The dynamic duo of Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore was fantastic once again on Thursday for the No. 17 Hokies in their 76-63 victory over Virginia.
“Really good win for us against a really good team, an up-and-coming team,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the win. “… We starting to play really good basketball, we’re understanding where we need to get the basketball, how to get it there and having less and less lulls. This win will go a long way for us.”
Kitley (33 points, 15-of-25, 18 rebounds) and Amoore (20 points, 8-of-19, 14 assists) had double-doubles by the media timeout in the third quarter. They put on a show in front of the second regular-season sellout in Cassell Coliseum history — “The crowd was phenomenal,” Brooks said — to lead Virginia Tech (17-4, 8-2 ACC) to its fifth consecutive win over the Cavaliers (10-11, 2-8).
Kitley bounced back from a six-point, nine-rebound outing, her lone single-digit scoring performance of the season that she and Brooks simply called an off-night. Amoore, the reigning ACC Player of the Week and AP National Player of the Week, has been phenomenal since returning from a head injury. She posted 24 points and 13 assists vs. Georgia Tech and followed it up with a 29-point outing in a ranked road win at Syracuse.
In the Commonwealth Clash, that duo made 23 baskets and shot 52 percent, both better marks than UVa’s entire team (21 field goals, 37%), while each playing 40 minutes. They were two of the top-20 players on the Wooden Award watch list for a reason, after all. “Their powerhouses went off,” UVa head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton said.
“I had a little spell in the beginning of the season where I wasn’t necessarily as confident or comfortable and then [Amoore] kind of went through the same thing,” Kitley said, “but now that I think we’re both clicking and playing really well together, I think that makes us really hard to guard. We really just work on our two-man game every day in practice.
“Coach Brooks does a great job of putting us in those positions all the time, it’s just second nature at this point, and when we’re playing well together, we’re just really comfortable on the floor and I’m very, very, very confident something good is going to happen when the ball is in [Amoore’s] hands.”
Tech’s outstanding third quarter really sealed the win. A five-point game at halftime, 46-41 in Tech’s favor, it outscored UVa 17-5 in the period. It punched the Cavaliers in the mouth from the get-go and limited them to 2-of-14 shooting while making eight of its 20 attempts. That turned the tide for good, pushing the margin to 17 points.
The Hokies ramped it up defensively in that stretch. Virginia, who had just two turnovers in the first half, gave it away four times in the first four minutes.
UVa missed some decent looks — “We left a lot of layups on the board,” Agugua-Hamilton said — while Tech got somewhat comfortable and pulled away.
“I think we were a little bit better connected,” Kitley said of the third quarter. “They were getting downhill a lot on us but I was able to help more, I think we had some good blocks in the second half. … I think we were able to come out and be more aggressive, and I think the crowd helped us a little bit, maybe rattled them. But we were just having fun out there and defensively, we were a little bit more locked in on their actions.”
Outside of that 10-minute spell, the Hokies were just OK on defense. The Cavaliers shot 44 percent (19-of-43) throughout the other 30 minutes and seemed to carve their way to the rack at will at times, which opened up other opportunities as Virginia Tech rotated.
True freshman Kymora Johnson led Virginia with 22 points on 7-of-20 shooting with three rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Paris Clark, who entered the day averaging just nine and four, scored 18 while corralling eight boards.
Foul trouble didn’t help Tech’s defense either — exemplified by Cayla King’s four personals — and UVa attempted 21 free throws, which chopped up the game. On the other end, Tech was just 7-of-8 from the stripe.
It received boosts in other areas, though. Matilda Ekh gave Tech some crucial points in the first half as she nailed three of her five 3-point attempts. The Swede finished with 13 points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist.
While Brooks didn’t mix things up too much — he didn’t sub for the entirety of the third quarter when things were clicking defensively — King chipped in five points and five boards while Olivia Summiel added seven rebounds, a season-high three assists and two blocks. Freshmen Carys Baker (five points, three rebounds), Clara Strack (three rebounds, one block) and Carleigh Wenzel (three boards, one assist) spelled the starters in moments, though the latter had three fouls.
It was primarily a two-woman show, however. Sure, there were possessions where the Hokies didn’t generate a good look, and they sputtered in moments when the Cavaliers ramped up the pressure, but UVa couldn’t slow down the combination of Kitley and Amoore. And, frankly, when they’re playing like they did on Thursday, most teams around the country would struggle to do the same.
“They’re a tandem, duo, whatever you want to call them, that plays well off of each other,” Brooks said. “They know each other. … They work extremely well together. And I thought we played really well. … I don’t think we’re going to go 7-for-30 many times [from three], so when you can add a Matilda Ekh and Cayla King and what they’re able to provide, it just makes us a dangerous basketball team, because you can’t really just lock in and focus on those two.
“They’re one of the best duos in the country, … they’re two of the top 20 players in the country and we as Hokies get to see them every night, so we’re very, very fortunate for that.”
Virginia Tech will need them to play with similar confidence and swagger in the upcoming week, too, at No. 24 North Carolina on Sunday and at No. 5 NC State on Thursday. Just over halfway in ACC play, the bunch sits at 8-2.
Though Virginia was certainly no pushover — it beat Florida State and UNC in two of its last three games — and the Hokies will see the Cavaliers again in the regular-season finale, they’ve got lofty goals, which they can continue to chip away at in the Triangle in the near future.
“This is the best conference in the country, one through 15,” Brooks said. “I know some of the other conferences have some really good teams at the top, but these teams that play in the ACC, everyone gives you fits so you’ve just got to go out and take it one game at a time. And that’s when we’ve really locked in, and we learned that last year to just take it one game at a time.
“… [The Tar Heels] know us, it’s a healthy rivalry and I think they’re going to get up for us and we’re going to get up for them.”
Box Score: No. 17 Virginia Tech 76, Virginia 63
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) February 2, 2024