Louisville smashes Notre Dame, Virginia Tech ousts Duke to head into the championship

Louisville (4) – 64
Notre Dame (1) – 38

Duke (2) – 37
Virginia Tech (3) – 58

Notre Dame junior forward Natalija Marshall came onto the court yesterday with a genuine shiner and a strip of surgical tape holding her right eyebrow together, the result of an inadvertent elbow to the face against NC State yesterday that caused the part-time fashion model to miss the entire second half of that game. The injury provided an allegory for her entire team, who posted a convincing win yesterday on the strength of sophomore guard Sonia Citron’s season-high 28 points and strong support from junior forward Maddie Westbeld, who put in 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. But they took a beating doing it.

But on Day 4 of the Women’s ACC Basketball Tournament, everyone’s tired and beat up, held together by tape and determination. So 1-seed Notre Dame was still a heavy favorite against 4-seed Louisville, even though they thoroughly dismantled Wake Forest yesterday.

Things went south for the tournament favorite just after the first quarter, when Louisville opened up a lead to end the first half 29-15. It kept getting worse from there.

The Fighting Irish could barely shoot, dropping just 31 percent from the paint. They couldn’t sink the three, going 1 for 10 outside the line. They couldn’t keep the ball, turning over 22 times. Citron didn’t come close to yesterday’s performance, making just 8 points and 4 rebounds. No one on the Notre Dame squad put up more than 9 points, that honor going to Westbeld, who shot just 33 percent from the field.

But what really happened to Notre Dame was Louisville, who also didn’t look as good on offense as they did yesterday — junior guard Hailey Van Lith, who put on a 3-point shooting clinic against Wake Forest, went 0-4 from 3-point range today and recorded no assists. But she led the team in scoring with 10, one of four Louisville players who put up double-digits. And her team was able to steamroll Notre Dame with hard, disruptive defense and lots of steals. It wasn’t even close; Louisville put their scrubs in halfway through the fourth quarter. Final score: 64-38.

That loss busted my bracket — I had Notre Dame going all the way to the championship, which left Duke as my only salvation at this late date.

I was banking on the gravitas of Duke, and the idea that this is practically a home game for them. But that was before I watched Virginia Tech senior center Elizabeth Kitley of Summerfield — a shoe-in for the first round of the WNBA draft this year — shoot the lights out last night against Miami.

I figured she would own Duke’s biggest player, the likewise 6-foot-6 grad student Kennedy Brown, in the box. But, Brown held her own against Kitley on the floor, though she didn’t play as many minutes. Brown finished with 8 points in 24 minutes, while Kitley took 38 minutes to score 8 points. But Kitley grabbed 11 rebounds, many of them wrenched away from Brown, who nabbed 2.

This game, though, was won outside the paint, and it happened in the second quarter. That’s when Virginia Tech junior guard Georgia Amoore started dropping threes. Amoore went 4-4 from 3-point land in the first half, three of them landing in the second quarter as part of an unbelievable 17-0 run, keeping Duke scoreless for the last six minutes of the quarter. The Hokies shot an astomnishing 78 percent from 3-point range in the first half. Amoore would go on to score 24 points on six 3-pointers and two field goals before it was over.

There’s more: The Hokies shot 51 percent from the field as compared to Duke’s 27 percent. The shot 53 percent from 3-point range while Duke shot just 7 percent from outside the paint.

Tomorrow’s championship looks strong, with a hot Virginia Tech team and a surging Louisville squad that may have not played their best game yet this week.

How’s my bracket, you asked? Busted all to hell. I picked a Duke-Notre Dame championship, both now eliminated, which sort of destroys the NC storyline I was going for. But I’ve decided that Kitley of Summerfield and her Hokie teammate Cayla King, who is from Greensboro and also played for Northwest Guilford High, is enough to make me pull for Virginia Tech tomorrow.

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