Poor Shooting, Physical Louisville Defense Leads To Virginia Tech Loss

Aisha Sheppard broke the program’s all-time scoring record, but it was overshadowed by Sunday’s loss. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

As Georgia Amoore scrambled to find an open teammate in garbage time during the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech trailed by 16. Aisha Sheppard stood with a defender on the left corner. Amoore swung a pass to her and Sheppard did what she does best.

The Hokies’ shooting guard penetrated to the paint, taking four dribbles before laying the ball up from underneath the basket. She watched the basketball fall through the net, her 1,792nd career point, which broke Renee Dennis’s program scoring record.

But there was no big celebration for Sheppard, who’d spent hours in the gym preparing for this moment that was five years in the making, though she’ll be honored before Thursday’s game before Miami.

It was one of the few bright spots in No. 23 Virginia Tech’s 70-56 loss to No. 3 Louisville on Sunday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center.

The other good news? Elizabeth Kitley’s 21 points (7-of-12 FG), 13 rebounds and three blocks, leading to her ACC-best 12th double-double of the season.

Sunday’s defeat ended the Hokies’ (20-7, 12-4 ACC) five-game win streak, one that saw them shoot just 4-of-17 from deep. It also knocked the Hokies back to fourth-place in the ACC standings with just two games left to play before the conference tournament begins on March 2.

And with No. 24 North Carolina (one game behind) and No. 16 Georgia Tech (two games behind) still within reach, it’s imperative that VT wins at least one of its remaining games against Miami (16-10, 9-7 ) and No. 4 NC State (25-3, 16-1) next week. Winning both of them, which are at home, would be ideal in terms of locking up the double-bye in the ACC Tournament, which is awarded to the top four seeds.

But on Sunday against the Cardinals (23-3, 14-2), it just wasn’t the Hokies’ day. Louisville got out in front fast and scored the first eight points. While the early hole VT dug itself into didn’t help, neither did Louisville’s press. It trapped the Tech offense for all 40 minutes and didn’t let up.

Elizabeth Kitley led the Hokies with a double-double, but it wasn’t enough at Louisville. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

“We really played how they wanted us to play and not how we should’ve played,” Kitley said afterwards. “We should’ve controlled the tempo, but we didn’t at all.”

The pace of the game, which is usually controlled by Tech’s ability to shoot from deep, wasn’t there on Sunday as it shot just 4-of-17.

Georgia Amoore, who was the spark plug on VT’s recent run, was just 1-of-4 from 3. Meanwhile, Cayla King only shot 1-of-5. Both are 41% shooters on the year.

On the other side, Louisville’s Emily Engstler (19 points) and Hailey Van Lith (20) couldn’t miss. The two combined to shoot 15-of-29 while playing a major role on defense, forcing 14 Tech turnovers and scoring 21 points off of them.

“They just put a lot of pressure [on us] and we didn’t handle that well,” Kitley said. “We could’ve used it against them, but we just played into their hands and we turned it over.”

Had the Hokies won, it would’ve forced a tie for second place in the standings. Instead, they’ll have to grind out at least one win, maybe two, in order to lock up a top-four seed next week.

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I trust that this loss will be a ‘lesson learned’…it will be beneficial down the road.

  2. Kenny Brooks wants the refs to “clean up” the game and make the calls for contact that were obvious fouls 15-20 years ago. If a defender bodied up an offensive player to drive them off a mark or change their angle of attack those were called fouls back in the day. Unfortunately, the modern game rewards contact and does not promote freedom of movement (regardless of what the NCAA says). This group would have been a potential final four team in that era, but they are going to have to start adjusting to the physicality because it is going to get worse in the post-season where the refs are really going to “let them play”.

    1. Agree. It’s like refs these days believe that bball should resemble rugby or street ball not a free flowing game of movement and skill. It’s football/rugby on the basketball court

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