It’s been a long time since Virginia Tech women’s basketball has been to the NCAA Tournament, and on Sunday they made their latest trip count, beating Marquette 70-63 to advance to the second round.
In their first tournament trip since 2006, the Hokies (15-9) earned a Tuesday game (time and network TBD) against No. 2 seed Baylor, 101-52 winners over No. 15 seed Jackson State.
Star center Elizabeth Kitley led the way for Virginia Tech with 23 points and eight rebounds, both game highs. Kitley shot 11-of-19 and was steady throughout, as Marquette had no answer for her inside.
Sophomore guard and Duke transfer Azana Baines backed up Kitley’s play with 15 points, her second-highest total of the season, and seven rebounds. Baines made 6-of-10 from the field. She and Kitley were joined in double figures by freshman point guard Georgia Amoore, who scored 13 on 4-of-12 shooting (just 1-of-6 from outside). Senior guard Da’Ja Green added six points on two three-pointers after scoring just seven points total in her previous 16 games.
Those four players covered for another subpar performance from Aisha Sheppard, the ACC’s third-leading scorer. Sheppard has been struggling since suffering an ankle injury in the ACC Tournament against Miami, and she went just 2-of-7 with 7 points in 30 minutes against Marquette. Sheppard is 4-of-22 (0-of-8 from outside) in two games since the Miami win.
Virginia Tech led 32-21 at half time and carried a 48-39 lead into the fourth quarter. The Hokies started the final quarter strong and eventually built a 15-point lead at 64-49 with just 2:03 remaining.
Marquette then got red-hot to make it interesting, hitting four three-pointers and a layup in 84 seconds to cut Virginia Tech’s lead to 66-63 with 39 seconds left. With Virginia Tech clinging to the three-point lead, Kitley missed a fadeaway in the lane with ten seconds to go, but Cayla King knifed down the baseline and into the middle to grab the offensive rebound. King was fouled with 7.7 to go and made both free throws to put the Hokies up 68-63, and Baines later added two more free throws for the final 70-63 margin.