For Virginia Tech, Magical Ride Comes To An End In Final Four vs. LSU

For Virginia Tech, its magical ride came to an end vs. LSU in the Final Four. (Liam Sment)

DALLAS — For the first time in over two months, Virginia Tech didn’t have an answer. In the Final Four on Friday night against LSU, the Tigers had more in the tank down the stretch and held off the Hokies, 79-72, advancing to the national championship.

“In a game of this magnitude when both teams are high level and there’s a lot of shot-making going on, you’ve got to make some of those shots to be able to survive and continue those runs,” Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the loss.

Leading by nine, 59-50, at the end of the third quarter, the Hokies were gashed open. They struggled to find their footing and didn’t have a response after being punched in the mouth. 

LSU (33-2) outscored them 29-13 over the final 10 minutes, which included a 15-0 run over three-plus minutes. Tech (31-5) was 2-of-10 from the floor with four turnovers in that span, a disappointing end to a historic season.

Cayla King, Taylor Soule and Elizabeth Kitley poured their heart and soul into this Virginia Tech program. (Liam Sment)

Over the course of the recent 15-game win streak that led to the program’s first-ever Final Four, Tech never flinched. But for the first time this year, it lost after leading at halftime. LSU was just too much to handle.

The Tigers were more aggressive, and VT couldn’t stop Alexis Morris, who scored 27 points (11-of-27), 15 in the second half. Angel Reese (24 points, 12 rebounds) and LaDazhia Williams (16 points, seven rebounds) also played big roles. And the glass became a problem. 

After winning the battle on the boards by 14 in the first half, 25-11, Tech was outrebounded by nine, 22-13, in the second. LSU had 10 offensive boards and finished with 24 second-chance points. Moreover, it dominated the paint, bodying the Hokies 54-14 down low. As Georgia Amoore explained it, “They just really took over with the intensity.”

“For so long, we were holding them to one shot,” Tech guard Cayla King said. “We were boxing out [while] in a zone, which honestly is really tough, especially with the players that they have. So, I think when you hold them to one shot, you have a good chance against them, but down the stretch, they got a few rebounds that led to buckets. 

Cayla King and the Hokies switched to a 2-3 zone, and it worked for a while vs. LSU. (Ivan Morozov)

“That’s their style of play, and they did that down the stretch.”

In the second and third quarters, the Hokies looked like their usual selves. They shot 54.8% in that 20-minute span (17-of-31) and took over. It started with the 2-3 zone defense they implemented and ended with good offensive sets in the halfcourt.

But it wasn’t sustainable. Even though four Tech players scored in double figures — Elizabeth Kitley (18 points), Amoore (17), Kayana Traylor (17) and King (14) all had buckets at big moments — it was a struggle to score in the clutch. The team missed 12 of its final 15 field goal attempts and couldn’t find a rhythm.

“I think we had a few crucial turnovers, as well as missed boxouts where they scored on second-chance opportunities,” Traylor said.

The season came to a disappointing end for Kayana Traylor and Virginia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

And like that, the Hokies’ magical run was over. Amazingly, for the first time in over 60 days, they lost.

Yet, while defeat may sting for quite some time, they’ll be remembered for all they achieved. Over the course of an unbelievable season, they set plenty of records and accomplished numerous firsts — 31 wins, a No. 1 seed, a Final Four appearance and an ACC championship among them.

When Brooks first arrived in Blacksburg, the program lacked a culture. There was no winning mentality. Virginia Tech was not thought of as a team that could win at the highest level.

The successes in 2021 and 2022 were great; in reality, though, they were stepping stones for what the group accomplished in 2023. And now, Tech has credibility. It’s a cool destination for talented players who want to shine in women’s basketball. Taylor Soule and Traylor transferred to Tech and showed that the highest level of success was possible. 

The successes in 2021 and 2022 were great; in reality, though, they were stepping stones for what the group accomplished in 2023. (Ivan Morozov)

Decisions will be made in the near future. While the collegiate careers of Soule, Traylor and D’asia Gregg are done, Kitley and King have the option to return. Amoore potentially could be with the Hokies through 2025. And because of what the group accomplished, the heights it reached, everything — the good and bad — will be watched with a closer eye by those around the country.

But that’s what that kind of success does — it vaults the school into the spotlight. The Hokies are there now, despite falling short of playing in the national championship. King said it best: “It just puts Virginia Tech back on the map.”

“We understand how hard it is,” Brooks said. “… We cherished it, we enjoyed it. But now we really do want to try to put together something that can get back here.”

Box Score: LSU 79, Virginia Tech 72 

27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. A heartbreaking loss, but still proud of this team. Coach Brooks tried to put on a good face in the interview after the game, but you could tell the loss hurt him, as well as the players. But he’ll learn from this and be better prepared going forward.

    Coach Mulkey said in her post game interview, when she called timeout at the start of the fourth quarter, she told her team that they only had two minutes to tie the game and not eight or ten minutes. So they played like gangbusters with nothing to lose for two minutes and almost tied the game. Then she called timeout again and told her team they had only two minutes to take the lead, and so they did that. At the next timeout, she told them they had two minutes to expand the lead, and so they did that. Her two minute scheme worked out pretty well. It looks like the old gal’s got a trick or two up her sleeve.

