Three Thoughts on #11 Virginia Tech's 61-45 Victory Over #9 Duke

Three Thoughts on #11 Virginia Tech's 61-45 Victory Over #9 Duke
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Feb 17, 2023

Going into Thursday night, the ACC showdown between #11 Virginia Tech and #9 Duke was not only one of the biggest women's basketball games in America this week, but it also seemed poised to be one of the best. Instead, the Hokies continued to show signs that they are beginning to realize their full potential and taking their game to new heights.

The #11 Hokies crushed #9 Duke 61-45 in a game that was never within single digits after the first quarter and took a late flurry from Duke to be brought within 19. This is the fifth-straight win for the Hokies all of which have been by double-digits with the last 3 being against teams that are either currently ranked or were ranked at the time and are now just outside the top 25.

Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore led the way with 20 points each while Taylor Soule added 11 and Tech's core 6-woman rotation as a whole played phenomenal defense holding Duke to only 34% from the field which included holding the Blue Devils to 3 points in the entirety of the second quarter.

So with that said, here are my three thoughts on Tech's 16-point victory over Duke.

1. Kitley and Amoore Bounce Back and Shine

Tech's first game against Duke was a rough one for Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore who were held to only 3 made baskets. This time, the two were much better as they both went 8-18 on their way to 20 points with Kitley getting loads of opportunities and Amoore finding her rhythm much better.

For Kitley, it was a point of emphasis to find more creative ways to get Kitley open and get her the type of opportunities that you'd want for her to have inside 10 feet.

“When we played them last time, they were extremely physical. They fronted Liz with one in front and one on the back side,” head coach Kenny Brooks said. “We moved her around and put in a couple new wrinkles in our offense.”

That gameplan clearly played off with Tech able to get Kitley the ball a whole lot more in space with room for her to get into her sweet spot range from 7-10 feet where she can be almost automatic at times.

Meanwhile, Georgia Amoore was simply more prepared for the contact and was much more of the aggressor this time around which helped her elevate to having 20 points including 4-8 from three.

"Getting more downhill and attacking from that but we also put in new plays and I got a few of my threes from that,” Amoore said. “Being more aggressive and expecting contact while not expecting them to call it either.”

That combination of better design to get Kitley opened and Amoore playing with more a downhill, aggressive style of play paid off in Tech's 16-point victory where the Queens of Cassell nearly outscored the #9 team in the country all by themselves.

2. Taylor Soule Continues to Step Up Her Game

Taylor Soule's stat line may not have been the flashiest in terms of points, but the value she brought in all areas shined last night as she had 11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 assist, and 0 turnovers in a strong performance.

Soule's versatility was a big reason for Tech's success from her playing a big role in helping break the full-court press to being an effective defender on just about any matchup she faced. That versatility is something that Kenny Brooks knows has been quite valuable to Tech's success.

“She’s (Soule) a big reason why we are starting to elevate our game and gel. We understand what she does well and she makes us very versatile,” Brooks said. “We can put her on a lot of different people and play her a lot of different ways which makes us dangerous.”

She also does a great job at being able to get downhill and kick the offense in gear when it might be sputtering or bringing a level of physicality that can counter very physical teams like Duke well.

There's a lot to like about the way Taylor Soule plays the game of basketball. Some have compared it to former VT men's basketball standout Chris Clarke which seems fitting given the hustle plays she makes, her slashing, physical style of play, and how she's playing a big role on one of the best basketball teams in school history. Her style and hustle fit well with this team and are a big reason why Tech has taken their game to the next level.

3. Defense Shines

Duke isn't known as a great offensive team, but what the Hokies did defensively in this game was quite impressive.

The Hokies held the 9th-ranked Blue Devils to only 34% shooting while forcing 15 turnovers including 10 steals. Those turnovers proved huge as Tech turned that into an 18-11 points off turnovers advantage that helped Tech control this game from start to finish.

When they played at Duke, Tech had a good idea of what Duke was running and tried to anticipate which actually shot themselves in the foot. This time, they still knew what Duke was doing but focused more on playing strong on-ball defense which clearly made a big difference.

“Our approach tonight was to have an idea of what they’re running but just guard the ball,” Amoore said. “It was just a focus of playing more on ball defense and being aware of what they were running.”

Tech was also able to contain Shayeann Day-Wilson this time as she only had 4 points on 1-6 shooting after being the offensive star for the Blue Devils in their victory over the Hokies in Cameron Indoor earlier this season. They also shot under 36.5% in each of the first three quarters before finding some offensive life too late in the fourth quarter.

Tech's offense rightly gets plenty of the attention, but their defense stepped up in a big way and showed that they can play at a high level on both ends of the floor.