This was Close Until There Just Wasn’t Enough
When you go to a game, and get set up to be a fan, or a photographer, or just a person doing an afternoon’s work, no one looks for trouble. With any crowd, trouble means work, and sometimes the work isn’t particularly rewarding. Well, everyone came to enjoy the Sunday afternoon tip-off in a dreary, cool (but not winter cold) Blacksburg by watching an “easy” win and cheer on the Hokies. Well, the crowd got in their cheering, but the win could hardly be described as being “easy”.
Boston College wasn’t obliged to not being trouble. The Lady Eagles have been struggling in a weird twilight of 10-point losses in tight games where the end result just got out of hand because of, well, reasons. BC was 11-14 coming into the contest, and only 1-8 on the road. That tends to be a team looking for something to get their dignity back and maybe work a .500 season to grab an NIT bid for post season. Their 3-9 record in the ACC probably won’t get them any ACC Tournament traction. So, wins against ranked teams, and something on the road to boost their home stretch becomes their big playoff game.
The First Quarter Put the Hokies (on the Court and in the Crowd) on Notice
It was pretty plain from the tip-off and first attempt to score by the Hokies that BC had come to the Cassell with a bad attitude and a total lack of anything approaching fear. Both teams were shooting at lids instead of baskets for nearly the first two minutes of the opening quarter. BC would finally sink the first bucket to break out on top, then they managed a rebound on an Ekh missed trey and put up another 2-point bucket. It was also obvious that their defense was going to be stiff, blanketing, and the object of the stiff blanket was #33.
Actually, even early on, the officiating became a question, and the physical contact while Hokies had possession was accelerating and there were no whistles to get it back down to reasonable levels. Liz was getting beaten up inside, and Coach Brooks was going to need to figure out something to get some pressure off of her. Part of that is scoring, and as of the 7:00 minute mark of the quarter, Tech hadn’t managed to do that.
Tilly Fixed It.
Ekh managed to shake out in the open to get a good look from downtown, and with a whip pass from Amoore. dropped it in for Tech’s opening score. It was a bit on the late side, but taking a big chunk out of BC’s lead, and finally getting off of the ground, finally ignited the Hokies’ scoring success. Georgia finally connected from beyond the arc after a 3-point miss by the Eagles and that put the Hokies up by two points. No one scored on the next two possessions by either team, but eventually BC knotted it up with a bucket from the paint.
Liz caught fire, and hit three 2-pointers in a row, supported by some solid defense by the Hokies. The lid went on at 12-6 for about 30 seconds but Liz was finally granted the grace of a trip to the charity stripe after someone with a whistle finally noticed that she was being brutalized underneath the basket. She missed one of her shots but put 7 between Tech and BC with three minutes left in the period.
BC would narrow that back to a single point, when Clara Strack, who is seeing increasing amounts of playing time, put in a nifty bucket from the paint to get Tech up by 3 and that was the final bucket of the quarter since neither team managed to get past one another’s defense for the final minute before the horn went off. Tech was up 15-12 but no matter the PR team’s feelings, Tech only putting up 15 in a quarter was bound to be a real concern to the coaching staff.
A good start ✅ pic.twitter.com/0UKZ32AtON— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 11, 2024
The Second was No Easier than the First
The 2nd quarter started off with the same sorts of struggles that plagued the Hokies in the first quarter. Liz was having to fight for every possession, and had no room to move, at all. Olivia Summiel got open enough to drop in a 2-pointer but the Tech offensive sputter for the first minute and 20 seconds allowed BC to even the score with five quick points.
Tech and BC exchanged buckets, but the score was knotted up 19 all, and a lid went on both teams’ baskets for an entire two minutes (an eternity in basketball). Liz broke the ice with a 2-pointer and Georgia drained a trey, and then did it again for back-to-back deep shots. The teams commenced an 8-6 accordion series where the point exchange just lived its own existence. No advantage was really had, and no lead was really lost. Liz ended the Hokies’ scoring for the half with a 2-point bucket and that pushed the lead out to 10, but BC grabbed back two points to put things back at the 8-point difference that dominated the final 5 and a half minutes of the period. A 37-29 score was solid, but not overwhelming. The second half was shaping up to be a continuation of the first.
At the half at Cassell pic.twitter.com/v0L8Lppoqp— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 11, 2024
The Momentum See-Saw Kept Things Close
The Hokies made some additional adjustments at the half, and as they got back on the floor after the break (They seem to get shorter every game - not even enough time to finish my drink.) the Lady Hokies looked like they understood that things weren’t going to be radically different. BC was going to play them extremely close and push the limits of the refs’ willingness or unwillingness to blow their whistles. One big adjustment that Coach Brooks made to things was increasing Clara Strack’s time on the floor, especially in tandem with Liz. Strack is impressive for a freshman and having her out there means some pressure absolutely has to come off of Kitley. Brooks was still playing an exceedingly short bench, and with a game this tight, every player counted, and every short break that could be offered or on court support would be critical.
The third started off with a roar, and with 30 seconds ticked off, that roar was more like the screech of an eagle. BC drained a three and narrowed the Tech lead to 5 points. Georgia got it right back with her own three. Then Cayla made her presence known with a three after BC missed a jumper. Then Tilly drains one and the lead gets pushed to a game high 12 points. It all seemed like it was going to be another 3rd quarter runaway and 4th quarter hide sort of contest. Then “it” happened.
