No. 11 Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball Demolishes No. 9 Duke, 61-45

Elizabeth Kitley and Virginia Tech made it look easy on Thursday night vs. Duke. (Ivan Morozov)

From its opening possession, everything went right for No. 11 Virginia Tech on Thursday night in its 61-45 demolition of No. 9 Duke.

After Celeste Taylor opened the scoring for the Blue Devils, the Hokies made five of their first six baskets and pushed the lead to six. They never trailed again, and they controlled just about every aspect of the contest. Duke head coach Kara Lawson said the Hokies “stunned” her group out of the gate.

“We’re playing postseason basketball right now,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the win. “The last three games, postseason basketball. The one on Sunday is going to be like a postseason basketball game, the one on Thursday is going to be like a postseason basketball game and then we’re heading into the ACC tournament. We’re just getting a jump on it and learning how to play it right now because all of the teams we’re playing are very, very good.”

While Tech’s offensive spacing was impressive, its defense was connected and suffocating. Duke (22-4, 12-3 ACC) scored just 14 points in the first half and made six of its 25 field goals. In the second quarter, Tech held Duke to 1-of-11 shooting.

Taylor Soule and the Hokies were fantastic on the defensive end to limit the Blue Devils, particularly early. (Ivan Morozov)

The Hokies (21-4, 11-4 ACC) were the aggressors, a role Kenny Brooks has wanted them to play all season long, as they were in the last two games – both ranked wins over then-No. 22 NC State and then-No. 19 Florida State.

Victories over the Wolfpack (by 12) – for the first time in program history in Reynolds Coliseum – and the Seminoles (by 14) were impressive, but Thursday in Cassell Coliseum was a different level. Even though Virginia Tech wasn’t perfect – it turned the ball over 16 times and only shot 40% from the floor – it didn’t matter. It played salty defense all night long, allowing Duke just 16 made field goals on 47 attempts.

Brooks praised his group’s basketball IQ multiple times over the course of the year, yet he admitted that his players have been too smart for their own good at times. The 66-55 loss in Durham three weeks ago was one example. It got to the point where the Hokies knew the opposing plays too well and tried to beat their opponents to their spots on the floor. Consequently, the Blue Devils adjusted and found a way to work around it.

As a result, the Virginia Tech coaching staff actually limited the amount of prep it gave its players heading into the second matchup in hopes they’d just focus on playing. And that’s what Tech did on Thursday.

Elizabeth Kitley and the Hokies didn’t back down from the physicality on Thursday vs. Duke. (Ivan Morozov)

“Now we’re a little bit more physical,” Brooks said. “We’re not jumping in and gambling because we know what they’re going to do. We’re playing basketball.”

Tech also guarded Shayeann Day-Wilson differently. After scoring 17 in the first contest with Georgia Amoore as the primary defender, Tech used the length of Taylor Soule and Cayla King to limit her production. Brooks felt like that bothered Day-Wilson a bit.

On offense, the duo of Elizabeth Kitley and Amoore, which was quiet in the first meeting with Duke with 3-of-21 shooting and 11 points, couldn’t be limited this time around. They scored 26 in the first half, shooting 10-of-16 in the process, and finished the night with 40, five shy of Duke’s team total. They each contributed 20 points and were both 8-of-18 from the floor.

The difference was the adjustment the Hokies made earlier in the week. In Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke fronted Kitley, brought backside help and roughed her up, as many teams have attempted to do this season. Ahead of the rematch in Blacksburg, Brooks & Co. instituted a few new wrinkles in the offense.

Though Duke pressed, Georgia Amoore and Virginia Tech didn’t let that slow them down. (Ivan Morozov)

In a Tuesday workout, Brooks spent a chunk of time showing Kitley how the Hokies were going to get her open and got her familiar with her new shooting locations. They moved her around more than usual and didn’t let the Blue Devils have their way. And the adjustments paid off.

“She got to her spots, she knew where she was going to get them and she took advantage of it, capitalized on it,” Brooks said of Kitley.

In the backcourt, Tech tweaked some things to help Amoore out, too. In an effort to not make her handle the ball all 40 minutes, Kayana Traylor and Soule shared some of the responsibility, especially when Duke pressed. Tech got into its offense quicker, too, and avoided some of the silly mistakes it made in Durham.

Once Kitley and Amoore found their rhythm, the rest of the team excelled. Soule, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, was a big piece to the puzzle. Traylor (four points), King (three) and D’asia Gregg (three) each chipped in some scoring, too.

Defense led the way for Elizabeth Kitley and the Hokies, who held Duke to 14 first-half points. (Ivan Morozov)

Tech didn’t have the greatest shooting night, however. Despite entering the contest averaging 8.1 made 3-pointers per game, it only attempted 10, making five. And it scored 22 points in the paint, an area Duke was actually better in with 26 points.

Yet, the Hokies won the rebounding battle by a wide margin, 41-23, and it didn’t seem to matter that they weren’t as efficient as they’d previously been on offense this season. Instead, they played the game that came to them. That blueprint started with defense and ended with controlling the tempo.

In turn, Virginia Tech once again proved it’s a top-10 basketball team, and there’s a reason why it’s all but locked in to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament in mid-March.

The Hokies also sit in third in the ACC standings, one game behind Duke and Notre Dame at 12-3. They control their own destiny in the league with games against NC State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech remaining.

Kenny Brooks and Virginia Tech are rolling. (Ivan Morozov)

“This is a great time to be peaking,” Brooks said. “Sky’s the limit for us. I don’t think there’s really a team out there that we don’t feel like we can go compete with.

“I think we give ourselves a chance to win any game we play if we play the way we’re playing right now.”

Box Score: Link 

16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I notice the convention of using “it” instead of “they” in reference to the team throughout this article (e.g. “Even though Virginia Tech wasn’t perfect – it turned the ball over 16 times…”). I assume that adheres to AP or some other guideline but it seems odd.

  2. Very impressive win! Would be great to see the ladies run the table! Watch out for a trap game at GT though. Nell Fortner is a great coach and her team will be ready to play.

  3. We have waited a long time for a basketball team (of any gender) to be this consistently good… so much fun to watch! It is embarrassing that the stands are not packed. Perhaps Techsideline should help do it’s part in promoting them?!

    I do wish Kitley could get more breaks… you can really see her slow down in the fourth quarter.

    1. My one criticism of CKB is that he likes to RUTS, esp. against inferior teams. It’s why we have limited depth, and why core players are burnt out late in the season.

  4. Thanks David- great article as usual and an even greater effort by the ladies last night. Keep playing like this and my bet is they go far into the tournament. GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Superb play by the team, especially Amoore and Kitley. Amoore is a tremendous athlete! This was complete domination.

  6. Starting to play to your potential. Good job. Keep it up, dig deeper, and make it happen. You are even better than this.

  7. Duke’s game is basically to be as thuggish as possible.
    Great job ladies to be more physical than Duke.
    Keep being physical on D and you’ll go far in March

  8. “Control their own destiny” in the league? For what? I’m assuming you meant the double bye?

  9. Nice article David! Thanks. The ladies turned in a solid performance. Here is where it gets tricky. They should rightly be proud of tonight but, tomorrow is a new day. Come ready to work, remember what got you to this point but, avoid the big head because there is always someone right around the corner with a pin looking to pop it.

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