No. 24 Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball Cruises To Win Over Davidson

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Aisha Sheppard led Virginia Tech with 25 points in its season-opening win over Davidson on Tuesday. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Fifteen seconds after Elizabeth Kitley won the opening tip, she found herself wide open in the paint. Aisha Sheppard, who received Kitley’s tipped pass, stopped her momentum at the top of the left wing. 

She wound up and threw a pass to Kitley, allowing No. 24 Virginia Tech’s center to convert an easy layup, giving the Hokies a lead to open their season, en route to a 76-57 blowout victory over Davidson on Tuesday night.

The Hokies shot 50% from deep. On the other end, they only allowed the Wildcats (0-1) to make 31.7% of their shots and forced 17 turnovers, as Tech (1-0) managed the ball well on both ends of the court for its first win of the season.

“It’s a start,” head coach Kenny Brooks said of his team that made 15 of its 30 shots from beyond the arc. “I thought we played very well in the first half. … They picked their poison and we were able to get free and shoot the ball with consistency.”

Tech knew it needed to get off to a quick start. The expectations are high, internally and externally, after all. 

The Hokies were picked to finish fourth in the ACC preseason poll. They have the runner-up in the preseason ACC Player of the Year in Kitley on their roster. And they were ranked in the preseason AP Poll for the first time since 1999.

It’s one that envisions an ACC Championship. One that sees a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament in its grasp. And one that eyes a Sweet 16 berth, all by seasons end. 

From Kitley’s lay-in, it was all Virginia Tech, who opened on a 15-2 run. 

Point guard Georgia Amoore nailed a jumper in the paint. Aisha Sheppard, the fifth-year guard using her extra season of eligibility, nailed her first three-pointer of the season. Then she hit a second —  adding five more after and scored 25 points — and then she added two free throws. And finally, Purdue transfer Kayana Traylor added three more points on an Amoore assist to close out the run.

“It felt good, my shot felt good,” Sheppard said. “My teammates give me the ultimate confidence and so does the coaching staff. It was a little bit of that and a little bit of what the defense gave me.”

As easily Tech had the game in hand from the get-go, it’s hard to forget the harsh reality that surrounded college basketball a season ago.

But gone are the days of the risk of canceling a game due to the pandemic. Gone are the pre-dawn, three-times a week coronavirus tests. Gone are the inverted, two-row seating on the sideline, replaced by the conventional one row. And gone was the silence that filled the arena for an entire season. 

For the first time in 621 days, fans finally packed into Cassell Coliseum — for the first time since the Summer 2020 renovations, no less — as all 1,487 onlookers let out a loud roar, a reminder of pre-pandemic life.

For the first time in way too long, fans were finally back in the stands in Cassell Coliseum supporting the Hokies. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

“It was awesome,” Sheppard said of the environment. “I love the electricity our fans give us. It was fun to be back.”

And there had to be comfort in that, knowing that maybe — just maybe — that some of the worst days the world has faced in the last century or so are in the rearview mirror. 

For the Hokies, too, the focus is ahead, not in the past. While they proudly looked back at their NCAA Tournament appearance last season — which ended a 15-year drought, represented in Cassell Coliseum by a banner that was unveiled Tuesday — it’s not enough for head coach Kenny Brooks and his team. And the Hokies proved that they’re still hungry for a deeper postseason run in a statement win in their season opener over the Wildcats.

Brooks’s team saw its fair share of turnover last season. Two players left the program, while a third player graduated. And to fill the holes left in the roster, Brooks turned to the transfer portal to replace the production VT lost. To his credit, he landed more than he likely envisioned.

He nabbed two established scorers, the first being Traylor, who earned All-Big 10 Second Team accolades last season. She made an immediate impact in her first game in Blacksburg, scoring 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. 

“[Traylor] is exactly what we needed,” Brooks said. “When last season ended, we knew we needed to upgrade our bench and bring in another guard. It was too much pressure to make Amoore play 35, 37 minutes with constant pressure on her.

“[Sheppard] isn’t a ball handler. But now when we put [Traylor] in, she handles the basketball well. She attacks, [and] can shoot the three.”

In her Virginia Tech debut, Kayana Traylor finished with 18 points. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

And while former Liberty guard and All-ASUN first teamer Emily Lytle didn’t light up the stat sheet with her four points on 2-of-4 shooting, she quickly showed her athleticism and scoring ability. 

In the second quarter, one of Kitley’s eight missed shots rimmed out, but there Lytle was, charging to the basket and putting it back up for an easy second-chance bucket. 

Later in the third quarter, she received a pass down low and hit a quick up-and-under move for her second bucket of the night.

But by the end of the night, even as Davidson whittled its deficit to within 15 midway through the third quarter, it was Brooks who made the right adjustments to pull away, holding the Wildcats’ shooting to 28.6% in the fourth quarter.

And it’s Brooks’ calm presence, mixed with his team’s veteran experience, that allowed for the Hokies not to play tight as their lead began to dwindle. It’s something Brooks and his team has the potential to do night in and night out, even as he sees the need for improvement.

“[There’s] a lot to look at, a lot to work on,” Brooks said. “But I think we have the makings of a good group.”

Full box score: Link 

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5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Way to go Hokies. GREAT start to the season. I think Traylor is exactly what this team needs…Go Hokies!!!

  2. It looks like Traylor (from Purdue) might be just what the team needed. I’m betting the team does really good this year. Kitley just had an off-night. I’m guessing that 3rd in the ACC is a good possibility this year.

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