By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — At the 10:19 mark of the first half, China Crosby’s layup dropped through the net, and applause sounded inside John Paul Jones Arena.
Before the game, a video featuring UVa alumna Katie Couric, who urged fans to support the fight against breast cancer, had drawn cheers from the crowd of 4,935. But Crosby’s basket was the first thing Virginia fans had to clap for once this ACC women’s basketball game tipped off.
Boston College scored the game’s first 20 points Sunday afternoon. Virginia, which came in hoping to enhance its NCAA tournament résumé, missed its first 13 shots from the floor.
“In my 34 years, I’ve never had a start like that,” Cavaliers coach Debbie Ryan said.
“We had no rhythm, we had no rhyme as to what we were doing, and it got in our heads a little bit. Obviously we were a little shell-shocked at the start of the game.”
Eventually some shots fell for UVa, but not many.
“It was pretty frustrating, just the part that shots that usually go in just weren’t going in,” said junior guard Ariana Moorer, who led the Wahoos with 11 points and 5 steals. “We got great looks at times, but we just couldn’t knock down those shots.”
The ‘Hoos (4-8, 15-13) shot only 28.2 percent from the floor for the game, and their defense wasn’t much better. The Eagles (5-7, 18-9) carved up Virginia in the first half and coasted to a 73-50 victory after intermission.
BC’s ruthlessly efficient center, Carolyn Swords, came in leading the nation in field-goal percentage (71.3). The 6-6 senior came out at 71.6 percent after going 6 for 7 against the ‘Hoos.
“She’s tough to guard,” Ryan said.
The Eagles were credited with assists on 11 of their 16 first-half field goals. Time and again Sunday, BC’s guards found themselves with clear passing lanes inside to post players. Swords and 6-4 Stefanie Murphy scored 14 points apiece, most coming on layups after they sealed off defenders, and 6-3 Katie Zenevitch added 9.
“Defensively you have to put a lot of pressure on the ball,” Ryan said, “and that was the whole game plan: to pressure the ball. We didn’t put enough pressure on the ball. It’s all about what the [players with the ball outside] can see. They could see a lot.”
This was a “Pink Zone” game, part of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s initiative to raise awareness about breast cancer. The Cavaliers looked sharp in their pink uniforms, but their performance earned poor reviews.
Asked if she was pleased by her team’s second-half effort — BC led 40-19 at the break — Ryan shook her head.
“I thought we could have played a lot harder than we did,” she said. “I thought they at times played hard, but I feel like we did not get a sustained effort over a period of time when all five players were playing together and playing hard.”
It’s one thing to miss shots, Ryan said. That happens. But when bad offense leads to bad defense, that’s inexcusable.
“If you put any emphasis on your offense, you’re dead,” Ryan said. “You can’t play that way. It’s not something that you can worry about. Because the only thing you can control is defense and how hard you play.”
The awful start didn’t help, but “it’s early in the game. You just keep playing good defense,” Ryan said.
“That’s where I thought we really let go. We didn’t play as hard on defense as we could have, and that was the difference in the game. Everything was so disjointed and so out of sync.”
Led by sophomore guard Kerri Shields, who made five 3-pointers, BC went 9 for 17 from beyond the arc. Virginia missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts.
“I’m not sure why we were where we were today, because we haven’t had terrible practices or anything like that,” Ryan said. “We just did not come into the game today with the presence of mind that we normally do. I think it’s more of a mental thing than it is physical, because we looked like we were running in mud most of the game.”
The ‘Hoos had not played since Feb. 13, when they upset No. 11 Maryland in College Park, a win that came three nights after their epic four-overtime victory at NC State.
That’s what made the breakdowns Sunday afternoon so unexpected — and so troubling to Ryan.
“We should have been rested and ready,” she said.
One regular-season home game remains for Virginia. No. 7 Duke (10-2, 24-3) visits JPJ on Thursday night. The Blue Devils beat Virginia Tech 90-40 on Sunday afternoon.
“We know how good Duke is,” Crosby said. “We just have to leave this game behind us and worry about what’s coming up next.”