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2024 NCAA Tournament: Virginia Tech Routs Marshall 92-49

Strack Ekh Wenzel Amoore Summiel VT Marshall 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

If you would have told someone pregame that Georgia Amoore would only play 12 of the first 30 minutes due to foul trouble, you would have thought that Virginia Tech-Marshall had produced one of the great battles of the opening round of this year's NCAA Tournament.

Instead, it was the exact opposite in drastic favor of the Hokies.

Virginia Tech beat Marshall 92-49for what was the Hokies' largest ever margin of victory in the NCAA Tournament, surpassing their 82-51 victory over Missouri in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. With the victory, the Hokies advance to the second round on Sunday where they'll face Baylor at 8pm on ESPN.

Tech started off impressively jumping out to an 18-3 lead but then Georgia Amoore went to the bench with two fouls and Marshall took advantage going on a 9-0 run to end the first quarter. However, the Hokies rallied in the second quarter widening the margin in the first few minutes and then finishing the quarter strong with a 10-0 run after the game got back within seven to lead 42-25 at the break.

What made that most impressive was the fact that Amoore was on the bench for the whole second quarter with foul trouble while Cayla King was only out there for two of the 10 points Tech scored to close the opening half.

Tech kept it going with a hot start to the second half before Amoore returned to the bench after picking up her third foul. This time, Tech kept it firing on all cylinders without her on their way to one of their best quarters of maybe the Kenny Brooks era, outscoring the Herd 36-9 as part of what was a 48-9 run for the Hokies that spanned from late in the second quarter to early in the fourth quarter.

Part of the story for Tech was their ability to take of their size advantage as they outscored Marshall 34-22 in the paint with their play down there being more dominant than the margin would suggest.

Clara Strack had an impressive NCAA Tournament debut as the talented true freshman had 17 points including 14 in the first half on a perfect 7-7 from the field including a three plus 2-4 at the free-throw line. Her success went beyond the scoring as she added five rebounds, a career-high four blocks, two assists, and one steal.

"Strack Attack. Two words, we like to use them all the time. She's fun to watch and even more fun to play with. I'm excited to see where her future goes. But she's been huge for us this year. I think Coach Brooks said it a couple times, she could be starting on other programs but she's kind of taken her role and learned from the incredible Liz Kitley. Obviously, we don't have [Liz Kitley] within this tournament run, but I think Clara's definitely had her leadership to learn from all year long. To see her kind of step into her own tonight, I think was really awesome," Olivia Summiel said.

Meanwhile, Rose Micheaux gave the Hokies some quality minutes off the bench with 10 points on 4-4 shooting from the field and 2-4 from the free-throw line plus four rebounds and one assist in 13 minutes.

Tech was efficient overall on offense shooting 53.8% (28-52) from the field including 10-23 (43.5%) from three-point range compared to 24.4% (19-78) including 14.6% (6-41) from three-point range. They also did a great job of drawing fouls and then taking advantage of free throws going 26-31 (83.9%) from the charity stripe while also getting into the bonus before the halfway mark of the second and third quarters.

Tech's 15 turnovers may seem like a lot, but that's actually quite good against a Marshall that presses whether they make or miss a shot and averaged 24.5 turnovers per game entering today, second best in the country. Carleigh Wenzel stepped up in a big way to keep the ship steady and then some at the point with Amoore in foul trouble while Cayla King and Matilda Ekh also played important roles in breaking the Herd's press.

Understandably, Kenny Brooks was extremely pleased with how the Hokies handled the constant Marshall full-court press.

"I'm ecstatic. That's was the first thing I said when I walked in there, the poise. We put it up there. When I say they play with chaos, I don't mean that in a bad way. They want fouls, turnovers. That's like the longest game I've ever played because it was a lot of stoppage in play," Brooks said. "It's their chaos and we wanted to be poised and so I thought we won out on that and therefore, that's why we were able to come away with a great win."

Kenny Brooks also shared some insights on what went into the prep work for this game to have Tech ready for the challenge of the Marshall press.

"So the first day that we were preparing for it, we were doing practice guys, it was six on five. We had six practice guys running around, just trapping and getting after them and playing passing lanes. For a while, we couldn't get the ball across halfcourt, but we kept on doing it, kept on doing it, kept on doing it. And we even played a little game called keep away where I made them go into halfcourt and put seven practice guys out there, and they had to make 10 passes. Pass catch, pass catch, running, running, running," Brooks said.

"And we told them, and this is nothing against Marshall, got the upmost respect for Marshall, but we had to put it in a term that they would really understand it in how they were going to come after us. I said 'it's like you're in recess and you're the fifth graders, and then the second graders want to come play a game and they want to run after you because they're just going to try to get the ball and just run after you because they're not as big as you are and they're going to do things to be in position to steal the ball'. And it's almost like a light bulb went off, and everything that we were doing was very unorthodox but they got it, they understood it. And when we got out here and we got to see the speed and feel what the game was gonna be like, I thought they handled it very well and I thought that preparation was really good."

After being held scoreless in her past three games, Matilda Ekh found her rhythm in a big way in this one with a game-high 21 points on 6-9 shooting from the field including 5-7 from three-point range plus 4-4 from the free-throw line while adding three rebounds and a steal. For Ekh, once she got that first three down, she was able to find the feel and hit her stride.

"It felt good to see the first shot go in and it was easier to keep going after that. It felt very good," Ekh said.

Meanwhile, Carleigh Wenzel stepped up big time with Georgia Amoore in foul trouble to break the press and run the show effectively, overseeing the Hokies' offense for an overwhelming majority of their 48-9 run. She finished the night with 12 points including 8-9 from the free-throw line plus a career-high seven assists to only two turnovers, another stat that shows how well she ran the show. She also added six rebounds, two blocks, and one steal in what was an impressive performance from her.

"Obviously that's what they're known for, they're a great defensive team. But knowing that I didn't have to do it alone, I have four other girls on my team and I think that's something that really clicked for me in that third quarter was knowing that 'don't just try to break it all by yourself with Georgia on the bench.' I kind of just looked up and saw my girls and I trusted them with everything in me," Wenzel said.

Olivia Summiel stuffed the stat sheet and did a lot as usual leading the Hokies with 14 rebounds plus seven points, five assists, one block, and one steal. Meanwhile, foul trouble slowed Georgia Amoore, but she still had nine points, four assists, one rebound, and one block in 19 minutes. The fact that she only played 19 minutes should mean that she's well-rested and ready to go for Sunday's second round showdown, with the Hokies likely needing her for all 40 minutes.

Carys Baker had a solid NCAA Tournament with six points, four rebounds, and one assist while Samyha Suffren made a brief cameo appearance.

This would be an impressive win regardless of who was playing for the Hokies or not. However, when you add in the fact that Liz Kitley is out for the season with a torn ACL and Georgia Amoore was limited to 19 minutes including only 12 in the first 30 due to foul trouble, this performance becomes even more impressive.

Freshman like Clara Strack and Carleigh Wenzel stepped up to their NCAA Tournament debuts and looked like veterans dominating this game while Matilda Ekh found her stride in a big way. For Tech, this was a statement that the world hasn't ended because Liz Kitley is out for the season.

Next up, a major Sunday test with a chance to reach the Sweet 16 for the second-straight season and only the third time in program history. If the Hokies can keep playing like this, then they'll be adding a flight to Portland for the second weekend of March Madness to their 2024 itinerary.

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