Another Odd Slow Start Adds Up to Biscuits
Last year, Miami made it a point to play tight. They were more than willing to foul and would empty their bench to absorb the whistles. They double-teamed Liz Kitley hard and made it very difficult for her to work the post. Well, this season they didn’t do that. Well, they didn’t double up on Liz as much. They just plastered their two biggest players on the floor up against her, one-on-one and made her fight her way out of jams.
Not only did they play a hard press tight man-to-man coverage, but they also made sure that they were making moves on the ball at every opportunity. The entire first quarter was a fight for the Hokies to find shooting space, rhythm, and high percentage shots weren’t falling. It was a nail biter for about the first 15 minutes of the game.
Another dub in ‼️ pic.twitter.com/PuvwQk3Aps— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 12, 2024
The First Quarter was Struggling to Find Combinations
Coach Kenny Brooks is not known as a big substitution guy. He plays a short bench and there is a general limit of around 8 players who routinely get minutes on the floor. Some people complain about that, but the Hokies are winning with Brooks’s methods so nobody really has room to argue too much. This game, the standard lineup of Kitley, Amoore, Ekh, Micheaux, and King were challenged hard and seemed to have been doped out pretty well by the Miami coaching staff. For the first 10 minutes of the game, Miami seemed to have an attack or a defense for nearly everything the Hokies tried.
The tip went to the ‘Canes, and after a miss, they opened the scoring with a put back. Tech didn’t score until Rose Micheaux sunk the 2nd of her free throws after missing the first. The Hokies seemed to be tight and pushing too hard. It seemed that Miami was looking to pressure them hard and throw them off balance. Tech kept chopping back, though. Kitley put in a short-range bucket and got a back-and-forth exchange going for a few minutes. Then she sunk two free throws to put the Hokies up by 2, but the Hurricanes managed to get a 1 up 1 down exchange set up between the 5:00 mark and the 3:30 point.
The Hokies had dropped into a small 2-to-3-point hole for a few minutes. With the exception of Rose Micheaux’s free throw Kitley scored 13 of the 14 points in the period for the Hokies. The quarter ended with some good Tech defense a Kitley jumper to end it evened up at 14 each.
All square after one— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 12, 2024
Liz has 13 (4-7 FG, 5-6 FT) pic.twitter.com/3uqKSk6u9s
The Second Quarter Eased Some Nerves
As the buzzer sounded with neither team scoring in the final minute of the 1st, the worries started. Georgia was struggling from the floor. It was mostly because she was blanketed by a switching double team or heavy one on one coverage and just couldn’t seem to get enough separation to get that shooting motion to work. Liz was already in double figures from the 1st period, and it seemed that the Hurricanes had found a combination that worked. Well, Brooks was having none of that and made some personnel changes to see if he could get some defense going while the offense worked on getting more effective scoring going. The first period saw Carys Baker, Olivia Summiel, and Carleigh Wenzel come off the bench and start pushing the Miami players a bit. If you remember the NC State game, both of them made a huge difference in changing the defensive momentum and it seems that Kenny Brooks was looking for them to do it again. The move worked pretty well. Samayha Suffren even got some playing time in the early 2nd.
The 2-point push-me-pull-you exchange continued until the 5:25 mark when Tech finally got a defensive stop, and Kitley drained a 2-pointer to put the Hokies up by 4. Clara Strack made an appearance and a shot while giving Liz a break after a tough few minutes on the floor. The big issue was Miami was getting hit with foul calls, and missing shots. Tech was coming right back down the floor and putting something in the bucket from somewhere. Georgia hadn’t scored after several attempts but the 4:11 mark saw her drain a 2-pointer and then sink a free-throw because she was fould on the shot. Getting off zero seemed to get her spirits up and it also picked up the crowd and team.
The big separation happened when Tilly Ekh sunk two treys in a row which finally managed to put some point separation momentum in Tech’s direction. Her second three-pointer at the 2:36 mark stretched the Tech lead to 15 points. Georgia finally hit a three with 1:49 to go in the half. The character of the game had entirely flip-flopped from a tight back and forth to a Tech runaway in those three or so minutes. Tech would never trail again and ended the half up 16 on a Liz Kitley jumper on an assist from Carleigh; 40-24.
