No. 14 Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball Struggles Mightily At Duke

Elizabeth Kitley and the Hokies started fast but struggled over the next three quarters at Duke. (Virginia Tech athletics)

DURHAM, N.C. — What started out as a good Thursday night quickly turned into a bad one for No. 14 Virginia Tech in its 63-46 loss at Duke.

The Hokies (13-4, 4-2 ACC) led 18-7 after the first quarter but were outscored 56-28 the rest of the way. They struggled to do anything in the second half and were held below 50 points for the first time since Jan. 2022 at NC State. It’s also its first time losing two consecutive games since the end of the 2021-22 season.

“The complexion of the game,” said Tech head coach Kenny Brooks about what changed after the first 10 minutes. “They got extremely physical and if you’re allowed to play that way, kudos to them, but just a physical game.”

After Tech got off to a roaring start, the Blue Devils (12-5, 4-2) cut into the deficit and made it a five-point game at the break. They came out of halftime on fire, too, and scored the first eight points of the second half to take the lead, which it never relinquished.

Duke outscored Tech 27-8 in a lopsided third quarter — the 19-point deficit is Tech’s worst period of basketball since the it was outscored by 19, 28-9, at Virginia in Jan. 2019 — that completely flipped the game on its head.

The Hokies appeared to be barely holding on at that point, frustrated by Duke’s pressure, and an injury to All-American point guard Georgia Amoore felt like the final blow. With 6:36 remaining in the period, she dove for a loose ball, was elbowed in the head and was slow to get up. Team trainer Erin Cash helped her to the locker room, and she did not return. Brooks did not have an update after the game.

It was three-point game when she left; Duke outscored Tech 34-18 afterwards. Her departure compounded things and the team’s lack of depth at that spot showed. Elizabeth Kitley, who led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds, scored on an out-of-bounds play once play restarted, but when Tech got back into running its set offense, it turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions.

The Hokies were 4-of-16 over the remaining 16-plus minutes with eight turnovers. For the game, they finished with 20, 13 of which came between the second and third periods.

That played right into Duke’s hands. A scrappy, physical team that likes to turn teams over and get out in transition, the Blue Devils took some time to find their rhythm, but once they did, Virginia Tech didn’t have an answer. They outscored Tech 19-0 on the break and 30-14 in the paint.

“I just felt like if we could grab ahold of the game a little bit, if we could get some stops…” Duke head coach Kara Lawson said. “And then the stops allow you to run. That’s what’s important for us. If we can get stops, we can get out and run. … And I think we’re at our best when we’re playing with great pace.”

Reigan Richardson was the best player on the floor and led Duke with 22 points (10-of-15), three steals, two rebounds and two assists. Ashlon Jackson joined her in double figures with 13 and played a crucial role — she had all eight of Duke’s points in the 8-0 run at the start of the second half that opened the floodgates.

While Tech didn’t fare well in the second, third and fourth, Duke flourished, making 22-of-45 shots (49%). Brooks opted to switch to a 2-3 zone in certain spots, but it didn’t work. In the middle two periods, the Blue Devils only had two moments where they missed two field goals in a row while attempting 28.

Cayla King and the Hokies couldn’t find a rhythm on either end, especially after Georgia Amoore went down. (Virginia Tech athletics)

The more Duke settled, the more rattled Tech became. It made four 3-pointers early — two from Amoore (six points), two from Cayla King (nine) — but was 1-of-12 over the final three periods. Even Kitley, who was 6-of-7 in the first half with 12 points, had a tough time after intermission. She was 3-of-11 in the second.

The way the game flowed had something to do with the inefficiencies too. The Blue Devils were more physical and energetic across the board than Tech but weren’t restricted. They shot 12 free throws to Tech’s 14, but the Hokies only attempted four in the first three quarters; in the fourth, they took 10. Duke was whistled for more fouls when the game was out of hand in down the stretch (nine) than the other three quarters combined (eight).

The Blue Devils were able to play their preferred style and Virginia Tech, no matter if Amoore played or not, could not match it for a variety of reasons.

“They took advantage of the way the game was going. Much credit to them. They took advantage of it,” Brooks said.

Brooks opted to roll with different lineups late and gave some time to freshmen Carleigh Wenzel, Carys Baker, Samyha Suffren and Clara Strack. Suffren had nine points, five of which came at the line, but as a whole, the group didn’t do much besides turn it over. The lone “bright spot,” if there was one, was Suffren, who drew six fouls in 17 minutes from attacking the basket. Brooks said she can help going forward.

Other than that, however, it was a bad performance. Losing Amoore for an undetermined amount of time is a nightmare scenario, and though the team has talent, it looked lost on both ends for long stretches of Thursday’s game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is a great defensive team that denies everything and frustrating to play against — Tech lost in Durham last season, too, and is 3-16 all-time there — but the Hokies struggled to even set up some halfcourt sets. Nothing came easy, as expected on the road in the ACC.

