Women's Power Rankings: Virginia Tech coming on strong down stretch

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina Tar Heels - Game Highlights (1:37)

Watch the Game Highlights from Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (1:37)

Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley said that having previously gone through one senior day a year ago made her a little more prepared for the emotions of the second one. But there were still some tears shed Sunday as she played her last regular-season home game at Blacksburg's Cassell Coliseum.

She made it a great one, scoring 34 points in a 74-62 victory over North Carolina that pushed the 23-4 Hokies into the top five of ESPN's women's college basketball Power Rankings for the first time this season, at No. 4.

Virginia Tech has won 10 consecutive games and clinched at least a share of its first ACC regular-season title at 14-2. Add that to last season's first ACC tournament championship and first trip to the Final Four and the 6-foot-6 Kitley has left a legacy at Virginia Tech that's as tall as she is. And she isn't finished yet. The Hokies secured the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament on Sunday, regardless of the result of their final two regular-season contests.

Kitley went through senior day last year but opted to use the COVID-19 waiver and return for a fifth season. The two-time ACC player of the year is averaging 22.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. In ESPN's most recent WNBA mock draft, she was the No. 12 pick (Atlanta Dream).

Point guard Georgia Amoore -- the "Robin" to Kitley's "Batman" -- is a fourth-year senior and currently projected as the No. 9 pick (Dallas Wings) in the WNBA draft, although she could return for a fifth college season. Amoore had 11 assists on Sunday to become Virginia Tech's all-time leader in the category (636) along with 19 points.

North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart didn't nitpick her own team's defense against Kitley and Amoore and instead gave credit to the top guard-post duo in VaTech women's hoops history.

"We guarded them well," Banghart said. "They're just really good."

Player of the week: Celeste Taylor, Ohio State

Taylor had a combined 36 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 10 steals in victories this week over Penn State and Maryland as the Buckeyes clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Taylor has been a big part of Ohio State's 14-game winning streak, scoring in double figures 10 times during the stretch. A guard who spent two seasons at Texas and two at Duke, she is making the most of her fifth season via the COVID-19 waiver.

Jada Williams' banked 3 the difference in Arizona's upset over Stanford

Jada Williams banks in the 3-pointer to put Arizona up 3 in the final minute as the Wildcats upset No. 3 ranked Stanford.

Team of the week: Virginia Tech

The Hokies played just one game, but it was a potentially dangerous one. With the emotions of senior day and facing a North Carolina team that was coming in hot after beating NC State, the Hokies had to be wary of an upset. They responded well, getting off to a 21-5 first-quarter lead.

The Tar Heels were able to close the gap in the second quarter, but Virginia Tech kept them at arm's length the rest of the way.

The Hokies finished their regular-season home schedule at 15-0, and they are projected to host early-round games in the NCAA tournament.

No. 1 Gamecocks spread the love in rout of Kentucky

Led by Bree Hall's 18 points, six South Carolina players score in double figures in the 103-55 road victory over the Wildcats.

Win of the week: Arizona 68, No. 3 Stanford 61

Down to seven players and going into Maples Pavilion, where Arizona hadn't won since 2001, the Wildcats didn't appear to have much chance to beat Stanford on Friday.

Even with Cardinal star Cameron Brink out due to illness, Stanford had a nine-point lead with just under four minutes left. But the Wildcats finished on a 19-3 run to pull off the improbable upset. Freshman Jada Williams scored 14 of her 23 points in the final four minutes for Arizona.

The Wildcats went on to beat Cal 87-68 on Sunday, and they are now 16-12 overall and 8-8 in the Pac-12. While there's still work to do, the results in the Golden State pushed Arizona closer to making the NCAA tournament field.

Coach of the week: Niele Ivey, Notre Dame

With three games played this past week, two of them on the road, the Fighting Irish needed to dig deep. They did just that, winning at Duke and Boston College and at home versus Clemson. With Olivia Miles out all season and needing to put the keys in the hands of super talented freshman point guard Hannah Hidalgo, Ivey has guided the Irish to an 11-5 record in the ACC, where they are in a four-way tie for third place with two games left.

