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UNC women's basketball can't contain Virginia Tech's Kitley and Amoore

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Virginia Tech then-junior guard, Georgia Amoore (5) drives to the basket while guarded by UNC then-junior guard, Deja Kelly (25) on Jan. 1 2023 in Cassel Coliseum. Photo Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics. 

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Courtney Banghart looked at a white piece of paper in a Hokie-themed press conference room.

Her team had just lost, 74-62, to No. 8 Virginia Tech. Staring at the box score in her hands, the head coach’s eyes quickly fell on five statistics. 

The Tar Heels scored 10 more points off of turnovers than the Hokies. They also boasted four more points in the paint. North Carolina scored eight more bench points. Second chance points? Fast break scores? UNC won all those battles.

“We won all five of those statistics," Banghart said. "You usually win the game, right?"

The head coach admitted the difference in this game materialized in Virginia Tech’s two star players who combined for 53 points: center Elizabeth Kitley and guard Georgia Amoore. Led by Kitley's season-high-tying 34 points, North Carolina failed to stop a Virginia Tech team that shot over 50 percent from the field on Sunday afternoon. Even as UNC looked to equalize in the second half with the lead cut down to six, Amoore’s 14-point performance in the third quarter combined with Kitley’s consistency extinguished a coveted upset.

As the Tar Heels returned to the court after outscoring the Hokies by 10 points in the second quarter, they were ready to battle back from their deficit.

“The talk at halftime was just how much that second quarter was a push for us, and how we just had to come out in the third quarter punching in the same way," senior guard Deja Kelly said.

But instead, Amoore punched first. 

30 seconds into the second half, after Virginia Tech’s Olivia Summiel set a screen, graduate guard Lexi Donarski lost Amoore as she drove to the basket. Although senior forward Alyssa Ustby tried to stop her deep in the post, Amoore found the net. 

“Amoore was just really dangerous on the ball screen attack,” Banghart said

Thirty seconds later and with Virginia Tech up by five, Kitley took control. Following a pass inside from Summiel, the center hit a turnaround fadeaway and drew the foul on junior center Maria Gakdeng: and-1. Kitley hit the free throw to extend the Hokies lead to eight points. 

“We’ve grown accustomed to that,” Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said. “Now, it’s just like, ‘OK, yay,’ but that just shows how great she is and what she was able to do.”

For the rest of the second half, Kitley and Amoore continued to take turns dicing up UNC's defense — an ever-present back-and-forth for which North Carolina had no clear answers. If one fell into the background for even a brief moment, the other player would take the reigns. With the veteran Hokie tandem ignited, the Tar Heels found themselves trailing by as much as 19.

As Banghart sat in the media room following the game, the head coach eventually stopped looking at the printed box score. 

She gave up. There’s not a stat that could provide her an answer outside of the most obvious fact: the Tar Heels were never able to contain the two biggest Virginia Tech weapons. 

“You can pick apart the nuance of it," Banghart said, "but the fact of the matter is what Georgia Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley did was really fun to watch."

@_emmahmoon

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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