No. 15 Virginia Tech scored 45 first-half points, held LIU to 13 in the same span and cruised to a 98-50 win on Wednesday night in Cassell Coliseum.
“Good win for us,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said afterwards. “At this stage of the year, just trying to stack games, stack good opportunities and good performances. Long time since our last outing so we had a lot of time to think about a lot of different things, a lot of time to figure out what’s needed from this group and challenge a lot of kids throughout the week, and I thought we got some positive responses.”
The Hokies (6-2) were led by a huge outing from Cayla King, who dropped a game-high 21 points on seven 3-pointers. The output was a season-high for the fifth-year senior, who struggled from behind the arc over the last two-plus weeks. It was her third career game with at least six threes.
Coming off last Thursday’s loss at LSU, after which Brooks said the team needed more consistent contributions, King’s performance, despite coming against a struggling LIU team (1-8), was a big positive.
“I think I was definitely hunting them a little bit more,” King said of her great night from long range. “Against LSU, I was kind of just waiting for it to come to me, but this game I was kind of looking for it. … For us to be good, I think I have to keep shooting. I can’t stop, even if I’m not having a good shooting game.”
King was complemented by Elizabeth Kitley, who finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added 10 rebounds, good for her 63rd career double-double. Georgia Amoore distributed the ball well too, dishing out 14 assists while turning it over just twice. She also added 10 points, good for her fourth career double-double.
It was the fifth career outing with double-digit assists for the Australian and her second of the year; she had a school-record 16 dimes against Houston Christian on Nov. 16.
“I think tonight, it’s not really a mindset that I go into like I’m going to pass every single time; it’s just when the opportunity presents itself,” Amoore said. “So I think I’ve matured a lot in that department and just have girls around me that can hit it all the time.”
That trio was joined in double figures by Carys Baker (18 points), Clara Strack (11) and Matilda Ekh (13). Baker was lethal from deep, knocking down four of her six 3-pointers, and finished 7-of-9 from the field for the game. Strack was 5-of-6 with six boards. Ekh made three of her six treys.
It was a career-high for Baker, a true freshman who hadn’t scored more than eight points before Wednesday. The West Hartford, Conn., native was ranked as the 58th-best recruit in the class of 2024, according to ESPN, and she finally got the chance to show out against the Sharks in 18 minutes. Her teammates took it as a positive sign, especially after Brooks’ comments in Baton Rouge.
“We need our freshmen,” King said. “Just to see her step up and hit those big shots, it’s good for her confidence and we have confidence in her.”
“We really challenged her,” Brooks said of Baker. “I thought she had good minutes against LSU. Had a rough week of practice, just because we really locked in and focused on the little things that she needed to do, but she responded well. … Carys shoots the ball as well as anybody on our team. One of the things that we’ve really been locking in with her is to just understand the little intricacies of the defensive end.”
As a team, the Hokies shot 54 percent from the field and had 30 assists on 37 baskets, breaking the record for most assists in a game in Cassell Coliseum. They also broke another arena record with 17 3-pointers on 35 attempts.
Some of that production came in transition. Though Virginia Tech only scored eight points on the break, it pushed the ball down the floor more than usual, something it practiced over the previous five days.
“We tried to play a little bit faster today,” Brooks said. “I’ve instructed Georgia to when she gets it, go, and if they don’t run with you, then I’ll get somebody in the game that will run with you. And that was a little bit better today as well.”
On the other end, the Sharks shot just 34 percent (19-of-56) and only made five of their 19 3-point attempts. Tech forced a season-high 19 turnovers and took away just about everything defensively. Brooks was pleased with the way the group used its strength and length to make plays, particularly early.
The Hokies’ starters played a good chunk of the minutes so Brooks could try out some new rotations. King was on the floor for a team-high 33 minutes while Amoore and Kitley played 31 and 29, respectively. The large margin — it was a 32-point game at intermission — allowed Tech to mix and match, and Brooks liked how the bunch answered the bell.
Up next for Tech is a New River Valley clash with Radford (2-7) on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET in Blacksburg. It’ll be the 39th all-time meeting between the Hokies and Highlanders. Tech has won the last 10 matchups and leads the series 29-9.
Box Score: No. 15 Virginia Tech 98, LIU 50