Virginia Tech put up a strong fight for the entirety of their contest against #2 Louisville, but they fell just short by a score of 72-63. Louisville star Asia Durr's 34 points were monumental in securing the win for the Cardinals.
"I got some good shots out there, and my teammates found me on the court," said Durr postgame. "Coach [Jeff Walz] was calling some great plays to free me, so that's all I was trying to do, just make a play."
The Hokies started out strong, hitting two buckets in the first minute to take an early 4-0. That shooting cooled off a little bit, but Virginia Tech played strong defense in the first five minutes as well. At the first media timeout, Louisville led 9-8.
Virginia Tech continued to keep it close with Louisville for the entire first quarter. At the end of one, Louisville still only led by a single point, 14-13.
In the second quarter, the Hokies seemed to lose their focus for a stretch. Louisville opened the half and a 10-3 run, and they kept that momentum throughout most of the quarter. They led by as many as 17, and even after Dara Mabrey hit the final bucket of the half, it was still a 15-point Cardinals' advantage.
"We have to get rid of those moments in games where we kind of lose focus," said senior Taylor Emery. "In this game, I felt like we played very well for about 3 and a half quarters...but we kind of let them go on a run."
It is true that Virginia Tech has fallen victim to some bad 5 or 10 minute stretches that have often decided the game in ACC play. However, the Hokies fought back hard in this game.
After falling behind by 20 points early in the third quarter, Virginia Tech went on an 11-0 to trim the lead to just 9 at 51-42. The score remained the same at the end of the third quarter
"I think we showed more toughness," said Regan Magarity of how this game differed from the blowout loss to Notre Dame last month. "We fought for each other. Down the stretch, we were able to get some rebounds and some fifty-fifty balls."
That toughness allowed the Hokies to stay within striking distance for the rest of the game. In fact, the Hokies were able to trim the lead to just 6 with 3:49 to go in the fourth. Emery hit a pull-up jump shot, and Mabrey got fouled simultaneously. That gave Virginia Tech a chance to pull within four from the line.
Unfortunately for Mabrey, she missed both free throws, and Louisville got a quick bucket in order to push the lead to 8. That 4 point swing was crucial in the outcome of this contest.
"We were very fortunate that Mabrey goes to the line [in a] 6 point game and she missed two free throws, which is very uncharacteristic for them," said Louisville head coach Jeff Walz.
Even after that swing, the Hokies still
were not done fighting. After a three-point basket from Kendyl Brooks, a forced turnover, and then a basket in the paint for Magarity, Louisville's lead was down to 3 with 34 seconds remaining.
Virginia Tech quickly fouled Asia Durr on the ensuing possession, but she was exactly who the Cardinals wanted at the line. Durr hit both free throws to stretch the lead to five, and Emery missed a jumper on the ensuing possession.
The Hokies fouled a couple more times, but Louisville was not going to miss from the line. In the end, the Cardinals pulled out 72-63 victory.
Despite putting up a valiant fight against the number 2 team in the country, Virginia Tech players were not satisfied.
"We came back, but if we wouldn't have let them go on a run, it would have been a much closer game," said Emery. "We wouldn't have had to come back."
Head coach Kenny Brooks said that while obviously winning the game is the ultimate goal, he does not want his players to be too hard on themselves. Brooks said there are certainly some positives that the team can take away from this game.
"You can't lose sight of the fact that we just played the number 2 team in the country, and we competed," said Brooks. "We're not into moral victories, but you also have to understand that we're not a bad team."
Key Stat - Durr and Fuehring Score 55 of Louisville's 72 Points
Louisville seniors Asia Durr and Sam Fuehring took this game into their own hands. Durr scored 34 points along with 6 rebounds and two assists, while Fuehring scored 21 points with 13 boards.
"They both played big," said Louisville coach Jeff Walz of his two key seniors. "Sam [Fuehring] came up with some big time baskets."
Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks had nothing but praise for Durr as well.
"Asia Durr is one of the best, if not the best, players in the country," said Brooks. "She was 4 for 4 for the first half from three, and I thought she was 4 for 2. It just seemed like she made more than she actually shot; everything was going in."
With the loss, Virginia Tech falls to 15-8 overall and 2-8 in ACC play. The Hokies will travel to Durham, NC to take on Duke this Thursday.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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