With 12 regular-season games remaining, Tech now has an opportunity to look in the mirror and reflect. It hosts Clemson (Sunday) and Georgia Tech (Thursday) before going back on the road on Jan. 28 to Syracuse, two chances to rally and right the ship in front of the home fans.

“You run into a game like this and that’s the complexion of the game, you have to learn how to adjust,” Brooks said. “That is on me. … But there’s a lot of basketball left. To win on the road… we were here last year and the same thing happened. We’ll go back and we’ll prepare. You just have to adjust, but this league is so tough, especially to win on the road. You can’t allow a game like this to discredit what you’ve done or who you are.”

Box Score: Duke 63, No. 14 Virginia Tech 46 

23 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. A bunch of Hokie fans who blow with the wind. When things get Tuff they start complaining. Look at the message boards after the football team was 1-3 . Some people are so intense about a bunch of kids . It’s obvious that our kids are struggling with more athletic, aggressive teams – that doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out . – But why go negative ?? Support them !! If you want to help – get to the next home games and scream your guts out in support of the girls . They need you .

  2. Great article as always David. I didn’t want to rehash what happened last night but your writing is too good. Thanks.

    1. No no. Someone needs to check with their nutritionists. Someone went wrong for the men and the
      women to both tank that bad!!!!

  3. Good or bad our offense is built around getting the ball in to Kitley. When a defense can deny this from happening either by fouling or rough play the only other aspect we have left is for Georgia to drive or shoot a 3. Last night many of the turnovers came while trying to force the ball inside. And then when Georgia got hurt our offense crumbled. As successful as that approach has been for VT, there is also a big downside of having the offense so focused on just 2 players. Normally players who aren’t involved with the teams offensive production aren’t able to produce when the production is up to them. Not sure the problem is solvable at this point.

  4. We got punched in the mouth and didn’t respond….

    Brooks better toughen up these girls or it’s going to be a very disappointing year.

    This one’s on him.

  5. Until we learn to “handle” teams with more speed than us, we will lose more games like last night and at FSU. Like David observed, and to me also, our ladies looked lost from early 2nd QT on.

    I hate it for Amoore since I expect she has nasty concussion that is not a quick recovery from.

    Good news is more games ahead, and I expect CKB to make adjustments to help us win.
    GO LADY HOKIES!!!!!!

  6. It seems playing tough is our Achilles heel. Let’s go Ladies!
    Hope our little Aussie is okay. We could surely use her back soon. Time for the bench to step up! Go Hokies!!!

  7. I was especially disappointed in Wenzel. Freshman or not, she threw the ball way numerous times, missed free throws, showed no hustle. I question why she is getting so much playing time.

  8. Freudian slip from Duke coach: “I just felt like if we could grab ahold….” Duke sure did plenty of grabbing and holding.

  9. They have not improved from last year. The number of layups we surrendered while the rest of the team watches is becoming so high that we can only beat teams where we clearly have more talent. How hard is it, spread the VT defense out and let a player drive to the basket for an easy layup? Heck, they were missing them at times-too wide open.

    The most appalling thing I saw was late in the game and Strack and another VT player let a smaller Duke player get a rebound right in between them. Strack’s feet never left the floor. Even if you are tall, you need to JUMP. The Duke player just wanted it more-and she got it.

    But, this team can improve. We all know how they can play when they really want to.

  10. Last 3 games looked awful. Played like they expected the other team to just give them the game. Nobody on the bench is providing the spark they need. Other teams guards drive to the basket at will and score. Lots of problems that are not being fixed. This team is not a top 20 team and a huge disappointment after all the hype. Next year will be just as bad, if not worse. Young players not stepping up and transfer players not meeting expectations. Was hoping that coach KB would be able to handle all the hype going forward and we would take the next step towards being a consistent top 10 team. Not gonna happen.

  11. Duke was called for more fouls (9) in the 4th than the first 3 quarters combined

    Like I said, refs padding the box score to make it look like it was called evenly

    1. Many on our message boards say that doesn’t happen while clearly it does. Once the game was in hand, even out the fouls. Duke’s style of play is to continuously foul and dare the refs to call them. They literally cannot call all of them, so they get away with most of them. This results in turnovers missed shots and other negative plays. My daughter, who doesn’t watch often asked why the Duke player guarding Kitley was able to have her hands on Kitley’s back pushing her the whole game. I had no answer other than to say the refs are bad at their jobs.

  12. Duke looked to play with aggression and VT played with a great deal of passivity. Brooks has got to this team going. It is on him

    1. They play with the demeanor of their coach and that does not involve a mean streak. Duke also plays with the demeanor of their coach which does.

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