Fresh off of a 107-62 defeat at No. 13 Florida State on Jan. 14, Virginia Tech women’s basketball could have used a reprieve in their schedule. Instead, the Hokies hosted No. 15 Duke on Thursday night, and faltered down the stretch in a 86-75 defeat.
“During shootaround, against the 15th-ranked team in the country, you have to come in and you have to be totally locked in. We were locked in for about 75 percent of our shootaround, and I expressed my displeasure with them, and it kind of comes out and we played well about 75 percent of the time,” head coach Kenny Brooks said. “It’s a direct correlation. You have to carry that stuff over to be one of the better teams in this league.”
Taylor Emery led the way for Virginia Tech, finishing with 30 points on 12-19 shooting. Alexis Jean added 17 points, while freshman guard Aisha Sheppard scored 10 points.
Virginia Tech’s defense struggled for most of the night, allowing the Blue Devils to shoot 51.6 percent from the field and 10-20 from three. Haley Gorecki hit seven three-pointers on her way to a 28-point outing, while leading scorer Lexie Brown dropped 23 points.
The game hinged in the second quarter. With Duke leading 27-22 early in the quarter, Virginia Tech sparked a 15-2 run, and an Emery three-pointer gave the Hokies a 30-27 lead with 4:51 left in the period. Tech extended the lead eight points with 1:34 left in the half, and seemed to have taken control.
That momentum swung right back to the Blue Devils in the remaining minute-and-a-half. Duke finished the second quarter on an 8-0 run, and Duke’s Lexie Brown nailed a three at the buzzer to tie the game at 37-37.
“I think mentally, we just lost focus,” said Regan Magarity, who finished the night with six points and 13 rebounds. “They’re a good team, and they’re going to hit some tough shots, but we need to be able to focus on what we’re doing and stick to the gameplan, execute, and finish out the half or finish out a quarter.”
“I thought the finish in the second quarter leading up to halftime was critical,” Brooks said. “We had an 8-point lead and allowed them to tie it back up. I thought the momentum really swung in their favor from that point on.”
Duke’s run snatched momentum right before halftime, and held onto it for the remainder of the game. The Blue Devils put up 31 points in the third quarter alone, including an 11-0 run, and led 68-55 entering the fourth. Virginia Tech was able to hold serve in the fourth, but couldn’t get on a run to get back within striking range.
“They just came out ready, and we didn’t,” Emery said. “We weren’t there defensively. They would come out for a shot and be wide open, and we would come out for a shot and be covered. They were just focused and we weren’t.”
Virginia Tech women’s basketball has now lost three of their last four, and are now 13-6 on the season. The Hokies are 2-4 in the ACC, and have to travel to Charlottesville to take on in-state rival Virginia on Sunday, Jan. 21. The ‘Hoos are 12-7 this season and 5-1 in the ACC.
“We really just have to, honestly, I know I keep saying focus but we really just have to get focused,” Emery said. “We have a lot where we come out ready and we compete, and we just lose focus at halftime. We really need to be able to start keeping our minds in it, and that’s how we’re going to come out with a win in the ACC.”