I look forward to every single Mizzou women’s basketball game and schedule around the games so I don’t miss anything. For the second year in a row, the Tigers are playing on my birthday. So what did I do? I scheduled all of my celebrations with both sides of my family around this game. Sure, I only turn 25 once but I want to spend my big day watching what I love and that is women’s hoops.
With that being said, let’s dive into the matchup. The Virginia Tech Hokies are one of the scariest teams out in the NCAA. Last season they were stacked from top to bottom and it didn’t seem like they could get any better until they brought in prized Maryland transfer, Ashley Owusu, and Taylor Soule from Boston College. This is not to mention the returning stars of 6’6 center Elizabeth Kitley and one of the most underrated point guards in the NCAA, Georgia Amoore.
Basically, Virginia Tech is going to be a handful to contain and beat. Mizzou loves playing with their backs against the wall while facing adversity. Although it might be hard, it’s not impossible. Here are the keys to the game for Mizzou.
Making a statement— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) November 22, 2022
Last night's win marked the largest margin of victory over a Power Five opponent since 2019. pic.twitter.com/Dnk3sUdfGy
1. Force Coach Brooks to go to his bench/force them to foul
One thing I’ve noticed while scouting the Hokies is the way Coach Kenny Brooks utilizes his bench. He primarily runs a six person rotation until the game gets so out of hand that his team is blowing their opponent out by a million (figuratively). Occasionally, he’s thrown in the occasional seventh player, Taylor Geisman, who’s appeared in all four games thus far, but in pretty limited minutes.
The best and most obvious way to do that is to get his players in foul trouble. The main player to focus on there is center Elizabeth Kitley. She is an absolute force down low and has the ability to flat out overpower any of her defenders. Opponents can triple team her and she’ll find a way to get to the bucket. The Tigers need to focus on defending Kitley well and pound it inside against her to draw fouls.
Just as we saw (and I wrote about) last year against South Carolina, high-powered teams like a South Carolina and a UConn don’t utilize their bench the way other teams do. Virginia Tech is the exact same way. Forcing fouls and making the offense uncomfortable with using bench players will be huge to the Tigers’ success this afternoon.
2. Get hot on offense ASAP
So, let me lay this out for you. Six Hokies are averaging double-digits in scoring. They get out extremely fast on offense. You blink and they’ve already scored. It is just like that. The Hokies rarely give opponents the chance to score, with the exception of their 82-74 win over Kentucky on Sunday. In the first quarter they outscored the Wildcats 29-8. Looking at that quarter specifically and knowing the result, it can be determined that making a comeback against this offensive juggernaut of a team will be extremely hard, but not impossible.
It is so crucial for the Tigers to attack first and get ahead of the Hokies on offense quickly. All eyes will be on Hayley Frank and Lauren Hansen to start draining buckets early. Frank took Wake Forest by storm on Monday, scoring a season high 20 points on 62% shooting from the field and 50% from three. Hansen only scored seven points but she’ll need to start hitting shots for the offense to be fully effective.
Another unsung hero last game on the offensive end was Katlyn Gilbert. Gilbert finally found her rhythm and looked like herself. She scored 11 points and only missed one shot from the field. Her efforts were sneaky good and helped the Tigers go on the runs they needed.
The entire team must get in on the scoring action right off the bat. It’s going to truly take a team effort to beat the Hokies, and it starts on the offensive end.
3. Protect the ball
I have an amazing plan for how Mizzou can protect the ball. Hide it in a box far away from the court to ensure there are no turnovers. Okay, I’m just joking here. Although that would be ideal, that’s unfortunately not how the game of basketball works.
Against Wake Forest, Mizzou turned the ball over a season low [checks notes] nine times. They were so much more disciplined with the rock on offense and that led to the best execution they’ve had all season. Yes, even better than against Missouri State. This task will be very difficult with a team like Tech.
The Hokies have only turned the ball over a total of 55 times this season, as compared to Mizzou’s 93. The Tigers have forced 106 turnovers, while the Hokies forced 88. The advantage, however, still belongs with Virginia Tech.
The ball handling discipline with which Missouri operated against Wake Forest proved dividends. It may sound strange, but in the Tigers’ wins over ranked opponents, they oddly perform better with ball protection. Hopefully that happens today!
Mizzou takes on Virginia Tech today at 12:30 pm on Flohoops ($30 subscription). Might I recommend following the live stats or listening for free on the MUTigers app?