Loss At No. 17 Notre Dame Snaps Win Streak For No. 5 Virginia Tech

Georgia Amoore and Virginia Tech didn’t have enough against Notre Dame on Thursday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — No. 5 Virginia Tech wasn’t good enough in its penultimate regular-season game on Thursday night in the Midwest, snapping its 10-game win streak at No. 17 Notre Dame in a 71-58 loss.

“Tonight wasn’t our night,” Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the loss. “You give credit to Notre Dame, I thought they played a really good game, had a good gameplan. They were extremely physical with us and we didn’t answer the bell. And I thought we were playing on our heels for most of the night. They sped us up to where we really couldn’t get into what we wanted to get to, and then we had to play from behind for the majority of the night.”

The Hokies (23-5, 14-3 ACC) had been on a tear since losing at Duke on Jan. 18. They’d gone on the road to Syracuse, North Carolina, NC State and Louisville and knocked off ranked foes one after another, all while clinching the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament and a share of the regular-season title. But it was a different story against the Fighting Irish (22-6, 12-5).

For the first time in weeks, Tech looked vulnerable. Granted, Notre Dame is a special, unique program. One scan around the Joyce Center provides a good sense of the big picture; it’s six years removed from a national title and won six consecutive ACC regular-season championships from 2014-19, along with one in 2023. Though it’s a different team now under Niele Ivey, it’s one that beat UConn in Storrs on Jan. 27.

Simply put, the talented, feisty version of the Irish showed up in Thursday’s top-20 matchup. They were better than the Hokies from the jump, specifically from an intensity, energy and physicality perspective. They never let Tech breathe, specifically superstars Georgia Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley. Hannah Hidalgo was as advertised, and while Tech was OK, that didn’t cut it on the road.

“They were extremely physical,” Brooks said of the Irish. “… You give them credit, they just played to the way the game was being called. We didn’t adjust very well. I wanted [Kitley] to kind of open up a little bit, she had a couple opportunities, she missed a couple layups, but I give credit to their physicality.”

The first quarter was fairly even, but Notre Dame took control in the second. It defended Virginia Tech well and forced seven first-half turnovers, and no one could find a rhythm, including Kitley and Amoore. The Irish bumped and banged Kitley down low, limiting her effectiveness; she was 3-of-8 for six points in the first half. Hidalgo also didn’t let up on Amoore, which led to ineffective offensive possessions.

“Just being aggressive on the guards, making it uncomfortable for the guards to get the ball into Kitley,” Hidalgo said of her team’s plan. “The team flourishes when she’s doing well so we just knew that we had to stop Georgia from getting the ball into her.”

Sloppy play led to opportunities in transition for the Irish, who scored 10 first-half fastbreak points. Hidalgo was the driving force and was accompanied by Maddy Westbeld. In the first 20 minutes, they had 14 points each; they finished with a game-high 23 and 19, respectively. For comparison, Amoore and Matilda Ekh led Tech with seven points apiece at the break.

The Hokies struggled to get anything to go and suffered a scoring drought of almost seven minutes in the second quarter. A two-point game after a basket from Kitley just one minute into the period, they missed seven field goals in a row and didn’t get back on the board until Kitley rang the bell again with 2:26 remaining. In that span, Notre Dame was 5-of-11 and slowly pulled away with a 12-0 run.

Tech was never out of the game, however. It made four of its final five shots to end the half, in part because of Amoore, who came alive in the final few minutes and five quick points to get it to single digits. It was an eight-point deficit at intermission, 36-28.

Yet, Notre Dame never let the foot off the pedal. Ivey said her group, which lost its last ranked game at home to NC State on Feb. 15, was the most locked in she’s seen all season. It executed the strategy right against Tech, from the pressure on Amoore to the physicality on Kitley, who it practically took out of the game, and scored when necessary offensively.

After Hidalgo and Westbeld paved the way early, Sonia Citron took over out of halftime. Though she was scoreless in the first half, she was 9-of-12 in the second for 21 points. All of those baskets seemed to come at critical junctures.

