Despite Distractions, Familiar Businesslike Approach Leads No. 8 Hokies Past UNC

Georgia Amoore and the Hokies were cool, calm and collected in their win over UNC despite potential outside distractions. (Jon Fleming)

It would have been easy for the No. 8 Hokies to be overwhelmed by emotions Sunday afternoon against North Carolina.

For the first time, ESPN’s women’s basketball College GameDay show set up shop at midcourt in Cassell Coliseum. That was quite the morning high, while senior day celebrations a few hours later might’ve left some teary-eyed.

But rather than getting caught up in the moment, they continued their businesslike approach in a 74-62 victory over the Tar Heels, jumping out to a 21-5 lead after 10 minutes and never looking back in winning their 10th straight game. 

“I think we’re just a really mature group and we keep the main thing the main thing,” Virginia Tech guard Georgia Amoore said. “Obviously, it’s a massive compliment to have GameDay here and the crowds and all of the potential distractions, but as I said before, we’re very mature, and basketball is life, so keep that the main thing.”

“This group is different,” Hokies head coach Kenny Brooks said. “This is the most mature group I’ve ever been around. We started saying ‘It’s us vs. us’ in early January, and we got to a point where it did not matter whatever else happened, we control our own destiny. So regardless of what’s going on in the outside world, these kids have come in here and they’re locked in and focused, and a lot of it has to do with their leadership.”

Virginia Tech (23-4, 14-2) clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title with the win, as well as the No. 1 seed at the conference tournament in Greensboro, both firsts. Among other milestones, it was the program’s 800th career victory, a school-best 10th ACC win in a row and its 25th consecutive victory in Cassell Coliseum (which tied the record).

Yet, the Hokies showed their humility, as they have all year. The ACC regular-season trophy was in attendance, as expected, but they didn’t touch it afterward; they want to win the thing outright before they do, a goal that can be achieved by one victory in their final two games (at Notre Dame, at Virginia). But that doesn’t mean it isn’t special.

Elizabeth Kitley and the Hokies won a share of the ACC regular-season title on Sunday. (Ivan Morozov)

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Brooks said. “We won the ACC Tournament last year and that was a tremendous feat, but that was like play well for three days. To be the regular-season, at least, co-champion, that’s a long haul. That’s a long haul, going to a lot of different places, playing under adversity, so it’s a little bit different, but it means a lot. For us to be able to take Virginia Tech there, it’s a lot of fun. And it makes me so proud to be a Hokie.”

Against the Tar Heels (18-10, 10-6), Tech put the pressure on early. UNC turned it over three times on its first five possessions and couldn’t buy a bucket. It made just one of its first nine attempts. At the same time, the Hokies started 5-of-10 and jumped out to an 11-3 lead.

By the end of the first quarter, it was 21-5, courtesy of three 3-pointers — two from Matilda Ekh and one from deep from Cayla King, which lit the fire — and 8-of-14 overall shooting. UNC was 2-of-13 (15%) and the fifth team Tech’s held below 10 points in the first period this season, joining LIU, Radford, Pitt and Duke.

“We know who we are,” Brooks said, “and people talk about defense and the way some people perceive good defense is not the way we play. But we’re very secure in who we are and defending and we know where we want to put people, and I thought in the first quarter, we did a great job of that.

“We have the utmost confidence in each other to rely on each other, and I think that makes our defense good. We’re not stellar, we’re not going to be the best, but our offense is good enough when you combine the two, we’re a pretty good team.”

Carolina fought back and, with Amoore on the bench with two fouls for the majority of the second quarter, outscored Tech 22-12 in the period. Deja Kelly’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer made it a six-point game at intermission, 33-27.

But despite Kelly’s best efforts to keep the Tar Heels in the game — she finished with a season-high 29 points on 10-of-22 shooting and 7-of-8 free throws — Tech’s All-American duo was too much to handle.

Virginia Tech’s defense was big in Sunday’s win over North Carolina. (Jon Fleming)

Kitley was terrific as usual with her eighth 30-point game of the season: 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 12-of-14 free throws. She had 18 by halftime.

Meanwhile, Amoore took over with 17 second-half points after scoring just two in the first. With her family from Australia in attendance, she accounted for 11 of Tech’s first 14 in the third quarter and was 7-of-10 down the stretch. She also recorded 11 assists, and her dime to Kitley with 3:25 remaining broke the school’s all-time assist record, set by Lisa Witherspoon (635).

“I don’t know who wrote the script but it was pretty daggone good,” Brooks said.

Though Amoore was one point shy of 20, which would’ve marked the 14th game she and Kitley each posted 20-plus in the last three years — the Hokies are 13-0 in such games — they combined for 53 of Tech’s 74 points (72%).

Ekh chipped in 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. King and Clara Strack each scored three and Carleigh Wenzel and Olivia Summiel had two apiece. They were all impactful on the boards, though, highlighted by Summiel’s 14, which Brooks described as Dennis Rodman-esque. Wenzel and Ekh had three each; King grabbed two. Those contributions were crucial to Tech’s 36-27 rebounding margin.

Between that, shooting 53 percent for the game — including a 63 percent clip in the second half (15-of-24) — and holding the Tar Heels to 39 percent from the floor, it was a winning recipe for Virginia Tech.

Factor in the rabid, sold-out crowd, which blew the doors off in the morning on a national stage and showed back up in the afternoon, and it pushed Tech over the edge on a day featuring so much celebration.

“What a wonderful day for,” Brooks said, “not only Virginia Tech women’s basketball, but Virginia Tech in general.”

Box Score: No. 8 Virginia Tech 74, North Carolina 62


9 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. David – Great article
    Encourage Hokie Nation & Cassell Guard to buy Tickets to the :
    UVa game this Sunday – 6:00
    Tickets $10
    Our girls need your support in JPJ

    1. Yes! I’ll be there. It’d be amazing to end the regular season with a huge contingent of Hokies in attendance.

  2. What an accomplishment this team has achieved. These ladies were outstanding once again. Liz Kitley has gotta be in the conversation for being the greatest athlete in school history.

  3. Thanks David! I always thoroughly enjoy your articles. If it’s not too much trouble, could you re-start embedding the condensed games links? I really appreciate them. They give me a much better idea of the flow of the game, thanks!

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