After getting the ball back on Virginia Tech’s second possession and coming off an offensive foul, guard Aisha Sheppard stopped on the corner and fed the ball to Elizabeth Kitley in the low post.
The Hokies’ 6-foot-6 center caught Sheppard’s pass, took a dribble and a step in front of the restricted arc, raised her right arm over Mayowa Taiwo, and sunk her first shot of the night. She beat the double team George Washington spent the last few days planning for — something she wasn’t able to do two nights ago against Davidson, where she only scored six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
But on Thursday in Washington D.C., she looked like the Kitley of old. She went on to knock down six more shots before eventually missing, scoring Tech’s first 14 points of the night. She blew by double teams — and even a few triple teams — en route to a new career-high mark in scoring with 34 and a Virginia Tech (2-0) victory over the Colonials (1-1), 75-38.
In the first half, GW picked its poison. While it stifled Tech’s game from behind the arc, only allowing VT to make three of its first 11 attempts (it was 15-of-30 from deep on Tuesday), the Colonials were unable to stop Tech from getting to the rim and knocking down easy shots from close range.
Led by the distribution of point guards Georgia Amoore (six assists) and Kayna Traylor (three) and Sheppard (six), Virginia Tech worked the ball down low to Kitley, who nailed 17 of her 21 shots.
But it wasn’t as runaway for Tech as the score might suggest. The Hokies struggled early on outside of Kitley and allowed George Washington to pull to within two points early in the second quarter, and only took a 35-23 lead heading into halftime.
It’s a team that VT should have dominated from the get-go. The Hokies blew out the Colonials by 35 points out a year ago in Blacksburg, and after the team struggled in the Atlantic-10 last season (9-14, 5-9 A-10), GW introduced a new coach over the offseason.
But coming out of the second quarter media timeout, a new team emerged. The offensive flood gates opened and the defense applied more pressure, which helped Tech pull away.
Sheppard, who scored 10 points in her homecoming after playing high school ball at St. John’s in D.C., deflected a GW pass in the corner that bounced off the foot of her opponent out of bounds. She shared a fist pump with her head coach Kenny Brooks, and let out a roar.
The deflection almost seemed to give the offense some life on the other end of the floor, the stagnation ceased and Tech finished the night on a 53-20 run over the last 27 minutes. The Hokies continued to feed the ball down low to Kitley and figured it out from long-range.
After the slow start from three, Tech knocked down six of its final 12 attempts, as Cayla King and Traylor combined for 6-of-14 shooting. And while the Hokies continued to move the ball down low, free throws became hard to come by, but made up for it by grabbing 35 rebounds (compared to GW’s 23), and came away with 10 second-chance points.
Though Virginia Tech wrestled with its struggles from deep for the first half of the night, it proved why it was one of the best and one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Hokies worked the ball down low, to their superstar, and even fixed their shooting struggles in the middle of the night.
Even when their identity was taken away, VT found a way to create a new one.
Box Score: Link