The No. 19 Hokies squashed Georgia Tech 87-69 for their sixth ACC win of the year on Thursday behind All-Americans Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore.
In her first game back from a head injury suffered a week prior at Duke, Amoore exploded for her fourth double-double of the season, which she recorded in the first 24 minutes, on 24 points and 13 assists. Kitley posted 29 points, 16 of which came in the first quarter on 8-of-8 shooting, and nine rebounds.
That duo Virginia Tech (15-4, 6-2 ACC) past the Yellow Jackets (13-7, 4-4), who struggled to hang from the jump. After the first five minutes, the Hokies got comfortable and pushed the lead to as many as 23. Georgia Tech never led.
“I think we came out hot and confident, for sure,” Amoore said. “But I think there potentially may have been a little bit in the second quarter where we relaxed. Definitely cannot do that. I think we fouled way too much and let them get to the line a bit too much. And I think they cut it down to an eight- or nine-point lead, which is crazy because that’s still a good lead, but I think for our standards, we let them get too close.
“I think we came out well, but we need to eliminate those little lulls that we have.”
Kitley started the game 8-of-8 after finishing Sunday’s victory over Clemson 7-of-7. Like most teams in the conference, GT had no answer for her, though it did limit her to 4-of-9 in the second half. Meanwhile, Amoore only turned the ball over twice — as a team, VT had just six — and looked like her usual creative self.
Entering Thursday’s game, Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks wasn’t sure how much he’d play Amoore after finding out she was cleared. But she felt great throughout and he kept her on the floor 35 minutes. She didn’t appear to skip a beat after missing Sunday’s win over Clemson, a situation she jokingly described as a “three-day bender.”
“She shot the ball well tonight, just really had an aggressive mindset and looked like her old self again,” Brooks said of Amoore.
The other big piece was Olivia Summiel. Though she was overshadowed by the aforementioned duo, she scored 12 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting, which included two 3-pointers, and corralled nine rebounds.
The Wake Forest transfer was quiet in most of the games she played for Virginia Tech in November and December. She helped the Hokies squeak by Tulane in the Cayman Islands over Thanksgiving and had two double-doubles in three games against Rutgers and Pitt. But after a five-point, nine-rebound outing vs. Clemson on Sunday, she followed it up with 12 and nine. She seems to slowly be growing more comfortable and finding her role.
“I’m very proud of her mental resiliency,” Brooks said of Summiel. “… She never pouted. … I’m very proud of her and happy for her because she’s starting to settle into her role. She’s starting to get us second- and third-chance opportunities. She’s hitting an open three, she’s feeding the basketball, she’s defending, she’s rebounding, she’s learning how to play off Liz, and that’s a major plus if she continues to do that. And the bonus is she knows this league.
“… Hopefully she’ll continue on because we need it, we need a little consistency, I need to know where that extra production is coming from.”
As a result of Summiel’s increased efficiency, Brooks adjusted his lineup slightly. Rose Micheaux, who started 16 of the team’s 19 games this year, played just over 90 seconds against Georgia Tech. Instead, he used true freshmen Clara Strack (six points, three boards vs. GT) and Carys Baker (three points) in Summiel’s stead.
Baker got a trey down in the second quarter and is shooting 50 percent (22-of-44) on the season. Strack’s had at least three boards in four of her last five games. On top of that, she has 10 points and five blocks — one of which came in the second quarter vs. GT when she almost sent the ball into the stands — in her last two outings.
What a block! 🚫
— ACC Women's Basketball (@accwbb) January 25, 2024
“That block that she had was emphatic,” Brooks said. “It took me out of my coaching zone. I was like, ‘Whoa, look at that.’ … She’s a good defender, she’s strong down there and so we can counter people’s athleticism with our size. And [Strack and Kitley] are learning to play well together.”
Matilda Ekh (six points, three rebounds, two assists) and Cayla King (two rebounds, one assist) were quiet against the Yellow Jackets, but they only had to do so much offensively when the trio of Kitley, Amoore and Summiel combined for 65 points, four shy of Georgia Tech’s entire total.
It was a positive night for the Hokies in a number of areas, from the bench production to the way the ball moved. Amoore and Brooks really liked the pace at which they played, as they mixed up pushing it in transition and walking the ball up the floor. But Amoore had a different look to her — Brooks said she played with “spunk” — almost like she was more energized than normal after missing the last game.
Virginia Tech let the ball do the work, though, and had 20 assists on 36 made baskets. Amoore got her points but also found her teammates, like Kitley, who was just about automatic. As a unit, it had 13 points off turnovers and 13 second-chance points.
“We had our point guard back, so that helped a lot,” Kitley said. “But I think we just did a good job of sharing the ball. I think as the season’s gone on, we’ve done a lot better of a job of playing together in general, so I think it’s showing as the season is progressing.”
On the other side, Tonie Morgan had 26 points, four rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block for Georgia Tech. Rusne Augustinaite joined her in double figures with 16 points and five boards.
“They’re an up-and-coming team in this league,” Brooks said of Georgia Tech. “Tonie Morgan’s a problem. [Kayla] Blackshear is good, [Kara] Dunn. They’re young and they’re going to be so good, and Nell [Fortner] does a terrific job with them, putting them in good situations. So it’s a good win for us.”
However, despite shooting 70 percent in the second quarter, which made it a nine-point margin at halftime, 46-35, the Yellow Jackets didn’t have enough firepower to hang with the Hokies, who limited them to 20 percent (3-of-15) in the third.
VT’s sixth conference win of the year comes at a good time. Three of its next four games are on the road at ranked foes with a home game vs. Virginia in between: at No. 22 Syracuse on Sunday, vs. Virginia on Thursday, at No. 20 North Carolina on Feb. 4, at No. 7 NC State on Feb. 8.
After two consecutive losses on the road in league play at Florida State and Duke, the Hokies bounced back in the last week in the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum. Can they go back on the road and have more success? They’re hopeful, especially after so many players chipped in and did good things in their wins over the Tigers and Yellow Jackets.
“We just have to continue to stay together, play together,” Brooks said. “We had two games on the road last week and we played well through large portions of those games, like we went to Florida State and we probably outplayed them for 30 minutes out of the 40, but 10 that we didn’t, that really got us. Duke, we outplayed them in the first half but really just lost our way a little bit in the second half.
“We just have to learn to put together 40 good minutes and we have those capabilities. Settling in on rotations, have some consistency there, we just need to continue that.”
Box Score: No. 19 Virginia Tech 87, Georgia Tech 69