For the second time this month, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team had a fourth-quarter lead over one of the top squads in the nation.
And for the second time this month, the Hokies lost.
No. 2 North Carolina State rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Hokies 89-87 on Sunday at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We’re fortunate to get out of here with a win, especially coming back like we did,” State coach Wes Moore said. “It was touch and go.”
On Jan. 7, Tech led then-No. 2 (and now No. 1) Louisville 67-65 with 2:26 to go but lost 71-67 in Blacksburg.
The Hokies were seeking Sunday to knock off a team ranked in the top four of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in their history. They instead fell to 0-44 against such teams.
Tech (7-7, 2-7 ACC) lost for the seventh time in its last eight games. Six of those losses have been by six points or fewer.
“Proud of the kids and the effort, just not proud of the outcome,” Hokies coach Kenny Brooks said in a statement provided by Tech. “We can’t continue to keep coming close; we have to get over the hump.”
The Wolfpack (11-0, 6-0) had not played since Jan. 3 because of a COVID-19 pause.
“I’m so proud … of the way our kids fought and hung in there after not playing for 21 days,” Moore said. “Twenty-one days is a long time without a game, and some of that time we had half the team in quarantine. So they could come in individually and do some things, and then we’d have like five that could actually practice [together]. So it was tough.”
State won even though it was without junior center Elissa Cunane, a third-team All-American last season, because of COVID-19 protocols. She averages a team-high 16.2 points and a team-best 7.5 rebounds.
Tech and State will play again Thursday in Blacksburg, making up a Jan. 7 game that was postponed because of State’s COVID-19 issues.
Moore said Cunane is “not feeling too bad” but will probably miss Thursday’s game, too.
“It’s going to be a really big challenge going on the road and playing these guys again,” Moore said.
Tech center Elizabeth Kitley had 30 points and 13 rebounds.
“They didn’t have [Cunane] … so I took advantage of playing against people that weren’t as experienced,” Kitley said in an audio recording provided by Tech.
The Hokies led 73-59 with 8:19 to go.
Down 81-70 with 4:20 left, the Wolfpack went on a 16-0 run to grab an 86-81 lead with 1:09 left. State led the rest of the way.
“We started to press, which caused them to take quick shots,” State’s Jakia Brown-Turner said of the run.
Four of State’s 14 3-pointers came in the 16-0 run. Kai Crutchfield had 10 of her 20 points in the run, including two of those 3-pointers.
Tech’s Aisha Sheppard (24 points) scored and D’asia Gregg made one of two free throws to cut the lead to 86-84 with 17.6 seconds to go.
After Kayla Jones made two free throws to extend the lead, Tech’s Georgia Amoore sank a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 88-87 with 4.4 seconds remaining.
Raina Perez made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 89-87 with three seconds to go.
Tech’s Cayla King missed a half-court heave at the buzzer.
“We executed our game plan to a T,” Sheppard said in an audio recording provided by Tech. “It just kind of got away from us those last few minutes.”
State shot 51.8% from the field, including 66.7% in the fourth quarter.
“We can lock in at the end and do our matchups better [in Thursday’s rematch],” Kitley said. “We got confused sometimes, and that cost us. We have to know personnel, no matter who comes in the game.”
Sheppard broke Tech’s career record for 3-pointers. She began the day tied atop the list with Vanessa Panousis with 269 3-pointers but made four more on Sunday.
“Pretty powerful to be able to do that,” Sheppard said of breaking the record.
Brown-Turner scored 23 points for State, while Jones added 22 points off the bench.
“[Jones] was coming out of protocol, … so I decided to go with the people that had been practicing the most,” Moore said of why Jones did not start.
King had 12 points and four 3-pointers for Tech.
Tech’s Asiah Jones missed her second straight game because of what Brooks has termed a personal situation.
No. 2 N.C. State 89, Virginia Tech 87
VIRGINIA TECH (7-7)
Kitley 13-22 4-6 30, Amoore 3-6 0-0 8, Baines 3-4 0-0 7, King 4-6 0-0 12, Sheppard 8-23 4-5 24, Gregg 2-6 1-2 6, Ennis 0-0 0-0 0, Green 0-1 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 33-68 9-13 87
N.C. STATE (11-0)
Boyd 3-7 4-5 10, Rice 1-2 0-0 2, Brown-Turner 8-13 3-4 23, Crutchfield 7-10 2-2 20, Perez 1-6 1-2 3, Hobby 3-6 1-1 9, Jones 6-12 6-8 22, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 29-56 17-22 89
Virginia Tech 24 17 28 18 — 87
N.C. State 17 30 12 30 — 89
3-Point Goals—Virginia Tech 12-31 (Kitley 0-1, Amoore 2-5, Baines 1-2, King 4-6, Sheppard 4-14, Gregg 1-2, Green 0-1), NC State 14-29 (Boyd 0-1, Brown-Turner 4-8, Crutchfield 4-7, Perez 0-3, Hobby 2-4, Jones 4-6). Assists—Virginia Tech 15 (Amoore 7), NC State 14 (Perez 5). Fouled Out—Virginia Tech Amoore. Rebounds—Virginia Tech 36 (Kitley 6-13), NC State 31 (Team 3-5). Total Fouls—Virginia Tech 21, NC State 16. Technical Fouls—None. A—25.