Close One. Tough One. Huge Road Win.
There are many sports writers out there who spend time “oohing” and “aahhing” over Catlin in Iowa or Mulkey’s crew in Baton Rouge. What they are missing is Kenny Brooks and a team certainly lead by some stellar performers, but also backed up by the future of the program. Today, the Lady Hokies were on the court for a noon matinee tip-off against the #24 North Carolina Lady Tar Heels. The pregame buzz certainly wasn’t about predicted runaways or searches for 40 or 50-point domination by superstars. Most everyone thought that this contest was going to be close, and it was going to be tough. The Heels were 11-1 at home, and 15-7 overall. Their ACC record, which was more important, was 6-3. Though those numbers would suggest a poll over-rating, it was the 11-1 record in their own house that made this one difficult. Just like coming to Blacksburg is daunting, for Tech’s opponents, the Tar Heels pack them in for basketball and their crowds are loud and intimidating.
Add to that, these teams are just a hair away, each time. It’s that close that even the ACC Network dug up the statistic and pushed it on Twitter/X.
The Lady Hokies had to bring their “A” game and needed to be prepared to fight this one to the bitter end. Well, the ‘end’ for this one wasn’t bitter for the Hokies. It just took an entire game to chew on the will of the Lady Heels to pull this one off. The only dominant period that either team managed to put on the board was Tech’s pull away in the 5-minute overtime that made it impossible for Carolina to come back for the “W” or another pass at an OT.
The top three Tech scorers also put up the same sorts of stats that they had in their last home game. Georgia Amoore led with a double-double in points and assists, Elizabeth Kitley double-doubled again in points and rebounds, and Matilda Ekh checked in with double figures and some excellent offensive and defensive support effort. Add to those totals, both Amoore and Ekh played the entire game, and Liz clocked 44 of the 45. Coach Brooks managed to get the game done by swapping in and out 2 players at either guard or forward, depending on need.
It was a solid game plan to put up against a team that many expected to pull off the mild upset. We break it down by quarters, but in the end, it was all about setting up that final five minutes.
The First Quarter was ALL About the D
The first started out with the current normal lineup on the court. 3 Guards, a Forward, and a Center - you’d just have to figure out which one of the players not named Kitley or Amoore were a Guard or a Forward. I guess Matilda Ekh and Oliva Summiel get to flip a coin. But it all started with the Amoore, Ekh, Summiel, King, and Kitley lineup. Frankly, it’s one of the best starting lineups in collegiate women’s hoops, but you’d never know it by the press coverage.
Tech managed to jump out to a whole 4-point lead by the time the first 2 minutes had ticked off the clock. Shots weren’t dropping for the Heels, but scoring was slow for the Hokies, too. UNC finally started up with a foul shot series but Tech managed to stay ahead as the exchanges kept ringing out on both sides of the court. There was some positive movement for both teams in the 6:15 to 2:40 minute stretch, but those were a trey from each of Liv Summiel and Georgia Amoore. In the meantime, the Lady Heels had caught and passed the Hokies. Georgia’s 3 narrowed their lead to 1 from 4, but it was getting to be nail biting time. There were two minutes left in a quarter and the Hokies had only managed to get 10 points on the board. That’s rare numbers and on the nervous side, too.
UNC had another gimme trip to the charity stripe but missed the 2nd shot and Tech managed to rebound (Ekh) and got the ball down the court for Kitley to put in a 2 to even it up at 12 all. Carleigh Wenzel dropped in a bucket from beyond the arc to put the Hokies up by 3 and the defense managed to keep the Heels from scoring again in the quarter. The buzzer sounded on a 15-12 score in favor of the Hokies, but that was hardly a majorly significant difference. And neither team had to be happy about their shooting stats, especially UNC. Tech wasn’t shooting enough (6-14), and UNC wasn’t hitting enough (4-17).
