Another day, another victory for the #9 Virginia Tech women’s basketball team, this time beating the Tulane Green Waves, 76-70, in day 2 of the Cayman Islands Classic.
The Hokies found themselves in another close game, in which there were 12 lead changes, and Tulane even leading at halftime. However, Virginia Tech once again showed poise down the stretch with a combination of big stops, solid free-throw shooting, and a few timely buckets.
The Hokies jumped out to a four-point lead in the first quarter. However, the Green Wave responded in the second quarter with their best quarter of the entire game, where they knocked down about 58% of their shots to gain a two-point halftime edge over the Hokies.
Just as the second quarter was all Tulane, the third quarter was all Virginia Tech, as the Hokies knocked down five of their 10 three-point attempts in that quarter. Despite an early fourth quarter surge from Tulane to cut the lead to just one point with about two minutes to go, the Hokies once again weathered Tulane’s storm, which was led by 26 points from Kyren Whittington, to pull away in the last few seconds and notch a six-point victory.
Whether due to Tulane’s defensive scheme or a new offensive focus from Kenny Brooks, it was clear that Virginia Tech was getting up three pointers at a much greater volume than they had in prior games. In the two most recent games, versus UNCG and Kansas, the Hokies took only 32 threes combined, knocking down 8 of them. In contrast, Virginia Tech took 32 threes in this game, versus Tulane, railing 10 of them.
Obviously, Kenny Brooks' team will take whatever their opponent gives them, so their offensive scheme will come on a game by game basis. However, don’t be surprised if the Hokies look to continue incorporating the three pointer more than they had to start the season.
With Elizabeth Kitley’s inside dominance, teams are going to have no choice but to collapse when she gets the ball in the paint, which should lead to many opportunities for shooters such as Georgia Amoore, Cayla King, and Matilda Ekh in an inside-outside style of offense.
Cayla King went 3-13 from behind the arc, taking more threes in just this game than the entire team did versus Kansas. Despite her inefficiency in this game, King’s volume shooting is a welcome sign for Hokie faithful, as Tech searches for who is going to step up behind Amoore and Kitley. While the shots weren’t falling against Tulane, Cayla King is an excellent shooter and will no doubt knock down shots at a higher clip throughout the rest of the season. King ended the contest with 11 points to go along with four boards.
Perhaps the biggest storyline from the game, however, is Wake Forest transfer Olivia Summiel’s breakout performance. Although Summiel hadn’t scored a ton through the first five games of the season, it was only a matter of time before the fifth year veteran would contribute, and against Tulane, she did just that, dropping 16 points and eight rebounds on 3-5 from behind the three-point line. While Kenny Brooks tends not to go too deep on his bench, the Hokies are still in need of a consistent 6th woman, and for at least this one game, Summiel played the role perfectly.
While Elizabeth Kitley had her usual superb performance, dropping 18 points and eight rebounds on an incredibly efficient 9-12 from the field, the MVP for the Hokies was no doubt Georgia Amoore. Amoore went for 24 points, seven assists, and five rebounds on 9-16 from the field, 3-8 from downtown, and 3-4 from the charity stripe.
After struggling with turnovers against Kansas, and struggling to find her jumper over the last two games, Amoore did an excellent job controlling the game and knocking down shots against Tulane. And when the Hokies really needed a bucket, Amoore provided, knocking down a dagger, in the form of a one-legged step back mid-range, to put the Hokies up four with about 25 seconds left, before knocking down two free throws in the closing seconds to truly seal the deal. In a season that has already featured three games that have come down to the wire, having a clutch player like Georgia Amoore to close out basketball games could make all the difference for the Hokies this season.
Tech now shifts their focus to Thursday's Final Four rematch and top 10 showdown in Baton Rouge against LSU. The Hokies will be hungry to avenge last year's loss while the Tigers will be motivated, but also have lots of confusion around them given the unknown reasons for Angel Reese's absence.