AllNCAA Sports

#4 Virginia Tech Falls Short vs. #5 Baylor In 2024 NCAA Tournament (3-24-24)

By: Joey Raymond

All Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network 

Blacksburg, VA —Round 2 of the NCAA tournament is upon us and the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Baylor Bears are set to collide in this 4-seed vs 5-seed matchup. Both of these teams are anxious to prove something in this game. Virginia Tech, they’re trying to prove that they can live without their star Liz Kitley. The Hokies feel like they earned this 4 seed with or without Liz. They’ll need to have the freshmen Carliegh Wenzel and Clara Strack continue to play with confidence to succeed. For the Baylor Bears, they’ll need to keep up their continued success running the pick and roll, and defending the three. The Hokies take a lot of threes, so Baylor will need to stay alert and force the Hokies to drive to the basket. 

The Hokies and Bears tip-off to a sea of singing fans screaming “Enter Sandman” as per tradition in the Cassell. The energy in the building is palpable. Early in the game, Baylor would prove to those fans why they’re known for defense. Baylor would come out with an extremely suffocating defense that would frustrate the Hokies. Baylor would get out to an early lead and keep that lead for a majority of the first half, only letting up for a moment when the Hokies would tie it. The Hokies would have a ton of issues shooting from beyond the arc in the first half, only shooting 2-16. Baylor would be slightly better, shooting 4-10. That would be the difference by the end of the first half, as Baylor would head to halftime leading, 34-28. 

Going into the second half, a huge concern for both teams was players in foul trouble. That concern would be warranted as the foul woes on both sides would continue throughout the third quarter. The scoreboard would be reminiscent of a seesaw on the playground, going back and forth. Virginia Tech would finally manage to snag a lead for the first time in the game with 1:28 on the clock in the third. That wouldn’t last forever though as Baylor would take the lead again on the next possession. The third quarter would end with a half-court buzzer-beater from Jada Walker, giving the Bears a 3-point lead going into the fourth. 

As the game continued, momentum would continue to swing both ways. The Hokies would get a ton of help from the “Cassell Guard” making as much noise as humanly possible. Between that and Matilda Eck catching fire in the fourth, that would keep Virginia Tech in it. Unfortunately for the Hokies, they would only manage ties, and never a lead. Baylor would close out the game, winning 75-72 despite missing 9 free throws. Most of those free throws would come towards the end of the game, as the clock was winding down and the Hokies had no choice but to foul. 

The tough end to the season begs the question of what this game look like if the Hokies had Liz Kitley. Frankly, when your starting point guard only goes 7-22 from the field and Baylor’s goes 9-16 it’s hard to imagine otherwise. Regardless, the Hokies allowed Baylor to drive up and down the court with reckless abandon, and allowed themselves to get into foul trouble. The Hokies trailed the entire game except for a brief moment in the third quarter. The Hokies were not able to handle the Baylor defense especially when it mattered at crunch time towards the end of the game.

Not only that, but when your offense can’t hit the clutch shots towards the end? It’s not a recipe for success. Baylor played like they wanted this game more. They took this game personally and it showed throughout the game. Baylor deserved to win this game. Lots of questions loom for the Hokies this offseason, will Amoore come back?, will Coach Brooks come back? and so on. Only time will tell, and for Hokies fans, they look forward to finding out.