After the first frame pic.twitter.com/bbaWw9gUnl— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 4, 2024
Tech Led the Entire Second, but Never by Much
Have you ever watched a long track stock car race on TV? Most folks really haven’t anymore. They used to be regular broadcast shows on Sundays when NASCAR was just the “Stock Car” races and the cars looked like the ones that you drove to work every day. You watched as the better racers pushed out of the pack and ran nose to tail just in front and behind each other, “drafting” for the #2 guy to get a slingshot effect from behind coming out of a turn and heading into a straight way. It was done to save fuel in the critical final lap or two to avoid pit stops. (Wow! This analogy long but strangely accurate...) That’s what reminded me of this 2nd quarter effort. The Hokies stayed in the lead, but the Tar Heels were bump drafting right behind them. Tech never led by more than 8 points and that was early in the quarter.
Once again, we saw a lid go on the bucket for both teams, with neither gaining much of an advantage in the exchange. UNC only managed a 28% shooting percentage, but Tech was nearly as dry with a bit over 31%. It was just a physical shoving match under the basket with few points put up, again, and neither team connecting.
Carleigh scored the only three for the quarter. Kitley, Strack, Amoore, and Ekh each put in a duce, and Tilly managed to close out the scoring for both teams as the clock ran out on the half; 26-20 Hokies.
At the break in Carmichael pic.twitter.com/bjLN8BPZgo— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 4, 2024
Second Verse, Same as the First
(h/t on the title to Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits)
There was a bit of a difference in the 3rd, than the first half’s quarters. The Lady Tar Heels managed a very scary run on the Hokies during the quarter. Tech didn’t get a bucket for the first minute and a third. Georgia finally broke the ice, but UNC shooting got much hotter, and they quickly erased and passed the Hokies around the 6-minute mark of the quarter.
It was almost a full two minutes before the teams got close to sinking a basket, and that was UNC to jump out to 3-point lead on two free-throws. It took nearly an entire minute before Tilly Ekh drained one from downtown to even up the score and grab some momentum that was picked up on by Cayla King who hit a three and got Tech back in the lead.
The Lady Heels battled right back and passed the Hokies with 36 ticks left on the clock in the quarter. The Hokies tied it up on two Georgia Amoore free-throws, and the quarter ended 39-39. Neither team had to be too pleased with either the point total or their stat lines because it’s rare for either of them to be at less than 40 after three periods.
We'll have to decide this one in the final frame pic.twitter.com/Sf3Z3WwDwb— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 4, 2024
Third Verse, Same as the First
(a bit of paraphrasing)
Don’t let anyone fool you, there wasn’t any sort of sleeping on this one. There was no putting the TV on pause and heading into the kitchen to fuss around with lunch or clean up the sink. This game was going to the wire, and you could feel it, even though the TV and over the computer feed.
Cayla checked in out of defensive mode to start off the scoring with a three, but after a Kitley and UNC 2-point exchange, they managed to hit from downtown to even it up at 44. Tech managed to get the lead back and keep the exchange at a 2-4 point difference in the Hokies favor. But 1:45 is a long time in basketball and hanging on to a 2-point bumper is very difficult when it’s the end of the game and the pressure gets really heavy. UNC evened it up 54 each with :36 on the clock. That’s two possessions and Cayla couldn’t connect with a three. Georgia tried from deep at the buzzer, but it didn’t happen, either. The 4th quarter ended at 54-54, but the game certainly didn’t. It was on to OT and 5 minutes at a time of basketball mayhem.
End of regulation — Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) February 4, 2024
» 54 » 54
The tweet style says it all on this one. No picture or fancy graphics, just worry emoji.
Finally! Some Distance!
Well, no worries. The Hokies had this one, it just took an extra five minutes of free basketball for the crowd to salt away the ‘W’. Tech came out firing with a three from Tilly. UNC only answered with two, and then Liz checked in with a foul shot. UNC got it to within one, but Georgia made them pay with a big shot from beyond the arc to push the lead to 4. Some stout defense got the Heels to turn the ball over and Tilly dropped in another trey to push the lead out to seven with 1:21 on the OT clock.
That’s when the foul-o-rama started and the Hokies managed to keep positive pressure on the point exchange. They’d probably like to have a couple of misses back, but Tech’s scoring ended on two shots from Liv Summiel, and two from Georgia. Tech’s managed to slam the door shut on any UNC comeback chances. Nothing short of a miracle would get the Lady Tar Heels the 9 points for a tie in the final 32 ticks of the game clock.
