Virginia Tech women’s basketball kicked off the season at home in impressive fashion with a 105-41 victory over the Saint Francis Red Flash. It was head coach Kenny Brooks’ 50th non-conference win in his Virginia Tech career.
The game acted as a sort of litmus test for the rest of the season as the Hokies would enter the game with just three players with any experience from last year’s team. While the newcomers certainly came out in impressive fashion, it was ultimately a balanced effort from the Hokies.
The matchup was only the second meeting between the two schools, with the first being a 77-62 Virginia Tech victory in 2004. This meeting wasn’t nearly as close, with the Hokies taking control of the game from the tip.
The Hokies broke off on a 16-8 run in the first six minutes of play and would ultimately outscore the Red Flash 30-8 in the first quarter with junior Aisha Sheppard leading the way with 10 points. Sheppard wouldn’t miss a shot in the first quarter, hitting all four of her attempts, including the game-opening three from the top of the key.
Freshman Elizabeth Kitley also stood out in her first minutes as a Hokie, showing incredible skill inside the paint that’s already reminiscent of Hokie legend Regan Magarity, who graduated last year. Kitley finished with 16 points in the first half on 8-of-9 shooting.
Twenty of Tech’s 30 points were in the paint in the first quarter, and the team shot 66.7% from the field. The onslaught wouldn’t stop there, though, as the Hokies continued their hot shooting and balanced offense into the second quarter. They would head into halftime with a comfortable 51-15 lead.
The second half was much of the same, though Saint Francis did find its footing a little more on the offensive end.
One notable play happened halfway through the third quarter when redshirt junior Alex Obouh Fegue took a hard fall to the floor when going for a rebound on the offensive end. She quickly got up and just a possession later found herself with a strong contested layup on a fast break to extend the Hokies’ lead to 70-25. The effort play drew praise from the home bench, especially coach Brooks.
“The kids love Alex,” coach Brooks said after the game. “I’ve been really hard on Alex throughout the preseason because I know her capabilities, and sometimes she doubts herself. So even when she fell, and she normally would have come out, we were egging her on to stay in there, and she goes down and on the whole she goes 75 feet and gets a layup. You can tell she’s a team favorite. I thought she played extremely well and I’m very, very happy for her.”
Despite the large lead, Tech never looked complacent, and the team continued to win the game on the defensive end and on the glass. Kitley continued her startling debut by dominating the boards in the third quarter and scored her final two buckets in the quarter off offensive rebounds. The freshman would finish with 27 points off 13 field goals to go with five rebounds; she would end up being just one field goal shy of the Cassell Coliseum record set by Renee Dennis in 1987.
Tech wouldn’t let Saint Francis do too much in terms of scoring in the fourth quarter, and the Hokies walked into the locker room with an easy victory to start the season.
It was an impressive showing all-around for the team, and as coach Brooks noted, it looked like they were having fun in the process.
“It’s a really good group. They work well together, they love each other and they seem to be playing well with each other,” coach Brooks said.
Despite the strong showing, the team knows that it’s just the first step in a long journey toward the NCAA Tournament.
“This game wasn’t perfect by any means, but what we need to do is focus on Virginia Tech and not Saint Francis because this is game number one on a 30-game schedule,” Sheppard said. “So we definitely want to get to March, and we just want to keep progressing, but this is definitely a good foundation.”
Virginia Tech will be traveling for its first road game of the season Nov. 10 to play in-state opponent George Mason at 2 p.m.