Examining Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball’s Recent Struggles

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Virginia Tech women's basketball Chanette Hicks
Virginia Tech women’s basketball started off the season 15-0, but have since lost five of their last seven games. (Photo Courtesy of The Collegiate Times)

Virginia Tech women’s basketball has hit quite the rough patch. The Hokies have lost their last five games and six of their last seven, thanks to a 76-59 loss to No. 7/8 Notre Dame on Thursday. Tech was ranked in the top-25 earlier in the season, but now find themselves fighting for a chance at the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re not a good basketball team right now,” said Virginia Tech women’s basketball Head Coach Kenny Brooks. “What I mean by that is, I think we have the capabilities of getting back on track to being a good basketball team, but at the moment, we’re not a good basketball team.”

No one issue has plagued Virginia Tech during this stretch. It’s been a collection of problems, some of the Hokies’ doing and some not.

Increased level of competition

You’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who don’t think the ACC is the best basketball conference in the country. That statement holds true for both men’s and women’s basketball. Take a look at the ACC teams ranked in the current USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

No. 5 Florida State

No. 7 Louisville

No. 8 Notre Dame

No. 15 Duke

No. 16 Miami

No. 19 NC State

No. 21 Syracuse

That’s seven teams ranked inside the top-25. During this skid, Virginia Tech women’s basketball has lost to five of those teams. The Hokies’ other loss came to Virginia, who’s 15-7 this season. Virginia Tech’s average margin of defeat in their six losses is 22.6 points per game.

“I know Vegas doesn’t put any lines on our games, but I would probably say that we were the underdog in the games that we’ve lost,” Brooks said.

Instead of getting the elite-level teams on the road and playing winnable games at home, the Hokies have hosted Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse at Cassell Coliseum so far. Virginia Tech will host Louisville on Feb. 9.

“It seems like the schedule is not nice to you, because you have Louisville, then you have Florida State and Notre Dame, all of them at home, then you have what some people might call a 50-50 game against Georgia Tech or some other teams, you have them on the road,” Brooks said. “It’s kind of tough. It is what it is.”

Lack of depth

Kenny Brooks did inherit talent when arriving at Virginia Tech, but he did not inherit depth.

For the first half of the season, Regan Magarity and Sidney Cook were the only post-players on the roster. Tara Nahodil rejoined the team after the fall semester and provided some help off the bench, but injured her foot after the Virginia game and missed the Hokies’ game vs. Notre Dame.

The Hokies have primarily played eight players during games, but the starters are logging tons of minutes.

Chanette Hicks: 32.3 minutes per game

Vanessa Panousis: 29.1 minutes per game

Samantha Hill: 32.3 minutes per game

Sidney Cook: 32.3 minutes per game

Regan Magarity: 33.3 minutes per game

Besides Panousis, the starters are on the floor for nearly the entire game. Kendyl Brooks and Kaela Kinder have provided minutes off the bench to give Panousis, Hill and Hicks rest, but both Brooks and Kinder are true-freshmen that are still acclimating themselves to the college game.

Virginia Tech women's basketball Sidney Cook
Sidney Cook (2) is one of several Hokies being forced to play tons of minutes this season due to depth issues and injuries. (Photo Courtesy of The Collegiate Times)

Tech’s lack of depth reared its ugly head once again in their loss to Notre Dame on Thursday night, when Magarity picked up her third foul in the first half. With Nahodil unavailable, Virginia Tech was forced to play zone defense, something that goes against their strength. Notre Dame scored 42 points in the paint on Thursday, mostly against the Hokies’ zone.

“We were trying to protect Regan a little bit and they got comfortable against our zone,” Brooks said. “They carved us up.”

Lack of offensive rhythm

Virginia Tech had zero issues scoring earlier in the season, but that hasn’t been the case in the Hokies’ last five losses.

