April 1, 2023
In her final game, Virginia Tech’s Kayana Traylor shined on the biggest stage
Fifth-year senior has best game of NCAA Tournament in Final Four loss to LSU
DALLAS — Early in the Final Four matchup, it became clear that Virginia Tech was in need of some gas and fast. While the score read 16-13 in favor of LSU at the end of the first quarter, the feel of the game weighed the way of the Tigers.
After only shooting 4-of-16 from the field throughout that first quarter, including 1-for-9 from deep, the Hokies were in desperate need of a shot to the arm. Luckily, Virginia Tech guard Kayana Traylor was exactly what the doctor ordered.
After missing all three shots she took in the first, the fifth-year senior made 4-of-5 shots from the field in the second quarter for a total of nine points. Her scoring was helped the Hokies surge on an 11-0 run to end the first half with a 34-32 lead. For the 5’9 guard, she didn’t feel like she did anything more that she is normally asked to do.
“I think my teammates put me in really good positions to be successful. I was just waiting for my opportunity,” Traylor said. “We were struggling a little bit shooting-wise, so we had to do different things, play good defense, get stops, get to the rim.”
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That run would continue through halftime and into the second half growing to as large as a 16-0 run — with Traylor scoring nine of those 16 points — before a layup from LSU’s LaDazhia Williams would put it to an end.
The back-and-forth battle really had this game fitting the old cliché, that basketball is a game of runs. Virginia Tech kept adding after its big run and the Hokies pushed the lead all the way up to 12 with 5:40 left in the third quarter. But LSU would battle back with several lopsided runs of their own from there, even as Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks felt the Hokies took the right shots that could have answered the Tigers.
“We got some good looks. We knocked down some threes. We also had some threes in the stretches where they went on runs, but I feel like they were in and out,” Brooks said. “They were really good looks. I think Kayana had one that really could have silenced the run they had. Georgia [Amoore] had one in the second half and just kind of rimmed it in and out. She had a couple like that. She came up to me one time and she said, “bloody heck.” She didn’t say “heck” but — you know, she’s right there.”
Ultimately those runs would allow LSU to pull away in the game toward a 79-72 win. But in what turned out to be the final game in Traylor’s college career, she put up a stellar performance: 17 points (her personal NCAA Tournament best) on 6-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds.
For Indiana native who transferred to Blacksburg from Purdue, she got everything and more out of her two years as a Hokie.
“For me, whenever I transferred, honestly, coming here I got exactly what I wanted out of it.” Traylor said. “An ACC championship, a Final Four, and then most importantly, just being around people who welcomed me and loved me from the day that I got here. So definitely these past few years have been the best of my life for sure.”
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Written by Tyler DeLuca
Tyler DeLuca has been contributing to The Next team since May 2022. Tyler currently is the Big 12 beat writer for The Next. Tyler's work is also featured on Twitter with The Committee, hosting the "Art of the Paint" podcast and on Gameday U Hoops throughout the college season.