Add the first appearance in the Elite Eight to the list of feats accomplished by the 2023 Virginia Tech women’s basketball squad. Saturday night’s 73-64 victory over Tennessee was earned in every sense. Once again, the Hokies built up a sizable lead but allowed the Lady Vols to crawl back into the game.
While a good team could’ve folded and relinquished the lead, elite teams don’t, proving why Tech has made it this far. From the tip to the final buzzer, it was the excellent play of the Hokies' backcourt, Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor, that paved the way for Tech to get past Tennessee and make history. Here is how they did it.
Setting The Tone
From the jump, Tech set a strong tone, jumping out to a 9-0 run in the first few minutes. Amoore and Traylor established themselves early by scoring the Hokies' first two baskets. Amoore’s career night began with some splendid off ball play. The Aussie sprints from one wing to the other, daring her defender to chase her around Taylor Soule, who sets a wide screen to free up the open look. Amoore catches, plants, and turns and fires into her first of four three point hits.
A play later, Tech goes into an action they love for Traylor. Kitley sets a down screen for Traylor, who moves from the wing to the top of the key. The play is designed to give Traylor a runway to either attack the hoop or make a pass to an open perimeter player if help comes.
In this case, Traylor has an open lane thanks to great spacing and nice movement by Soule which brings the help side defender out of the paint. Traylor makes a sharp turn straight to the rim and finishes with a pretty scoop layup over a taller defender.
Speaking of setting the tone, how about this set to open up the second quarter. It starts off in a horns alignment where Amoore pitches the rock to Kitley. Amoore then comes off a quick back screen and release by D’Asia Gregg who then pops out for the ball. Traylor lifts up for the ball to set up Tech’s next wrinkle in the set.
Amoore and Kitley then engage to the same area, with Georgia setting a guard screen on Liz’s defender. Traylor dumps it into Kitley, who draws in both defenders which leaves Amoore open on the slip and she does the rest.
Tech only scored five points in transition (Vols had two), but both plays happened to be examples of the great on-court chemistry Traylor and Amoore share. In clip one, Amoore hauls in a tough rebound, one of six on the day, and accelerates to break past the herd of Volunteers. Traylor follows suit and together, their speed creates a two-on-one break. Amoore waits for the lone defender to fully shift in her direction before flicking a bounce pass that Trayor grabs in stride and lays up for two.
In clip two, Traylor initiates a break with a full head of steam. Sidenote, both Amoore and Traylor's quickness and pace with the ball in their hands comes in handy later on when Tech has to survive Tennessee’s press defense. For now, the Hokies have a three-on-two advantage. Traylor spots a dashing Amoore on the opposite wing, fits the ball right into her shooting pocket, and that one is automatic for Amoore.
The Australian Assassin
Georgia Amoore is known for her high volume and versatile outside shooting package. However, the 5’6'' point guard proved she has a lot more in her arsenal, picking the Lady Vols apart from every level.
For example, here is an isolation possession where Amoore loses her dribble momentarily before keeping the ball on a string and regaining control. Amoore’s speed with the ball and low center of gravity helps her blow by the bigger defender. Amoore picks the ball up and sweeps it from right to left which disallows a paint defender from knocking the ball loose. To complete the play, Amoore scoops an offhand layup with precision off the glass.
Surprisingly enough, Amoore wasn’t done with her theatrics off the window.
Soule sets a high ball screen for Amoore to work with. Georgia zooms by her primary defender who goes over the screen and engages the drop defender. After Amoore moves parallel with Jasmine Franklin, she gives her a slight arm jab and launches herself airborne. Amoore uses her right hand while fading away on the left side of the court and gets the incredibly tough shot to fall. Amoore’s outstanding use off the glass helped her go 5-7 on non-three point field goals.
Although Amoore shot 4-14, 28% from behind the arc, this play is too darn cool to not spotlight.
To start off, Jordan Horston challenges Georgia by pressing closer after initially sagging off. Amoore tests Horston with a fake crossover move and once Gregg’s screen comes, she does it again.
Finally, Amoore does come off the screen and Franklin switches out to defend Amoore. As soon as Franklin engages on the switch, Amoore goes to work off the dribble. She pulls the rug out with a silky left to right crossover move into a step back three from deep range. Amoore’s shifty and deceptive ball handling was an issue for the Lady Vols all game long.
In pressers and postgame interviews, Georgia Amoore has talked about how part of her continued success comes from just simply reading what the defense gives her. To illustrate that dynamic here are two plays with similar setups but different results. Both plays involve a Gregg screen angled to the middle followed by a Kitley screen to get Amoore moving in the other direction.
In clip one, Gregg vacates the space at the top to move into the corner, making it more of a two-on-two player action. Kitley sets a solid screen and Amoore faces a drop defender to which she pulls into a jumper from long two range and connects.
In clip two, Gregg floats along the wing and stays one pass away. The Lady Vols have a defensive breakdown in which an extra defender rotates to Kitley and Amoore’s second action. Amoore takes advantage by spotting the open Gregg and that’s three on the board for the Hokies.
Traylor's Timely Plays
Before getting to Kayana Traylor’s big time fourth quarter buckets, she made a terrific play in the first quarter that’s worth highlighting. Traylor has a good deal of secondary shot creation in the Tech offense. Plays like this show the value of those possessions. Traylor gets a side ball screen from Kitley which Tennessee decides to ice and force her to the baseline. In the midst of her drive, Traylor uses a sweet looking hesitation which clears a pathway to the basket.
Traylor tiptoes the painted line all while her drive actually occupied the attention of Sara Puckett. One of three weakside defenders, Puckett helps to defend the drive but leaves her assignment, 40%+ three-point shooter Cayla King, open in the corner. Traylor layers a bounce pass to King who splashes the three. Traylor’s downhill driving combined with great spacing creates quality shots for the Tech offense time and time again.
Traylor had two incredibly clutch buckets but this one might have been the most timely shot of the game for the Hokies.
Tennessee is on a massive 19-4 run over the last five plus minutes and it’s a one-point game. The press is bearing down on the Hokies throats but this basket kickstarted Tech’s final knockout blow. Amoore gets flustered but has Traylor as an outlet. As soon as she passes the timeline, Traylor kicks it into high gear, racing past Volunteers on her way for the big time and-one bucket.
Tech padded the lead a bit more thanks to a trifecta of made free throws from King. With the margin at seven, Tech put the ball in the hands of Traylor and let her create. Traylor paced around the perimeter and darted to the hoop. After the initial blow by, Traylor decelerates her pace with the ball to avoid Tennessee's two rim protecting threats. She slows down to gently kiss one off the window and spread the Tech lead out to nine.
Amoore's Final Daggers
In the end, it was always Georgia Amoore for the Hokies. A career-high 29 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists, and two steals, Tech’s PG had a game to remember that was capped off by these two plays.
The first was one we’ve already seen, Amoore comes off the screen and finds the defense sagging off. Amoore proceeds to rise up for a mid-range jumper that clangs off the rim, softly bounces off the glass and drops through the hoop. It was just that kind of night for Georgia Amoore.
Call the final play a spectacular string of luck, but as they say, luck favors the prepared. Up by eight, Amoore is pressed into throwing a near-turnover. However, she doesn’t give up on the play and takes advantage of the mishandled ball, grabbing possession back for herself and the Hokies. As Amoore prances around the court, she sucks in a crowd of defenders while King relocates to the three point arc. Amoore slings a bullet right to King who hammers the final nail into Tennessee's coffin and sends Virginia Tech to their first Elite Eight ever.