With Revenge On The Mind, No. 12 Hokies Beat Duke For Eighth Win In A Row

Elizabeth Kitley and the Hokies were determined to win on Thursday night vs. Duke — and did. (Ivan Morozov)

Matilda Ekh was blunt after the game: the No. 12 Hokies entered Thursday’s game vs. Duke with revenge on their mind after their 63-46 loss in Durham on Jan. 18. And they never lost faith in their goal for a second in their 61-56 win.

“The only thing we said is, ‘We’re winning this game,’” Ekh said afterwards. “That was the only thing. Nothing fancy or anything. We just said we’re going to win this game.”

Virginia Tech (21-4, 12-2) did just that in front of its fourth sold-out crowd of the season in Cassell Coliseum in a gritty contest against the Blue Devils (16-8, 8-5). The league-leaders willed themselves to their eighth straight victory and their 24th in a row on its home floor.

It wasn’t easy. Duke, who boasts one of the best defenses in the country, frustrated Tech point guard Georgia Amoore, who had an off-night and scored just 13 points on 4-of-21 shooting with six turnovers. Tech shot well in the first and fourth quarters (12-of-25, 48%) but struggled in the middle two (10-of-29, 34%).

However, the Hokies’ other All-American, Elizabeth Kitley, was terrific. She carried the load with her 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting, which featured eight free throws in nine attempts, and 12 rebounds — seven on the offensive glass. It was her seventh 30-point performance of the year and her sixth with 10 rebounds, too, the most in Division I this season — and fourth-most in a D-I campaign over the last decade.

“Against a great player, sometimes they’re going to score,” Duke head coach Kara Lawson said. “… They’re going to make shots. You just try to make the shots as difficult as you can, and she made a lot of difficult ones. … She’s a really good player, obviously, fifth-year senior and top player in our league for a long time and she’s had many nights like this.”

Just four Hokies scored — Kitley (34 points), Amoore (13), Matilda Ekh (11) and Carys Baker (3) — the fewest in a victory in program history. But it took everybody, especially on the defensive end.

The Hokies only had four players score on Thursday vs. Duke, one of which was Matilda Ekh, but everyone had a hand in the win. (Ivan Morozov)

The Blue Devils like to press, trap and muck things up, and the 36 fouls chopped the game up. Neither team shot super well — 41 percent for Tech, 37 percent for Duke. But Tech’s defense was good enough to win, in part because of things like Amoore’s three steals, Baker’s three blocks and one each from Cayla King, Clara Strack and Carleigh Wenzel.

Everyone played a role on the boards, too; Kitley had a game-high 12, but Amoore and Ekh had four apiece while Olivia Summiel and Strack had three each. King, Wenzel and Baker all grabbed one.

“Very proud of our kids,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said. “Tough situation, tough battle. I felt we played like two games, just exhausted mentally, physically. But proud of our kids, they answered the bell a lot of different times, played through the physicality.”

Tied at 42 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Hokies limited Duke to 5-of-18 from the field while scoring the ball slightly better than they did in the previous two periods (43%). They got key stops when needed.

Offensively, they struggled to find a rhythm, not uncommon against a stingy Blue Devils unit. Amoore, who was pressured for 94 feet for the majority of 40 minutes, could hardly buy a basket. It was a rare performance from the Australian, who is shooting 40 percent this season and averaging 18 points per game. In fact, it’s only the fourth time in program history a player has shot worse than 20 percent on at least 20 attempts.

Yet, she arguably had the biggest play of the night. Virginia Tech led 56-53 out of a timeout with 35.4 remaining. And, for what seemed like the first time all night, Duke decided to double Kitley in the post. King found Kitley, who drew in the defense and kicked it out to Amoore at the top of the key without hesitation. And, despite being 3-of-20 to that point, she drained the 3-pointer to ice the game.

It circles back to the players’ chemistry, which was first cultivated in the team’s trip to Greece over the summer. The Hokies trust Amoore, no matter the situation or the stakes. The same can be said for Kitley and others. And it showed in that moment when nobody thought twice about it. In their eyes, it was just their teammate doing what she does.

Georgia Amoore didn’t have a great night but came up clutch when it mattered. (Ivan Morozov)

“We’re never going to stop going to her, we’re never going to stop going to me,” Kitley said of Amoore. “So the end of the game when they had three people kind of sagging and were leaving Georgia on the 3-point line, we’re giving it to Georgia every time, it doesn’t matter how many times she’s missed, because she can make clutch shots like that.”

“I think one of our biggest strengths is the trust we have for each other,” Ekh said. “Going back to Georgia, I know she had an off-day, but I don’t care if she’s 5-for-5 or 0-for-5, I trust her just as much to shoot the sixth time, and I think that’s one of our strengths, that we have that trust for each other.”

In the end, Tech came out on top against Duke, similar to last season when it lost at Duke in January and got payback a month later (and then again in Greensboro). Those made up two of the team’s 15 wins throughout the hot streak; this time around, it’s the eighth, and it’s at the top of the ACC heading into the final four games of the year: at No. 18 Louisville, vs. North Carolina, at No. 16 Notre Dame, at Virginia.

