Jackrabbit women excited for matchup with No. 1 Virginia Tech
BLACKSBURG, Va. – No. 9 seeded South Dakota State and No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech will meet in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 4 p.m. Central time and the winner will head to the Sweet 16 in Seattle next weekend.
Both programs are looking to make it to the Sweet 16 for a second time as the Jackrabbits made it in 2019 and the Hokies haven’t made it that far since 1999. The two teams advanced to the second round after wins on Friday night as SDSU beat USC in overtime, 62-57, and VT beat Chattanooga 58-33.
This is the 11th trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Jacks and it is the fourth time SDSU has advanced past the first round. Sixth-year senior forward Myah Selland said going up against the top-seeded Hokies is something that SDSU is excited for, especially since it’s supposed to be in front of a sold out crowd at Cassell Coliseum.
“I think we like to embrace these challenges. We are excited for the opportunity. We know it's going to be obviously a tough opponent in a really fun environment, going to have a lot of fans. So we are just going to try to embrace that and just make the most of the opportunity, but we are excited about it,” she said.
Virginia Tech earned the No. 1 seed with a 28-4 record. The Hokies went 14-4 in the ACC and have won six games over ranked teams. They are on a 12-game win streak heading into Sunday night’s game and SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said what makes the Hokies so good is their very efficient.
“Definitely offensively, I think they’re an elite team. Not because they run up and down try to score 90, but because they're so efficient. They don't make mistakes, always get good shots. The right people are making plays that they're good at making and [that makes them] just so, so efficient with what they do on offense,” Johnston said.
VT is led by 6-foot-6 senior center Elizabeth Kitley. She is one of eight seniors for the Hokies and is averaging 18.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and over two blocks per game. She recorded her 20th double-double of the season on Friday night as she had 12 points and 14 rebounds. Kitley had one block in the game as well and that tied the program record for blocks as it was her 256th of her career.
The lone junior on the team is point guard Georgia Amoore and she is averaging 15.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. She scored over 20 points for the 11th time in Friday’s win and made five threes, which set the single-season record for 3-point makes for VT as she has now made 99 this season.
While no stats really jump off the page for Virginia Tech, there are some that do for SDSU. The Jacks (29-4) are top-11 in the country in points per game, field goal percentage and rebounding margin. SDSU struggled on offense on Friday night as the Jacks shot just 35.2% against the Trojans and Johnston said they’ll have to play a lot better if they want to upset the Hokies.
“Offensively I think we are going to have to be better than we were last night and be more efficient. We certainly need to take care of the ball better and have to make some perimeter shots. We did have good looks. We didn't make enough of them. [Those are] all of the things that we kind of done throughout the year, but ultimately we have to have a good plan for Virginia Tech,” Johnston said.
On the flip side, SDSU held the Trojans to 31.3% shooting from the field. Junior center Kallie Theisen said she thinks that defensive performance can translate to Sunday night’s game against Virginia Tech since both teams have similar size.
“I thought overall both our guards and post did a great job just contesting shots and making it tough [against USC]. We really prepared well. In scout, our coaches prepared us well to know where we want the shots coming from. We do a good job of forcing tough shots,” she said.
SDSU is used to its fans making Frost Arena a very tough place to play, but Virginia Tech fans have made Cassell Coliseum one of the tougher places to play in America. Under head coach Kenny Brooks, Virginia Tech is 91-25 in homes games and the Hokies are 55-1 against non-conference opponents.
Selland said her team is excited to play in front of a sold out crowd because any time you can play in front of a lot of people it makes it fun.
“We are excited. We are kind of excited to be on the other side of [a hostile environment], and it's always fun when you get to play in an environment where there's a lot of people and a lot of fans. We saw yesterday just the support that this program has and so any time you get to be a part of an atmosphere like that, it's exciting,” Selland said.
SDSU has beaten four power-five teams this season in Louisville, Mississippi State and Rutgers. The Jackrabbits had a top-ten strength of schedule in the non-conference and even though SDSU ran through the Summit League and has won 22-straight games, Johnston thinks that experience in November and December against good teams will come into play on Sunday.
“Every year we have really taken that approach [to have a tough non-conference schedule]. You know, this year alone whether it's South Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, certainly Washington State is in that group, Kansas State, I think our non-conference schedule this year is still top five in the country. Last year I think we were top ten. And you can go back for several years and see that. That's been important to us and I think we love those challenges,” Johnston said.
You watch Sunday night’s game on ESPN2 or listen to the game on 570 WNAX. The winner of SDSU and Virginia Tech will play the winner of No. 12 Toledo and No. 4 Tennessee on March 25th in Seattle.