After a promising start, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team (13-3, 0-3) has hit a slump at the beginning of ACC play. The team started their season with thirteen consecutive wins in non-conference play. This included a couple of big wins against Liberty and Ohio State, both NCAA Tournament teams from last year. However, after starting without a loss in non-conference play, the Hokies have not won since.
Three straight losses by seven or fewer points to start conference play have dropped the Hokies to the basement of the conference. The first two were not terrible losses, with a defeat in Miami to the 14-4 Hurricanes in their first conference game, and a home loss to No. 14 Syracuse in overtime in their second. However, the most recent loss at Virginia is not a good sign for Coach Kenny Brooks’ team. Virginia entered the Commonwealth Clash matchup with a 6-9 record and had no wins in the ACC. The Hokies had a 15-point lead entering the 4th quarter, but were outscored 28-9 in the last period to fall to their in-state rivals.
Virginia Tech looked like they were set up to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. Now, that berth looks less assured. Their ACC schedule doesn’t get any easier now as No. 1 Notre Dame comes to Blacksburg at 15-1 on Wednesday night. Their only loss was to No. 3 Connecticut, and they recently knocked off No. 2 Louisville. The Cardinals will come to Cassell Coliseum in February as well.
The Hokies have had players step up for them this season, as four players are scoring in double figures. The leading scorer is senior guard Taylor Emery. She has seemed to be better in conference play, as she has scored 20 or more points in all three games against ACC opponents. This included her season-high of 27 points against Syracuse. Overall, she’s averaging 18.9 points per game. The team’s second-leading scorer is center Regan Magarity, who is averaging a double-double (13.8 ppg, 13.2 rpg). Magarity plays the most minutes per game on the team (34.4) and has racked up 211 rebounds already on the season.
Heading into this season, the Hokies had two of the top 30 point guard recruits in their incoming recruiting class. The top recruit, Shaniya Jones, announced early in December that she was transferring from Virginia Tech and announced recently she will be playing at Georgia next year. Jones played in five games this season just averaging 2.6 points and 1.4 assists per game.
The other was Dara Mabrey, who has started every game for the Hokies this season. She is averaging 12 points per game and leads the team in assists with 45. However, she seems to still be adjusting to playing ACC opponents. In the last two games, Mabrey has just nine points and was 3-of-16 from the field. The Hokies need her to get into a groove in conference play if they want to start winning ACC games.
A boost should be coming soon for the Hokies, as senior forward Alexis Jean will be returning from injury. She’s played just 16 minutes this season, but averaged 8.8 points and 6.1 rebounds last season. Jean will help Magarity down low, as she is the only other player on the roster over six feet tall.
After Notre Dame, the schedule won’t get much easier. Virginia Tech has to play undefeated and No. 8 NC State on the road on Sunday. Then, after a bout with 9-8 North Carolina next week, they face 14-2 Florida State in Blacksburg.
Starting 0-3 in conference play is obviously not ideal for the Hokies, but their undefeated non-conference record shows promise for the team. This year may be the best chance in recent memory for the Hokies to reach the NCAA tournament, but they will have to win some games against tough opponents if they want to achieve that goal.