The 2nd Half was Weird, Good for Tech, but Weird
The way that we know that the 2nd half was weird, is that the opening score from Liz Kitley (not weird) was a three pointer.
Yep, she can do that too pic.twitter.com/abLLZyUopU— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 12, 2024
It seemed to stun Miami that Liz was outside and could hit from that range. (It was a really pretty shot, btw.) That trey started a Hokie flurry that included another three from Tilly, a pair of foul shots from Rose, and then another 3 from Ekh.
The weirdness became really apparent though when Miami was called for a Technical Foul that resulted in four shots from two different players - Liz and Georgia (uncharacteristically they each missed one of their two shots). Miami would be called for another technical in the 4th quarter. In going to games over the last five years there has been just one other occasion when we’ve seen a technical called in either a men’s or women’s game. There were two in this one.
The Miami frustration level was boiling over, and Tech started having a bit of difficulty handling the ball over the last three minutes of the 3rd, for Tech, were on free throws. The quarter ended with Miami scoring 2, but that only cut Tech’s lead to 18. The buzzer sounded and it was 57-39 Tech.
The 4th quarter opened with Georgia confidently sinking a shot from downtown. That pretty much marked the character of the period. Even Olivia Summiel drained a three to big cheers from the crowd. Every time Miami would start to look like it was putting up a defense, they’d foul, or Tech would come down the floor and put the ball in the basket to stay ahead by that 18 to 20 point gap. By the 4-minute mark, Brooks pulled almost all of the starters and let the bench finish out the game. Carys Baker got some more time on the floor. Summiel and Wenzel shined in their defensive roles, and now got a chance to do some offensive work. Cayla King was the only experienced player on the floor, and basically played point guard, directing the plays and the passing.
And, it was King, who hadn’t really shot all that much for the entire game, who with the score 73-47 backed off on the left side of the arc, and drained a three pushing the score to 76, and setting Bojangles back a whole lot of free sausage biscuits.
Miami scored a meaningless 3-point shot at the 2 second mark and the clock drained away as the ball came inbounds past the end line. It was a solid victory with some nice time at the end to get the bench on the floor to work.
We already mentioned that Liz went into double figures before the end of the 1st quarter. Eventually she would pour on 31 points. We should also mention that she was busy pulling balls off the boards again, with 11 rebounds. We can add an assist, and a steal to that total.
It was just a brutally tough first half for our favorite Aussie point guard. But like the NC State game, she figured it out, kept with her team and teammates. Eventually the ice broke off the bucket and Georgia put up 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 Assists. She also was credited with 2 steals.
Matilda ‘Tilly’ Ekh
Tilly didn’t take many shots, 7 total, and of that seven she sank 4. That’s gold. Those were 12 points that were at turning point moments when the team needed the momentum boosts. Tilly pulled down a board and pushed out an assist.
Tilly time ⌚️ pic.twitter.com/deJtfbkNkf— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 12, 2024
Olivia Summiel (5), Carleigh Wenzel (4), Cayla King (3), Rose Micheaux (3), and Clara Strack (2)
These contributors put in more than points. This was a tough game, offense required screens, picks, and buffer plays. Rebounding was important, and on defense, just keeping positive pressure on the ‘Canes was critical, especially when Kenny called them in over the 1st and 2nd periods to change things up and foil the Miami game plan.
A Solid Win, and Now a Road Test
The Lady Hokies are on the road for the next two games. They travel to Tallahassee to play Florida State, and then to Durham to play Duke. The first game is Sunday the 14th at 1:00. FSU is ranked #21 and playing them at home is going to be a real test. Duke is no pushover in their house, either, that game is the 18th. It’s also an 8:00PM tip-off.
Pictures will be up on the Facebook Group page some time tomorrow. I can’t promise exactly when, but they will be up.