No. 14 Virginia Tech women’s basketball made easy work of USC Upstate on Monday, winning 79-24 in Cassell Coliseum. But hoops was secondary after Sunday night’s tragedy at the University of Virginia. Three UVa football players – D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler – were murdered and Chris Jones, a former member of the program, was charged with the crime. Two other people were wounded.
The shooting shook the Commonwealth. But like Virginia was there for Virginia Tech after April 16, 2007, the Hokies reminded the Cavaliers that they are not alone.
Tech head coach Kenny Brooks and his staff wanted to honor the fallen, and a project came together in a few hours. The Hokies created t-shirts with the message “#HokiesForHoos.” The jersey numbers of the three players – Davis Jr. (1), Chandler (15) and Perry (41) – were right below.
“My heart aches, and I know our kids and everybody associated with it, our heart aches for everyone involved in Charlottesville,” Brooks said afterwards. “We’re bitter rivals in everything that we do. But today, we wanted to make sure that they understood we were with them, we’re one.
“There’s no place for it. You’re supposed to be in a safe haven and you’re supposed to be in the best time of your life and your life is cut short by senseless violence. The only thing we can do is step up, support and let them know that we are with them.”
Virginia Tech women's basketball wore #HokiesForHoos warmup shirts tonight.
Thoughtful words from #Hokies head coach Kenny Brooks on the #UVa tragedy and choosing to honor the three fallen football players:
"It’s senseless violence. … There’s no place for it." pic.twitter.com/VdoQxfNmJ0
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) November 15, 2022
Virginia Tech played with heavy hearts. The arena observed a moment of silence before the national anthem, and while Carilion Clinic Court is often a place many go to take their mind off of the real world, Brooks admitted it was difficult to focus on the third contest of the year.
“It was hard to be able to go out and play a game,” Brooks said. “I’ll be very honest with you, there were probably a couple times throughout the game where it crossed my mind as the game was going on. Because it’s bigger than anything we’re trying to accomplish today in a basketball game.”
On the court, the Hokies (3-0) had a few reasons to smile and clear their mind. They set a record – USC Upstate’s points are the fewest ever scored by an opponent in a single game in Cassell Coliseum – and they dominated for all 40 minutes.
Elizabeth Kitley posted her 36th career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Kayana Traylor led the way with a game-high 17. Georgia Amoore (11 points), Taylor Soule and Ashley Owusu (10 each) also scored in double figures.
Tech’s defense was smothering, too. The Spartans (1-2) made just three first-half field goals and trailed 36-9 at intermission. For the game, they finished 9-of-43 (20.9%), and they generated most of their offense in the fourth quarter when Brooks got a look at his depth.
Offensively, the Hokies still have things to work on. They only shot 46% from the field, yet still won by 55. There are multiple new faces trying to adjust to a different system, but things will click with time.
“When you take an Aisha Sheppard out who was in my system for five years and you’re trying to implement new players, it’s going to be disjointed,” Brooks said. “The one thing I am pleased with is that our defense is much better than it was last year. It’s a little bit of a trade off, but we just have to figure it out.”
Eleven players saw the floor and all but true freshman Maddie Vejsicky played 12-plus minutes. Charlise Dunn, D’asia Gregg, Clara Ford and Taylor Geiman all looked good off the bench and gave Brooks more to consider when it comes to the rotation.
“We played 11 tonight, and I don’t know if we’ll play 11 on a consistent basis when we’re playing in the heat of our schedule,” Brooks said. “They’re essentially competing for who is gonna be the one that steps into the rotation to give us some of those good minutes that we need as the as the conference approaches, or even these games we’re gonna be playing in the Bahamas or Nebraska or Tennessee. Everything’s a competition right now.”
The Hokies have a few days to rest before they fly to The Bahamas for the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship. While there, they’ll see two tough SEC teams in Kentucky (3-0) and Missouri (4-0).
On Monday, Virginia Tech faces the Wildcats for the third time in program history, the first since February 1989. And on Wednesday, the Hokies will meet the Tigers for just the second time. The previous meeting came in the NCAA Tournament in 2006.
“I think it’s gonna be really good for us to play some different kinds of teams and some good competition,” Kitley said after the win. “Kentucky, and Missouri too maybe, are pressing teams, they play a lot of pressure. And we haven’t seen that as much. I think that’ll be good preparing us for different teams in the ACC.”
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Thank you for the use of the phrase “were murdered” — much too often this reality is NOT explicitly conveyed. My heart goes out to those most affected with the loss of those 3 souls. Standing with the ‘hoos!
Good article and good game effort, esp. considering the circumstances. Classy act for VT to acknowledge the senseless tragedy…
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