The 1 seed Virginia Tech Hokies may have been a little rusty given that they haven't played in almost two weeks since winning the ACC Tournament, but they took care of business beating 16 seed Chattanooga 58-33 in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Women's Tournament. Here's a look at my three takeaways from the Hokies' opening round victory.
1. Offense Shows Rust But Finds Fourth Quarter Rhythm
Virginia Tech's offense was a little up-and-down for the first 30 minutes of this game putting together a 17-0 run that took a 9-minute stretch and was in large part due to impressive defense.
However, the Hokies hit their stride in the fourth quarter as they went 6-10 from the field with only 3 turnovers. More importantly, their offense looked like it was firing on all cylinders.
Postgame, Tech players recognized that there was some rustiness to their play, but also were encouraged by how they played in the fourth quarter.
"We spent the break practicing and playing against each other, but obviously it's different when you're playing games. And I think the first few minutes, we had to smooth out those wrinkles," Amoore said. "And in the final (quarter), obviously we kind of got ourselves together. We have to continue to do that, get our tempo up to speed and really sharp, that's when we're really dangerous."
They also know that even with the momentum boost, their offense has to play better Sunday.
"I think we take the momentum and move forward. I think this was an okay game for us, just rusty. We're not completely satisfied with it. We know that we need to come out better Sunday," Traylor said.
Tech may not have been as good as they've been on the offensive end, but the Hokies finished the game looking like the offensive team they were prior to the nearly two-week break between games.
2. Defense Continues to Play Well
Virginia Tech's defense may not get the spotlight like their efficient offense, but the Hokies' now 12-game winning streak has been due in large part to their defense.
That strong defense continued last night with the Hokies holding the Mocs to only 33 points on 28.6% (14-49) shooting from the field while forcing 15 turnovers and plenty of shot clock violations. The Mocs are now the third team that the Hokies have held under 45 in their last 4 games along with Miami and Duke and fifth team they've held under 60 in their past 6 games.
So what has helped the Hokies take their defensive game to the next level lately?
"When we communicate, our defense is really good," Liz Kitley said. "But also when we're helping in each other in gaps, we don't always have to go one-on-one, we can help each other and be there for each other."
Tech also feels that their defense has been a great catalyst for their highly-efficient offense.
"The second half of this season, I think we've really prided ourselves on our defense," Cayla King said. "Our defense is a lot of times a catalyst for our offense so knowing that still, even though we were still a little bit rusty on offense, having the defense as one of our staples I think is good knowing that we still have that attack."
Even with this strong defensive performance, the Hokies feel they can still do better on the defensive end.
"We held them to 33 points, but we know that we can do better on defense too. We need to talk more and have more energy too," Kitley said.
The fact that this team feels they still haven't reached their defensive peak is a scary thought to everyone who may stand in the way of the Hokies going forward.
3. D'Asia Gregg Doesn't Need to Score to Make a Difference
When you hear that D'Asia Gregg didn't score a single point, you may be thinking that she didn't do much tonight.
However, the exact opposite was true as she made a difference in a lot of areas especially on the glass as she had 11 rebounds while also adding 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.
While some players might shut down when they're not scoring or even getting many chances to score, Gregg seems to step her game up.
So how does she stay locked in and embrace playing a big role that may not involve her scoring? Here's what she had to say after the victory.
"Energy and effort, just giving my teammates everything even if it's not scoring whether it's defending, rebounding, anything the team needs I'm there to do it," Gregg said.
Gregg has brought a lot to this team in key areas making an impact on the final score even when she isn't the one directly scoring points.