BLACKSBURG, Va. — Sunday was always supposed to be Georgia Amoore’s day.
The junior guard was honored before North Carolina’s game at Virginia Tech even began. The pregame festivities featured a specialized graphic of Amoore, honoring her for recording the first triple-double in Hokies history back in early December. The graphic was displayed on the pair of jumbo screens inside Cassell Coliseum and a ball ceremony was led by her mom, who had recently flown in from Amoore’s hometown in Australia for the holidays.
The center-court embrace with her mom was just the beginning of a memorable day for Virginia Tech’s lead guard. In North Carolina's 68-65 loss to the Hokies, Amoore delivered the game-winning free throws as part of her 24-point performance.
It was an outing the Victoria, Australia, native noted was even more special because her family was in the stands. Amoore said she hadn’t seen her mom in about six months in a postgame interview.
“She watches the games at 3 or 4 a.m. on YouTube TV,” Amoore said. “I’m glad she got to stay awake and watch it live (today).”
Coming into the ACC contest, Amoore likely wasn’t atop North Carolina’s defensive game plan. The Hokies boast last year’s ACC Player of the Year and this year's preseason AP All-American Elizabeth Kitley, who was sidelined in the team’s previous meeting in the ACC Tournament.
To counter the 6-foot-6 center’s presence, the Tar Heels used an array of defensive sets. From North Carolina’s one-on-one defensive principles to 3-2 zone, UNC fronted the senior center throughout the night and held Kitley to six points in the first half.
“I thought we fought,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “We fought with activity. (Virginia Tech’s) got so much experience and so we had to give them a variety of looks.”
The Tar Heels’ suffocating interior defense wasn’t enough to keep the Hokies from racking up points, though. After Virginia Tech leaned on free throws to jump out to a first quarter lead, the Hokies’ offense came to life thanks to Amoore.
The shifty guard drilled a trio of shots from distance in the second period, including a stepback triple in the corner that nearly broke the ankles of redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson. Amoore then went on to one-up her performance in the second half, expanding her range to multiple feet behind the 3-point line en route to drilling a half dozen 3-pointers.
“Prior to this game, I was a bit streaky and a bit in my head about my shot, which clearly I shouldn't be,” Amoore said. “I knew as soon as I caught (the ball) and shot it, it was going in.”
After the Tar Heels tied the game late in the fourth quarter, the Hokies retained possession with less than 20 seconds left. The Tar Heels had one foul to give and planned on fouling before the Hokies could get a shot off.
The execution failed as junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams slashed Amoore in the act of shooting a 3-pointer with under two seconds left. Amoore calmly swished the three subsequent free throws.
Despite scoring a team-high 21 points, UNC junior point guard Deja Kelly noted the close loss is going to “sting for a few days,” especially for herself.
Whether it was UNC’s leading scorer fouling out with under two minutes remaining — and being sidelined during the game’s most crucial moments — or painfully watching an opposing guard ice the game away, many factors could have contributed to Kelly’s disappointment. But despite Amoore’s standout day, the All-ACC honoree believes North Carolina is taking steps in the right direction.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves,” Kelly said. “We had a little stretch where we weren't aggressive defensively, and weren’t moving well offensively… (but) we kind of got back to ourselves today.”
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