Citron scored five of the Irish’s first six in the second half before the Hokies got going. They soon ripped off a 12-2 run over three minutes that made it a four-point game with a lineup of Amoore, Cayla King, Ekh, Carys Baker and Kitley, which Brooks said really spaced the floor and stretched Notre Dame out more when trying to defend the pick-and-roll.

“We spread them out and kind of minimized the game a little bit,” Brooks said. “They were very successful in pick-and-roll, rotating over and causing havoc. We spread them out, put another shooter on the floor and they weren’t able to rotate as much.”

Elizabeth Kitley had more room to operate when Virginia Tech went with a smaller lineup in the second half. (Virginia Tech athletics)

However, despite the game being in reach, back-to-back Citron layups pushed Tech away, and a similar theme followed in the fourth quarter. Though it felt like Virginia Tech had enough to win, Notre Dame didn’t give in. Every time there was a little bit of a run from the Hokies, the Irish answered.

Citron knocked down back-to-back jumpers with a trey from King squeezed in between. After Kitley and Amoore scored and got the deficit down to five, Westbeld nailed a top of the key 3-pointer — which was the backbreaker. Citron followed that up with two layups to silence Tech for good.

For a Virginia Tech team that had been so productive over the six weeks since its last defeat, Thursday was weird. It ran into a team that was locked in defensively on everything it did and seemed ready for just about anything, whether it was Kitley’s fadeaway or Amoore’s dump-off pass after driving to the rim. On the other end, Notre Dame ran its offense well enough to win, which is all you need this time of year.

In other words, the Irish one-upped the Hokies, who are usually stout on the defensive end and can string together enough baskets to win. That wasn’t the case in South Bend; they were thrown off their game, evidenced by Kitley’s lack of action.

The two-time ACC Player of the Year finished with 12 points and nine rebounds on 4-of-11 shooting, her fewest attempts against an ACC opponent since last year’s conference tournament final against Louisville in Greensboro. She was a different player in 2022-23 and averaged just 13 attempts per game; this season, that mark is 17.5, and she was way below her average against the Irish.

With Kitley detached from the game, Amoore had more on her plate. She received some help from Ekh (12 points, 5-of-12), King (six points), Summiel (three), Baker (three) and Clara Strack (two), but Notre Dame limited her to just two assists. And though she finished with 20 points, she made just seven of her 24 field goals (2-of-9 in the first half, 5-of-15 in the second). It wasn’t enough against an Irish team with three players who scored 19-plus.

The loss was Virginia Tech’s first in the month of February since Feb. 27, 2022, over two years ago. It’s been a machine heading into March over the last two seasons, and it certainly looked that way entering Thursday, but the Irish found Tech’s weakness: pressure and physicality.

The Hokies succumbed to that style in November at LSU and again in January against Duke. Though they hadn’t seen Notre Dame since December 2022, they didn’t grow into the game enough in a similar situation.

The night ended on a positive note, though. No. 12 NC State beat No. 19 Syracuse in Raleigh in overtime, 75-71, knocking the Orange out of the race for a share of the ACC crown. The result meant the Hokies won the ACC regular-season championship outright for the first time in program history, which put a smile on Brooks’ face.

Tech entered the day needing one win in its final two outings to seal that race, and though it didn’t get the result it wanted, it left Indiana in an upbeat mood, especially considering it found out the news in a place full of so much history. Brooks said Notre Dame was the “staple” in the league when he arrived in 2016; fast forward eight years and he and Tech were in the Irish’s building when they learned they won the title.

“On a night where you lose a basketball game but you gain a championship, it’s huge,” Brooks said. “… That’s an achievement that you don’t take lightly, I don’t care how bad you feel on a night like this. That’s monumental for us, especially as good as this league is. For us to say we are the regular-season champions, it’s monumental for our program and I’ll take it and I’ll smile the whole way home.”

The Hokies have a chance to bounce back in their regular-season finale on Sunday at Virginia, a rematch of a 76-63 victory in Blacksburg from Feb. 1. With a win, they’d sweep the Cavaliers for the third straight season.

