No. 8 Virginia Tech got off to a quick start in its 94-55 drubbing vs. High Point in Monday’s season opener, scoring 38 first-quarter points in the win.
“With a group that nine kids have never played for you, seven have never suited up before today, you just didn’t know what to expect,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the win. “There were a lot of sleepless nights this week just trying to figure out how they were going to perform, and to get one under our belt, it’s sweet satisfaction. The win is great, but just to see what they were going to do when the lights turned on. I was very pleased.”
The Hokies (1-0) couldn’t miss in the first 10 minutes, shooting 14-of-16 from the floor. Preseason All-American and two-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley scored the team’s first six points, which got the fire going. She finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds (12-of-17), good for her 57th career double-double. 14 of her points came in the first period.
Tech hit four of its six 3-pointers in the opening quarter, two of which came from Michigan State transfer Matilda Ekh. She, Georgia Amoore and Cayla King each scored in double figures with 15, 14 and 14, respectively, and combined for nine threes.
Amoore was extremely impressive with nine assists to just one turnover, while Ekh had five rebounds. King was solid all around with two rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“Georgia played a phenomenal game,” Brooks said. “… She had us going and we really had a good flow, she’s finding people, shooters. Cayla King did a really good job, Matilda Ekh, I think she’s going to continue to show how valuable she can be to us.”
The Panthers (0-1) never really stood a chance. Though Big South Preseason Player of the Year Lauren Bevis scored 15 points and was 8-of-8 from the foul line, including the first two points of the night for High Point, Tech runs of 7-0 and 10-0 busted the game wide open, pushing the Hokies’ lead to 20 points.
Tech stifled High Point defensively, holding the preseason Big South favorites to 31% from the floor and just 18 field goals. From the outside, the Panthers were 3-of-16.
“I’ve been preaching it every day,” said Brooks of the group’s communication defensively. “And it has to be more specific than just communicate. You have to be specific in your communication. You can’t just say, ‘Screen.’ You need to say, ‘Screen, left, Carleigh’ so that we’re all on the same page.
“Last year, we had the luxury where the chemistry got to be so good, they would read each other and they didn’t really have to say much. With this group, we have to say a lot, so I told them, ‘Give full sentences.’”
It wasn’t a perfect game for the Hokies, who had 12 turnovers to 17 assists, but they took care of business. Their shooting cooled off after the first quarter; over the next three periods, they were 21-of-45 (46%), a drop-off from their mark of 87.5% in the first quarter.
Still, hot starts will help. Brooks sure wouldn’t say no to one on Thursday night when Tech squares off with Caitlin Clark and No. 3 Iowa in Charlotte. He mentioned he wasn’t pleased after the preseason scrimmage against Richmond, and his team had some very intense practices over the last week. That paid off early on Monday night.
“We didn’t play as well as I liked and it was against a team that was pretty similar,” Brooks said of the scrimmage against the Spiders. “… So this week, I barked at them more this week than I did the whole summer and fall combined, and it was really trying to get that point across that we have to be more specific, we have to be a little bit tougher, we have to be a little bit stronger.
“I thought we were soft in our scrimmage. … It was a tough week that led up to my sleepless nights, but then to watch them come out today and communicate and do the little things we talked about, I’m going to take some NyQuil tonight and I’m going to sleep for a long time.”
Brooks got a good look at some of the other newcomers against High Point, too. Virginia Tech used 10 different players; all of them scored.
Outside of the four aforementioned starters, Minnesota transfer Rose Micheaux got her first action in Blacksburg at the power forward spot. She started and added six points (3-of-5) and eight rebounds, though she turned it over five times. Wake Forest transfer Olivia Summiel also got on the board, scoring four points while grabbing eight boards.
Four other players saw action: redshirt freshman Carleigh Wenzel and true freshmen Clara Strack, Carys Baker and Samyha Suffren. Wenzel, the San Antonio native, ran point for part of the fourth quarter with Amoore on the bench and scored seven points (3-of-4) and added four blocks.
Baker recorded three points, which came on a 3-pointer in the third quarter. Suffren scored two points, both of which came at the free throw line, as did Strack via a layup with 12 seconds left in the game.
“They all care so much and they all get so nervous,” Kitley said of the new faces. “So it’s nice to see them in a game setting just doing what they do. I was really happy for Carleigh tonight; she was able to leave her mark. Obviously, she was with us last year and had to watch so much, and I think she showed that she learned from that experience.”
The Hokies now turn their attention to the Hawkeyes, who they face on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for the third time in program history. Like Tech, Iowa is coming off a Final Four appearance after coming up short against LSU in the national championship game.
Box Score: No. 8 Virginia Tech 94, High Point 55