jumper after Georgia stole the ball. Tech was up 23 points, and it wasn’t looking particularly good for the Lady Jackrabbits (Female rabbits and hares are called ‘does’, btw - Turkeys are hens. We’re an Ag School, we should know these things.)
The Third Quarter Sang a Different Tune
Coach Brooks is going to probably have the team studying what happened in the 3rd and 4th quarters, not because Tech lost, but because they lost those quarters. The team didn’t score a single point until Taylor Soule hit two free throws at the 8:00 mark. SDSU, however, managed to narrow that 23-point deficit to a 16-point range exchange by the 6 minute mark. That’s a 7-point shave off the top, and the Hokies looked like they were struggling a bit to find something to staunch the slow bleed out.
The Hokie scoring chart for the quarter wasn’t particularly exciting. Soule managed three from the charity stripe and a 2-point bucket. Liz Kitley found the range on 2 shots for 4, D’asia Gregg hit a free throw, and Georgia closed out the quarter with a three-pointer. Tech only managed 13 points, to SDSU’s 20. That wasn’t enough to get within single digits, but the Jackrabbits seemed to have gained some momentum, and also a bit of a break from the referee crew, and the crowd was letting the refs know about it, too.
The 4th Quarter was All About Keeping Pace and Keep Away
SDSU and Tech started the 4th quarter pretty much as the third had been closed. They were taking bites out of the lead and paying for it in clock time. Tech was putting up shots but not making much. T-Soule scored the first points for Tech on a driving layup at the 9:20 mark. But didn’t score again until Georgia drained one from downtown at about seven and a half minutes. That sort of popped a rapidly building scoring bubble in favor of the Jacks. The problem was that a lid went on the bucket, again for Tech. Fortunately SDSU was finding a lid on their shot opportunities, too. Between the two teams only 2 points were scored for three and a half minutes. It was brutal to watch because the defense was smothering on both sides of the court, and it wasn’t until Taylor Soule broke that particuar ice jam that Tech managed to get back to a 13-point lead. Tech would continue to struggle with offense but not allow too much pressure from SDSU, but that luck was wearing pretty thin. SDSU narrowed the lead down to 10 points, and their crowd started to get excited. There was more than enough time on the clock to narrow that gap with 3:30 left. Fortunately,
Tech’s defense held, and at the 1:50 mark Georgia hit from downtown on her final good shot for the evening. That pushed the lead back 13, and left SDSU with desperation 3-point tries and the foul game. The Jacks just had nothing left in the tank or on the clock. SDSU managed a 2-point bucket at the 50 second mark, but that just narrowed the lead to 12 from the 14 garnered by Georgia’s final bucket.
So, Amoore scored the first and final buckets of the contest. Not a bad night’s work. This was really a team win, and there will be lots to note coming up.
This was not a particularly even game as far as being categorized as “defensive” or “offensive”. Seventy points is not a low scoring deal for the winning team. It’s not a blazing runaway, but Tech kept scoring in some fashion or another in the second half to keep the Jackrabbits from getting closer than 10 points. Tech led from the first bucket, and scored the last (as noted, Amoore for both). We’ll take this in normal order of points scored just to be fair, but points scored were definitely not indicative of the contribution of each player.
She’s here, she’s there, she’s everywhere... so beware... As the goofy old tune went so goes my picture roll. It takes effort to find other people in the frame to highlight. Georgia is there, either handling the ball or screening someone around the ball or defending. It’s kind of monotonous in a way. I certainly hope she keeps making my photo coverage job harder for another season, that’s for sure. Georgia scored 21 points in this one, and check this out 100% were from downtown. She hit 7 threes and wasn’t sent to the charity stripe. It was difficult for her inside, so her two-point total was zero, but no one is going to complain about 21 points from threes. She had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal to her credit for the game. Here’s the picture showing that she also got a block, but no one is talking about this one. (I can’t remember if it was called a foul, but G connected with the ball and knocked it out.)
Elizabeth “Double-double, Again” Kitley
Liz was boring again, this evening. She figured out a way to get to the bucket and put the ball in for a double-digit scoring outing. She also pulled down 14 rebounds which were critical in stopping the pressure from SDSU, but five of those 14 were offensive rebounds that allowed the Hokies another chance at a bucket. And, of course, since this was a heavily defensive game, Liz had to check in with 5 blocks and a steal. She also snuck in an assist, but her real contribution was more because she drew two defenders the entire game.
My only complaint about T-Soule is that she didn’t play for Tech for three prior seasons. It’s not fair, period. What a solid player and unselfish contributor, who ends up being rewarded because after it’s all said and done, the stat sheet comes out and you see the reality plainly spoken in black and white. She’s a major impact player for this team. Soule scored 13 this evening, with 7 rebounds, a block, and 2 steals. Just note that 4 of the 7 boards were offensive rebounds.
Primarily defensive, early in the season, Traylor has really ramped up her offensive chops. It’s been great to see since she is a great back court balance for Amoore, and is completely unafraid to break down the court if she gets a handle on the ball. Traylor put in 11 points (4 of 6 from 2, and 1 of 2 from 3) she also grabbed 5 defensive rebounds and dished 2 assists. It was a great game.
Cayla King, Taylor Geiman, and D’asia Gregg
First, no one else played in this one. With the starters burning up more than 26 minutes minimum (Traylor played 26) the two main bench players, Geiman and Gregg were the only two who played, at all. Cayla King was playing primarily defense, again, and it’s obvious that she’s been very good at her job, she just doesn’t get an opportunity to take too many shots. This time, she was open enough that she put up 8 attempts and scored all of her 9 points from downtown. She also contributed 3 rebeebs, 2 assists, and a steal but her 37 minutes on the court was really dedicated to keeping SDSU from scoring. Taylor Geiman racked up eight minutes on the floor. She immediately made her mark and the most of her eight minutes of playing time by sinking one of her two shots from downtown (three points), she also managed a rebound, a block, and a steal. D’asia Gregg scored a single point on a free throw, but her contribution was under the defensive basket. She played 15 minutes, pulled down 7 total rebounds, two of which were offensive boards.
The Game Ended in an Anti-Climax
Georgia drained the final bucket of the game, and the Jackrabbits just ran out of everything, time, points available to score, and energy. It is a challenging game to play in front of a the Cassell Guard, and SDSU is to be commended for their effort. It sort of makes you sad that their winning streak is over.... well NOT really. All streaks end at some point, might as well be in Blacksburg as the Hokies leverage the win to gain the flight to Sea-Tac, and prepare to play either Tennessee or Toledo. The Hokies don’t know the Rockets, and the Lady Vols are going to be spoiling for revenge for that early season loss. Let’s hope for a bit of Cinderella magic for the Rockets.
It’s nearly a week off for the Hokies. The next round brackets start up on March 25th. No rust, please, ladies... No rust. We’ll post up who wins the game, tomorrow.