So, A Touch of Vengeance was in the Air
You had to see it to believe it, and finally after a two-round bye, the Virginia Tech Hokie Women’s Basketball team too to the floor for a bit of some retribution to be served on the Miami Lady Hurricanes (who had a 1 round sit).
Look, no one is kidding anyone, tournaments are difficult and very different beasts than the regular season. The games are win or out. They come fast, the Hokies play again this afternoon, and they are often intense. The ACC Championship Tournament is even more so because of the parity that exists in the league. There were just not that many games separating the teams, and as it stands the top 4 seeds are also the quarter final teams.
The fear was that Tech would get a bit creaky waiting for their shot at the court. Well, that rust showed up on a few players for the beginning of the first quarter. Then they found the 3-in-1 oil. Before the first quarter buzzer sounded, it didn’t look like Miami had much of a chance.
Worth the wait pic.twitter.com/n4nibY9Wxi— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 4, 2023
How many times have the Hokies won when Georgia Amoore sinks the opening basket? How many times do they lose? And what’s the breakdown when G buries a bucket from downtown to start off the scoring? Well, there can’t be that many “Ls” there.
The first quarter looked like neither team could find any sort of rhythm and missed three opportunities to open the scoring up. Then, Georgia connected from outside the arc with 7:57 on the clock, and that was the last time that Miami was even next to the word close. At 7:07 they dropped in 2 points, got within one, and that was that. Tech started a dominant scoring run as Liz Kitley found the basket, and D’asia Gregg found it, too. Georgia buried another one of her ‘step waaaay back and drain it’ threes. D’asia scored more, Liz Scored more, and Amoore closed the door on the quarter with another three. It went from a struggle to a clinic in five minutes. The 1st closed out with the Hokies standing on a 20-5 lead. You read that right. I didn’t typo that... 5! The last time that they played, Tech had a struggle defending against the ‘Canes. Not this time, and the stats department needs to see how many times they have been held to single digits in the opening quarter.
Miami did manage to outscore the Hokies by a point and hold the Hokies to single digits in the 2nd quarter, 10-9. After opening a 23-9 lead, the Hokies did get a touch sloppy on the shot attempts and matched Miami with misses as much as hits, but with a 15-point lead, a par quarter wasn’t anything to get too worried about. It that you know Coach Brooks was going to talk about a bit at halftime. It was obvious with the big lead that he was not emptying the bench but was aiming to get as many of his top eight players time on the court as possible. That wasn’t a garbage time move. That was a ‘you have to play tomorrow’ on short rest move. Taylor Geiman got significant playing time, and D’asia Gregg made her presence felt big time.
The Second Half was a Cruise but Without the Giggles and Ha Ha’s
No, the Hokies didn’t jump into the ‘57 Chevy convertible and cruise it down the interstate for the 2nd. The 3rd quarter opened with a pretty surprising and hefty lead of 14 points 29-15, but that’s only a couple of hits from downtown and some sloppy exchanges and a cruise ends up a struggle. The Hokies buckled down and stopped all of that possibility in the 3rd by repeating the first quarter. To this point, Liz was still in single digits, and you had to wonder if Miami had found a bit of that handle that they had found against her in the regular season game. Then Kitley found her footing and footwork, started the quarter’s scoring with a nice layup, and it was off to the races. Soule would follow that two with her own two. Hey, time to take an aside and note how much we wish Taylor Soule had spent four years as a Hokie. Nothing like having someone that fearless playing power forward, wow.
The remainder of the game was a slow maintenance of the lead, 51-27 is just not going to be made up in a quarter without the total breakdown of the leading team. Tech was firing on all cylinders, and that just wasn’t going to happen. So, Coach Brooks started subbing out and sitting starters in the 4th quarter. It got some valuable ice-breaking playing time for some bench personnel, but it also gave critical rest to Liz and Georgia. This team does not win without one of those two being on, and when they both are hitting, there is no team that can beat them. Kenny needed to save some of their energy for later.
Tech won the 2nd half by 12 points, closing the game with a huge 26-point advantage and not minding that Miami scored a few of the last buckets. The buzzer sounded with Kayana Traylor dribbling the last few seconds of the clock away.
Liz put up 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds (5 of which were critical offensive boards), She had four blocks and an assist. It was certainly a complete game for Liz, and her “buzz” is building to a crescendo.
G was playing a pretty special outside game this time. She’s always good from beyond the arc, but this time she was devastating. Georgia put in 5 shots from three-point range making up 15 of her 16 points. Her missed free throw we’ll chalk up to the pretty hard thumping that she took on that foul. But Georgia scored 16, grabbed four rebounds and dished out 2 assists.
How about a post season double double-double for a first game of the tournament? Taylor Soule matched Liz’s rebound total with 10 (5-5 to go with it) and fed out 5 assists. She also put up 13 points, and a steal to go with it. It was the perfect balance that allowed Kitley to get inside cleanly, and Amoore to push out for quality shots.
Okay, normally I don’t put single digit scorers in their own mention but if D Mo hadn’t missed that free throw (D Mo come-on!!! Hit those things!) she’d have scored 10. What she did do, is in her 26 minutes off the bench make a huge impact under the net grabbing 13 rebounds (4 offensive, and 9 defensive) and a steal. Tech nearly had a triple double-double for the game. Gregg needs to have a good tournament. When she’s on, she’s a great combination with Soule to give Kitley some relief, and when hot can score from downtown, too. She only put up 8 total shots so maybe a few more minutes would have given her a chance, but she does play in tough, and 4 personals had Coach Brooks pulling her before she fouled out.
Hokie highs at the half— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 4, 2023
Georgia 9p/2 reb/1ast
Gregg 9p/7 reb
Liz 6p/3 reb/2 blk pic.twitter.com/Mn3B5E4Y7E
Kayana Traylor and Cayla King
Traylor put up five points and played critical defense with five rebounds and 3 steals. Cayla out up just six total shots and drained one from just outside the arc at the top of the key. Both of them were having a bit of difficulty finding the range on the ball with Traylor, who normally is really accurate, having more of a problem. That happens. She’ll get the sights back, Cayla will, too, but with just putting up 6 attempts has to be even more perfect to get in double digits. Both Traylor and King are important to this team’s defense, though, and keeping the Hurricanes screened out and away from quality scoring opportunities. They were a big part of the Hokies holding Miami to 42 points. This is college basketball, and if you do that 99 times out of 100 you are going to win.
It was a W, but THAT was That.
It’s a new game, new season this afternoon. The Hokies face off against their arch nemeses the 13th ranked Duke Lady Blue Devils in only their 2nd appearance in the ACC Semi-finals. The tip-off is at 2:30. Duke and Tech split home wins this season, and Duke was the Hokies’ final loss before their big nine game winning streak started.