In basketball, the best teams are able to win games when they don't have their best stuff. The Hokies didn't have nearly their best offense on Sunday, but they leaned on their defense and some timely shots to find a way to pick up a big road victory.
The No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies (18-4, 9-2 ACC) outlasted the No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels (15-8, 7-4 ACC) for a 70-61 overtime victory in Chapel Hill.
The victory, Tech’s fifth in a row since back-to-back losses to Florida State and Duke in mid-January, was a big one that put the Hokies a game back of the Louisville Cardinals at the top of the ACC.
But by no means was this one pretty. Virginia Tech shot just 33.8 percent from the field on 71 shots, including 35 three-point shots, in which the Hokies made only 12.
North Carolina, on the other hand, shot 31.8 percent from the field, while going 5-15 from three-point range.
There seemed to be a lid on the basket in Chapel Hill, with Tech’s two All-Americans in Liz Kitley and Georgia Amoore missing a combined 29 shots.
Despite the large number of missed opportunities, Kitley asserted her dominance with a double-double in which she put up 15 points and 15 rebounds, also notching a block and a steal. Sunday afternoon’s outing was the fifth year center’s 14th double-double on the season.
Amoore led the Hokies in scoring with 21 points, also collecting a double-double with 11 assists to just three turnovers. The Australian guard has now totaled 96 points and 41 assists over her last four games, and could be in consideration for her second-straight ACC player of the week nomination come Monday.
Given the poor shooting from both sides, you have to take your makes when they come, and that was exactly what Michigan State transfer wing Matilda Ekh and sophomore guard Carleigh Wenzel provided, combining for 6-11 from three. Ekh's shooting was particularly important as she made a pair of threes in overtime to take control of the game.
For UNC, the shooting struggles were definitely there as well with the Tar Heels leading scorer on the season, Deja Kelly (16.4 points per game), shooting 6-24, but still managing to tally 26 points thanks to 13 free throws.
The contest started out in the Hokies favor, outsourcing UNC 26-20 in the first half, before the Tar Heels stormed back in the third quarter, erasing Tech’s six-point lead to enter the fourth at a 39 apiece standoff.
The fourth quarter went back and forth, as UNC’s zone stifled Virginia Tech’s offense for much of the second half.
In the closing seconds of regulation, Tech head coach Kenny Brooks drew up a play for spot-up shooter Cayla King, but the senior missed a deep three on the left wing with the game tied at 54.
Following a UNC defensive rebound, and a timeout, Georgia Amoore made a gutsy defensive play, drawing a charge on Alyssa Ustby with one second left.
The Hokies got one more shot in regulation, where Amoore took an off-balance shot in the right corner that very narrowly missed - sending this thrilling game to overtime squared up at 54.
In the extra period, Tech ran away, scoring 16 points - more than it had in any quarter on Sunday, thanks to multiple threes from Amoore and Ekh that resulted in Virginia Tech’s 18th win of the season, 70-61.
Kitley, Amoore and Ekh now have the Hokies on a roll, as they head to Raleigh for a second game against the fifth ranked NC State Wolfpack (18-2, 7-2 ACC) on Thursday.
Virginia Tech had previously beaten NC State 63-62 in Cassell Coliseum on January 7th. The Wolfpack hold an 11-0 record at home thus far in the 2023-2024 season.