The Hokies are well liked in the national picture, too. The NCAA Tournament selection committee released its top-16 teams on Thursday afternoon; Tech slotted in at No. 10, good for a No. 3 seed. Should it continue to win, that stock will only continue to soar.

Everything revolves around trust, good defense — an aspect that is much improved in the five weeks since the previous meeting with Duke — and having the right mentality. The Hokies are obviously talented and can score the ball, too, but they had all three of those aforementioned elements against the Blue Devils, which guided them to their win, even when they were up and down offensively.

“We’re at that point where they’re going to trust what they’ve seen in hours of practice and games and not just what’s going on in that particular moment,” Brooks said. “… Their ability to love each other, to trust each other, to share in each other’s successes, you have to have all of that. … And they understand [that].

“… These kids are expecting to win. That was the message going out, and I thought they did a much better job and just came up with some of the plays that we really needed to get a little bit of separation.”

Box Score: No. 12 Virginia Tech 61, Duke 56

27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Great job David. You are blessed to cover this team and we are blessed to have you grant us behind-the-scenes reporting that makes us feel as if we are part of the program. Thank you.

  2. Great tough win. It was rough but it seemed that the referees were fair considering Liz got 3 bigs in foul trouble

  3. Great win against a very well coached team. Sure wish we had a few more players that would drive to the basket. Amoore and Kitley have got to be totally exhausted toward the of the games. More physical teams will pose a challenge. In the meantime, enjoying the energy the is team brings.

  4. Some will criticize but Kenny Rogers/Brooks was/is correct; play the hand you’re dealt. Duke played to one Queen and the other Queen took the game. Winners tell jokes and losers yell “deal!”

  5. Very tough, physical game and the Hokie ladies answered the challenge and got the win. Highest respect to coach Brooks and the entire Hokie team they fought a battle and won last night.

  6. It’s really simple, Georgia is a “Winner”. At any given moment she’s going to do what is needed to win the contest. She had an unbelievable steal, several critical rebounds, a great pass, a jump ball and a key shot at the end as well as I think 4 free throws. She reminds me a lot of Hunter Cattoor on the men’s side, someone too valuable to take off the floor. Top that off with an enchanting and endearing personalty and that’s why we are all lucky she’s a Hokie. Hope she stays another year and then returns one day to help coach.

  7. Focusing on a goal, no matter how lofty, goes a long ways towards achieving that goal. They already knew how to win, no need to worry about the details. This team is of the right mindset. They will go far!

  8. Kitley’s pass to amoore on that 3 was the play of the game IMO ; because they hadn’t doubled all night and when they did she was prepared and trusted her teammate to hit the open shot. the shot was great but the pass was excellence!

    1. and all automatic, no stopping to think about what to do…Kitley’s like “oh, double team” and the balls already out of her hands to the perimeter.

  9. I watched Kara Lawson’s presser. She is a class act. Unlike the SU coach, she does not have a chip on her shoulder. Whereas the SU coach expressed sour grapes after the loss to us, Coach L attrubuted to Duke’s inability to, “make plays” late whereas we did. Unlike the SU coach, Coach L complimented our players None of this, “our athletes are better,” stuff. However, I’m somewhat biased: 1) she’s a local NOVA girl who playted on SC teams w/the daughters of a former co-worker; I saw her play once. B) her (white) mother worked at my children’s MS; 3) I met her father a couple of times; 4) One of my daughters attended a clinic she conducted, a nice girl, humble, not full of herself but not lacking confidence either. Being perfectly honest, she far more attractive as an adult than she ever was was in HS; 5) she was a truly elite athlete…she actually was on her HS football team roster, was a very good soccer players and of course a superb basketball player. Coach L knows the game, has a charismatic personality, great resume. Going forward, and Duke will be a formidable opponent for all comers. Duke adds to the depth of the ACC. .

    1. She’s been there playing WNBA and all. Notice she’s been selected as an asst. coach for the Paris Olympics. She can take the long view of things for sure. Yeah, there are coaches that compliment the other team and those that say “that’s no how we play basketball” like wins or losses have nothing to do with the other team. Wes Moore of NCSU is a good guy, so is the Miami coach and, of course Kenny. At least just say “That’s a good/great team we played out there.”

      1. Agree 100% about Wes Moore and the Miami coach. I cdan’t say it often neough, that Syracuse coach’s comments bugged me: a sore loser.

    2. At one point I believe in the first half, with 3 of her starters on the bench, and the official standing in front of her bench, she demonstrably started shouting at the ref and pointing at her players that were out of the game with 2 fouls each. She looked like a maniac, ranting and raving and pointing and stomping. Hey coach, quit teaching your players to foul incessantly rather than play proper defense. Cudos to the officials for calling that mess, although they committed enough fouls to probably foul out, they didn’t, well one did.

  10. Clutch shot by Georgia at the end of the game to seal things. Great to see the perseverance and willingness to take that shot despite an off night. I wonder if the whole revenge mindset played into her struggles. She seemed to be pressing early and a big reason for the off night was shot selection.

    1. It was a huge shot! She did all the little things last night. She was all over the floor. Way to go Lady Hokies!

  11. VT gutted that one out. Duke’s style is frustrating to watch with their war of attrition. Nice summary as always David!

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