No. 11 Virginia Tech Overcomes Elizabeth Kitley’s Absence In Miami Win

Georgia Amoore and Virginia Tech overcame the absence of Elizabeth Kitley on Friday vs. Miami. (Ivan Morozov)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — No. 11 Virginia Tech overcame the absence of three-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley and fended off Miami 55-47 on Friday in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.

“Super proud of my kids, the effort, the resiliency that they showed,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the win. “… In March, at this time of the year, it’s about surviving and advancing. We did that. Because of the resiliency, the way they went out, our kids didn’t play great, and we obviously know that we can play better, but they couldn’t have played harder. That’s something that I really value as a coach.”

The No. 1 seed Hokies (24-6) did not shoot particularly well — they made just 20 of their 59 attempts for 34 percent, their third-lowest mark on the year — but defended extremely well for 40 minutes in their victory over the No. 9 seed Hurricanes (19-12).

Kitley, who was honored before the game as a three-time Kay Yow Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipient, had 31 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting with the ‘Canes in January, and the production from the greatest basketball player in school history can’t be replicated. But Tech stuck together as a team despite a tough eight days — outside of the Kitley news, it lost two games — and played as one on Friday.

“Elephant in the room: We knew we didn’t have the presence we usually have, so just understanding we have to have each other’s back on a different type of level,” Tech guard Carleigh Wenzel said. “I think we really picked it up coming into the second half, we kind of just knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we were just going to have to fight until the very end, and I think we did a really good job of just pulling it out and being aggressive and having each other’s back.”

Tech had composure when it mattered against Miami. It only turned the ball over 11 times despite facing full-court pressure for the latter 30 minutes and relied on its defense to get the job done. The ‘Canes weren’t much better offensively — they made 22 of their 60 attempts for 37 percent — and only outscored Tech in the second quarter, which was 13-11.

Cayla King Virginia Tech stuck together on Friday despite some pressure from Miami. (Ivan Morozov)

Only two Miami players scored in double figures: Jasmyne Roberts (12 points) and Shayeann Day-Wilson (11). The Hokies forced 13 turnovers, blocked five shots — two each from true freshman Clara Strack and fifth-year senior Cayla King — and didn’t allow a run of more than six points.

“I think our defense was great,” Tech guard Georgia Amoore said. “We did exactly what we needed to do, and it was rough shooting [offensively]. I think if we hit more threes, we would’ve blown that game out. It’s just simple math.”

That was despite offensive struggles for the Hokies. They were 3-of-17 from behind the arc in the first half, 5-of-26 (19%) for the game — their second-worst mark of the year behind LSU — and only had five assists.

Tech forward Rose Micheaux said King told her to have a goldfish-like mindset, an ode to Ted Lasso, focusing on the next play rather than the last one.

“Goldfish can’t remember anything after 10 seconds, so if a shot doesn’t fall, we’ve got to get back on defense and get a stop so we can shoot the next shot,” she said.

But Tech found its offensive rhythm when needed, much of which was generated from Amoore, a First Team All-ACC performer. The Aussie, who finished fourth in voting for conference player of the year, had just four points in the first half on 1-of-5 shooting.

Miami head coach Katie Meier: “You can’t play better defense than we did on Georgia Amoore.”

Georgia Amoore was terrific in the second half for Virginia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

But the point guard exploded in the second half for 23 points, her second straight outing with a 20-point second half. She’s the first Virginia Tech player since the program joined the ACC in 2004 to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games.

Amoore made seven of her 14 shots and eight of her 10 free throws after the break. She was more aggressive after missing the final 5:01 of the first half due to foul trouble, and she gave Tech the lift it desperately needed late.

“27 points and only one three,” Meier said. “That’s incredible. She really had to earn it. … I know she got some points with the free throw at the end, but when I [heard] she had 27, I was absolutely shocked because I really felt like we were playing her really, really well. That’s how she can transcend the sport a little bit. She made some special plays in big moments for them.”

