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Women’s basketball falls again in the Commonwealth Clash, losing to Virginia Tech 71-42

The Cavaliers are still in search of their first win in conference play

<p>Virginia transfer sophomore guard Mir McLean scored 11 points in her debut for the Cavaliers.</p>

Virginia transfer sophomore guard Mir McLean scored 11 points in her debut for the Cavaliers.

The Virginia women’s basketball team lost 71-42 in its second matchup of the season against Virginia Tech at John Paul Jones Arena Thursday night. The last time the Cavaliers (3-15, 0-7 ACC) faced the Hokies (15-5, 7-2) Jan. 18, Virginia came up short, losing 69-52 with a crushing second quarter 11-point scoring run by Virginia Tech. 

The excitement and camaraderie from the stands was palpable and the game started with two three-pointers by Virginia graduate student guard Amandine Toi. Toward the end of the first quarter, the Hokies scored nine points in two minutes as their dart-like handoffs became harder to defend while the Cavaliers entered a scoring drought.

All eyes were on Virginia Tech’s star junior center Elizabeth Kitley — towering at 6-foot-6 with a points per game average of 18.7 — yet she was not even the Hokies’ most formidable threat. With an injury to the groin, Kitley was forced out by the middle of the first quarter, but sophomore guard Georgia Amoore — standing a whole foot shorter than Kitley — snuck up on the Cavaliers like a thief in the night, scoring 21 points during the game.

But all hope was not lost, at least in the second quarter. Earlier Thursday evening, it was revealed that sophomore guard Mir McLean — a transfer from Connecticut — became eligible to play after clearing NCAA transfer protocols. McLean made an immediate impact in her debut, scoring 11 points in the second quarter alone to keep the score within striking distance.

After playing three games with Connecticut this season, McLean entered the transfer portal in late December and quickly established herself on the court last night as one of the Cavaliers’ most versatile players. She could defend like graduate student forward Eleah Parker, as she collected nine rebounds to Parker’s seven, yet she could run the ball like Toi and junior guard Taylor Valladay.

Even with the Cavaliers’ blowout loss, Coach Tina Thompson was more than proud of McLean’s debut performance.

“We have to play for each other, we have to play the spirit of Mir,” Thompson said. “First game, just a few practices in, she left it all out there. And that's the attitude that you have to have to be competitive in this conference. So if I were her teammate, I would use that as an example”

Yet the surprise of McLean’s arrival was not enough to shock the Hokies out of giving anything up, especially by the third quarter. In addition to Amoore, graduate student guard Aisha Sheppard was also monumental for the Hokies as she helped keep the Cavaliers in a steady double-digit deficit throughout most of the game. 

In the third quarter, Virginia Tech went on an 8-0 scoring run, and Amoore scored 15 points in that quarter alone, bringing the score to 53-33 by the end of the period.

“Our Achilles heel [is like these] short stints or these droughts where we're kind of giving up plays and we don't kind of stop the out-pour of the shots or execute our schemes, and the games kind of get away from us,” Thompson said. “It takes a lot out of you. I definitely will not take anything away from Tech today. Their kids shot the heck out of the ball and they made some really, really, really tough shots.”

Even so, Virginia Tech Coach Kenny Brooks said the hardest part of the Hokies’ game was gaining possession of the ball from the Cavaliers in the first place. 

“They’re methodical and they limit possessions, they know where they want to get the ball,” Brooks said. “They're going to win some games, they're starting to figure some things out, they're starting to understand how to make people play the way that they want them to play. They’ve got talent, so it's just a matter of them getting over the hump.”

At the end of the game, Thompson led the team in an hour and a half long “honest conversation” about the team’s goals moving forward in the rest of the season.

“I'm really disappointed with our effort tonight,” she said. “As hard as we work every day, there is no excuse for not competing consistently and I take full responsibility for that. I've made excuses just a little bit for why we show up the way that we show up. But we're not doing that anymore. We've all been given a great opportunity. And it is our responsibility to show up and show gratitude for the opportunity that we have been given.”

The Cavaliers’ next game is away against the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. and the game will be televised on ACC Regional Sports Network.

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