BATON ROUGE, La. — Though No. 9 Virginia Tech got off to a quick start on Thursday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, it couldn’t hang with No. 7 LSU for four quarters, losing 82-64.
“We’ve got to get better,” a frustrated and disappointed Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the loss. “It’s November. We’ll get better. … Just trying to build chemistry amongst each other so we understand where we need to be, but that’s what these games are for.”
Though the Hokies (5-2) led the Tigers (8-1) by seven, 20-13, after the first quarter, LSU roared back and outscored Tech 69-44 the rest of the way. The script flipped and Tech went cold from the field for a few moments, enduring a 1-of-11 stretch and a field goal drought over the final 4:50 in the second quarter.
At the same time, the Tigers put their foot on the gas. They ripped off runs of 7-0 and 8-0 in the second quarter and posted 22 points to Tech’s nine in the period. That propelled them out to a double-digit lead — they led by as many as 22 — and it never quite felt like the Hokies had a chance to complete the comeback. The closest margin in the second half was eight points.
“I think in the first quarter, they figured out that they were probably not playing as aggressive as they could,” Tech guard Georgia Amoore said of LSU, “and once they sniffed that out, they were playing pretty hard after that, and I think we didn’t adapt to that or adjust to it or even remotely really fight back.”
Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley had their typical good games — the former was 11-of-24 for 25 points while the latter had a double-double with 16 points (6-of-16 FG) and 11 rebounds — but there weren’t many contributions from other members. The next-highest scorer was Matilda Ekh with 11 points, but she didn’t reach double figures until the final minute.
Off her 16-point, 8-rebound performance against Tulane in the Cayman Islands, Olivia Summiel started her first game of the season, but she played just 11 minutes. Rose Micheaux picked up four fouls in 14 minutes and had six boards but two poor turnovers. Carleigh Wenzel made some freshman mistakes in her 10 minutes. Cayla King made just one shot in 30 minutes.
“It’s very concerning,” Brooks said. “Obviously, we need that third and fourth option that’s going to be consistent. We haven’t had that this year. Liz and Georgia are phenomenal players, but we can’t rely on their productivity to be at the highest without somebody else stepping up and contributing.”
Amazingly, Clara Strack fouled out in five minutes, and Kitley joined her in that situation in the fourth quarter. That was a bizarre moment since Brooks had the opportunity to take Strack off the floor after she was called for her fourth but did not. She’s the second-fastest Tech player to foul out of a game behind Shavena Johnson, who did so in four minutes in Dec. 1990 vs. Old Dominion.
Though the Hokies shot the ball better in the second half, making 15 of their 26 field goal attempts (58%), they struggled on the other end, allowing LSU to hit 19-of-31 (61%). For the game, the Tigers were 31-of-62 (50%).
DePaul transfer Aneesah Morrow was the best player on the floor and finished with 19 points (8-of-17) and 15 rebounds. Freshman Mikaylah Williams played well too, scoring a team-high 20. Flau’jae Johnson added 13 points and eight boards while Angel Reese chipped in 19 and nine in her first game back. Even Hailey Van Lith got in on the action with seven points and five assists.
There were only two instances where LSU missed back-to-back field goals. And though the Hokies were better after the break, they couldn’t crawl out of the hole they dug themselves into early in the game.
“Obviously, we’re going to miss shots, it’s just whether or not we let it affect us and carry over or not,” Amoore said. “Still have the utmost confidence in the girls that they will hit it, but we just need that aggression back.”
The discrepancies with rebounding and free throw shooting were large. LSU had 14 more boards, a battle it won 43-29, while it was 17-of-26 (65%) from the charity stripe. Tech couldn’t catch a break in that area, attempting just 11 foul shots, and was called for eight more fouls than the Tigers. Three Hokies had at least four personals while Reese was the only one for LSU.
“It kind of threw us off,” Brooks said. “I think Olivia Summiel got two fouls very quickly. Liz, Georgia and Cayla got a foul within the first maybe three minutes of the game. It makes you a little bit hesitant because you’re trying to feel the situation out. … I’m not going to sit here and say we don’t foul at all, but it was very confusing in how the game was going to be called and I think that really affected just what we were trying to do as far as our rotations down the stretch.”
Amoore kept Tech active in the second half, scoring 18 of her 25 after intermission, but she didn’t have enough help across the board. Threes didn’t fall — Virginia Tech was 4-of-21 — which contributed to the struggles. But it wasn’t a make-or-break performance; rather, it’s one the Hokies can look at and examine as to why they didn’t play well as a team.
They have some time before they turn the page — they’re not back at it until LIU on Wednesday, and they’ve still got a month until ACC play begins. That’s plenty of time to study film and correct mistakes from the previous outing, and there will be a number of opportunities for players to step up.
“We have to learn how to adjust to the circumstances,” Brooks said, “but again, with a very inexperienced group, opportunities like this will provide that for us and we’ll learn from it and get better.”
Amoore: “It is November and at the end of the day, we do have three returners, three people who know exactly what Coach Brooks wants, and we have nine other girls who don’t. And we need to figure out how to gel, play with chemistry, figure out our personality and who we are as a team. I don’t think we have that covered yet.”
Box Score: No. 7 LSU 82, No. 9 Virginia Tech 64