It’s been exactly one month since the last time Virginia Tech and NC State faced off, and that matchup was a hard one to forget.
The Hokies won 63-62 on an Elizabeth Kitley fadeaway with 0.9 seconds left to hand the Wolfpack their first loss of the season. The Hokie superstars largely carried the load, as Kitley dropped 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Amoore went for 21 points and seven assists. Madison Hayes did her best to get NC State the win, scoring 21 points on 7-9 from the field including 4-5 from three-point range, but it just wasn’t enough against the Hokies and their fourth quarter comeback.
Virginia Tech hasn’t been as consistently dominant as NC State has been overall this season. However, the Hokies are still one of the most dangerous teams in the country, and are better than the rankings suggest, placing them at 16th in the country. They're also one of America's hottest teams with five-straight wins including victories at Syracuse and North Carolina.
NC State is going to come out ready to play, as they are currently undefeated on their home court. They are also going to be motivated to get a statement win against the Hokies, who they just can’t seem to beat right now. Despite having a 26-5 head to head advantage against Virginia Tech overall, the Hokies have claimed the three most recent games. With each team entering the game on five-game winning streaks, this has the potential to be another memorable matchup.
Keys to the Game
How Will NC State's Stars Fare?
Last time they faced the Hokies, three of the Wolfpack's top four scorers in Mimi Collins, Saniya Rivers, and Aziaha James, struggled to knock down shots. James specifically, who averages 16 points and almost five rebounds per game, only managed four points and two rebounds, playing less than half of the game due to foul trouble.
Expect a bounce back performance from her, especially after a monster 28-point, seven-rebound performance against the 15th ranked Louisville Cardinals just a couple days ago.
The Impact of Three-Point Shooting
While a bounce back game from Aziaha James would benefit the Wolfpack, even an average three-point shooting night would be a massive boost for the Hokies, who won the last matchup despite going 6-22 from downtown for the game. This is a far cry from their typical three-point shooting attack that is top 10 in the country. NC State on the other hand, who aren’t known for their three-point shooting, actually shot slightly above their averages in the last meeting, knocking down eight long balls at a 35% clip.
If both teams revert to their averages, that would give Virginia Tech the clear advantage.
Can Virginia Tech's Role Players Step Up?
There is almost no doubt that Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore are going to perform in this big game. The major question for the Hokies is whether or not they can rely on their role players.
Specifically, Cayla King and Matilda Ekh, who have lit up plenty of lesser opponents, haven’t been able to find their shots in the Hokies' three biggest games of the season so far: Iowa, LSU, and NC State. Over those three games, their stats have dropped dramatically across the board, and from long range, the two sharpshooters combined for just 6-28 from three point range.
A month ago, the Hokies were somehow able to pick up a win against the Wolfpack with everyone not named Kitley or Amoore combining for just 15 points. At NC State, in an arena the Wolfpack haven’t lost in all season, anything less than 30 points from the surrounding role players will make it tough for the Hokies to get the victory.
Matchup to Watch: Georgia Amoore vs Saniya Rivers
The point guard battle will be fascinating to watch as Amoore, the ACC’s leader in assists per game, faces Rivers, who is seventh in the ACC in the assists department. Perhaps even more important is whether Rivers and her elite defense and quick hands will be able to disrupt Amoore, who is the catalyst of a potent Hokies offense.
Something will likely have to give, as Amoore is second in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio, while Rivers is third in the ACC in steals per game. As of recently, Rivers has been on a tear, averaging almost four steals per game in her last seven outings. In fact, the last time she didn’t record at least two steals was the last time NC State faced the Hokies, one month ago. Whether the 6'1'' Saniya Rivers can slow down and pick the pockets of 5'6'' Georgia Amoore will likely play a big factor in which team is able to get this crucial win.
Prediction: No. 16 Virginia Tech 78, No. 3 NC State 74
Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore will step up in the bright lights as usual, Kitley dropping a 20+ point, 10+ rebound double-double, and Amoore going for a double-double of her own with assists. However, the Hokies will get more consistent shooting from the rest of the roster this game, which will be enough to overcome a Aziaha James 20+ point night and the Wolpack’s home court advantage.
The Hokies will extend their winning streak against NC State to four games, with a second consecutive season sweep that will get one step closer to claiming the ACC regular season title.