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Ekh, Hokies roll past Marshall in first round of women's NCAA Tournament

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — No Elizabeth Kitley, no problem for Virginia Tech.

At least for one round.

Matilda Ekh scored 21 points to lead No. 13 Virginia Tech to a 92-49 victory over Marshall in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Friday.

The Hokies won without star center Elizabeth Kitley, who is out for the tournament with a torn ACL.

Ekh connected on 6 of 9 from the floor and hit five 3-pointers for the Hokies (25-7), who set a school record by winning their 26th consecutive game at Cassell Coliseum.

Starting in place of Kitley, Clara Strack had 17 points and Carleigh Wenzel added 13 for Virginia Tech, which never trailed.

“Mentally, we knew we weren’t going to have her (Kitley), so it was like let’s step up and play together,” Virginia Tech point guard Georgia Amoore said. “She’s a big part of what we do, but we’re still us. We still have offenses that help us, and we’re put in positions to be successful. It’s just a matter of going about and grabbling those opportunities and making the most out of them.”

Abby Beeman scored 12 points for Marshall (26-7), which saw its 10-game winning streak snapped.

Making its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, Virginia Tech jumped out to a 13-0 lead and cruised. Marshall missed its first 12 shots from the floor and didn’t score until Breanna Campbell’s three-point play with 3:18 left in the first quarter.

Marshall, which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997 and just its second ever, used its full court pressure defense to get Amoore in foul trouble and cut a 16-point Virginia Tech lead to 32-25 on Campbell’s basket with 2:12 left in the first half

But the Hokies closed the first half with a 10-0 run and then opened the second half with a 14-1 run to put the game away.

“They want the game with fouls and turnovers,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “It’s their chaos, and we wanted to be poised. I thought we won out on that, and I think that’s why we were able to come out with a great win. I’m so proud of these kids and what they did. I just want to go back in there (the locker room) and give them a hug.”

Cayla King added 10 points for Virginia Tech, and Olivia Summiel grabbed 14 rebounds.

The Hokies, who led by as many as 47, shot 53.8 percent (28 of 52). They only turned the ball over 15 times.

“Normally, when we get hot, we get hot, and we never had that momentum,” Marshall coach Kim Caldwell said. “I think we had it for maybe a second in the second quarter, but we just never really had that momentum, so we really couldn’t catch fire. We didn’t turn them over the way we’d like, so we didn’t get easy offense. We didn’t get to see the ball go in.

“But that’s a great team. We’re rooting for that team."

BIG PICTURE

Marshall: As good as Marshall was in the Sun Belt this season - it went 17-1 in league play - it was overmatched against the ACC regular-season champions. The Herd struggled against the Hokies’ size, particularly when on offense. Marshall shot just 24.4 percent (19 of 78) and made just 6 of its 41 3-pointers.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies got a lot of contributions from their bench in their attempt to replace Kitley. The reserves combined to score 28 points, led by Wenzel, who played 30 minutes in place of Amoore because of foul trouble. The Hokies will need continued production from that group if they want to advance in this tournament.

EKH REACHES MILESTONE

Ekh, a transfer from Michigan State who came in averaged 9.8 points per game, went over 1,000 points for her career on her first field goal of the game. She had not scored in the previous three games, going 0-for-13 in that stretch.

“She had a day today,” Amoore said. “That confidence is important for her because she’s the type of girl that needs to see it go in. I’m glad it went into today.”

“When she plays like that, we’re a really good basketball team,” Brooks said.

UP NEXT:

Virginia Tech plays Baylor in the second round on Sunday.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness