GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Ivana Raca had 16 points and six rebounds, Gina Conti scored four of her 11 points in the final minute and Wake Forest beat Virginia Tech 58-55 in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Wake Forest has won two ACC tournament games for just the third time in program history. The No. 13 seed will face 22nd-ranked Florida State on Friday after dropping both regular-season matchups with the No. 4 seed Seminoles. Elizabeth Kitley led Virginia Tech with 15 points. The No. 5 seed Hokies became the fourth straight higher seed to lose in the tournament.
The Hokies led by as many as seven in the first period, but foul trouble prevented them from getting into any type of rhythm on offense, and they struggled for the rest of the game – particularly in the fourth period. Tech trailed 42-41 going into the fourth, but only made three field goals in the final 10 minutes.
The Hokies, though, did rally from a 50-43 deficit, cutting Wake Forest’s lead to 56-55 on a basket by Kitley with 14 seconds left. Tech then fouled three straight times to put Wake Forest into the bonus, sending Gina Conti to the free-throw line with 8.9 seconds remaining. Conti buried both to give the Demon Deacons a 58-55 lead.
Without any timeouts, Tech’s Taja Cole raced up the floor and took a short jumper that was off the mark. Cole managed to get the rebound and kick it to Aisha Sheppard, whose 3-pointer from the corner was on line, but a little short. Cole got the rebound, but wasn’t able to get a shot off before time expired.
Sheppard, the Hokies’ second-team All-ACC player, suffered through a tough game, hitting just 1 of 9 from the floor. As a team, Tech shot just 36.8%.
QUOTES TO NOTE
Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed. We felt like we had a really good situation with our team to go out and compete for an ACC championship. What you have to understand is this time of the year you have to perform. You have to execute. Games are going to be a little bit different. They’re going to be more grind it out. We didn’t play well today at all. We never really got in sync. Foul trouble early in the first half kind of limited us getting into a flow and so we had continue playing that way. I give credit to Wake Forest. They did a good job of taking us out of things we wanted to run, and the way we wanted to run them. But we just didn’t come out and play as well as we could have or needed to play.”
(On Wake’s defense)
“The game was very stagnant for us. As I was looking at my play sheet, I just felt like I had all my options. We were really trying to force feed it inside. They did a good job of doubling on Liz and we did a poor job of capitalizing on it and flashing to the high post to relieve some of that pressure. We were doing it as an afterthought, and I thought we took some bad angles when we trying to throw the ball inside … We were turning the ball over. Again, we don’t make those mistakes against ourselves. Wake Forest did a good job, and they’re long. That is one thing that provided problems for us all night long … They came up with key plays throughout the game.”
(On waiting for a potential NCAA bid)
“Honestly, we need a break. These kids are student-athletes first – I think Liz had two or three tests on Tuesday before we left. Everyone is kind of fried a little bit. They have one more day of class tomorrow and then have a couple of days off. I think we’re an NCAA team. I think the part that excites me the most is it’s going to be fresh. We’re going to play against people we haven’t seen for the last 2.5 months. I love the ACC, but I’m sick and tired of it right now because it’s a good league and every night presents a challenge … For me, and I think I can speak for them [his players], it’s going to be refreshing to see some people we probably haven’ seen before and to be able to go out after a bit of a break and recharge a bit, it’s a long grind, a long season … I think this break is going to be good for them … We’re looking forward to recharging and seeing some new people.”
Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley
(On the Hokies’ 16 turnovers)
“For me, personally, I had five, so that was not handling the double teams well enough. You can give credit to their defense, but I didn’t handle that and I should have. We know how to do that, but we didn’t. Or I didn’t execute that – at all.”
Virginia Tech guard Dara Mabrey
(On Wake’s defense)
“Give credit to Wake. They played a really good game, but I think that we’re such a strong offensive team that if anything went wrong, it was probably us. We needed to adjust. We needed to find a rhythm and never really did.”
Kitley scored in double figures for the 19th time in 30 games and has scored in double figures in eight straight games, averaging 17.3 points per game in that span.
Rivers reach double figures in rebounds for the eighth time this season.
Baptiste scored in double figures for the 13th time this season.
Mabrey has hit at least four 3-pointers in eight games this season.
Cole has 19 rebounds in her past two games.
The Hokies now await their next destination – either the WNIT or the NCAA Tournament.