Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Virginia Tech Women's Basketball finished non-conference play with a trip to Puerto Rico to take part in the 2019 Coqui Classic with games against Rice and Wichita State. The Hokies took advantage of those opportunities beating the Owls and Shockers to improve to 10-1 in non-conference play ahead of their ACC opener at Florida State on December 29th.
The two wins keeps the Hokies in great, early shape to make a strong run at the NCAA Tournament as we discussed recently. In particular, these are two more quality wins to add depth to Tech's resume behind their biggest victory that came against Purdue in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge.
Turnovers are a concern for the Hokies as Virginia Tech had 23 in each of their victories, but the Hokies were extremely efficient overall on the offensive end. In particular, Tech's three-point shooting was impressive shooting over 50% from deep in both of their games, something that will prove critical to Tech's success going forward in ACC play.
One of the most encouraging developments for the Hokies is the improvement shown by Taylor Geiman and Cayla King. The two freshmen received double-digit minutes in both games with the pair averaging a combined 11.5 points per game, giving Tech some valuable depth beyond their main 6 players.
The Hokies will have plenty to clean up on the offensive end especially after having 23 turnovers in both of their victories against Rice and Wichita State. That level of turnovers won't cut it during ACC play, but the Hokies also showed their massive offensive potential with impressive three-point shooting especially against the Shockers.
Virginia Tech made it clear that they have the talent this season to break through and reach the NCAA Tournament, but the Hokies will have to clean up the turnovers going into ACC play.
Below are recaps of Tech's victories over Rice and Wichita State.
Virginia Tech Beats Rice 54-45
Virginia Tech didn't have a great offensive day with 23 turnovers, but the Hokies' defense stepped up holding Rice to under 30% from the field on their way to a 54-45 victory.
Tech's offense, when not turning the basketball over, was efficient as the Hokies shot 41.3% from the field including 9-17 (52.9%) from three-point range. Tech's three-point shooting proved valuable as Rice had a 12-10 offensive rebounding advantage and 30-16 points in the pain advantage, but held the Owls to only 14 points despite their 23 turnovers.
Aisha Sheppard led the Hokies offensive with 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 turnvoers on 6-13 shooting including 3-5 from three-point range. Freshman Elizabeth Kitley was a force in the post with 8 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks as she was a machine and showed the type of dominant post presence she can be over the next four years. Dara Mabrey was the only other Hokie in double figures with 12 points while Cayla King and Trinity Baptiste were the only other Hokies to score with 9 and 7 points respectively.
There will definitely be some frustration with having 23 turnovers, but Kenny Brooks has to be pleased with his defense holding Rice under 30% and his team finding a way to grind out this victory. That type of dominant defensive performance will be encouraging for the Hokies going forward with ACC play around the corner.
Virginia Tech Blows Out Wichita State 84-63
The Hokies once again had 23 turnovers, but their offense was on fire especially from deep where they shot 18-30 on their way to an 84-63 victory over Wichita State.
Their 60% three-point shooting was extremely impressive while they shot 49.1% from the field overall and were 14-16 at the free-throw line. Additionally, Tech had 20 assists on their 26 made shots while having a 23-11 advantage in second chance points. Despite that, the turnovers were still disappointing with the Shockers turning that into a 24-10 points off turnovers advantage.
Tech's grad transfers were the stars as Taja Cole had 15 points and 10 assists with only 3 turnovers while Lydia Rivers had 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks as the duo were dominant. Trinity Baptiste also had a double-double with with 14 points and 10 rebounds plus 4 assists and 2 blocks while Aisha Sheppard led Tech with 18 points and Taylor Geiman had a career-high 11 points.
Picking up a win over a 7-5 Wichita State may not seem like a lot, but picking up a win against a team like the Shockers from a quality conference is another solid resume-building win that also helps the strength of schedule. The second-straight game with 23 turnovers shows that the Hokies have lots to work on offensively, but their efficient shooting shows that the ceiling for this Virginia Tech team is extremely high.