After three dominant home victories to open their 2022-23 season, #11 Virginia Tech Women's Basketball went outside of the country to the Bahamas to face their first tests of the season against Kentucky and Missouri. Unsurprisingly, the Hokies passed those tests with ease.
The Hokies opened their time in Nassau with an 82-74 win over Kentucky in a game that wasn't as close as the score would suggest before beating Missouri 73-57 with a dominant second half. The wins improve the Hokies to 5-0 with Tech potentially being a win over Longwood this Sunday away from jumping in the top 10 before they have their two toughest tests of the season against a pair of teams ranked in the preseason top 25, Nebraska (at home) and Tennessee (on the road) next week.
So how did the Hokies take care of business in the Bahamas?
Well they started about as strong as they could with a dominant 29-8 first quarter in their Bahamian opener against Kentucky led by a fast start from Ashley Owusu. From there, the Hokies hit cruise control and maintained their 15-20 point lead for most of the game before a late 10-0 run for the Wildcats starting just inside 2 minutes to go brought the Wildcats within 6.
It wasn't the prettiest game for the Hokies with Kentucky turning 20 VT turnovers into 27 points, the main reason why this game ended up being as close as it was. Outside of that, Tech controlled this game especially on the glass with a 19-10 second chance points advantage. Tech also went 20-26 at the free-throw line compared to 12-18 for Kentucky which proved important in the end.
Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth Kitley was the star of this opener with 25 points on an efficient 8-15 shooting plus 9-10 from the free-throw line plus 13 rebounds including 3 offensive ones and 3 blocks. Ashley Owusu played a big role also as she added 16 points on 6-12 shooting plus 6 rebounds while Taylor Soule added 15 points on 7-12 shooting plus 7 rebounds. Georgia Amoore had 14 points of her own while Kayana Traylor had 9 off the bench plus 7 assists, and Cayla King had a 3.
So could Tech keep it going in game 2 in the Bahamas?
Well they got off to a slow start actually being down 2 at halftime before having a dominant 23-9 third quarter where they took control of this game. Tech continued their dominance into the fourth quarter where the lead only briefly dropped out of double digits.
Dominance down low was key as the Hokies had a 30-18 points in the paint advantage plus an 11-6 offensive rebounding advantage that became a 15-5 second chance point advantage. Kitley once again led the way in the paint even if she didn't have her most efficient day having 17 points on 7-18 shooting and 3-4 at the free-throw line though she also added 10 rebounds for another double-double plus 2 blocks.
Tech cleaned up their turnovers as well with only 9 in this game including only 1 from point guard Georgia Amoore who also had 15 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds in a very good game for her. Kayana Traylor actually led the Hokies in scoring off the bench with 18 points on 5-9 shooting from the field and 7-8 from the free-throw line plus 6 reboudns and 4 assists. D'Asia Gregg added 8 points and 4 rebounds off the bench while Ashley Owusu had 6 points and 3 rebounds. Cayla King had 5 points and 3 rebounds while Taylor Soule had 4 points and 4 rebounds.
There's no doubt that the competition will continue to toughen for the Hokies next week when they face Nebraska and Tennessee, but Tech passed their toughest test yet with flying colors. They also did so with all 5 of their former All-American or All-Conference players being among the top 3 scorers in at least one of their games and only Soule failing to average double-digit points over the 2 games at 9.5. Combine that with Tech improving on some of their struggles against Kentucky, and this team has shown they are more than worthy of being a top 10 team with a chance to make their Final Four contender status clear next week.