Virginia Tech Beats South Dakota State 72-60 to Reach Sweet 16 for First Time Since 1999

Virginia Tech Beats South Dakota State 72-60 to Reach Sweet 16 for First Time Since 1999
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Will Locklin | @locklin_will

TLP: Writer/Basketball Analyst
Mar 19, 2023

As the game clock submerged under two minutes, Virginia Tech point guard Georgia Amoore took the ball on the left wing and drove into a crowded paint. Her shot was sent out of bounds by South Dakota State’s Tori Nelson. The block was the last of a series of key plays from the Jackrabbits that saw them go on a 7-2 mini-run late in the fourth.

What was once a 20+ point lead for the Hokies dwindled down to 10. Safe to say Tech needed a hero to close this game out with some breathing room. It just so happened that the hero was Georgia Amoore herself.

After seeing her layup attempt unceremoniously rejected, Amoore answered the call with back to back clutch three pointers. The first was a swished catch and shoot trey coming out of ensuing baseline out of bounds possession. The second was one of conviction as Amoore went to her signature crossover step back move and nailed the dagger shot from distance.

“I was getting frustrated, but then I looked over to Coach Brooks, and he just said, 'I need you to give me those eyes, I need you to be locked in',” Georgia Amoore said postgame. “I knew I had taken a lot. I didn't know it was that many, but that just went out of my mind because we needed baskets.”

After seeing South Dakota State chip away at the built up lead, Virginia Tech managed to stave off any hope of a late comeback and outlast the Jackrabbits 72-60 in one last game from Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies broke South Dakota State's 22 game win streak, the second longest in women’s college basketball, and secured a spot in the Sweet 16 next week in Seattle for the first time since 1999. Tech also set a program record for wins in a single season, earning their 29th on the year.

“Great game. I thought we played really well. South Dakota State, tremendous ballclub, very well-coached, disciplined. They're tough. We knew we were going to have our hands full, but the kids came out, got off to a great start.” Kenny Brooks told reporters postgame.

Although the Hokies made a number of key plays on both ends to close the game out down the stretch, the win was ultimately clinched by a wave of Tech’s ultra-hot first half shooting. Guided by an 18-2 run during the middle of the first half and a 10-0 run to end the second quarter, Tech found themselves shooting a scorching 53% from the floor including 57% from three on their way to a 23-point halftime advantage.

“First half, we were moving the basketball side to side, getting opportunities, stepping up, shooting them with confidence,” Brooks said. “All of them had the green light. They know each other so well that they all have the green light, and none of them are hesitant. We don't tell them not to shoot the basketball.”

Coming out of the break, South Dakota State refused to give up and went to work. The Jackrabbits challenged the Hokies on both ends from the onset of the third quarter until the final buzzer.

Through tough and scrappy offensive play, South Dakota State shot 41% in the second half and went 10-13 at the free throw line in the third quarter. Defensively, the Jackrabbits held the Hokies in check, holding Tech to 12 third quarter points on an inefficient 25% in the period.

“When you're up 23 and -- I just I don't know why we were flat,” Brooks said. “Give them credit; they were a little bit more physical. They had very little to lose at that point, and we knew they were going to come out and be aggressive, and they were, and they beat us to some of the 50/50 balls.”

Despite SDSU staying in the game until the bitter end, Tech’s key defensive stops and clutch shot making from Amoore were the difference makers. Amoore scored a game-high 21 points and shot 7-23 from the field including 7-19 from three-point territory.

The 2023 ACC Tournament MVP was free to fire from long range and came one three point attempt shy of the programs all-time record at 20 three-point attempts set by Blacksburg legend Aisha Sheppard back on January 21st, 2021 against Notre Dame.

“To be honest, it was a different defense than I've played against this year. They didn't really go over screens or have a hand up, so I was just taking them. To be honest, I like taking a three more than a lay-up.” Amoore said.

In addition to Amoore’s 12th game of 20 or more points, the Hokies received stellar performances from a handful of other players. Namely, two-time ACC Player of the Year Liz Kitley, who poured in 14 points on 7-17 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Kitley recorded her third straight double-double and 21st of the season. Furthermore, Kitley came into the game tied for the program record in blocks at 256. After a six second stretch midway through the second quarter that saw her swat two Jack Rabbit shots away, Kitley surpassed the record and stands alone at the top with a program best 261 career blocks.

“That's cool, yeah. I had no idea until somebody mentioned it the other day, so yeah, it's nice, I guess.” Liz Kitley said postgame.

Tech shot the ball at a 40% clip from three point range. A big part of that high percentage was the efficient marksmanship of Cayla King and Taylor Geiman. Together they shot 4-9 from deep and were a big part of the initial tidal wave that overwhelmed the Jack Rabbits.

Taylor Soule put up 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and notched two steals and a block. Kayana Traylor scored 11 points, all in the first half including a buzzer beater long two to cap Tech’s insanely hot shooting stretch.

“Kayana is as good as any of them, and what she's willing to sacrifice to just come here and win, she'll forever be one of my favorite kids I've ever coached,” Brooks said. “She came out and she gave us a big spark in the first half, helped us a lot in the second half, did a great job defensively.”

From ACC Tournament champs, to a program best in single season wins with 29, to making the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history and first in the Brooks era, this team continues to prove its special and one all Hokie fans will never forget. Tech will face off against the winner of Tennessee and Toledo in Seattle next weekend for a chance at their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.

“So proud of these kids. So proud of this program,” Brooks said. “To be able to get this group, this program to this level is very, very special, and I couldn't do it without these young ladies.”