12/04/2024

Visiting Locker Room: Tech Sideline on Virginia Tech’s NPOY candidate Elizabeth Kitley and more

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Visiting Locker Room: Tech Sideline on Virginia Tech’s NPOY candidate Elizabeth Kitley and more

Plus discussion surrounding Virginia Tech’s handling of the press, dangerous shooting and what went into its current 14-game winning streak

Plus discussion surrounding Virginia Tech’s handling of the press, dangerous shooting and what went into its current 14-game winning streak

The Elite Eight is more interesting in this year’s NCAA Tournament than ever before. Only two No. 1 seeds have a shot at the Final Four with both the Indiana Hoosiers and Stanford falling in the Second Round.

Monday night, the Ohio State women’s basketball team faces one of the two remaining top seeds in the Virginia Tech Hokies. To learn more about the side, David Cunningham from Tech Sideline shared details about outstanding center Elizabeth Kitley, the shooters that can hurt any team and more.


Land-Grant Holy Land: Ohio State showed everyone on ABC what they can do with their press when it’s firing at its highest level. How have the Hokies done against a press this season?

Tech Sideline: The press is what everyone wants to talk about, and rightfully so. UConn couldn’t handle it on Saturday, which hurt. The Hokies have seen similar types of pressure this season, though. Louisville, Duke and Clemson all play a pressing style, and while Miami doesn’t necessarily press for 40 minutes, it usually guards 94 feet.

Virginia Tech struggled with it at points during the season. In the eight games it played against those four teams, it averaged 14 turnovers per game. In the ACC tournament semifinal vs. Duke, it gave the ball away 20 times. But it’s always had its defense to rely on.

Tennessee got under the Hokies’ skin a little bit in the Sweet 16, but I expect they’ll be better prepared for it on Monday against Ohio State. And though they lost three of their first four games against teams that press - at Clemson, at Miami, at Duke - they won four straight. Throw in the two games against the Lady Vols and VT is 7-3 against teams with that kind of defense this season.

LGHL: Forward Elizabeth Kitley is the main focal point of Virginia Tech’s offense. The Hokies run players through the paint and work hard to put Kitley into good positions to score. When has the star been neutralized this year, if ever?

TS: It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Kitley all season, despite her numbers. Her worst game of the year was at Duke - see a common theme? In late January when she finished with four points on 1-of-9 shooting. The Blue Devils berated her, trapped her and made life insanely difficult. She never had the opportunity to establish position down low. Tech head coach Kenny Brooks was so frustrated after the game that he jokingly said that he was going to suggest Kitley go pro after this season if teams kept beating her up like that.

What the Hokies did afterwards, however, was adjust. They put Kitley in different positions, drawing her away from the basket and isolating her one-on-one in the mid-range, a place she’s comfortable. She scored 20-plus points in five straight games against good competition in February - Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami.

She’s been troubled here and there since those adjustments - Chattanooga and South Dakota State both doubled her constantly in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, where she was 11-of-23 - but she’s scored in double figures in all 14 games since that loss in Durham. Coincidentally, Tech hasn’t lost in that span, and even when she isn’t putting up outrageous numbers, opponents have struggled to stop her completely. The only other time this season where she was truly limited was against Tennessee in December (six points, 3-of-13), and she scored 12 in the rematch on Saturday.

LGHL: Tech has dropped games throughout the season but are now on a 14-game winning streak. What changed that got the Hokies to their current level?

TS: It somewhat goes hand-in-hand with the Kitley success - the Hokies adjusted. They also got off to hot starts against teams like Florida State, NC State and Duke. Some of the first or second quarter margins throughout the win streak: 26-13, 34-11, 23-11, 29-17, 10-3, 20-5, 23-9, 19-7. They’ve flown out of the gate as of late, putting opponents on their heels immediately.

Tech’s also taken care of the ball better and improved on the glass. In the last 14 games, only Florida State (-4) beat Tech on the boards. And the defense has stepped it up a notch, too, which often goes unnoticed. Only one team - the Seminoles, ironically - have shot above 40% against the Hokies throughout the win streak. And that’s a game they still won by 14, amazingly. They’re not flashy and they don’t turn people over constantly; they just play solid defense and make every shot a tough one. They get stops, which helps them control the pace of the game.

LGHL: Virginia Tech is known as a strong shooting team. Who are the names people should watch from deep?

TS: Tech point guard Georgia Amoore is playing unreal basketball at the moment. The Aussie is lethal from outside and has scored 20-plus points in the last five games. She shoots 35% from deep while Cayla King shoots 37%. They take the most and make the most (110-of-313, 73-of-197).

But Kayana Traylor (33%, 36-of-110) and D’asia Gregg (38%, 22-of-58) both pick their moments, too. Traylor’s on and off - over the course of the win streak, she’s made multiple 3-pointers in five games, though she didn’t hit one in seven outings. Then there’s Gregg, who is good for one every game or so, outside of the fact that she nailed three against NC State.

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