From the start of the fourth through consecutive Syracuse timeouts at the midpoint of the quarter, #13 Virginia Tech went on a scorching hot run to close the door on the Orange. With a two-point advantage, the Hokies proceeded to jump the Cuse, going on a 14-0 run that spanned nearly the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
“It was more about our defense,” head coach Kenny Brooks said. “We were able to get stops, come out on the other end and feed off that offensively. We got some key steals and layups down the stretch.”
Tech’s put-away run was produced by the usual suspects for the Hokies. Taylor Soule scored six points in Tech’s late run. Cayla King added an additional six points off a three pointer and three free throws from being fouled on another triple try.
Tech’s leading scorers Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore provided the rest of the offensive punch to elevate the Hokies to the 78-64 victory over Syracuse in Cassell Coliseum Thursday night.
“We’re doing some really good things, but I just know we can be better and hopefully we can gain more consistency,” Brooks said. “We get production from each and every one of them and we’ll be playing exactly how I want them to. We still got time to put it together and show that we’re one of the better teams in the league.”
In the first few stages of the game, Syracuse presented an interesting threat to Tech. Only seven points came off the hands of the Hokies throughout the first eight minutes. Tech posted 29% shooting from the floor in the first quarter and 16% from three point range. After Georgia Woolley’s made three made it 17-7 Syracuse at the 2:07 mark of the first quarter, Brooks called a timeout to fire up his team into action.
“I was emotional because someone missed their assignment,” Brooks said. “Part of the emotion I have is because of the physicality of the game too.”
Coming out of that first quarter timeout, Tech proceeded to go on a 19-5 run that dipped heavily into the second quarter of action. The Hokies began to break into the Orange’s tough 2-3 zone defense and scored off open looks from three and at the rim.
“We realized we had driving lanes, the first quarter we were throwing the ball around and that’s what they want you to do,” Cayla King said. “Once we found the gaps, we took advantage and got easier shots.”
Certainly, the ball flowed with more of a zip around the court after Tech’s first quarter lulls. The Hokies shot the rock at 60% from the field in the second quarter, 44% in the third quarter and 73% in the fourth quarter. Once Tech got the ball into the middle of the floor, they were able to stretch Syracuse’s zone out to its limits and beat them with pace and space.
“They’re so talented and smart. They feel it and figure it all out,” Brooks said. “When they lock in and focus then they’re gonna be special.”
Heading into the fourth quarter, Tech had a bit of a struggle scoring against the Cuse’s zone, but eventually found their way around the scheme. However, it was the Hokies themselves who sprinkled in a bit of a zone defense to confuse the Orange. The switch worked like a charm as Syrcause shot 6-19 for 31% in the final quarter.
“We also went to zone in the fourth quarter because we were in a bit of foul trouble so that helped,” Elizabeth Kitley said.
In a game where Tech was challenged but not beaten, it was ultimately the stars of the show that got it done for the Hokies. Kitley led all scorers with 20 points on 9-14 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds.
Right behind her was Cayla King who put up 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks. King also drilled five threes which marked all five of her made baskets for the game.
“My teammates keep looking for me and have the confidence in me to make any shot that I take out there.” King said.
Georgia Amoore poured in an extra 15 points plus three assists, three rebounds and four made threes on 10 attempts. Amoore was a true floor general and ran the Tech offense to a tee, especially during the closing stretch of the game.
Additionally, D’Asia Gregg continued her role as the Hokies' glue girl. When Tech struggled to store, Gregg carried the offensive load and kept the team afloat for a stage of the game. Gregg finished on triple-double watch, scoring nine points, notching seven assists, and hauling in 12 rebounds.
“She (Gregg) is so important to our team because she does all the little things that aren't recognized,” Kitley said. “She can make plays and she hits tough crucial shots and we all know in the locker room how much she means to us.”
Tech rode a well balanced performance to a 14-point victory, beating Syracuse 78-64 in Blacksburg and advancing to 18-4 overall including 8-4 in ACC play. The Hokies have now won four out of their last five ahead of a massive road test against the all too familiar ranked NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh next Monday on ESPN2.
“Our styles are very similar, we match up very well with each other,” Brooks said. “It’s a very healthy rivalry and we’re looking forward to it.”