Prior to Thursday night, Virginia Tech hadn't beaten Louisville in women's basketball since 1995, but that changed this evening as the Hokies won a thriller over the Cardinals 81-79 to improve to 14-3 on the season including 4-3 in ACC play.
So how did the Hokies get it done and what did we learn from this latest victory? Here are my 3 takeaways.
1. Taylor Soule Was Key in Third Quarter
After having a four-point lead at halftime, Virginia Tech didn't come out great in the third quarter with Louisville ending the third with a one-point lead that came close to being more if not for a made three plus some great defense by Kayana Traylor in the final 15 seconds of that quarter.
However, it was Taylor Soule who played the crucial role in keeping the Hokies right there despite not getting off to the fastest start out of halftime. Her gritty, physical, aggressive style of play shined during the third as she had 13 of Tech's first 15 points in the quarter on her way to having 24 on the evening. Soule was consistently attacking the rim and either making shots, drawing fouls, or doing both during that stretch of play.
She also brought lots of energy to the Hokies though it may have been too much at one moment where she got a technical called against her after she got a basket to give her 13 in the quarter. However, she helped bridge the Hokies through a rough stretch of play where Louisville could have taken control by more than 4 points making the climb back a lot more doable.
Soule's aggressive, physical style compliments this Tech team and was a main reason why Tech got the win over an underrated Louisville team.
2. Clutch Threes Prove Key
Virginia Tech didn't shoot well from three-point range overall in this game at 6-20. However, the Hokies made big threes when they mattered making 4 of their final 5 threes including a pair of go-ahead threes to take the lead and claim the victory.
It all started at the end of the third quarter when Kayana Traylor made a big three with less than 15 seconds left in the quarter to make it a 1-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter. From there, Traylor made a pair of big threes including the first of two go-ahead threes before Georgia Amoore turned a rough three-point shooting night into a clutch one with the second, late go-ahead three that would put the Hokies ahead for good.
Tech needed some big shot-making and their two most talented, healthy guards delivered even as one of them was going through a rough shooting night. Combine that with having Liz Kitley dominate the paint and Taylor Soule as a great slashing forward and the Hokies have plenty of ways to produce offense when they need to. Having that many options with that many high-level players will continue to serve this team well especially on a night where Hailey Van Lith could only do so much for the Cardinals.
3. Taylor Geiman Providing Important Depth
After Virginia Tech went only 6 deep in their loss to Notre Dame back in December, Kenny Brooks told the media that he felt his team wore down and that he needed to trust his bench more.
In another tight game last night, Tech was sharp down the stretch in part because Brooks has found a seventh woman providing 8-10 solid minutes per game in veteran wing Taylor Geiman. She had 3 points and 2 rebounds while also appearing as comfortable as she has in any appearance of late even bringing the ball up the floor at certain times.
Geiman may not be setting the world on fire with her play, but she's also providing a quality floor when Tech needs to give their stars some rest in the first half before going fully with key players positionally like Liz Kitley and Georgia Amoore in the second half.
Her play has been good enough of late and those valuable minutes she has put in has led to a sharper Tech team that is closing out games better now than they were a month ago.