#8 Virginia Tech and #3 Iowa put together a thrilling display of basketball tonight that showed why both teams are considered national title threats once again. It was a back and forth game during the first half with the Hokies playing catch up for much of the second half coming close plenty with the Hawkeyes having just enough to hold on at the end.
The Hokies fell to the Hawkeyes 80-76, with Tech falling to 1-1 on the season while Iowa improved to 2-0. Tech will return to action next Thursday against Houston Christian in Cassell Coliseum at 6pm.
This was a game defined in part by surprised shooting numbers with Tech outshooting the Hawkeyes from 3 going 13-34 (38.2%) while Iowa shot 6-26 (23.1%) from three. Tech sold out on Clark at times and tried to make Iowa beat them with their other shooters though inevitably, Clark
Meanwhile, Iowa was dominant in the paint with plenty of great drives and low-post ball movement having 42 points in the paint compared to 20 for the Hokies.
Iowa did a particularly good job of making it difficult for the Hokies to get the ball to Kitley in the first half holding her to 6 points as she struggled to get many non-second chance opportunities.
One of the biggest issues for Tech in this game was their transition defense as Iowa, going with smaller, more athletic lineups took advantage putting up 21 fastbreak points compared to 0 for Iowa. The Hawkeyes didn't need a turnover to make something happen in transition in either with a few buckets coming on transition-created opportunities off made buckets by the Hokies.
Georgia Amoore was a star in this game for the Hokies with 31 points including 18 in the first half while shooting 10-23 from the field, including 7-14 from three-point range with those of being a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the first quarter. She also added three assists and one rebound in this game.
On a night where Liz Kitley was held scoreless in the second and third quarters, Amoore stepped up and kept the Hokies right in this game to the very end.
Kitley had an up and down game with 16 points on 7-16 shooting plus 16 rebounds, three blocks and three assists. Kitley went cold during the middle 20 minutes of this game being held scoreless before keeping the Hokies right there in the fourth quarter even as Caitlin Clark heated up.
Carleigh Wenzel showed why she should be a future star with 11 points in 17 minutes tonight. With Cayla King in foul trouble in the first quarter, Wenzel came in and immediately played with tons of face draining a three early with Caitlin Clark on her while adding a pair of and-one layups on her way to those 11 points. Though did she foul in this game, the redshirt freshman guard looked like a difference maker who can make a big impact for the Hokies this season and be a star down the road.
Olivia Summiel made a big impact off the bench despite her struggles shooting with eight rebounds but only two points on 1-7 shooting. Cayla King deal with lots of foul trouble in this game limiting her to six points in 18 minutes. Matilda Ekh also had some difficulty with foul trouble and a cold shooting night with seven points on 3-11 shooting, but she did add seven rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
Rose Micheaux surprisingly was held to only seven minutes in this game including 0 in the second half after starting this game, finishing with only one rebound. True freshman Carys Baker got 13 minutes in this game finishing with three points and four fouls as one of four Hokies who had 4+ fouls along with King, Ekh, and Wenzel who fouled out.
Caitlin Clark was the biggest star in this game for the Hawkeyes putting up 44 on 13-31 from the field including 5-16 from three-point range plus 13-17 from the free-throw line plus eight rebounds and six assists. Hannah Stuelke was big on both ends in the frontcourt for Iowa with 12 points and four rebounds while giving Kitley fits in this game. Kate Martin added 10 points while Sydney Affolter had two points plus 14 rebounds.
There will be plenty of disappointment for the Hokies, but they should plenty of toughness to fight back again and again even as things didn't go right for them and foul trouble proved problematic. In the process, both teams showed why they are each rightly considered national title contenders this year. This was also a great early barometer for the Hokies to see where they are strong and where they need to improve with another massive challenge looming at LSU in a few weeks.
Additionally, this was a great celebration of women's college basketball and the exciting game that has grown in popularity. Virginia Tech had an impressive fan turnout with probably 60-70% of the fans here in Charlotte being Hokies, showing how much Tech fans have bought into Kenny Brooks' program. That's a great sign of the growth that women's basketball has seen at Virginia Tech in a way that should be lasting similar to the growth of wrestling fandom under Kevin Dresser that has shown staying power with Tony Robie at the helm of the program.