In their first game of the 2018-19 season, the Virginia Tech women's basketball team cruised to a 96-45 victory over the USC Upstate Spartans. Five Hokies scored in double figures, lead by freshman Dara Mabrey and senior Taylor Emery with 18 points each.
In her collegiate debut, true freshman Dara Mabrey was impressive. Along with her 18 points on 7-11 shooting, she pulled down five rebounds and had five assists.
"I kind of just go with whatever is working for me," said Mabrey after the game. "Today, you could say it was more scoring, but I still found Rachel (Camp) and Trinity (Baptiste) a couple times in the paint. I don't try to overcompensate for one or the other. If passing is working, then I'll go with passing, but I'm not going to hesitate to shoot."
It was not only Mabrey's stats, but also her encouraging attitude and ability to fit within the culture of this team that made her start so successful.
"You can look at however many points you have, but I think how hard you play, how you cheer for your teammates, and if you're a team player, I think that's what's going to stand out," Mabrey said.
Head coach Kenny Brooks was complimentary of his freshman point guard as well.
"I thought she was good," said Brooks. "It's pretty much what we expected, what we've seen all preseason...She provides a spark for us, she shoots the ball extremely well, and she will help stretch the defense."
Along with Mabrey, Taylor Emery also had a big impact for the Hokies. She scored 18 as well, but more importantly, she added seven rebounds. With a team that plays four guards, it's very important to get rebounds from positions other than forwards, and Emery did just that.
Of course, the bulk of the rebounding is still going to come from the forwards. As a redshirt senior, Regan Magarity understands the importance of that aspect of her game to this team. She delivered tonight, leading the team with 15 total rebounds.
"I know I have to rebound well to help the team," said Magarity. "The guards were helping me boxing their people out, and I was just able to either be in the right spot or out-jump the other team because they're shorter."
Along with Magarity, JUCO transfer Trinity Baptiste pulled down 10 rebounds in her debut. She scored 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting, completing her double/double in her Hokies debut. Magarity discussed the importance of having another experienced player alongside her in the paint.
"Trinity is really good down low: she can rebound the ball and she's very powerful," said Magarity. "She helps this team in many ways, and rebounding is definitely one of them."
Despite the final score, the Hokies were hoping for a little bit of a better flow, especially in the first half. In fact, two and a half minutes into the second quarter, a basket by the Spartans' DeNisha Swain cut Virginia Tech's lead to 20-19.
"Overall, we didn't really do as well as we felt that we should have, as far as defense, and our offense was a little stagnant," said Taylor Emery. "But it's the first game, so we have all season to figure it out."
Luckily, the Hokies began to find their groove shortly thereafter. The defense settled in, and some hot shooting allowed Tech to go on a 16-0 run to end the half. A three pointer by Mabrey capped off the scoring run as time expired.
In the second half, it was pretty much all Hokies. Once they broke the Spartans zone, the points began to accumulate, and they were finding plenty of open looks.
Tech improved on the defensive side in the second half as well. This led to more offense, as well, as multiple steals from Aisha Sheppard and Shaniya Jones opened up some easy buckets.
In the end, the Hokies pulled away despite a somewhat shaky start. After they settled in, they began to look pretty dangerous, and they know they have the potential to make some noise this year if they continue to mesh as a group.
"It's a good start, but more importantly, it's just a start," said head coach Kenny Brooks. "We struggled shooting early, which is to be expected, but we really got it going in the second half. Now we have film, we can look at it, and we can start to try to improve."
The Virginia Tech women's basketball team will be back in action against in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday. They will look to improve upon tonight's performance as they prepare to take on Georgia Southern at 2pm.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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