Fifteen seconds after Elizabeth Kitley won the first shot, she found herself wide open in the painting. Aisha Sheppard, who received the inclined pass from Kitley, stopped her momentum at the top of the left wing.
She finished and threw a pass to Kitley, allowing Virginia Tech’s No.24 center to convert an easy layup, giving the Hokies a lead to open their season, en route to a resounding 76-57 victory over Davidson. Tuesday evening.
The Hokies shot 50% deep. On the other hand, they only allowed the Wildcats (0-1) to take 31.7% of their shots and forced 17 turnovers, like Tech (1-0) handled the ball well on both sides of the pitch for his first win of the season.
âIt’s a start,â head coach Kenny Brooks said of his team hitting 15 of 30 beyond the arc. âI think we played very well in the first half. â¦ They chose their poison and we were able to free ourselves and shoot the ball steadily.
Tech knew he had to get started quickly. Expectations are high, both internally and externally, after all.
The Hokies were selected to finish fourth in the CCA preseason poll. They have the pre-season ACC Player of the Year finalist at Kitley on their roster. And they were ranked in the pre-season AP poll for the first time since 1999.
He is the one who is considering an ACC championship. Whoever sees a No.4 seed in the NCAA tournament within reach. And the one aiming for a Sweet 16 berth, all at the end of the seasons.
From Kitley’s lay-in, it was all Virginia Tech, which opened in a 15-2 run.
Point guard Georgia Amoore nailed a jumper in the paint. Aisha Sheppard, the fifth-year goaltender with her extra season of eligibility, netted her first three-point goal of the season. Then she hit a second – adding five more after and scored 25 points – then she added two free throws. And finally, Purdue transfer Kayana Traylor added three more points on an assist from Amoore to close the race.
âIt was good, my shot was good,â said Sheppard. âMy teammates give me the ultimate confidence, as do the coaching staff. It was a bit of that and a bit of what the defense gave me.
Since Tech easily had the game in hand from the start, it’s hard to forget the harsh reality that surrounded college basketball a season ago.
But the days of the risk of canceling a game due to the pandemic are over. No more coronavirus tests before dawn, three times a week. No more two-row inverted seats on the sideline, replaced by conventional single-row seats. And gone was the silence that filled the arena for an entire season.
For the first time in 621 days, fans finally gathered in the Cassell Coliseum – for the first time since the summer 2020 renovations, nothing less – as the 1,487 spectators let out a loud roar, a reminder of life before the pandemic.
âIt was awesome,â Sheppard said of the environment. âI love the electricity that our fans give us. It was fun to be back.
And that must have been heartwarming, knowing that maybe – just maybe – some of the worst days the world has faced in the past century are in the rearview mirror.
For the Hokies, too, the focus is on the future, not the past. As they proudly watched their participation in last season’s NCAA tournament – which ended a 15-year drought, represented at Cassell Coliseum by a banner unveiled on Tuesday – that’s not enough for the coach- Chef Kenny Brooks and his team. And the Hokies proved they’re still hungry for a deeper playoff game in a decisive win in their first game of the season against the Wildcats.
Brooks’ team saw their fair share of turnover last season. Two players left the program, while a third player graduated. And to fill in the gaps left in the list, Brooks turned to the transfer portal to replace the lost production VT. To his credit, he landed more than he probably imagined.
He’s caught two established goal scorers, the first being Traylor, who won All-Big 10 Second Team accolades last season. She made an immediate impact in her debut game at Blacksburg, scoring 18 points on a 7-on-10 shot.
“[Traylor] is exactly what we needed, âsaid Brooks. âAt the end of last season, we knew we had to improve our bench and bring in another goalie. It was too much pressure to play Amoore 35, 37 minutes with constant pressure on her.
“[Sheppard] is not a ball handler. But now when we put [Traylor] in, she handles basketball well. she attacks, [and] can shoot all three.
And while former Freedom Guardian and All-ASUN teammate Emily Lytle didn’t light up the stats sheet with her four points on a 2-of-4 shot, she quickly showed her athleticism and scoring ability.
In the second quarter, one of Kitley’s eight missed shots was surrounded, but Lytle was there, charging towards the basket and putting it back in place for an easy second chance bucket.
Later in the third quarter, she received a low pass and did a quick back and forth motion for her second bucket of the night.
But at the end of the night, even as Davidson reduced his deficit to under 15 in the middle of the third quarter, it was Brooks who made the right adjustments to walk away, keeping the Wildcats shooting at 28.6%. in the fourth quarter.
And it was Brooks’ calm presence, mixed with his team’s veteran experience, that kept the Hokies playing tight as their lead began to wane. It’s something Brooks and his team have the potential to do night after night, even though he sees the need to improve.
“[Thereâs] a lot to watch, a lot to work on, âsaid Brooks. “But I think we have the makings of a good group.”
Full box score: Link