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Top seeds take care of business in ACC quarterfinals

Elizabeth Kitley faces the Miami defense. Virginia Tech Athletics photo.
Elizabeth Kitley faces the Miami defense. Virginia Tech Athletics photo.

Hailey Van Lith definitely didn’t feel the early morning rust as she dropped 26 points, including 17 of her team’s first 20 points, in Louisville’s 74-48 win over Wake Forest Friday. She was 62.5 percent from the 3-point line, as she did most of her damage from there in the first quarter, where the Cardinals led 20-8 and never looked back. This late-morning win kicked off the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.

Despite missing conference assist leader Olivia Miles, Notre Dame was able to hold off NC State, 66-60, who were also missing Diamond Johnson. Sonia Citron (28 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Maddy Westbeld (15 points and 10 rebounds) more than picked up the slack. Notre Dame and Louisville will face each other for a third time this season in the semifinals on Saturday.

Duke edges out North Carolina in triangle defensive slugfest

This game was a true throwback to blacktop basketball as it was what people would call a knockout, dragout fight as Duke Blue defeated their triangle rival North Carolina, 44-40. It was not only the lowest-scoring game of this rivalry, but also the fewest points ever scored by a winning team in the ACC Tournament.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to figure out a way to get it done, which is all you need to do in a tournament like this,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said.

Defense really did rule the day as the Blue Devils and Tar Heels shot 32 percent and 24.2 percent from the field, respectively. Both teams combined for 31 turnovers as they took turns just giving the ball away with bad passes, on occasion. Duke and North Carolina really ran down the shot clock on their possessions as they both applied heavy defensive pressure on each other, really forcing each other into taking bad shots and making ill-advised passes.

The pressure was so much that the score was 9-8 in favor of the Blue Devils at the end of the first quarter. Their 13 turnovers allowed the Tar Heels to take a 24-19 lead at halftime and in the third quarter, it got even chillier as just as it looked like North Carolina was about to make it a double-digit lead, Duke once again turned up the heat and had two blocks in a row from Reigan Richardson and Elizabeth Balogun to help make it 30-26.

The Blue Devils eventually ended the quarter on a 13-6 run and only trailed 36-34 at the start of the fourth. The physicality didn’t stop as there were multiple instances of players from both teams crashing to the floor for loose balls as they combined for 14 points in the entire quarter. In the end, it was Richardson, Balogun and Shayeann Day-Wilson, who scored at the crucial points.

The last gasp for the Tar Heels was a busted play that wound up in a 3-point attempt by Kennedy Todd-Williams that was blocked by Richardson with four seconds left. After being swept by North Carolina in the regular season, they finally beat them when it mattered the most.

“Two really good teams and a great basketball game today,” North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart. “You never want to be the one that loses, but somehow, it’s not really fair. Someone’s got to lose these games.”

Virginia Tech blows Miami off of the floor

This game was literally over by the end of the first quarter, when Virginia Tech led Miami 20-5. Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore once again shined for the winners with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks on 55 percent shooting and 16 points on five 3-pointers, respectively.

The Hokies also dominated on the boards, as they outrebounded the Hurricanes 50-37 – most notably in terms of offensive rebounding 19-13. All in all, Virginia Tech almost had three players with doubles-doubles: Kitley, Taylor Soule (13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) and D’asia Gregg (9 points and 13 rebounds).

“They’re very connected with each other and what’s going on both ends of the floor,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “They’re very pleased with what they’re doing, and they look good.”

Kitley’s post game was truly unmatched, as she was often double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed, and yet still managed to fight her way to the rim for buckets, while making great use of her outside-the-paint shot, as well.

When they play on Saturday, Duke will definitely have their hands full as the nation’s third-best scoring defense will be tested by her post moves and skills.