Isolated in the corner on the opposite side of the Longwood bench, Ashley Owusu took a step and a dribble towards the elbow before releasing a shot that swished through the bottom of the net. She ran back down the floor, not before high-fiving teammate D’asia Gregg, to extend the lead for No. 11 Virginia Tech with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.
Though the Hokies were only up by 10 points at that point, it already felt like garbage time. Virginia Tech was ready to bury Longwood, who lost to No. 10 Louisville by 63 earlier this week, because the last three minutes of the period — and the next three quarters — looked just as good as the first seven, if not better.
The Hokies (6-0) crushed the Lancers (1-5), 89-28, and allowed the second-fewest points in Cassell Colisuem’s history. The lowest mark came a few weeks ago when USC Upstate scored just 24. Longwood’s 28-point blunder was its lowest offensive output of the year.
“I think we improved today,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks told reporters after the win. “We’ve got a big stretch coming up. This is a good way to go into that and get some good performances from some kids. … [Elizabeth Kitley] (23 points, 14 rebounds) did a good job down low and [Kayana Traylor] got a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds).”
Sunday turned out to be another tune up game before Virginia Tech gets into the meat of its schedule: a meeting with Nebraska on Thursday, a road trip to Tennessee on Sunday and then its ACC opener at Boston College on Dec. 7. It’s exactly what the USC Upstate matchup was before the Hokies went down to the Bahamas to face – and defeat handedly – two SEC opponents in Kentucky (82-74) and Missouri (73-57) over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Brooks said he wanted his players to get more comfortable playing with each other while in the Bahamas – something that Tech had somewhat struggled with during three cakewalk matchups against lesser-talented teams. He got the results and the consistency he wanted, and it showed on Sunday.
“This past week, we’re getting better,” Brooks said. “We’re not in midseason form, but we’re better. And think the consistency that we were seeing most is on the defensive end. … I just think we need to settle in and get it to a rhythm while trying to find it. We’re still trying to find our rhythm on the offensive end.”
Owusu, a former All-American at Maryland, is someone who’s found her groove on the offensive end in Tech’s past three games. Brooks said that he thought she was struggling to fit into his system after VT’s win over Bucknell on Nov. 11, one that focuses on passing the basketball instead of playing more of an isolation-style like she did at Maryland.
She’s beginning to feel more comfortable in Brooks’ system, which would explain her 16-point outburst against Kentucky last Monday and then had her coming out party in Blacksburg with a 23-point performance against the Lancers on Sunday.
“There were a few learning curves,” Owusu said about learning Brooks’ new system. “[They] have two different systems, two different coaches, two different teams, so always something to learn.”
In a day and age when the transfer portal plays such a big role, it’s hard to plug-and-play big-target transfers like Owusu and Taylor Soule in a new system, both of whom were primary scorers with their old squad. But if this past week has shown anything, both have taken a step in the right direction.
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