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#9 Virginia Tech Hokies Defeat #22 North Carolina Tar Heels at the Buzzer: 61-59

Another ranked team falls, another ACC road win, and another record for Liz Kitley. The Hokies continue the dream season by winning a close one at the Buzzer. GO HOKIES!!!

Syndication: The Greenville News
There are tough moments inside, we wish USA Today would take more pictures of women’s basketball...
Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

This One Says Absolutely Everything

We’ll go through the stats in a bit, but let this one sink in a bit because the ending basket was made by Tech’s leading scorer, but from an angle she usually doesn’t shoot from and a distance that is a bit outside of her range. She did it on a 2 second turnaround, and it was all net. Also, let it be known that her old high school teammate made the throw-in assist, and was struggling in the game. So, that might have been the most consequential and important assist of the entire contest. Basketball is a team sport, the individual dominant performances come and go, but winning takes the effort of five to eight, or so, players. And it takes those players being both unselfish and willing to step up to make a difference at the same time. Winning means everyone, not just the stars, contributing what they can at that moment. Liz’s might have been that one clutch shot and clutch assist from Cayla, but everyone got them to that point and those 2 seconds.

Folks this was a tough game from the tipoff. UNC is going to be in the NCAA Tournament and there is still a major push and shove going on for ACC Championship honors. There is one game left, and the ACC Tournament starts next week. Winning at this point in the season is momentum sustaining. The first true thing for a Hokie is that there are only a couple of programs that the Hokies really reeeallly like beating on any field of competition. We all know how we feel about UVA, but UVA’s match in our neighboring state is North Carolina. Winning against the Tar Heels is like a hot fudge sundae. It’s not a banana split, but wow is it great.

Well, enough celebrating. Let’s talk about this game. Frankly, it started out like neither team had a chance at scoring at all. It wasn’t until just past the 8-and-a-half-minute mark that anybody scored anything, and unfortunately that was the Tar Heels. They finally sank a 2-point jumper which started a four-minute tear for UNC. The Hokies didn’t even find the basket until the 4:33 mark when Kayana Traylor made the first Hokie basket.

This is the point where we take a quick segue to highlight one of those individual contribution's honors. KT was absolutely critical to Tech’s win. She was one of the only players consistently dropping the ball into the net and that needs to be noted. She stepped up huge in this one.

The quarter was just really an offensive struggle for the Hokies. The Heel’s weren’t doing much better with only 16, but Tech had only put in 9. There was a spot of momentum, though. Georgia Amoore finally checked in with her first points of the game by hitting the last bucket of the period from downtown. It would take the entire game for Tech to make up the difference in the 16-9 first quarter finish.

The second quarter started up with a series of scoring exchanges that wasn’t moving the margin needle very much, until Kayana Traylor took a big chunk out of Carolina’s eight-point lead with a three-pointer. Tech found itself in reasonable scoring range 18-21, and a 2nd made 3-pointer by Amoore shrunk the difference on the exchanges to 2 points. If you can hang on to the exchanges that’s win range. Tech kept putting them up, Taylor Soule chipped in a basket, and Kitley had chance to tie, but missed her first free throw. Tech took their first lead when Liz came back with a 2-pointer when Tech temporarily unbalanced the exchange on a defensive rebound by D’asia Gregg. It was a slim one-point margin, and Carolina took advantage of some misses and a turnover to end the period (and half) ahead 28-32.

The 2nd Half Sounded Much Like the First... Right up Until

The 2nd half started with a touch of good news. Tech’s been winning quarters and even games when Georgia scores first. She dropped in a 2-pointer to open the half and re-narrow the Carolina lead to a single bucket. It didn’t seem like it helped too much because the Heels pushed out a bit on some missed shots and a couple of turnovers. Carolina was up 6 when Liz and KT bit off most of it with a critical series of a close in bucket and a three. The fun part was when Tech passed the Heels it was on the second shot in a row from downtown by Kayana. Tech would widen the lead to 4 with a pair of Kitley free throws.

A miss and a turnover allowed Carolina to reclose the gap and take the lead again. Traylor hit only one of her 2 free throws to end Tech’s scoring for the quarter, down three points in total, but having once again won the point exchange for the period; 14-13. This game was going to the wire and you could feel it. UNC couldn’t get any sort of distance on Tech, and the Hokies kept nibbling ahead at critical moments.

Nearly half of the 4th quarter was a low point total bump back and forth with a three to one (KT drained another three to tie it, 47-47 at just short of 4 minutes to go) point differential in favor of UNC, but Tech kept up the pressure. The exchanges suddenly swapped the balance point in favor of the Hokies. UNC would take the lead by a point only once, with Tech even stretching it out a bit to a four-point advantage. But most of the last half of the 4th quarter the exchanges were few and even. It looked like with just two seconds left and a missed free throw by UNC the game would go into overtime tied at 59 all. Tech called a timeout which put the ball in at the half court mark. You can see the result in the opening Tweet imbed. Cayla King makes a clutch throw in on a pure instinct turn around 20-footer from Kitley as the buzzer sounded. The rest is jumping around and celebrating.

