So many times they had come close, and so many times things had fallen apart. But on Thursday evening, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team came roaring back down the stretch to take No. 2 NC State to overtime, and then Kenny Brooks’s squad put the Wolfpack away, 83-71.
It was the first-ever win over a top-four program in Virginia Tech women’s 45-year basketball history. It was just the second time Virginia Tech has beaten NC State in 24 tries.
On January 7th, the Hokies led No. 2 Louisville (now ranked No. 1) 67-65 with 2:26 to go, but got outscored down the stretch 6-0 to lose 71-67. Last Sunday, Virginia Tech led No. 2 NC State (that’s not a typo; the two teams played just four days ago) 81-70 with just 4:20 to, but gave up a 16-0 run in three and a half minutes and eventually lost 89-87.
There were other lost leads along the way in what had been a 1-7 run since December 17th. But this time, Virginia Tech turned things around, and instead it was the Hokies who came from behind to deal a painful loss to their opponent.
Down 54-50 with the clock winding under two minutes, Virginia Tech scored seven straight to take a 57-54 lead, then surrendered a buzzer-beating three pointer by NC State’s Camille Hobby that sent the game to overtime.
No matter. The Hokies outscored the Pack 26-14 in the extra period to run away with arguably the biggest win in program history.
Looking forward to a Monday night matchup with No. 1 Louisville, NC State first had to get past Virginia Tech for the second time in five days, and the Wolfpack had to do it without leading scorer, leading rebounder, and leading shotblocker Elissa Cunane. They managed it Sunday despite 30 points and 13 rebounds from Virginia Tech double-double machine Elizabeth Kitley, but the Pack couldn’t do it again Thursday.
Kitley registered another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but the evening belonged to Virginia Tech’s career three-point shooting leader, Aisha Sheppard. Sheppard led all scorers with 28 points. She shot a so-so 6-of-17 from the field, a pretty-good 4-of-10 from three-point range, and a sterling 12-of-14 from the free throw line. It was Sheppard’s three-pointer that provided the dagger, stretching a 66-60 Hokies lead to an insurmountable 69-60 with 1:22 to go in overtime.
— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) January 28, 2021
11 of 12 of Sheppard’s free-throw makes came in the last 1:07 of overtime, as NC State fouled to try to catch up. Sheppard ran the point down the stretch after starting point guard Georgia Amoore fouled out with 3:07 left in OT.
In addition to Kitley and Sheppard’s contributions, the Hokies got 16 points from Duke transfer Azana Baines, who went over double figures for the first time in a Hokies uniform. Cayla King scored ten points, hitting three three-pointers in the first half to help keep the Hokies in the game.
NC State led 19-15 after one quarter and 30-26 at the half, but the Hokies took the lead 31-30 with 7:42 left in the third quarter on a Sheppard three-pointer. From that point on, there were seven lead changes in the third quarter, which ended with NC State on top 45-44.
State led by as many as four points for most of the fourth quarter, until Sheppard hit a three-pointer to put Tech up 55-54 with 54 seconds left. Kitley made two free throws with 22 seconds to go to make it 57-54, and then State’s Hobby made a desperation three off a broken play as the clock expired to send it to overtime.
In overtime, Virginia Tech outscored NC State 12-3 before the game turned into a State foul-fest as the Wolfpack tried to catch up. Sheppard (three-pointer), Kitley, and Baines combined to score eight quick points, and the Hokies led 65-60 with 3:14 to go. The next big score was Sheppard’s three-pointer with 1:22 remaining, and then it was Sheppard over and over to the foul line the rest of the way.
After getting outrebounded 22-10 in the early going, Virginia Tech eventually closed the rebounding gap to 39-36 by the time the game ended. The game was statistically fairly even, with Virginia Tech’s 11-of-29 (37.9%) three-point marksmanship providing the margin over NC State’s 5-of-19 (26.3%). The Hokies also outscored NC State from the free throw line, going 20-of-24 to the Pack’s 14-of-22, with much of that coming in overtime.
The Hokies still reside near the bottom of the ACC Standings at 8-7 (3-7 ACC), as the last few weeks have taken their toll. But for one night, they were rewarded with a win they’ll never forget, and which goes down in the record books for Virginia Tech women’s basketball.