College basketball in the tropics during Thanksgiving week – a tradition like no other.
At this week’s Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship, which showcased some of the best teams and players in women’s basketball over two days of play, those who checked in to see the event’s theme were treated to stars and glitter in Nassau, the capital and largest city in the Bahamas.
With the annual meeting at the Baha Mar Convention Center wrapped up for another year, there was plenty to take away from the eight races that took place. For some teams on the field, there is more good to take away than others.
Here’s a recap of all that went down at the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship, who and what impressed, along with some of the stories that emerged from the two-day event in the Caribbean.
All the action was streamed live on FloHoops.
Kitley dominates to keep Hokies undefeated
Still trying to shake off the sour taste of an NCAA tournament upset last season — the No. 5 seed Hokies lost to No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of March Madness a year ago — Virginia Tech entered this season as a group on a revenge tour.
Right now, the team is certainly playing like they have something to prove, and those feelings were evident at Baha Mar.
Tech jumped out to a 29-8 lead in the first quarter and rallied the rest of the way in its opener against Kentucky on Monday, and then the Hokies stepped on the gas in the second half of a 73-57 victory . against Missouri to close out the show on Wednesday.
They are unbeaten on the year at 5-0, passing the first tests of the season against big opposition with great success.
The No. 11 ranked team in the nation, the Hokies are currently holding opponents to just 48.2 points per game on the season while dominating the glass themselves, holding foes to just 27.6 rebounds per game against average for a rate that is second in the nation (as of Wednesday afternoon).
Much of that has to do with the play of 6-foot-6 senior center — and reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year — Elizabeth Kitley and her double-double average to start the year (19.0 points, 11.0 rebounds per night). but Tech wouldn’t look as good in the Bahamas if it weren’t for the strong performances of its supporting cast.
Have a day @elizabethkitley 👏👏
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📈 reached another milestone
Proud of you 3️⃣3️⃣ pic.twitter.com/kCIq72ygzy
— Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball (@HokiesWBB) November 24, 2022
Kitley’s 25-point performance against the Wildcats was matched by double-digit scoring from Ashley Owusu, Taylor Soule and Georgia Amoore, while Kayana Traylor added 18 points off the bench in the win over the Tigers.
Don’t be shocked if the Hokies climb higher than their current ranking — and if they play deep into March, too.
Utah remains perfect after back-to-back wins
Besides Virginia Tech, the other team in the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship field to keep a perfect record intact was Utah, which also improved to 6-0, thanks in large part to an electric offense that is the second-highest scoring in America at an explosive rate of 95.0 points per game.
Just two years removed from just five wins, the Utes have looked spectacular this year under coach Lynne Roberts, picking up wins over Alabama and Ole Miss to bolster their resume for what they hope will be the program’s first repeat trip to the tournament NCAA from 2008 and 2009.
Junior forward Alissa Pili, a USC transfer, looks to be rediscovering the form that helped her become the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year with the Trojans during the 2019-2020 season.
He is pacing Utah with 18.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game – including 21 rebounds in his team’s 69-67 win over the Rebels on Wednesday to close out its trip to Baha Mar.
But it’s the elite shooting numbers from all over the floor (52.4% from the field, third in the nation) that make the Utes go, and even though Pili’s ridiculous current clip of 68.1% from the floor is a significant reason behind that, she’s just one of six Utah players making at least half of her shots.
Super sophomores Gianna Kneepkens (14.8 points per game, 43.8% from 3-point range) and Jenna Johnson (14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game) also make the their tasks to ensure Utah remains a dangerous team to play the remainder of the early season and ultimately conference play.
The Ole Miss coach is coming home to the Bahamas
The Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship marked a special homecoming for at least one person in particular.
Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin is from Freeport, Bahamas, a native with deep connections who is building and growing the sport on the islands in many ways, with a rich talent pool that includes Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield and former WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones;
The first Bahamian woman to sign a Division I National Letter of Intent when she played for Rhode Island in the early 2000s, McPhee-McCuin has served as the women’s national team coach since 2013 while also performing her collegiate duties coach in the United States for several programs.
— Ole Miss BB Women (@OleMissWBB) November 24, 2022
The Rebels’ fifth head coach broke barriers and made history by jumping an assistant coach for the Bahamas men’s national team during its ongoing FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign.
Returning to the Caribbean for a homecoming with the Ole Miss team, McPhee-McCuin should be pleased with how things have gone for the Rebels in the first few games of the year.
Ole Miss opened its time in the tournament with a 63-50 win over Dayton on Monday, and while the Rebels were unable to beat a talented Utah team in close quarters, a 5-1 start to the season is certainly not there nothing to be ashamed of, especially when senior Angel Baker (14.2 points, 2.2 steals per game) plays like one of the best two-way guards in the Southeastern Conference.
While it may not have been a perfect return to the Bahamas for McPhee-McCuin – a second win on the trot would help get him there – her team got a taste of some elite talent back home and an experience that could help her learn in more ways than one.