This ‘W’ might be a bit more of one to the team because they trailed for so much of the game and needed every second of all three remaining quarters to make up for their first quarter struggles. It also took some of that odd balance between “putting the game on your own shoulders” attitudes and unselfish play. It might just be a bigger sweet memory than the dominant defeat of Duke.

Game Stats to Note

Oh, this was a tough one. Carolina came to the floor of their own house to beat Virginia Tech in more ways than one. They were successful in harassing and screening out Georgia Amoore, and only three Hokies made it past double digit scoring totals. Tech’s able defense returned the favor, though, and held Carolina to only two players in double digits. The teams were relatively even in personal fouls with Tech being zapped for 15 and Carolina 18. That meant, that the refs were letting play move on, and also that given the low scoring it was a bruiser out on the court. One very critical point, here. Tech’s free throw shooting was 70% and Carolina’s was 50% that was a 2-point difference. Does that sound familiar? The old rule of thumb is that more often than not, your points from the charity stripe can be the difference in a close defensive game. Guess that aphorism is proven true, again.

Let’s look at the individual performances, then.

Liz Kitley

If they make any more Tweet graphics and imbeds about Liz’s performance records, those Tweets might set records, too! Kitley played the entire game, and even while blanketed managed another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. She also put up 2 assists, a block, and 2 steals. In the midst of all of the game related hoopla for Liz was a program note. She passed Shep (Tech’s great Point Guard Aisha Sheppard) in total points scored and now holds the record for Tech. Even the ACC Network got in on the Kitley tweets for this one.

As we go to the number two Tech scorer and actually that was for both teams, let’s see a taste of just who dominated the Hokies’ side in this game.

Kayana Traylor

Talk about stepping up big time, again! With Amoore struggling from long range, and being screened out with double-teams and heavy pressure, Tech needed a shooting guard to keep the pressure off of Kitley inside. That’s the advantage of Georgia drawing off covering defenders. It gives the inside game room to maneuver. That still means that Tech needs some scoring from beyond the arc. Traylor stepped up and stepped into that role in Chapel Hill. Well, she kind of jumped into it with both feet, actually. Traylor sunk a blistering 4 of 6 attempts from downtown and was 7 of 13 from the floor in total. She also was 2-2 from the charity stripe. Remember that two-point winning margin and whose two free throws made the difference between OT and a win in regulation. KT ended up with 20 points for the game. She also chipped in 3 rebounds and two assists for the evening. It was a critical performance that needs to be noted with a bit more vigor. Traylor and Kitley produced 41 of Tech’s points for the game. They were two-thirds of Tech’s offense.

Georgia Amoore

Look, anybody who has done anything over an extended period of time has had a bad day. Amoore’s evening might be fairly categorized as “unkind”. And given that, the Hokies ever hustling Point Guard still managed to score in double digits for the game. You have to wonder how that right arm is doing with that compression sleeve. Whatever is going on just has to be affecting her deep shooting accuracy. Of course, G’s reputation earns her the respect of her opponents which means that she’s going to get blanketed, shoved, pushed, screened, and hurried. If you drop 10 on a bad night, your good night is going to be pure platinum. Georgia finished the evening with that afore mentioned 10 points. She dished out four assists, grabbed 3 boards, filched a ball, even managed a block. The rest of the not-so-good stuff she can work out with Coach Brooks and some strategies to free her up when pressed. Sometimes the attention that you draw, you don’t want, but it benefits your teammates and the team, so you endure.

Cayla King, D’asia Gregg, Taylor Soule, and Taylor Geiman

If you have to be sort of stuck in a bit of an offensive doldrum, Cayla only put up 6 attempts, and only one of them drained for 2 points, if you’re a good player you find other critical ways to contribute. Cayla King certainly did that. She hit two massively important late game free throws to get Tech to that 59th point. She made the critical assist on the 2 second throw in against heavy pressure, and she grabbed 5 boards and another assist besides her game winner. One note that tells you she was critical on defense was that she played only 19 minutes and was tagged for 4 total personal fouls. Those happen when you are playing tough. D’asia Gregg was a perfect two for two from the floor for four points, she grabbed 4 rebounds, nabbed 2 steals, and dished two assists. One wonders if with a 100% from 2 what could have been if she’d taken more shots in her 31 minutes. Taylor Soule contributed 2 points, but pulled down 7 boards, an assist and a steal. Both Soule and Gregg had 3 personal fouls each which also means they were pushing hard on defense. Taylor Geiman made her five minutes on the court count with a rebound and an assist.

There were 8 total recorded TEAM rebounds in the game. That means the official scorer couldn’t determine exactly who finalized the grab, but those were still important in a 2 point 2-second game.

We’d just like to highlight the gem of a performance by KT. Yes, Liz dropped in the winner, but this Hokie Sports Tweet tells you the rest of the story:

The Hokies are on the road again to end the season in Atlanta against the Lady Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech - in another “Battle of the Techs”. The game is at 4pm on Sunday. The ACC Tournament seeding will be finalized, and that tournament starts Wednesday March 1st and ends on March 5th. It would be really nice to see Tech win, but it’s hardly necessary. The Big Show is where you want to go deep and show up at the end with the trophy.

Remember this one ladies! This is how you win when the going gets tough. You can do this!