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Women’s basketball upsets No. 5 Virginia Tech in regular season finale

The Cavaliers will enter the ACC Tournament with momentum after defeating their rivals Sunday night

<p>The Cavaliers win is their first against the Hokies since 2020, snapping a five-game skid in the Commonwealth Clash.</p>

The Cavaliers win is their first against the Hokies since 2020, snapping a five-game skid in the Commonwealth Clash.

Virginia women’s basketball returned home on Sunday evening to take on Virginia Tech in the Commonwealth Clash. The Cavaliers (15-14, 7-11 ACC) were coming into the game off a brutal 19-point loss to Duke in which they only made one three-point shot, while the No. 5 Hokies (23-6, 14-4 ACC) had won the last five matchups against Virginia and were hoping to pick up momentum ahead of the ACC Tournament. Ultimately, the Cavaliers stunned Virginia Tech, picking up the 80-75 victory. 

The game kicked off with a high intensity and both teams got on the scoreboard early. On Virginia’s first possession, freshman guard Kymora Johnson’s shot attempt was blocked by graduate center Elizabeth Kitley. She quickly found senior guard Georgia Amoore for the transition three-point shot. Kitley and Amoore came into the game as the Hokies’ top two scoring options, and they both gave the Cavaliers problems throughout the contest. However, on the very next possession, Johnson made a three-point shot of her own off an assist from sophomore guard Paris Clark to even the score. 

A large contributor to Virginia’s success in the first quarter was the team’s defensive pressure. The Hokies have taken care of the basketball offensively all season, and coming into the game, they ranked second in the conference with just 12.3 turnovers per game. However, by the end of the first quarter, they had already turned the ball over six times. One of these turnovers occurred with 3:30 left in the quarter when Johnson stole the ball from junior guard Matilda Ekh and made the following layup. 

Senior guard Alexia Smith was also a big contributor in the first period. With under two minutes remaining, she recorded a defensive rebound and sprinted towards the other end of the court. With multiple defenders in her face, she took a shot from the paint that miraculously went through the hoop to give the Cavaliers a six-point advantage. Virginia Tech would finish the quarter with two more field goals, but Virginia ended the first quarter with a 17-16 lead. 

Unfortunately the Cavaliers started the second quarter slowly and failed to put more than a field goal on the board in the first four minutes. During this time, the Hokies capitalized and scored four times. One of the field goals came just over a minute into the period when Amoore made a stepback three-point shot. Amoore was unstoppable from beyond the arc all night, finishing with a career-high eight made three-point shots. 

Clark was the player to help get Virginia out of its slump. With just over six minutes remaining, she drove to the basket and shot the ball over Kitley. She made the shot and was fouled on the play, then converting on her free throw. 

Then, with a little over two minutes left, the Cavaliers had used nearly every second of the shot clock, which forced Clark to take a contested three-point attempt — which she made — to give Virginia the one point advantage. The Cavaliers would ride the momentum the rest of the quarter, walking into the locker room with a 34-29 lead. 

Virginia Tech came out of the break ready to go, making a layup within the first 12 seconds. However, Johnson did not allow them to snatch the momentum as she scored on Virginia’s following possession. 

The Hokies took a major hit at the six minute mark of the quarter. After successfully converting on a layup, Kitley fell to the ground and appeared to injure her leg. She had to be taken out and would not return. Kitley had accounted for 20 points, so Virginia Tech needed to find another scoring outlet. 

Luckily for them, Amoore was up for the task and within a minute, she had knocked down another three-point shot, this time to give the Hokies a two-point advantage. The Cavaliers would retake the lead in the coming minutes and entered the final quarter with a narrow 56-54 advantage. 

Throughout the fourth quarter, Amoore was incredible, scoring 16 points during the frame to keep Virginia Tech in the game and set a career-high with 39 points. Luckily for Virginia, the rest of the Hokies’ offense struggled to generate baskets. 

With just over two minutes left, attempting to protect a one-point lead, fifth year forward Camryn Taylor turned the ball over, and it looked as though Virginia Tech had a fast-break opportunity to take the lead. However, senior guard Kaydan Lawson recorded a clutch steal to thwart that opportunity. 

With 1:20 remaining, graduate forward London Clarkson drove towards the basket and made an underhand layup to put Virginia on top. Almost immediately after, Johnson took the ball away from freshman guard Carleigh Wenzel and made a layup. The Cavaliers would not look back, sealing a memorable 80-75 victory — Virginia’s first against the Hokies since 2020.

The Cavaliers ended the season on the right foot and have captured momentum at the right time as they begin the ACC Tournament. Although expectations remain on the lower end even after Sunday’s performance, they have pulled off four wins against ranked opponents this season — all in ACC play — which leaves the possibility of a deep tournament run on the table.  Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton attributes the Cavaliers’ end-of-season surge to an increase in the team’s chemistry. 

I just think all around we’re understanding my system better, understanding me and understanding each other,” Agugua-Hamilton said. 

Virginia is slated as the No. 11 seed in the tournament and will take on No. 14 seed Wake Forest. The tournament begins Wednesday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Greensboro, N.C., and the game can be viewed on ACC Network. 


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