Nearly seven minutes in, Ashley Owusu received a pass from D’asia Gregg and quickly pulled the trigger on the far wing as her defender sagged off. As the basketball fell through the hoop, the first time it had since she broke her pinkie finger on Dec. 1, Owusu pumped her fist as she extended the lead for No. 12 Virginia Tech over Pitt, 12-7.
The Hokies’ All-American transfer only knocked down one of her next six shots for the rest of the night to finish 2-of-8, but it wasn’t about the way she performed – more of the fact that she was able to make it back out onto the floor for the first time in seven weeks.
Tech struggled without her contributions, but the Hokies (15-3, 5-3 ACC) picked her up on the way to a 69-62 victory over the Panthers (7-11, 0-7 ACC) at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Thursday night.
In fact, four players scored in double figures to back Owusu. Georgia Amoore shook off a 2-of-8 start from the floor to finish 7-of-17 (5-of-11 from deep) for a team-best 21 points. Elizabeth Kitley and Kayana Traylor added 13 points each while Taylor Soule scored an additional 12.
After last Thursday’s win over Louisville, head coach Kenny Brooks told reporters that Owusu had started dribbling the basketball but had yet to begin shooting. He and his staff didn’t want to rush her back too quickly in fear of damaging her finger more; they were going to ease her back into things.
Traylor, who started all 11 games in Owusu’s absence and played 30-plus minutes in seven of them, saw her minutes (29) decrease. Owusu, meanwhile, was on the floor for 21 minutes.
But the first half didn’t go the exact way Tech wanted it to. Pitt hung around and only trailed by two, 34-32. Tech only shot 38.9%, was just 3-of-14 from long range (21.4%) and only got to the free throw line four times. The Panthers were more efficient as they shot 42.3% in the half and only took six 3-pointers.
After the break, Tech came out firing from beyond the arc again, and the baskets sank more than they did in the first.
“They just knocked them down,” Brooks explained to Evan Hughes on Virginia Tech’s postgame radio show about what changed about the team’s offense in the second half. “And we were getting the same looks that we were getting in the first half. We just have to be better.”
The Hokies hit five of the 14 (35.7%) treys they took in the half, which was the difference on Thursday night as they outscored Pitt by five in the second half. They dealt with a 2-3 zone and a press for 40 minutes and it came down to the wire, but they gutted out their fourth road win of the year.
Virginia Tech is back in action at Cassell Coliseum against Wake Forest (11-8, 2-6 ACC) on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ACC Network Extra).
Box score: Link