At around the 6:20 mark, as Amoore put in a 2-point shot, in response BC’s trey, the lid went on, or the handle fell off the ball, or whatever, neither team could keep possession for points for nearly two minutes of the period. BC broke the ice, and narrowed Tech’s lead to 9, but with the offense struggling, Tech’s defense had to minimize the damage. Clara Strack contributed a significant amount of defense in the core portion of the 3rd. Finally, Clara broke the ice and put in a 2-pointer and the free-throw that accompanied the foul committed by BC on the shot. Unfortunately for Tech, they didn’t manage to make any shots for the final 2:30 of the quarter, while BC put in 5 points on two buckets. They narrowed the Tech lead to 6 points, as the buzzer blasted. Tech never lost the lead in the period, but BC outscored the Hokies by 2. This game was going down to the wire.
Final frame loading pic.twitter.com/ONzsratDh5— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 11, 2024
Tech Finally Gets Momentum Going in the 4th
The 4th quarter started off with a Kitley layup on a King assist. Then two fumbled exchanges dropped the Hokie lead down to three. You could hear the air slowly coming out of the balloon as the pitch of the whistle decreased. At 7:44 Matilda Ekh, doing her usual critical big bucket thing drained a trey from the top of the key. Then Georgia was fouled and dropped in 2 points from the charity stripe. The Hokies were finally matching the Eagles on exchanges with that 5-8 point lead intact as the mid-point of the period loomed.
Tech’s scoring from the halfway point on was dominated by free throws with Kitley hitting four, and Georgia hitting 2 (she also dropped in a 2-point FG). Georgia’s two free charity buckets came with 1:27 left on the clock, and the Eagle hopes of mounting any sort of run to close the 8-point gap that marked the final minute of play. Then Cayla slammed the door, dropped in a trey with 41 seconds to go, and that was that.
We close out the Eagles down the stretch and collect another home dub pic.twitter.com/O6LKuWZUM2— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 11, 2024
Reality, Hard Work, and Tenacity Marked This One
This was another team win where the players that scored a whole bunch, Liz and Georgia absolutely needed the support of all of the other players, especially on defense. It’s not like this contest was any sort of runaway, and anyone who had been looking closely at BC’s record would say that Tech was going to bury them. When it became readily apparent that the game was going to be a wrestling match, Tech had to rally up, and deal with reality.
This game ended up being hard work and it took some serious concentration to get the lead, maintain it, and finally get some lasting momentum on the court, whether that was offensive, or defensive. In this case it ended up being both. The final momentum came in the last 3 minutes of the 4th, and the final horn went off with BC just not close enough in the end of the period to make a viable run at a ‘W’.
Statistics and Mentions
Georgia Amoore and Liz Kitley, the PR is that they are the best Guard/Center duo in women’s college basketball. Well, that is probably very true, but it takes a supporting cast of players to feed that duo, support it when either of the two of them are off for a game or two, and to keep the other team from getting enough points to win games. Head Coach Kenny Brooks has managed to work this group into just that needed dynamic.
Today, Liz and Georgia dominated Tech’s scoring. But someone sneak a peek at Olivia Summiel’s rebounding figures and defense. Take a look at Cayla’s work with screens, baskets, feeds, and hustle. Maybe check out Clara “NoNo” Strack with her thumping defense and now a glimpse of her offensive potential, too. Of course, there’s Tilly Ekh, steady, consistent, always seeming to come up with a critical momentum shifting basket. And when Carleigh Wenzel gets a chance to go, she makes her presence known as a serious problem for the other team.
G was on fire for the game. She ignited and did a steady burn through the entire contest. Her first three was early for a change, and her final points came deep into the 4th quarter. Georgia scored a game high 26 points. She was 9-18 total from the floor and a blistering 4-7 from downtown. She also pushed out 4 assists and grabbed three boards, one offensive.
Best duo in https://t.co/tMa0ekOcrP— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 11, 2024
Liz double-doubled again. She was right behind Georgia with points at 24, but there was something different about those 15 rebounds that needs to be repeated over and over. She pulled down 8 offensive boards. That was 8 put-back opportunities and potentially massive in a close game. Liz had two assists on offense, and two blocks plus the 7 rebounds on defense. On thing to note was the fact that Liz was fouled so many times (many uncalled) that it became apparent that she was being forced to deal with a couple of hits to the head, one that left a large red welt on her forehead. She toughed it out, but the coaching staff might be saying something to somebody on this one. Tight, tough defense against a star player is expected, but that much contact needs attention.
Matilda Ekh, Cayla King, Olivia Summiel, and Clara Strack
Tilly Ekh just missed double figures by a measly point. She probably would have liked to have shot better, but her three treys ended up being critical BC momentum stoppers. She also had 6 defensive rebounds, and 3 assists on offense.
Cayla King is what she is. She likes to shoot, she likes to assist, and she is really excellent at defense. Today she dropped in two treys, the one shot was the door slammer at the end.
Olivia Summiel took exactly 2 shots from the floor and drained one... shots weren’t her thing today. She was all about sticking her nose in and grabbing boards. She had 11 total (4 ORB, 7 DRB). Liv also stole the ball once, stuffed one, and pushed out 3 assists on offense. Sometimes points are the entire deal in a game.
Clara ‘NoNo’ Strack, if there were six players on a basketball team, she’d have way more minutes. Her mere presence on the court in tandem with Liz changes nearly everything about the opponent’s defensive and offensive game plan. She had a super 14 minutes on the floor, today. Clara put up 7 points, and 2 assists on offense. She also pulled down 6 boards, 4 of which were offensive, and those were critical. Strack also stole the ball once and knocked out two blocks... NoNo struck again.
Yup. The Lady Hokies Took Care of Business
Just two more left in the Cassell until we see how the season wraps and where the NCAA Tournament seeding happens.