A few days after overwhelming Fordham in the Round of 16, Virginia Tech had to take on an Alabama team fresh off a thrilling victory. Meo Knight hit a last-second layup vs Georgia Tech to send Alabama to the quarterfinals. However, the Tide stopped rolling in the Appalachian Mountains as the Hokies overcame a sloppy first half to beat the Tide 74-67.
Alabama knew this was going to be a tough matchup, especially with their tallest player, 6-5 Ashley Knight, being on a leave of absence. Regan Magarity, who was honored before the game for setting the single-season record for rebounds, has been a tough forward for many teams to handle. However, the Crimson Tide held their own on the interior; they out-rebounded Tech 18-17 in the first half. Jasmine Walker was a pleasant surprise for the Tide, as she came off the bench to score 14 before halftime. She finished with 16.
The first half was a frustrating one for the Hokies. Not only were they out-rebounded, but they also had problems with ball security. Tech turned the ball over eight times, and Alabama capitalized with 12 points off those miscues. The Crimson Tide took a 37-36 lead at halftime thanks to a late three by Meo Knight. In the second half, it was a different story.
The Regan Magarity show took off in the third quarter, as she had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in that quarter. She finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Rachel Camp also had a nice second half, as she managed to get to the free-throw line 14 times. She converted on 13 of them, and finished with 17 points.
Taylor Emery was spectacular for the Hokies, as she led the team in scoring with 19. She has continued her historic season, as she set the school record for field goals in a season. Head coach Kenny Brooks spoke about the versatility of his star guard from Tampa.
“She scores in all different ways. She’s a 90% free-throw shooter. Her mid-range shot is one of the best I’ve ever seen, I’ve never coached somebody with a better mid-range jump shot. She can also shoot the three so you can’t really take one away. She’s a coach's dream.”
Aisha Sheppard was also fantastic for the Hokies, as she finished the afternoon with 17 points and 3 assists. Most of her success came from behind the arc. She led the team in three-point field goals with three.
While the offense flexed their muscles, the defense was what stood out for the Hokies in the second half. Alabama was having a hard time getting quality looks, and when they got them, they could not convert. Alabama shot only 9/29 in the second half and put up just 30 points, including only 10 in the 3rd quarter.
Virginia Tech also contained Alabama’s best scorers throughout the game. Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams combine for 23.5 points per game for the Tide, yet they only finished with 7 in the first half. By the time the duo got their shots to fall, it was too late. Cook finished with 10 and Williams finished with 13, but many of those points came while Tech had the game in hand. Meo Knight also finished with 12.
Virginia Tech will take on West Virginia in Morgantown next Wednesday. The winner will advance to the WNIT Championship, which would be another great step forward for the women’s hoops program under Kenny Brooks.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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