By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Only one ACC women’s basketball team is still seeking its first conference victory of the season, and it’s not UVa.
Virginia broke through in emphatic fashion Sunday afternoon, humbling arch-rival Virginia Tech 72-37 before 4,834 at John Paul Jones Arena.
Every player in uniform for the Cavaliers (1-4, 12-9) scored, led by junior forward Chelsea Shine, who totaled 16 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals, all game highs.
In dropping their ninth straight game to the Cavaliers, the Hokies never led. Tech (0-5, 9-10) shot 27.5 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 22 times.
The 37 points were the fewest Tech has ever scored in an ACC game.
“I think that we fell apart today as a team,” Hokies coach Beth Dunkenberger said. “If you are wondering if this is rock bottom, I would say it is hard to imagine getting any lower than this.”
And that was not easy for Debbie Ryan to watch, no matter how much her team needed its first ACC win.
“As a coach, as a friend and as someone who’s helped to mentor [Dunkenberger] a little bit, it’s very difficult to be on other side of it, to be quite honest with you,” Ryan told reporters. “I think Beth does a tremendous job, and she’s an absolutely fabulous person. She’s worked hard at this, and it’s not easy.”
This is Ryan’s 34th season as UVa’s coach, and her teams have beaten the Hokies three dozen times. Twice Virginia has trounced Tech by 49 points, once by 42, and another time by 40.
Since the Hokies joined the ACC, however, the games in this series have been closer. So Ryan didn’t come into Sunday’s matinee expecting a blowout. At halftime, it was only a nine-point game.
“It’s really kind of shocking that we were able to get this much separation,” Ryan said afterward.
What made the Wahoos’ performance even more impressive was its timing. The ‘Hoos took the court Sunday about 40 hours after a crushing loss to 15th-ranked Maryland.
The Terrapins made only one 3-pointer at JPJ, but that late trey forced overtime. On the final play of OT, a 3-point attempt by UVa guard Ariana Moorer rimmed out, and Maryland escaped with a 77-75 victory.
“I was pleased and happy with the fact that we were able to put the Maryland game behind us and come out with renewed enthusiasm,” Ryan said. “Really, there was no hangover at all. I thought we came out and showed that we were ready to play defensively. We really did a bang-up job defensively, and I think our offense sort of was fueled by that. We got running, and it was just a very good game for us.”
The Hokies didn’t score until the 15:26 mark of the opening half, by which time they trailed 7-2. Midway through the first half, however, the Cavaliers’ lead was a mere three points, and it was six with a minute left.
The second half offered no such suspense. By the 13:37 mark, it was 45-25, and Virginia’s barrage continued. The ‘Hoos shot a torrid 59.3 percent from the floor after the break, and with 62 seconds to play, senior forward Jayna Hartig hit a jumper to join the rest of her teammates in the scoring column.
“We’ve played really good defense over the last several games,” Ryan said, “and now it’s starting to come together for us a little bit on the offensive end.”
Freshman guard Ataira Franklin (11 points) and junior guard Whitny Edwards (10) joined Shine in double figures. Another standout for UVa was sophomore point guard China Crosby, who missed nine games early in the season with a knee injury.
“This young lady to my right has helped a lot,” Ryan said during her postgame press conference, referring to Crosby. “You can see that every game she plays, she plays a little bit better, and she feels a little more comfortable, and she’s doing so much better with everything that she does, offensively and defensively.”
In 22 minutes off the bench, Crosby contributed 7 points, 4 assists and 1 steal.
“I think I’m more confident offensively,” said Crosby, a former McDonald’s All-American. Assistant coach Tim Taylor “talked to me about getting a midrange jumper, and I’ve been practicing that a lot lately, and I’m more comfortable with taking that shot now. And once I hit that shot, then it’s going to free my post players up, and I’ll get a lot more assists.
“I’ve been confident. My injury never set me back. I’m always going to have that kind of heart to try to pump my team up and do what I can to try to get my team better and try to help my team get these wins.”
The ‘Hoos woke up Sunday having lost four of their previous five games. Even so, Ryan said, her team “has been playing well. We just haven’t had the results we’ve wanted, but now we’re committed to the results part, and hopefully this will get us started.”
Moorer started Sunday for the first time since Nov. 26, replacing sophomore guard Lexie Gerson in the lineup. Moorer scored only 3 points but handed out a game-high 6 assists. Gerson played 17 minutes and had 5 points and 5 rebounds.
“It helped Lexie a little bit, gave her a little more room,” Ryan said. “I think she came in today focused on the defensive end, and maybe it freed her up to just relax a little bit, rather than press, press, press, press herself.”
Ryan wasn’t sure initially how her team would respond to the Maryland loss. When the Cavaliers met for practice Saturday afternoon, they didn’t watch videotape of the game.
“I didn’t feel that was going to be productive at all,” Ryan said. “I felt like that was just going to make it worse … We talked a little bit about the game to try to put it behind us, and the mood was terrible. Not because they weren’t ready to practice. It was because they were just very, very disappointed in what happened.”
But when the players “got out on the floor,” Ryan said, “everything changed. Everybody was very positive. It was a very short practice, it was only about 45 minutes, but they went really hard, and they just did what they had to do. They came in this morning with smiles on their faces, so I knew that we were able to move on, and they were ready to play.
“Nobody likes to lose, and especially nobody likes to lose the way we lost on Friday night. But we learned a lot from it, and we know we played well enough to win, and that’s really all that matters.”
The rout of Virginia Tech was satisfying, Crosby said, but the ‘Hoos “still have a lot more games left. We still have to be mentally prepared for this next game coming up. We’re celebrating, we’re happy, but we know that we still got a lot of work to do.”
Virginia plays Friday night at 10th-ranked North Carolina (3-2, 17-3). UNC lost 88-65 at Maryland on Sunday.
The Tar Heels’ style of play presents challenges, Ryan said.
“They just want to get the ball and run,” she said. “They just want to get the ball and go, get the ball and go, get the ball and go. So you’ve got to change up a little bit what you do.
“Rebounding is going to be a key in that one, and just controlling the tempo to a certain degree. If you can get a hold of the tempo, I think you’re in much better shape against them than not. But that’s hard to do.”