Box Score: No. 17 Notre Dame 71, No. 5 Virginia Tech 58

27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. The ACC and the NCAA must decide on the level of physical contact permitted and hold officials to those rules and guidelines.

    1. I’m a fan so I thought all fifty fifty calls went to the home team. I agree the banging on Liz was excessive.

  2. ND showed exactly how to beat us. Control Liz and Georgia and make others beat you. We actually hit 10-22 from those other than than Liz and Georgia so when they are off like last night change the mix… what I observed was a lot of standing around on offense

  3. Frustrating for me to see their freshman get foul calls like a certain player from Iowa.

      1. After a loss like this, folks start wanting us to be more physical. Seems simple, but only if the refs call the game the same on both ends of the court. Hildago, who is a very good player in her own right, kept getting the foul calls anytime she went to the basket. Replay showed a few of those fouls were anything but physical. The refs must call the game the same or they are influencing the outcome.

      2. You can blame the refs for the kind of calls that allowed and encouraged Notre Dame to play a physical game that should have put them in foul trouble.

  4. CKB has to find a way to handle physical teams between now and the NCAA tournament. It’s out there for all the world to see. That said, ND was clearly, “up” for this game. I did not see our customary energy. Also, Liz was missing shots…couldn’t believe the one block I did see. As of now, we’d see ND in the Qtrs. in Greensboro. They won’t have the HC advantage nor will they likely play at the same level as they did last night. CKB will have had time to prepare, having seen them 10 days prior. But the fact remains, we need to match the physicalitiy of teams that can bring it.

  5. One observation was that, on several possessions, Georgia was able to get to the basket and get off a layup, but got blocked. Normally, she is able to make those shots or at least get a foul call. If some or most of those had been successful, the home-advantage of ND would have been diminished, and the game is up for grabs.

  6. Loss of physicality and quickness by T. Soule, D. Gregg, and K. Traylor was evident.

    1. Yep. Cayla King needs to regain her scoring touch or team might have a short trip to the post-season. Need more than three scorers.

      1. King doesn’t have anything to “regain”. She has been streaky for quite a while now. She is either on or isn’t. There’s no in-between and she is who she is.

        1. I agree that she is streaky. But, she shot 35.2% from 3pt in 2022. And is only shooting 30,2% this year. She is not who she was last year, from a shooting standpoint. Overall her shooting is down which means she is having more bad streaks.

  7. Good stuff David

    Having Hidalgo go off and ND’s scoring depth hurt. This is still a toss up matchup, if King and Ehk hit a couple more 3s, ND just can’t do what they did to Kitley. Some teams are going to put an elbow in her all night, double team her, ect, and the outside shooting has to play.

    Hidalgo is a heck of a player too, one of the best defenders Georgia has faced all season. Usually if the opponent’s big is pushing Kitley that far out, Georgia beats her defender 1 on 1 and drives to a basket.

    Any thoughts on why Summiel only got 14 minutes of playing time? I’m not used to seeing VT being out rebounded by double digits.

    1. I thought Kitley was outmatched defensively in this game. She had trouble establishing position and when she did get the ball she was often far away from the basket. When she made moves they looked rushed and out of rhythm. I am sure there was some fouling but I saw a lot of straight up defense from her defender with quick moving feet and she made it very difficult for EK to make her usually effective moves.

  8. There was a lot that went on with Notre Dame defense that didn’t look like basketball. That happened in the Duke Loss too. They mugged Kitley time after time as well as plenty of other fouling that wasn’t called.

    It reminded me of NBA basketball in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

    1. Agreed! “Didn’t look like basketball” and not much fun to watch – reminded me of a rugby scrum! Officiating allows that style of play- “grab and hold and elbow”. Reason teams years ago had at least one football player – in the’60s, Hokies had Jake Adams and Mike Cahill on the bench just in case.

  9. So this team can’t handle physical teams. Doesn’t bode well for playoffs.

  10. Better shooting from Georgia and game may have turned our way. 7 for 24 not going to win many games

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