Power Rankings

Madison Booker gets the layup for the Longhorns

1. South Carolina Gamecocks (27-0)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Arkansas Razorbacks (Thursday), vs. Tennessee Lady Volunteers (Sunday)

Does it feel a little like the Gamecocks are playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers? The only undefeated team in Division I women's or men's basketball, South Carolina cruised past Alabama by 28 points and rocked Kentucky by 48 last week. Two more wins this week will give the Gamecocks their second consecutive perfect record in SEC regular-season play.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (24-3)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Michigan Wolverines (Wednesday), at Iowa Hawkeyes (Sunday)

The Buckeyes have clinched the top seed in the Big Ten tournament with victories last week over Penn State and Maryland. Next up is a rematch with the only league team that has defeated them this season, the Wolverines, then a much-anticipated trip to Iowa to end the regular season. Ohio State beat the Hawkeyes in overtime during their first meeting on Jan. 21.

Caitlin Clark calls decal signifying record shot 'super special'

Caitlin Clark reacts to the "22 Clark" decal on Iowa's court in the spot where she hit her record-breaking shot to become the all-time leading women's basketball scorer.

3. Texas Longhorns (26-3)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Oklahoma Sooners (Wednesday), vs. BYU Cougars (Saturday)

The Longhorns have won eight in a row, with a surprisingly close 77-72 decision over Texas Tech and a 31-point blowout of UCF last week. Taylor Jones had 19 points against the Lady Raiders for her highest-scoring output since early December. Next up, the Longhorns have a chance to avenge their last loss, which was Jan. 24 versus Oklahoma. A win over the Sooners would put Texas in a first-place tie with OU in the Big 12.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (23-4)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Thursday), at Virginia Cavaliers (Sunday)

Kitley and Amoore have been the stars, but the Hokies have had other big contributors, as well. Matilda Ekh, a transfer from Michigan State, is their third-leading scorer (10.8 points per game). Olivia Summiel, a transfer who played her first four seasons at Wake Forest, is Virginia Tech's second-leading rebounder (6.9 per game).

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (24-4)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Minnesota Golden Gophers (Wednesday), vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (Sunday)

On Thursday, the Hawkeyes ran into an Indiana team frustrated after a loss at Illinois a few days earlier. The Hoosiers' motivated defense was too much, holding Iowa to an uncharacteristic 69 points in a road loss. At home on Sunday, Iowa was back to its usual self offensively in a 101-85 win over Illinois. Caitlin Clark had her 16th career triple-double on Sunday, and she is nearing Pete Maravich's mark for the NCAA Division I all-time scoring record.

6. Stanford Cardinal (24-4)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Oregon State Beavers (Thursday), at Oregon Ducks (Saturday)

Say this about the Cardinal: When they're good, they're Final Four good. But in all three Pac-12 losses, their offense has appeared to fall asleep, with 59 points at Colorado on Jan. 14, 58 at home versus USC on Feb. 2 and -- the big shocker -- 61 at home to Arizona on Friday. However, Stanford rebounded from that upset to beat Arizona State 81-67 on Sunday and clinch at least a share of its 27th Pac-12 regular-season championship.

7. Indiana Hoosiers (22-4)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Northwestern Wildcats (Tuesday), vs. Maryland Terrapins (Sunday)

After a disappointing loss last Monday at Illinois, the Hoosiers met as a team, refocused, practiced well and upset Iowa 86-69 on Thursday. It was just what Indiana needed to stay in the top 16 seeds. The Hoosiers look to finish strong this week and head into the Big Ten tournament as one of the top four seeds.

