A Closer Look at FGCU Before NCAA Tournament Matchup With Hokies

Georgia Amoore and Virginia Tech have a big matchup on Friday vs. FGCU. (Scott Kinser/ACC Pool Photography)

Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks’s goal coming into the season was to survive the NCAA Tournament deep enough to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in his career. But the path to it isn’t easy.

His team, a five-seed, was put on upset alert earlier in the week by ESPN, which gives No. 12-seeded Florida Gulf Coast a 50.1% chance to win Friday afternoon’s matchup in College Park, Md. The most recent AP Poll has the Hokies as the No. 16 overall team in the country, while the Eagles are No. 23 after winning the Atlantic-Sun Conference championship. 

“I would love to go behind the scenes to try to figure out how they came up with the fact that Florida Gulf Coast is a 12-seed. They’re not,” Brooks said Thursday. “They are very good. But at the same time, we put in a lot of work and our kids have developed to the point where we are good, too.”

If Virginia Tech is going to launch 30 3-pointers on Friday, you can expect Florida Gulf Coast to try at least 40 of them. The Eagles led the country in treys this year with 367 on 1120 attempts (32.8%), guided by their star player, Kierstan Bell. Tech, though, shoots at a higher rate from three with a 36.3% clip.

Bell is projected to go as high as sixth-overall in this year’s WNBA Draft and averages 23.2 points per game, while shooting 48.1% from the floor and 29.6% from deep. She was second on the team in made 3-pointers.

“[You] face a player like Bell a lot when you play in the ACC. There’s a lot of them,” Brooks said. “… She’s an extremely talented player and she’s in a system that really, really suits her. And so, using the term green light, sometimes people feel like you can go and gun it, but she has a green light in her situation where she has the ability to create. She is much more than just a shooter; much more than just a scorer; she does a lot for her team.”

Kendall Spray, meanwhile, led the team in 3-pointers made (45.1%) after beginning the season on the bench. The Clemson transfer carved out a spot in the starting lineup once FGCU reached its conference tournament.

But she, too, like the rest of the team, can beat you inside. As much as Florida Gulf Coast likes to shoot the deep ball, it’ll push the basketball inside for easy buckets at the rim. 

Hokies center Elizabeth Kitley poses plenty of nightmares for FGCU. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

The Eagles shot 505-for-867 (58.2%) from inside the arc (for reference, VT shoots 50% from inside), but they haven’t seen a defensive presence like the 6’6” Elizabeth Kitley, the ACC Player of the Year and an All-ACC defender. 

“I think we present challenges in a lot of ways because we make nine threes a game and we also have a 6-foot-6 All-American inside,” Brooks said. “So we don’t have to shoot 35 [3’s] a game.”

On the offensive side for Tech, it’ll easily challenge FGCU’s lack of size by throwing Kitley down low. The Eagles’ tallest player is 6-foot-1 — five inches shorter than Kitley. But, like the mid-major teams did during the non-conference portion of the schedule, Florida Gulf Coast will likely double Kitley to limit her effectiveness. 

The only problem? It leaves a shooter open in the mid-range or from deep wide-open when the extra body crashes to double Kitley, and the Hokies made good on that against teams with smaller lineups early in the regular season.

“You know, our kids don’t even want to shoot 35 [3-pointers] a game because they know that Liz is a big part of what we do,” Brooks said. “So we’re just going to focus on us. I think if we do that, we put ourselves in a position to challenge and to advance.”

Virginia Tech squares off with Florida Gulf Coast Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 2:30 p.m. ET. Dave O’Brien and Christy Winters-Scott have the call on ESPNU.

5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. 29% from 3 for their star player? Pack it in and let her throw it up from out there at that clip.

  2. Go Lady Hokies!! Hokie Nation is behind you all the way. Why stop at the sweet sixteen? You have all the parts to win the whole thing. Glad you have had another good season, now cement it in the history books with a deep run in the tournament.

  3. On D make them pay for every miss, no second chances through good rebounding.

    On O beat them up with Kitley who kicks back out for open shots when they swarm on her – if they even slow her down. And frustrate them with good O rebounding too.

    We want their fans screaming about their lack of size.

  4. FGCU is a very popular pick – some prognosticators have them going to the Elite 8. Hopefully VT is up to the challenge because I have them going to the Elite 8 in my brackets.

  5. ‘The Eagles shot 505-for-667 (58.2%) from inside the arc’

    That math doesn’t work. Probably want to fix that…

    Go Hokies!

    Hokie Proud. All the Time. Period.

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