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No. 12 Virginia Tech Beats Duke 61-56 as Liz Kitley Dominates

Liz Kitley 1 VT Duke 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

It has been almost three months since No. 12 Virginia Tech has been held below 62 points and still walked away with a win. The last time was a 59-58 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks, in a game where Elizabeth Kitley dropped 31 points and 18 rebounds, very reminiscent of how she put the team on her back and dominated last night versus Duke.

This time, the Virginia Tech defeated the Duke Blue Devils 61-56 to avenge their 17 point loss against in Cameron Indoor a month ago, which is actually the last time the Hokies have lost a game. Kitley finished the game with 34 points and 12 rebounds, her fifth game this season with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Duke won the first matchup 63-46, and has the top ranked scoring defense in the ACC. Something had to give as Virginia Tech averages 79 points per game in wins, while Duke holds their opponents to just 42 points per game in wins. While Duke was still able to hold the Hokies well below their scoring average, Virginia Tech won a predictably physical battle against a team they are very familiar with, having faced each other five times in the last two seasons.

Kenny Brooks complimented the Blue Devils for the challenge they gave the Hokies.

“Give credit to Duke, they took us out of some of the things we wanted to do. We had to resort to some other things that we really have as plan b," Brooks said.

Both teams were able to keep the other out of their comfort zone because of the familiarity between these two teams, which caused some low field goal percentages and a grind it out win for the Hokies.

For the game, Virginia Tech shot 41% from the field, and 28% from three point land, while Duke shot just 37%, and 28% from downtown. Both teams were able to attack the offensive glass off of so many missed shots, but neither team gained an advantage from this trend as Duke ended with 20 second chance points compared to 19 for the Hokies.

One big difference between the Hokies' two games with Duke is how much better they took care of the ball this time around. Duke plays an aggressive, deny ball man-to-man style of defense, as well as implementing a press throughout much of the game. This style is made to force turnovers, and it worked like a charm in the first matchup as the Hokies coughed it up 20 times.

However, Virginia Tech actually won the turnover battle this time, giving it away just 11 times compared to 14 for the Blue Devils. One obvious explanation for this turnaround is the return of star point guard Georgia Amoore, who went down with a head injury early in the second half in the last matchup. However, the Hokies struggled in the first half just as much as they did in the second, with 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the first matchup between these two teams.

Overall, Virginia Tech did a much better job throwing crisp, safe passes this time around, which is of utmost importance against a team as good on defense as Duke.

While Duke’s physicality is oftentimes the source of their winning formula, it may have played a big part in their loss against the Hokies with their entire frontcourt struggling with foul trouble. Kennedy Brown, who has done a terrific job defending Elizabeth Kiltey in the past, fouled out in the final seconds, logging just 21 minutes due to foul trouble. Backup center Camilla Emsbo as well as forwards Jadyn Donovan and Oluchi Okonanwa also all played less than 26 minutes due to picking up four fouls a piece.

This forced Duke to keep out their frontcourt players, best suited to slow down Elizabeth Kitley, or play timid on defense due to the pressure of potentially fouling out. This foul trouble, as well as multiple timely buckets down the stretch, doomed the Blue Devils when the Hokies started pulling away with just a few minutes to go.

Besides Elizabeth Kiltey, only three Hokies got on the scoring column, as Matilda Ekh had 11 points on an efficient 4-5 from the field, Carys Baker knocked down a three and impressively blocked three shots in just 11 minutes of action, and Georgia Amoore struggled through a 4-21 shooting night to notch 13 points and three assists.

The Blue Devils had a much more evenly distributed scoring effort, with nine players scoring at least one point, including Ashlon Jackson, who led the way with 18, leading scorer Reigan Richardson, who was held to 11 points, and Okananwa, who provided a spark off the bench with 11 points and 11 boards.

The Hokies control their own destiny, sitting atop the ACC, with a 12-2 record in conference play. Virginia Tech’s remaining schedule is also no cake walk, with three straight games against ranked opponents, starting with a matchup this Sunday versus the 18th ranked Louisville Cardinals in the KFC Yum Center.

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