8. LSU Tigers (24-4)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Georgia Lady Bulldogs (Thursday), vs. Kentucky Wildcats (Sunday)

In a busy week, the Tigers passed all their tests, beating Texas A&M, Auburn and Tennessee. They had a different leading scorer in each game -- Aneesah Morrow, Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith -- which is a good sign for a team expected to be lethal offensively. Reese continues to tear up the boards too, with a combined 45 rebounds in the three games.

9. USC Trojans (21-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: at Arizona Wildcats (Thursday), at Arizona State Sun Devils (Saturday)

The Trojans won their seventh game in a row on Friday, beating Colorado 87-81 behind JuJu Watkins' 42 points. That briefly vaulted them into consideration for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they slipped a little on Sunday with a 74-68 loss to Utah. Watkins had 30 points in that game and for the weekend made 27 of 30 free throws. Her 18 of 18 performance from the line on Friday set the Pac-12 record for makes without a miss.

10. UCLA Bruins (21-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Colorado Buffaloes (Monday), at Arizona State Sun Devils (Thursday), at Arizona Wildcats (Saturday)

The Bruins avenged their January overtime loss at Utah in beating the Utes by 30 points in Los Angeles on Thursday. UCLA finishes regular-season play with three games this week that could be a bit tricky. Colorado is reeling a bit after three consecutive losses and is looking to right the ship. And Arizona showed it is dangerous with its win at Stanford. Getting a top-four seed in the Pac-12 tournament will be on the line.

11. Oregon State Beavers (22-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Stanford Cardinal (Thursday), vs. California Golden Bears (Saturday)

The Beavers defeated Washington State then were upset by Washington this past week. Raegan Beers, Oregon State's top scorer and rebounder, has been out the past three games -- two of them losses -- since suffering a broken nose Feb. 16 in a victory over UCLA.

12. UConn Huskies (24-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Villanova Wildcats (Wednesday), at Providence Friars (Saturday)

After last Monday's 20-point win over Creighton, the only other ranked Big East team, the Huskies traveled to Chicago on Sunday for another trouncing of DePaul, this time 104-67. The Huskies defeated the Blue Demons for the 25th consecutive time. Paige Bueckers had a combined 54 points for UConn in the two games, while Aaliyah Edwards registered 43 points and 23 rebounds.

13. NC State Wolfpack (23-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Syracuse Orange (Thursday), vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Sunday)

The Wolfpack had won eight of nine before falling last week at Triangle rivals North Carolina (by 10 points) and Duke (by 11). That dropped NC State into a four-way logjam for third place in the ACC at 11-5. The 58 points scored against Duke were the Wolfpack's fewest in a game this season. They hope they can get some mojo back to finish the regular season.

14. Kansas State Wildcats (23-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Iowa State Cyclones (Wednesday), at Texas Tech Lady Raiders (Saturday)

Kansas State beat West Virginia in overtime then was upset at rival Kansas last week. Star center Ayoka Lee had a combined 48 points and 23 rebounds in the two contests. The Wildcats are still third in the Big 12 but aren't trending well, having lost four of their past seven.

15. Oklahoma Sooners (20-7)
Previous ranking:
This week: vs. Texas Longhorns (Wednesday), at Kansas Jayhawks (Saturday)

The Big 12-leading Sooners jump back into the Power Rankings after an appearance two weeks ago, following victories last week over Cincinnati and rival Oklahoma State. The Sooners were league co-champions with Texas last season, and they hope to win the title outright this year. But they have two big tests this final week.

16. Syracuse Orange (23-5)
Previous ranking:
This week: at NC State Wolfpack (Thursday)

The Orange went 1-1 last week but clung to the final spot in the Power Rankings, as they are still in second place in the ACC. Syracuse struggled versus Duke's defense on Thursday, falling 58-45, but rebounded with a 63-53 win over Pitt on Sunday. Dyaisha Fair combined for 45 points in the two outings, and she now has 3,302 points for her career, good for fifth place on the women's NCAA scoring list.

Dropped out: Colorado Buffaloes