59 points vs. Duke

54 points vs. Florida State

27 points vs. Virginia (VT shot 18.8 percent from the field)

72 points vs. Syracuse

59 points vs. Notre Dame

In Virginia Tech’s last five losses, the Hokies have turned it over on average 18.4 times per game. Virginia Tech turned it over 28 times vs. Florida State. Virginia Tech’s turnovers vs. Notre Dame cost them. The Fighting Irish scored 15 points off of turnovers on Thursday night. Tech has also struggled shooting the ball, connecting on field goal attempts at a 33.6 percent clip in their last five games.

Looking ahead

Virginia Tech’s schedule is far from easy for the rest of the season.

Feb. 5 at Georgia Tech

Feb. 9 vs. No. 7 Louisville

Feb. 12 at No. 19 NC State

Feb. 16 at Pittsburgh

Feb. 19 vs. Virginia

Feb. 23 vs. No. 16 Miami

Feb. 26 at Boston College

Realistically speaking, Virginia Tech needs to win all of their remaining games against unranked teams. Georgia Tech is 2-7 in-conference, Pittsburgh is 3-6,  Virginia is 4-5 and Boston College is 1-9. If Virginia Tech can shake off their funk soon, they could easily pick up four more conference wins. That doesn’t include Virginia Tech pulling an upset over Louisville, NC State or Miami, which could happen if the Hokies get back their winning ways. It all starts vs. Georgia Tech on Sunday.

“It’s a big one, just because it’s the next one, like coach says all the time,” Chanette Hicks said. “Like you said, they’re not a No. 7 Notre Dame team, so those are the games that we really have to try and walk away with. Even though it’s away, we can win away games. We’ve done it.”

“We know we’re a good team, we just need to believe it,” Vanessa Panousis said. “I think throughout games, especially lately, we can’t have as many lapses as we’ve had.”

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw says that Virginia Tech is still a team to watch out for, despite their struggles over their last seven games.

“They’re a really good team,” McGraw said. “I watched the Tennessee game earlier in the year and they’re capable of beating every team in this league. I think the momentum has fallen off a little bit for them, and I think it’s going to take just one player to turn that around. I think they’re a dangerous team… I think they’re a scary team, the type you don’t want to play again.”

Brooks said on Thursday that nobody’s given up on the season. He said the team is motivated and driven to turn their season around.

“Anytime you come in here and you take over a team, there are going to be growing pains,” Brooks said. “You’re getting to know your team, your team is getting to know you, you’re implementing a new system. I think we were fortunate enough we got off to a tremendous start. Maybe some people’s expectations got raised a little bit too high. We came in, we had an opportunity, but we’ve hit some adversity and we’ve struggled. The beauty about sports and being with a team is how you get through adversity.”

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8 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. It’s not playing time. In my thirties I would practice rec full court up to four hours a night and wake with severe leg cramps. These people are obviously more talented than me but don’t put out more effort than I did . Oh and by the way they are in their prime. Same for the men.

  2. Nice to a get a article on girl’s BB. 3 pt shooting has left them from what I’ve heard & Hick’s hasn’t been as big a threat, maybe because ranked teams know to play her tough. Keep us informed, was hoping after great start we had a team that could make NCAA.

  3. Nice job, Ricky, explaining what has happened to the Women’s team after such a fast start. I am so sorry that the depth is what it is. Hope we are recruiting enough to change this next year. Maybe they can turn things around for the rest of the games. I think they are capable.

  4. The 3 ball is very important to this team’s offense. I’m wondering if all the minutes haven’t affected shooting performance with tired legs

  5. When the losing streak began, I looked at the remaining schedule and had the same thoughts that Kenny Brooks had. It would’ve been better to have all the non-ranked teams at Cassell instead of the ranked teams loaded with high school All-Americans. Like Kenny Brooks said, “It is what it is.”

    I didn’t realize that Regan Magarity was playing that many minutes. Teams have been double teaming her and bringing in rested players to defend her. Still she’s achieving double-doubles most games. No wonder she looks exhausted after every game.

    1. Seems to me playing better teams at home gives you a chance to win, on the road there is little chance to win. Playing the other teams at home are much better chance to win. I think the harder teams at home gives us a little edge to win. We need to get back to making 3’s to have any chance.

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