Sparked by Defense, Virginia Tech Defeats Boston College 70-49
Kenny Brooks and Virginia Tech won their fourth ACC game this season against Boston College in Cassell Coliseum on Thursday night, defeating the Eagles 70-49.
Defense led the way for the Hokies as Tech forced the Eagles to shoot 28.8 percent from the field, 12.5 percent from three. Tech also forced 15 turnovers from the Eagles, scoring 17 points from the miscues.
“I thought it might’ve been our best defensive performance of the year,” head coach Kenny Brooks said. “I thought our kids did a good job of forcing the action and pushing them into areas that they weren’t extremely comfortable in.”
The Eagles entered the game with four players averaging more than ten points per game – Taylor Soule, Emma Guy, Cameron Swartz and Makayla Dickens. The Hokies shut down Swartz and Guy, who were held to 11 combined points and shot three of 24 from the floor. Soule (11 points) and Dickens (12 points) led the way for the Eagles, but the effort from the duo wasn’t enough.
“To make Cameron Swartz go 1 for 15 and Emma Guy 2 for 9, I thought that was a good performance,” Brooks said. “I was very pleased with that. They stayed together and did a tremendous job… All in all, I thought we did a tremendous job on the defensive end.”
Juniors Trinity Baptiste (20 points, six rebounds) and Aisha Sheppard (19 points) led the Hokies in the scoring column, making 15 of their 30 combined field goal attempts.
“She [Trinity Baptiste] got into a rhythm,” Brooks said. “We got the ball to her in her sweet spots. We’ve had to change our offense a little bit from where it’s been in the past to really just focus on getting the ball inside, and she’s the beneficiary of that… Putting them in an area where they are more comfortable, I think it’s beneficial for them but also for us as a team.”
Despite having two other players (Elizabeth Kitley and Lydia Rivers) score in double figures, Tech’s offensive performance was sloppy at times as the Hokies turned the ball over 13 times.
“We weren’t as clean as I would’ve liked on the offensive end,” Brooks said. “I thought we wasted some possessions. We were trying to play a little bit fast, especially in the beginning… we showed tonight we don’t have to rely on certain kids every night to do it.”
Five of the 13 turnovers came from graduate transfer point guard Taja Cole, who seemed to push the pace and rush the Hokies down the floor at times. Brooks said he spoke to Cole in the waning moments of the game, telling her “that’s the last one you can have like that.”
“She was a little frustrated in the beginning because she didn’t feel like she had the people running at the clip she wanted,” Brooks said. “I told her, ‘Whatever the situation, you can’t let it get your game down.’ We talked about it and I said, ‘You are the leader of this team. You have to raise everyone up. You can’t let those outside things affect the way you play.’ She needs to be locked in. She has to be my mini-me. We’ve developed that. I think we see things eye-to-eye.”
The Hokies found production in other ways on Thursday, as Elizabeth Kitley picked up her second career ACC double double and Lydia Rivers contributed ten points.
We had so many other people step up,” Brooks said. “Lydia Rivers, they tried to put a guard on her and she took advantage of that. Trinity Baptiste was tremendous down low with 20 points. My girl Liz Kitley, she hit her first three… I’m very happy for her and all of them because they’ve been working extremely hard and coming together. I think that the way we play we have the chance to be very good.”
Kitley did indeed hit her first career three-pointer, something Brooks has mentioned she could do since Tech played at Duke on January 12.
“I called it,” Kenny Brooks said. “I said earlier today, ‘She’s going to make one.’ The kid can shoot and she’s developed a three-point shot to the point where I’m very comfortable with it. I told the team after the game that Liz hit her first one tonight and she’s still going to break the three-point freshman record this year.”
Though Baptiste scored the only points coming off the bench, Cayla King, Alex Obouh Fegue and Makayla Ennis all saw time in the victory. For Obouh Fegue, those minutes were her first in twelve games after sitting out with a wrist injury.
The win was Tech’s ninth at home this season and third consecutive win at home in the ACC, a new program record. The Hokies are also 4-3 in the ACC for only the second time in program history.
They’ve got another chance to defend their home floor and get another ACC win on Sunday afternoon against Clemson. The Tigers, who defeated the Hokies in the second round of the ACC Tournament last season, enter with a 7-12 overall record, 3-5 in the ACC.
As for Tech, Kenny Brooks thinks this group has the chance to earn the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2006.
“This team can be really, really good,” Brooks said. “We have an NCAA caliber team. We have the tools… First, we have to take care of business.”
Photo Credit: Liam Sment