By R.L. Bynum
GREENSBORO — As expected, No. 16-ranked North Carolina will have to deal with No. 21 Virginia Tech and ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
The No. 5-seed Hokies (22–8), who easily dispatched No. 13-seed Clemson 82–60 in Thursday’s second round, face No. 4-seed UNC (23–5) at 11 a.m. Friday (regional sports networks) after the teams split two regular-season meetings.
“This will be the sixth time we’ve played them in the last two years, so there’s a lot of familiarity,” said Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks, adding that it’s a healthy rivalry and that he’s good friends with UNC coach Courtney Banghart.
“I’m sure she’s going to switch things up,” Brooks said. “As I was walking out to go to the game, her assistants were walking behind me to come scout us. And I told them, ‘You can scout us all you want, but we’re going to put in whole new package tomorrow.’ ”
There will be few secrets either way but Brooks admitted he changed the Hokies’ approach during most of the game when it was obvious that they would advance so that they wouldn’t show too much to the Tar Heels.
“Because there’s just so much familiarity, and it’s going to come down to will — who wants to really go out, who’s going to get the 50/50 ball, who’s going to get that rebound, who’s going to be able to put the ball in the basket,” Brooks said. “We know what they’re going to do; they know what we’re going to do at this time of the year. It’s going to be, I think, a heck of a ball game.”
UNC won decisively in Chapel Hill 71–46 on Jan. 6 and the Hokies won at Virginia Tech on Feb. 13 66–61. The only time the Hokies scored fewer points than their game at Chapel Hill was in a 51–45 loss at N.C. State.
Carolina’s Deja Kelly (15 in the first game, 17 in the second game), Eva Hodgson (19 and 10) and Alyssa Ustby (13 and 12) all scored in double figures in both games.
“They beat us in transition. We got behind. We were a little bit sluggish. Everybody has a game like that,” Brooks said of the first game, noting the improvement in the rematch. “We shored up a few things that we needed to do. We were much better in transition the second game.”
The Tar Heels held Kitley (in top photo), who scored 19 points in 24 minutes Thursday, just below her 17.7 scoring average in both games. She had 14 points in the first game and 15 in the second for two of her seven lowest outputs in ACC play.
“I think transition was super key on that, and also we could not put the ball in the basket the first game whatsoever,” Kitley said. “So, a combination of us making shots and adjusting to what they did in the first game.”
One major difference was that the Hokies went from making only 4 of 24 on 3-point attempts in the first game to 11 of 28 in the rematch. Against Clemson, Virginia Tech was 9 of 19 from outside the arc, led by four from guard Aisha Sheppard, who had a game-high 20 points.
“I think our mentality was different,” said Sheppard, who hobbled off late in the first half Thursday but returned and appeared to have no issues. “The first time we met, we couldn’t put the ball in the basket and we kind of weren’t ourselves. I think the second time around, we were ready and more prepared for what they were going to do, and we were able to put the ball in the basket because we played better defense that game.”
The Hokies will be without Cayla King, who has started all but one game this season and is averaging 7.8 points. She had to be helped off the court after spraining her right ankle in the first minute of the second half.
First round — Wednesday’s results
Game No. 1 — No. 13 Clemson 88, No. 12 Syracuse 60
Game No. 2 — No. 10 Duke 55, No. 15 Pitt 52
Game No. 3 — No. 11 Wake Forest 61, No. 14 Virginia 53
Second round — Thursday’s results
Game No. 4 — No. 5 Virginia Tech 82, Clemson 60
Game No. 5 — No. 9 Florida State 63, No. 8 Boston College 58
Game No. 6 — No. 7 Miami 61, Duke 55
Game No. 7 — No. 6 Georgia Tech 45, Wake Forest 40
Quarterfinals — Friday‘s schedule
(All games on regional sports networks)
Game No. 8 — No. 4 North Carolina (23–5) vs. Virginia Tech (22–8), 11 a.m.
Game No. 9 — No. 1 N.C. State (26–3) vs. Florida State (18-12), 2 p.m.
Game No. 10 — No. 2 Louisville (25–3) vs. Miami (18–11), 6 p.m.
Game No. 11 — No. 3 Notre Dame (21-7) vs. Georgia Tech (21–9), 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals — Saturday
(Both games on ACC Network)
Game No. 12 — UNC or Virginia Tech vs. N.C. State or Florida State, noon
Game No. 13 — Louisville or Miami vs. Notre Dame or Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m.
Championship — Sunday
Game No. 14 – Championship Game, noon (ESPN)
No. 21 Virginia Tech 80, Clemson 60
Box score for UNC’s Jan. 9 win in Chapel Hill
Box score for Hokies’ win Feb. 13 in Blacksburg
time, day, TV
|9||92–47 win, 1–0||Home||N.C. A&T|
|14||89–33 win, 2–0||Road||Charlotte|
|17||89–44 win, 3–0||Home||Appalachian State|
|21||79–46 win, 4–0||Road||TCU|
|26||72–59 win, 5–0||Bimini, Bahamas||X — VCU|
|27||58–37 win, 6–0||Bimini, Bahamas||X — Washington|
|December (6–0, 2–0 ACC)|
|1||82–76 win, 7–0||Road||Y — Minnesota|
|5||93–47 win, 8–0||Home||James Madison|
|12||107–46 win, 9–0||Home||UNC Asheville|
|19||76–63 win, 10–0, 1–0 ACC||Road||Boston College|
|21||83–47 win, 11–0||Home||Alabama State|
|30||79–43 win, 12–0, 2–0||Home||Syracuse|
|January (4–4, 4–4 ACC)|
|2||81–62 win, 13–0, 3–0 ACC||Home||Clemson|
|6||72–45 loss, 13–1, 3–1||Road||No. 3 N.C. State|
|9||71–46 win, 14–1, 4–1||Home||No. 21 Virginia Tech|
|16||70–64 loss, 14–2, 4–2||Road||No. 20 Notre Dame|
|20||61–52 win, 15–2, 5–2||Home||Virginia|
|23||55–38 loss, 15–3, 5–3||Road||No. 25 Georgia Tech|
|27||78–62 win, 16–3, 6–3||Road||Duke|
|30||66–58 loss, 16–4, 6–4||Home||No. 3 N.C. State|
|February (7–1, 7–1 ACC)|
|3||78–59 win, 17–4, 7–4||Road||Wake Forest|
|6||85–38 win, 18–4, 8–4||Home||Miami|
|10||64–54 win, 19–4, 9–4||Home||Pittsburgh|
|13||66–61 loss, 19–5, 9–5||Road||No. 21 Virginia Tech|
|17||66–65 win, 20–5, 10–5||Home||No. 4 Louisville|
|20||64–49 win, 21–5, 11–5||Road||Florida State|
|24||68–57 win, 22–5, 12–5||Road||Virginia|
|27||74–46 win, 23–5, 14–5||Home||Duke|
|— ACC Tournament —|
|4||11 a.m. Friday, RSN||Greensboro||No. 21 Virginia Tech|
|5||noon Saturday, ACCN||Greensboro||Semifinals (with win Friday)|
|6||noon Sunday, ESPN||Greensboro||Final (with wins Friday, Saturday)|
Photos courtesy of the ACC