COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It was a NCAA Women’s Tournament first-round matchup that should have never been created. Regardless, seeing Virginia Tech and Florida Gulf Coast battle in one of the best games on Friday was the perfect treat on a day kicking off the Big Dance main draw.
One of the 32 first-round matchups in the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament featured a pairing of teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25, and it was Florida Gulf Coast, the No. 12 seed in the Spokane Region, making enough plays down the stretch to hold off the interior onslaught of Elizabeth Kitley and No. 5 Virginia Tech, 84-81, to advance to the second round.
The popular boxing adage “styles make fights” certainly applied to the first game of the day in College Park, as the team with the most threes attempted in Division 1 (FGCU) tried its best to slow down 6-foot-6 center Elizabeth Kitley, a first-team All-ACC selection and a third-team All-American. Given that the Eagles do not feature a player standing over 6-foot-1, the Hokies made Kitley their Plan A through Plan ZZ, and the junior center responded by scoring 42 points, the seventh-most points ever scored in an NCAA Tournament game.
The Eagles countered with threes — 38 of them to be exact. Fifteen of those went through the net, and when Karli Seay’s fourth three pointer gave FGCU a 79-74 lead with 26 seconds left, the Eagles achieved just enough breathing room to put the game away with free throws.
A-Sun Player of the Year Kierstan Ball was the other headline star coming into the game, and she did not disappoint with 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals, and her basket inside with just over a minute remaining gave FGCU the lead for good at 76-74.
Florida Gulf Coast will take on host Maryland on Sunday, as the No. 4 seed in Spokane raced out to a 102-71 victory over No. 13 Delaware in the second game on Friday.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday’s first round games in College Park, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Clifford Ray Williams. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 23 pictures in total.