BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore started raising her arms, imploring an already raucous Virginia Tech crowd to get even louder.
“It was just a big thank you to everyone,” Amoore said. “That crowd was ridiculous. I said it once and I’ll say it again — the stadium was shaking. It’s really intimidating, and it was just electrifying. It’s big for us getting to the Sweet 16, and it’s also big for all of them.”
The Virginia Tech faithful certainly had plenty of reasons for cheering, as Amoore scored 21 points and top seed Virginia Tech held off No. 9 seed South Dakota State 72-60 on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament’s Seattle 3 Region.
Elizabeth Kitley added 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Hokies (29-4), who won their 13th consecutive game, to advance to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in program history. They will play the winner of Monday’s matchup between No. 12 seed Toledo and No. 4 seed Tennessee.
“It means a lot to be a part of this,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “Hokie Nation is very special. … When we can come out and do our part, it’s very gratifying because this fan base is loyal. To be able to give back to them, when they’ve stuck with us and been patient with us, it’s special.”
Virginia Tech also set a school record with its 29th win, breaking the mark of 28 set by the 1998-99 squad — the only other team in school history to advance to the Sweet 16.
Myah Selland led South Dakota State (29-6) with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Jackrabbits entered the game with a 22-game winning streak, but aided by a raucous home crowd, the Hokies — who set a school record with their 16th home victory this season — jumped on the Jackrabbits early and never trailed.
Virginia Tech held South Dakota State scoreless for the final 7:03 of the first quarter in taking a 19-7 lead, and then used a 10-0 run early in the second quarter to grab a 20-point advantage.
“We just didn’t get off to a good enough start, obviously,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. “If you’re going to beat a No. 1 (seed), the bottom line is you’ve got to have some things go your way, and you’ve got to have some things kind of go against them, and they shot it so well in that first half that that doesn’t go our way.”
South Dakota State made things interesting late in the fourth quarter, cutting the Virginia Tech lead to 66-56 on a three-point play by Selland with 3:13 remaining. But Amoore hit two of her seven 3-pointers in the final two minutes to seal the game.
Taylor Soule added 13 points for Virginia Tech and Kayana Traylor finished with 11.
“It would not surprise me if they went on and played in a Final Four and advanced,” Johnston said. “They shoot the ball really well. They shoot it like that tonight, and they’re going to beat a lot of teams. They’re good enough defensively. They are so good in their spacing and so good in their execution. They’re a really good team. Nothing would surprise me with how far they’d go.”
South Dakota State: Selland scored 29 in the Jackrabbits win over Southern Cal in the first round, but found the going much tougher against the Hokies, connecting on just 6 of 18 from the floor. She closed her career with 2,167 points, second on the school’s career scoring list.
“I think just the people that I got to do it with,” Selland said when asked what she will remember about her career. “They mean a lot to me, and I think we mean a lot to each other, and so I’m grateful to be a part of this program. But just more grateful who I got to do it with and who I was alongside the whole ride.”
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have played worthy of their top seed, winning each of their first two games in the tournament by double figures. Defense continues to be this team’s calling card in postseason play, as the Hokies held South Dakota State to just 37.3% (22 of 59) from the floor. In six postseason games, the Hokies have held all six opponents to under 40% shooting.
KITLEY ADDS TO COLLECTION
Kitley, a second-team All-American by the Associated Press, secured another school record when she became the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots. Kitley blocked five shots against the Jackrabbits and now has 261 for her career. She went into the game tied with Ieva Kublina (2000-04) with 256.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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