After a 14-point home victory over Syracuse, head coach Kenny Brooks was asked about how ready his team was heading into a stretch of five straight games against ranked ACC foes. His response was appropriate and telling for what was to come from his team.
“We’re a ranked opponent too. One team is ahead of us, so it’s not like we are 25 and they are all top five, we’re right there,” Brooks said. “When all of those teams look at those games, they’ll be saying 'oh man, we have to play Virginia Tech.'”
Fast forward to the present and the Hokies have certainly lived up to the billing and then some. Tech has won four of those five games mentioned, all by a double-digit points margin with one still to play on the road versus UNC. Tech swept NC State for the first time in program history, defeating the Wolfpack twice by a combined 12.5 point margin. In between those victories came statement performances against a then ninth ranked Duke team by 16 points and a top 25 Florida State squad by double digits as well.
The lively win streak the Hokies are on is powered by the supercharged duo of Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore. Both are in the midst of some of the best play of their careers.
Kitley has scored 20+ points in four of her last five games and notched double figures in rebounds in each of those contests. Amoore has scored 20 or more in three of the last four games and dished out six plus assists in the same stretch as well.
Individually they are great, but it’s when Amoore and Kitley work together that creates magic on the floor for the Hokies.
First let’s highlight Kitley’s toughness and physicality down low. Amoore throws up a tough layup try that falls too far off the glass but Kitley is there to clean up the mess. She pushes her way to the basket and hauls in a contested offensive rebound. After grabbing the board, Kitley is swarmed by a couple defenders. She fends off one with an elbow and fights through contact to flip up the putback shot off the glass and in.
For Amoore, erratic plays like the one above come few and far between in her junior season. More often than not, Amoore is playing with a controlled flair to her game that leads to plays that ooze just as much substance as they do style.
For example, Amoore snaps into a wicked right to left crossover and easily coasts to the paint. With several options on the floor, Amoore chose to give it up to Kitley at the perfect moment. This is because Amoore’s drive drew the attention of Kitley’s defender who had to step up and react. Amoore freezes the help defender with a hesitation that flows into a slick bounce pass for Kitley to finish at the rim.
Against NC State, Amoore uses her blinding speed and crafty maneuvers in tight corners to create another good look for her partner in crime Kitley. After crossing midcourt, Amoore builds momentum before taking a galloping step and dribble to blow by the Wolfpack’s transition defense. After a second defender is draped onto Amoore, she aims to wrap around them both and find an open Kitley at the hoop.
In a fashion that would make Steve Nash proud, Amoore creates that interior pass through her quickness, handle, and vision. An extra defender rotates to Kitley but that’s no problem for the reigning ACC Player of the Year.
The two-woman game will always be deadly when you pair Amoore’s speed and ball handling with Kitley’s footwork and shooting touch. Here, Kitley pitches it to Amoore who immediately kicks it back towards Kitley. Amoore pulled both defenders in the action her way which resulted in a knockdown mid-range jumper for Kitley. Put extra attention on one queen and the other will burn you which makes the duo so tough to defend.
Kenny Brooks activated Kitley off the ball in a few creative ways versus Duke. Most notably, Kitley came off interior screens to get the ball in efficient spots for her to rise into routine jumpers. The screener just so happened to be Kitley’s trusty point guard.
In the first play, Amoore flashes for the ball after coming off a quick flare from Soule. She then sets a powerful screen on Kitley’s defender and with no switch from the Blue Devils, book Kitley down for two points to open the game.
Next up, Amoore weaves to set another intentional screen on Kitley’s defender while Liz flashes from one side of the paint to the other. Duke defends it a bit better this time but Kitley is still money in the bank even when there’s a hand in her face.
More commonly, it’s Kitley who screens for Amoore and against NC State, that combination was a handful the Wolfpack were not prepared to deal with. State forces Amoore to dribble and take the ball to her right side instead of her left. After Amoore is walled off, Kitley flips to the angle of the screen to give Amoore a runway on the other side. Since the Wolfpack dropped the screeners defender well below the level, Amoore pulls into a smooth three point jumper and nails the shot.
The concept of the last play is repeated here, only the sides are switched and so is the result. Kitley screens for Amoore to go right, but State has a crowd of defenders waiting on that side. Amoore recycles through a second Kitley screen and smartly takes a wide angle to pull the defense into her direction. After Kitley’s defender shuffles towards Amoore, she feathers in a pocket pass to a rolling Kitley for a jumper that’s automatic from the foul line area.
The Amoore and Kitley screen and roll game is beneficial towards their teammates as well. In this play, Amoore draws attention from the screeners' defender off the pick. She feeds Kitley who rolls to the basket. State is late getting back which forces a help defender to rotate up and meet Kitley in the paint.
Taylor Soule is parked along the baseline for just this occasion. Kitley lays down a pass for Soule to finish and the State defense can’t guard the Hokies in space. It was the powers of Amoore and Kitley and how their strengths work together that created great offense for themselves and the entire Tech team.