Eventually Virginia Tech’s 3-point shooting offense, with 2 from Tilly and 1 from G, accounted for the 9-point difference at the end. It was a close one until the end and it was an emphatic “we can win on the road, tough” game that should put NC State, Louisville, and Notre Dame on notice. As with the last game against Virginia, Tech will be facing the Tar Heels again, this time in the Cassell and what looks like a serious head of steam.
The Statistics for this One
The only thing to say about this one in general is that if you keep hanging in, and staying in positive territory, you can win tough contests. Note every effort is going to be a dominant runaway, and sometimes the ebb and flow is frustrating, until you finally get flow, and the buzzer sounds at high tide.
In this one, the thing to note was the only team to hit a period of 50% field goals was the Heels, but as we saw, they only managed to gain a tie for their six-point advantage in that quarter. The fourth, the teams matched in percentage closely, but Carolina took more shots. It was a frustrating statistical study before this article, that’s for sure.
The Scoring is Unsurprising, and the Double-Doubles are Pleasant Echos
Georgia’s 3-point percentage is probably still at a frustrating ‘low-ish’ range for her. She still ended up with a team high 21 points. It’s been a hot and cold season for her, but thankfully the cold cycles, and the hot cycles are within a game, and the heat comes when the Hokies need it the most. Georgia took 21 shots from the floor and only managed to hit 6. Fortunately for the Hokies three of those were from beyond the arc, and she made 4 of 8 from the charity stripe (which is a tad low for her, too). Of course, Amoore, being Amoore means that she was looking to dish off the ball for teammates with good looks, and she managed 11 in the contest, today. In this one, every stat counts, and Georgia also checked in with 4 boards (1 ORB, 3 DRB) and a steal.
Liz was fighting the lid for a good deal of the game. The defense against her was fierce to say the least, and it was difficult for her to get into her regular shooting rhythm. Even with those problems, she still scored in double figures with 15, she also pulled down 15 boards for the game with 4 being critical ORBs. Liz pushed out an assist, stuffed a shot, and grabbed up a steal for the game. How many players dream of having tough games and still come out with double-doubles and “Ws”?
Matilda Ekh just keeps checking in big. Today, it was a very critical 14 points, 6 of those coming in OT on two huge threes that put the Hokies so far out in front that the Heels couldn’t catch them before the buzzer at the end of the OT period. She played all 45 minutes of the game and contributed way more than points. She had 8 boards, 3 of which were offensive, she also blocked a shot that proved very important in a scoring exchange win.
Cayla King (6), Carleigh Wenzel (6), Olivia Summiel (5), and Clara Strack (3)
Cayla’s just having issues with that 3-pointer and only managed two, today. Each of them was really important, though. They made the momentum difference, especially in the 3rd as it put Tech in position to tie it up at the buzzer. Cayla, in her 33 minutes, also pushed out 3 assists and pulled down 4 boards.
Carleigh played 12 minutes, put up 3 shots from beyond the arc and hit two. (Note to CKB: [eyeballs inserted here]). She also had 3 rebounds and 2 assists. She’s earning more playing time with numbers like this for 12 whole minutes on the court.
Liv played 22 minutes and put up a grand total of 4 shots. She was tough defense today, getting her nose into places, and grabbing important rebounds (6). She also had a dish and a stuff for her efforts.
Clara played 22 minutes and only one of them was to replace Liz. All of the rest came from her playing in cooperation with Kitley, and it presented serious defensive and offensive problems for the Lady Tar Heels. She took exactly 1 shot from the floor, and hit it, she also made one free throw, to equal her 3 points for the game. Imagine, like Carleigh, if she could get a few more shots off. Strack is earning her nickname of “NoNo” with 2 blocked shots and put in 4 rebounds. Three of those were offensive boards enabling putbacks.
All in all, those offensive rebounds were critical in this game. Tech got 20 points off of second chances. That’s the way to win in tight games, besides hitting consistently from the charity stripe.
Richard Petty passes Bobby Allison coming out of turn 4 for a car length and a half win at Daytona. (just had to finish the analogy)
Next Up is Raleigh
It’s going to be another hammer fest. This game should help fortify the Lady Hokies because Thursday evening at 8:00 they tip off against their arch ACC nemesis in their house. The Hokies CAN win and need to remember that.