#6 Virginia Tech Loses Tight Game to #5 Notre Dame 63-52

#6 Virginia Tech Loses Tight Game to #5 Notre Dame 63-52
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics

Will Locklin | @@locklin_will

TLP: Writer
Dec 19, 2022

With just over six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Elizabeth Kitley cut from one side of the paint to the other. Kayana Traylor sent an entry pass down low to Kitley who freed herself along the baseline for the game-tying jumper at the 6:23 mark of the fourth. It was 48 all when Kitley drained her fifth bucket but little did everyone know, it would be one of the Hokies final made field goals of the game.

From then on out, Notre Dame blitzed Virginia Tech on both ends, going on a 11-0 run and outscoring VT 15-4 over the final six minutes of the game. The Fighting Irish dominated the final quarter of the game as a whole, outscoring the Hokies 23-9 through the final 10 minutes. Strong execution from the Irish and sloppy basketball from the Hokies led to the final result being a 63-52 statement win by No. 5 Notre Dame over No. 6 Virginia Tech in Cassell Coliseum Sunday night.

“They made the plays when they had to down that stretch in the last run and they seized control of the game,” Kenny Brooks said. “Great players make great plays and they have some kids who stopped up and made great plays.”

During the late run made by the Fighting Irish, the Hokies were ice cold from all areas of the floor. It was a rough shooting night for Tech over the course of the entire game as they shot 29% from the field and 23% from three-point range. However, Notre Dame particularly sniffled Tech’s offense in the fourth quarter with Tech shooting a woeful 4-17 overall and 0-5 from three.

“We got a few pretty open looks but didn’t knock them down, which was the story of the whole night. At that time, they were making shots that we needed to hit.” Elizabeth Kitley said.

Tech only saw six players hit the floor Sunday night. The usual starting five of Amoore, King, Traylor, Soule and Kitley plus D’Asia Gregg as the lone sub off the bench. The short rotation was certainly due in part to no Ashley Owusu for the fourth straight game due to injury. Kenny Brooks said not using his bench reared its ugly head late in the game where the Hokies looked gassed.

“I needed to play more than six but it felt like things got a little dicey during certain times,” Brooks said. “I need to trust the bench and go to it more. That's something we’ll definitely take into consideration next time.”

One constant point of emphasis from Notre Dame was their physicality. They brought the toughness and grit to Tech on their home floor and it paid off as the wear and tear of the game became greater. Even though Kitley put up 16 points off 6-12 shooting and grabbed in 20 rebounds, nearly a school record, she had to earn every basket and board the hard way.

“They were extremely physical with her (Kitley)...pushed her off the block,” Brooks stated. “She was the focal point of their defense and they did a good job of making it tough for her.”

The Hokies did out rebound the Irish 41-39 but Notre Dame notched 9 steals and forced 13 Tech turnovers. Notre Dame ended up with 11 turnovers themselves but executed better as the game went on, only committing less than a few late in the fourth. Down low for Kitley, Lauren Ebo posed some problems as she scored 15 points off 7-10 from the floor and scored multiple baskets in the post one-on-one against Kitley.

“They have some big girls, a lot of size. It’s to their advantage, they use it really well,” Kitley said. “They’re super physical…points in the paint were ridiculous and they kept ours low too.”

Olivia Miles was another key difference maker for Notre Dame. The sophomore point guard finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals. Despite being small in stature, Miles played as big as anyone on the court coming three dimes shy of a triple double.

“She’s (Miles) an incredible player, thrives in the open court,” Georgia Amoore explained postgame. “She’s a facilitator and really brings that team together.”

The Hokies lead guard showed out in a major way as Georgia Amoore poured in a team-high 20 points while shooting 8-20 from the field and nailing four threes to go along with dishing out four assists. In particular, Amoore turned up the heat in the third quarter, delivering 13 of her 20 points in that stanza of time and igniting the Cassell crowd with bombs from long range.

When the third quarter flipped to the fourth though, the Hokies found it tougher to establish a rhythm and get quality looks from Amoore. This was because of an interesting defensive adjustment made from Notre Dame and one that very well made the difference between a win and a loss.

“I had to call a timeout and stress going over the top of the screens with her (Amoore), we got caught going under and she lit us up,” Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said. “Run her off the three point line and when we did that we got a couple stops and came back on the opposite end and executed really well.”

The simple adjustment of having Amoore’s primary defender play her aggressively coming off screens while the big played out at the level to hedge made it tough for Tech’s offense to score.

“Usually when I get a screen and I play off of it, I have a window to work with but they started going over screens and had their big hedge.” Amoore said.

Outside of Amoore and Kitley, other Hokies failed to step up and put the ball in the hoop at a high enough rate. Players not named Kitley or Amoore for Tech shot just 6-36 in the game, a bitter 17% which made it easier for the Irish to adjust as the game waned into the later stages.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Brooks said. “You have to take advantage of opportunities and we missed one tonight to win on our home court. But you can’t hang your head.”