  2. We will be back next year with kitley and Amoore and I bet we get some high talent from the portal! Go Hokies!

    1. We have 4 espn top 100 players coming in which is tied for the most in nation with nc state, yes more thanStanford, s.c, lsu the program will keep moving with the coaching and patience of brooks also hope kitley and king come back, we will see….,

  3. This team has given us all a great deal to enjoy and be proud of. And, while certainly their superb play was exciting, and their resilience was heartening – finding so many ways to overcome challenges that came up along the way – it also made me so proud of them as Hokies the way they comported themselves with grace and class at the end. As they walked off the court, their demeanor wasn’t that of defeat but of having done the best they could, the best we could have asked of them or that they could have asked of themselves. Were there moments where we all might have wished something went a little differently? Certainly – but even those can be seen as what inevitably has to happen when a team has stretched so far and so well for so long that something has to give.

    Thanks so much to this Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball team of 2022-23!!!

  4. These kids have been great players but even better representatives of our University. They will be remembered for a very long time, and deserve a big welcome when they return home. Had they somehow hung on to win I really think they would have had a good chance of beating Iowa with the kind of defense they have played over the last 1/2 of the season. We were really close to winning it all.
    All of the Tech athletic teams need to kick it up a notch and go for the national championships. Its time to end our drought for the national championships in all sports.

    1. That is what I saw was a high class bunch, just watch teams from sec, not as much class , go back and watch player introduction lsu was a joke with the attitudes they showed.again brooks goes after high character kids which is very important to most hokies.

  5. So proud of this team and the coach. They were actually so much fun to watch play. Thank you and Thank you again.

  6. “After winning the battle on the boards by 11 in the first half, 25-11, Tech was outrebounded by nine, 22-13, in the second.”

    May need to recheck the math.

  7. When they went up by 12 I thought “I think they got this”
    The 20% shooting and TO in the 4th was not normal and LSU had changed tactics that they couldn’t stop.
    I’m not smart enough on hoops because I suck at it. But at the end I shed a tear as I really wanted this team to win. Not just because they are Hokies, but Sheppard, King, Amoore & Kitley got me through Covid. I started watching them in empty arenas playing their hearts out. That is when they became not just a team but part of my extended family.
    I’m still sad, but I’ll get over it. This team has given me so much pleasure over the last 3 years. I have high hopes and look forward to seeing them play come December. I assume you will be presented your ACC rings at the ODU or Purdue game this fall.

    GO HOKIES!!!

  8. The refs didn’t cost us this game….Poor shooting and at least a little “running out of gas” in the 4th quarter did. BUT, these girls and this staff have SO much to be proud of. They have shown what being a champion looks like and I could not be more proud of them!!! Congratulations to a winning team filled with winning people.

    1. Granted the refs were better in this game but they still were awful and did play a role in the momentum swing.On one play Gregg had boxed out, the LSU player went over her back and knocked her to the ground for the rebound and then scored. No foul called! Another occasion King went up for a rebound and got undercut. No foul called but King was called for walking. That’s a potential 8-12 point swing. We lost by less! Refs almost never call fouls for over the back and rarely call fouls for people fouling prior to the refs’ favorite “jump ball” calls. That doesn’t even address the abuse Kitley faced. Face it, the way the girls’ game is presently called, “thuggery” wins over talent most times!!!!

  9. The biggest issue is that VT went away from involving kitley on offense. It became the jack up 3s show. The focus in comments is on lsu rebounding and 2nd chance shots, but if you ate not scoring….we had prayer working on a double-double and we failed to involve her. She could have gotten people in foul trouble

    Traylor and kitley were the mvps of the 1st have

    Soule needed to be more under control in crowds. Her spin moves into two people because a teammate id too close leads to awkward shots.

    Proud of run and accomplishments. Given the lack of playing time for anyone else, i am concerned what happens of several depart. But that is an issue for next year

  10. When looking back, the accomplishments will be awesome inspiring. Great team. Great coach and staff. Great season. Go Hokies.

  11. The entire Hokie Women’s Basketball operation is “class personified” from the Head Coach down to the manager! The manner in which our girls handled their business on the court and in press conferences was something to behold in todays society. So proud to be a Hokie!!!

  12. Proud of this team. So much fun to watch them play – and how they have played and acted the entire season. Ditto for Coach Brooks.

    It’s unfortunate that in almost every sport the officiating has degraded significantly – for many reasons. The worst part is that it’s been very inconsistent. This was evident as the officials instituted their” no foiul – let them play” calling last night.

    I watched the USC-East vs UMD game. UMD plays a ‘physical’ style very similar to USC- east. They’re bangers. During the game the UMD players were getting pounded – but they were getting called for fouls at the other end. During a timeout – Brenda Freese – the UMD coach – was discussing with the sideline ref some things – which led her to threw out her hands and say (reading her lips) – “a foul is a foul!!!”. This is the problem with women’s college basketball. The refs let the games get too physical because they don’t want it to be ‘sissy girls’ basketball – then they have lost control of the games.

    In any case – watching Caitlin Clark play is always a treat. .

  13. Great season. Still think Kitley was mauled in many games and several obvious fouls not called. The SEC with all its billions of dollars will continue to have things called their way. Just my opinion.

    1. I agree….almost.

      I’m Proud of the Tech season, Tech players, and Tech coaches…..but Tech units need to develop that SEC gear….that killer instinct. We can stay classy but We need to be able to get Grimy too. That’s how you beat Bama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU or South Carolina Gamecocks on a 40+ game winning streak. Caitlin Clark just showed us what it takes to slay dragons….got be winning to be a villain and get grimy.

      Just like that say in Nascar……Rubbing is Racing.

  14. I agree with all stated above. Proud of these players and coaches, proud of our fans, proud to be a Hokie.

  15. The magic ran out late against a great team, but VT has never had a coach , staff and players who made me any more proud to be a Hokie. I thank them all for this season.

    1. The way these ladies carried themselves through the season makes me proud to wear the maroon and orange. They are the class of Virginia Tech!

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