Though they started out hot, Virginia Tech flamed out, falling to Wake Forest 58-55 in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Thursday.
The fifth seeded Hokies (21-9, 11-7) never found their rhythm, turning the ball over 16 times in the contest and shooting 36.8 percent.
“We couldn’t get into a flow,” Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said after the game. “We never really got in sync. Foul trouble early in the first half kind of limited us to try to get into a flow so we had to continue playing that way. … we didn’t play as well we thought we could have or needed to play.”
The Hokies led 17-14 after the first period and shot 50 percent, all while allowing the Demon Deacons (15-15, 7-11) to hit just five of 16 shots from the floor.
Tech finished the first quarter with five fouls and proceeded to pick up four more in the second quarter, giving Brooks some tough decisions to make due to foul trouble.
Kitley picked up two fouls in ninety seconds, while Cole and Sheppard each earned one in the second quarter. King was called for two early ones as well, both in the first quarter.
“We got taken out of our rhythm early,” Brooks said. “Liz [Kitley] got her second foul with seven minutes to go in the half and we had to take her out for the remainder of the half. Aisha Sheppard got her second foul in that quarter as well. We were trying makeshift lineups, lineups we’ve never really practiced before.”
Like many teams have done this season, the Demon Deacons double teamed the ACC Freshman of the Year, Elizabeth Kitley, and the Hokies had trouble playing around it. The combination of no rhythm and not being able to break the double team led to those turnovers, five of which came from Kitley.
“Personally, I thought that was not handling the double teams well enough,” Kitley said. “I didn’t handle that like I should have, and we know how to do that, but we didn’t.”
While the Hokies started off well and cooled off, Wake Forest did the opposite.
Tied with Tech after shooting 29 percent in the first half, Wake Forest head coach Jen Hoover decided to challenge her team
It paid off.
“We wanted to run them off the line,” Hoover said. “We wanted them to go for a layup instead of a three because they’re really good shooters. “I challenged them and they challenged each other to lock that back up and take care of that.”
Tech finished 4-15 from behind the arc, with Mabrey connecting on all four treys. She made her first three in the first quarter, but the Deacons’ defense didn’t let Tech find their rhythm.
After the best ACC regular season in program history, which earned the Hokies the No. 5 seed in Greensboro, Tech will rest for eleven days, waiting to hear their name called on Selection Monday on March 16th.
“I think we’re an NCAA team,” Brooks said. “I think the part that excites me the most is that it’s going to be fresh because we’re playing against people that we haven’t seen for the last two and a half months. … I think this break is going to be good for them. We need a break.”