With under 10 seconds to go in the first quarter, Georgia Amoore sprinted up the court, ball in hand and looking to free herself for an end of the period dagger. As Amoore got just past the three-point line, she hit her defender with a nasty step back move and drilled the long range jumper before the first quarter buzzer to put the Hokies up 20-5.
“We want to be physical on both ends, not only the defensive end, but the offensive end, as well,” head coach Kenny Brooks said postgame. “That means setting up your cuts, getting to your spots, not being pushed off the ball, starting your offense where you want to start the offense and not allowing the defense to control the narrative. Ever since we've been doing that, we've been more aggressive on both ends.”
#8 Virginia Tech was off to the races against Miami, outsourcing the Hurricanes, 29-13 through the first 18 minutes of play. They shot the ball at a scorching 42% from the field in the first quarter and knocked down four three-pointers to ambush Miami early. The Hokies didn’t relent on either side of the ball and went on to cruise to the ACC Tournament semifinals behind a 68-42 victory over Miami inside the Greensboro Coliseum Friday night.
“To avenge a loss, Miami beat us in Miami. Miami is a very good basketball team who I think has possibilities to advance in the (NCAA) tournament,” Brooks said. “We knew that we were a better team than had faced them at the first of the year, and we wanted to be able to come out and show it.”
The Hokies put together strings of hot shooting and big time shot making for stretches of the first and third quarter. However, it was in fact Tech’s defensive performance that was the secret sauce in the Hokies spicy winning recipe. Miami shot an abysmal 24% from the floor for the game and committed 11 turnovers to Tech’s six.
“Phenomenal defensive effort from our group. They've been playing really, really good defense last month or two months of the season,” Brooks said. “They're very connected with each other and what's going on on both ends of the floor. Very, very pleased with what they're doing.”
Another area the Hokies stifling defensive presence showed itself was in the rebounding category. Tech manhandled Miami on the glass, cleaning the Canes up to the tune of a 50-37 advantage in total boards. The dominance came on the defensive glass and the offensive, as Tech hauled in 19 offensive rebounds and converted that into 25 second chance points.
“Yeah, Taylor Soule and D'asia Gregg -- you do your job on Kitley, you do whatever you can. You stunt, you double, you make a choice,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said postgame. “And then it should be number one on the list, which is the backside rebounding, but they're trained.”
Tech’s big lineup with Kitley, Gregg and Soule proved to be too athletic and physical for Miami, outscoring the Hurricanes 34-22 in the paint. Liz Kitley, D’Asia Gregg, and Taylor Soule were instrumental in the Hokies dominance on the glass as they all grabbed double digit rebounds and clamped the Canes on defense.
Kitley, in particular, was a handful for Miami to deal with, posting a game-high 22 points on 11-20 shooting, snagging 10 rebounds and nabbing three blocked shots on the night. The now two-time ACC Player of the Year was honored for her recent accolades and lived up to the hype by paving the path for Tech’s 26 point win.
“I think we've been playing a lot better and more together and just a lot more connected. And that gives us better offensive looks and energy on that end.” Elizabeth Kitley said postgame.
Interestingly, Tech only shot 39% from the field and 25% from behind the three-point arc for the game. While those percentages are low figures for the usually efficient Hokies, they had enough spurts of tough shot making to put Miami away for good.
“I can't believe they only scored 68. They were making such tough shots. They're incredibly talented,” Meier said. “Kenny and I were joking around before the game because they can just score at every position, and they buy in. They share the ball extremely well. Really, I was like 68?”
In support of Kitley’s 22-point, 10-rebound double-double, fellow All-ACC first teamer Amoore poured in 16 points and drilled five three pointers, three of which came in the first quarter. Taylor Soule proved to be a beast in all facets of the game, scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out five assists.
D’Asia Gregg was also a major spark plug for the Hokies offense as she scored nine points, all in the first half, and snatched a game-high 13 rebounds. Gregg was the lynchpin for the Hokies defensively and their swarming presence on the glass. With three double-digit scorers and just as many double-digit rebounders, Tech was relentless in their attack from the tip to the final buzzer.
"We've got a lot of different ways to beat you. Obviously Elizabeth, it starts with her, but Taylor Soule was an all-conference player. Georgia Amoore has been playing tremendously the last month,” Brooks said. “So we're extremely talented down on the offensive end, but I'm really proud because the defense is what allows us to really become a great basketball team.”
The Hokies advance to the ACC Tournament semifinals for the second time in program history off the backs of a dominant 68-42 victory over Miami in the quarterfinals. Tech will face #13 Duke, the same team that the Hokies split the season series with. They suffered an 11-point loss in Durham while defeating the Blue Devils by 16 points in their matchup in Blacksburg. Game 3 between these 2 will be Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. inside the Greensboro Coliseum and on ACC Network.
There's no doubt that Duke will present a challenge, but Kenny Brooks has a good idea on what the gameplan needs to be for the Hokies even with the quick turnaround.
“Two teams that are familiar with each other. As a matter of fact, I think we played them a couple weeks ago. That's the only benefit that we have right now,” Brooks said. We know they're going to try to be physical, and we know they're going to try to learn from the last game that we played them.”