Photo Credit: Liam Sment
Virginia Tech faces a tall task Tuesday night as the team takes on two seed and reigning national champion Baylor in the round of 32 of the NCAA Women's Tournament.
Virginia Tech is coming off a 70-63 victory over 10 seed Marquette in the first round on Sunday. The win marked the first NCAA victory for the Hokies since 2006 and the first of the Kenny Brooks era.
Elizabeth Kitley put on a show against Marquette, scoring 23 points in addition to eight rebounds and three blocks. Azana Baines accounted for 15 points while Georgia Amoore added 13.
Baylor advanced to the round of 32 following its 101-52 win over 15 seed Jackson State. Senior guard Moon Ursin racked up 24 points in the victory, while junior forward NaLyssa Smith posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Baylor finished the regular season with an impressive 26-2 overall record, finishing first in the Big 12 with a 17-1 record in conference play. Baylor also won the Big 12 Tournament following a dominant win over West Virginia in the championship game, 76-50.
Key to the game for Virginia Tech: Be aggressive in the paint early
The Hokies scored over half of their total points in the paint against the Golden Eagles, racking up 38 points there. When Virginia Tech finds success down low, it opens up the rest of the offense.
It will be critical for the Hokies to kick it inside to Kitley and allow her to work against one-on-ones in order to get the offense moving early. Baylor is an extremely talented team and Virginia Tech might not be able to keep up if the team falls behind early on.
Key to the game for Baylor: Execute a dynamic zone defense
Virginia Tech’s offense thrives when it’s able to get the ball into the post and work from there. When defenders collapse to the paint, the Hokies like to dish it out to open shooters from range.
Marquette showed early in Sunday’s game that playing an aggressive zone can cause problems for Virginia Tech on offense. If Baylor can quickly collapse down to cover the post and then run out to cover the shooters from behind the arc, it could put a wrench in the Hokies offensive production.
Baylor has gotten out to quick leads all year and dominated teams for the remainder of games. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has taken time to settle into most of their games, causing concern against a team like Baylor. If the Hokies start out hot off the tip, they could take control of the game before the first quarter ends.
Despite only having one ranked win all season, Virginia Tech has given some of the best teams in the country a run for their money, even in losses. In the Hokies’ two defeats against then No. 2 Louisville and No. 2 N.C. State, they fell by a combined six points.
While I expect Baylor to ultimately come out on top, I think Virginia Tech will keep it competitive throughout the course of the game.