The Virginia Tech women's basketball team (7–2) ended its two-game win streak after a nail-biting 64–58 loss to No. 11 Tennessee (8–0) in Cassell Coliseum on Dec. 5.

Despite being underdogs, the Hokies kept pace with the Volunteers throughout the entire game until the very last minutes when Aisha Sheppard missed a huge 3-point attempt that solidified the Tech loss. 

“I think that it’s a positive that we were able to stay with the No. 11 team in the nation,” Sheppard said. “Obviously when we get into ACC play it's a gauntlet, there are multiple Tennessees.”

The lead changed seven times during the matchup and the teams tied twice. Much of the Hokies’ success on the court was due to Sheppard, who accounted for over half of Tech’s points with a season high of 30 points. Sheppard completed this with seven 3-pointers.

Still, it wasn’t enough. The Hokies started to falter towards the latter end of the game and were unable to attain the win. Elizabeth Kitley, who played the most minutes for the Hokies, struggled shooting 1–12 on field goals and was 0–1 in the 3-pointer category. Kitley tried to help in other ways, having a team-high nine rebounds, but her lack of scoring was noticeable in a game which was neck and neck.

Tennessee had Jordan Walker, Sara Puckett and Tamari Key, who were key elements for its victory. Walker and Puckett led the scoring with 17 and 15 points, respectively. This was a season high for Walker and her ability in the 3-pointer category, going 4 of 4 on attempts, was a huge contribution to this. Key had 11 points, but she mainly shined in the rebounds category with 12 total rebounds.

The Hokies’ defense was decent during the first three quarters, but the team lost it in the fourth quarter. 

“We didn’t handle the last five, six minutes correctly,” said head coach Kenny Brooks. “We didn’t have that physical toughness that we needed down the stretch.”

Where Tech struggled the most was defending the Volunteers in the paint and capitalizing on scoring opportunities within it. The Volunteers scored 38 of their 64 points in this zone.

The loss had nothing to do with a lack of effort from the Hokies, but the Volunteers are ranked in the top 25 for a reason.

“It’s a good matchup for us,” Brooks said. “Throughout the game I thought we competed to the point where we gave ourselves the shot to win. (I) didn’t like the way we finished the game.”

The closeness of this competition is not unusual for this program. The last time the two faced off, on Nov. 27, 2016, resulted in a 67–63 win for the Hokies. Unfortunately for Tech, the roles were reversed this season.

Tech has a quick turnaround, as it will play Liberty next on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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