A two-point game with four minutes remaining, Strack knocked down a jumper from the ACC logo in the middle of the lane right as the shot clock expired. After a stop, Cayla King went coast-to-coast and put the Hokies up six with a layup. She blocked a shot at the other end and Amoore put things on ice with a baseline jumper that forced Meier to call timeout.

It was the only time Tech made three consecutive baskets all day, but it broke the game open and provided a little cushion.

“It was an offensive explosion, wasn’t it?” Brooks joked at the podium.

“It’s just being poised and kind of taking the punches as they come,” Tech’s Olivia Summiel said. “Basketball is a game of runs, so just being able to kind of weather the runs, and obviously we were able to go on one of our own, and Georgia Amoore, she’s incredible.”

Virginia Tech stuck together in its win over Miami. (Ivan Morozov)

Strack was the only other Hokie in double figures with 10 points. She made five of her 11 attempts and grabbed five rebounds in 28 minutes. She and Micheaux, who hadn’t played in eight weeks, stepped up in Kitley’s absence at the five. The latter started and played 12 minutes while spelling Strack and finished with two points, two rebounds and two assists.

Those were just two of the many contributors for Virginia Tech. King hit two important treys and added a layup for eight points, two assists, two blocks and two steals. Summiel only made one of her five 3-pointers but grabbed a team-high eight boards. Matilda Ekh corralled seven rebounds but didn’t knock down any of her seven shots, five of which were 3-pointers. They helped Tech win that battle on the glass, 38-37.

Wenzel had a layup through contact in the first half and added a team-high five assists and four points while Carys Baker had three points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. And from top to bottom, Tech stood tall on the defensive end, switching between man-to-man and a 2-3 zone, even when there were three freshmen on the floor to end the first half with Amoore in foul trouble.

“Sometimes they get a bad rap because people want to say it’s the Kitley and Amoore show, and it is to a certain extent,” Brooks said. “When you have two players of that magnitude, you want to want to be able to utilize them whenever you can. … But we have other kids who are capable, and today they were able to show it.

“They didn’t always show it. We can shoot much better than 5-for-26 from the 3-point line. We had some shots we probably could have made that we didn’t. But I’m just very proud because it’s always a team effort. Doesn’t matter who scores the points. As long as we win, all of them are happy and today is no different.”

The result was promising. The Hokies couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn for much of the game but were able to do enough without one of their stars against an NCAA Tournament team in Miami. They played with the right mindset and mentality and did everything right except knock down some open looks.

Elizabeth Kitley won’t play for the rest of the ACC Tournament. Can Virginia Tech continue to progress without her? (Ivan Morozov)

Though they won’t have Kitley for the rest of the tournament — Brooks confirmed as such in his pre-game radio interview and expanded on it in the postgame, saying she’ll be reevaluated next week — they’ve got a chance to make some noise.

They’ve got No. 4 seed Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament semifinals on Saturday at noon, who is on a tear and beat them by 13 on the road on Feb. 29, and will be underrated despite their seed. But if they have a similar defensive performance and can hit some of the shots they couldn’t take advantage of against Miami, they’ll have an opportunity to make it to championship Sunday.

As unlikely as that may seem, Amoore had two words: “It’s March.”

Box Score: No. 11 Virginia Tech 55, Miami 47 

7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. That’s a big deal win. It sets the floor on how to think about Virginia Tech without Kitley. Without it, you don’t really have a good argument for not dropping them a lot, you can’t really say where the bottom is. now Virginia Tech is level set as a top four team in the ACC even without Kitley.

  2. Good recap. A couple of points.

    “But the point guard exploded in the second half for 23 points…”
    “Amoore made seven of her 14 shots and 10 of her 12 free throws after the break.”

    Math says 7 buckets and 10 free throws would be 24 points, minimum.

    “Matilda Ekh corralled seven rebounds, though not knocking down any of her seven 3-pointers.”
    The boxscore shows Ekh shot 5 three pointers, 7 shots total.

  3. Looking at that picture of Baker and Kitley, are those incision scars on both of Baker’s knees?

Comments are closed.