By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Joanne Boyle didn’t need to check the box score to know that her basketball team had played a sloppy game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Still, the final statistics were sobering for UVa’s first-year coach: 24 turnovers.
“I think everybody participated in the festival,” Boyle told reporters at John Paul Jones Arena.
Indeed, seven Virginia players had at least two turnovers apiece against Indiana, including senior point guard Ariana Moorer and junior center Simone Egwu, who had five each. But things could have been worse for the Wahoos (6-2). They could have lost Thursday night.
“Any time you win and you have a lot to teach, it’s really good. There’s a lot of great film to show them so we don’t compound this and end up in the same situation again,” Boyle said after her team’s 65-49 victory over Indiana.
“I’m not not excited about the win. I’m glad to take it, but we have a lot to learn in terms of getting put in these situations. If [the Hoosiers] play better or we play a better team, the outcome might not be the same. We have to learn how to value possessions.”
Fifteen of UVa’s turnovers came in the first half, which ended with Indiana (2-4) down by only two points. The game should not have been that close. The ‘Hoos led 25-9 with 4:10 left in the half and appeared fully capable of blowing out the Hoosiers.
“It’s definitely a situation where we need to stay more composed,” said sophomore guard Ataira Franklin, who led all scorers with 16 points. “We got a little rattled. We weren’t really good with time and score during the game, but it’s definitely something that we’re going to get better at. It was just really frustrating at times. They’re chipping away at the lead, and at some point then we just have to settle down.
“But like Coach said, we’re a smarter team than we played tonight. We’ll get better.”
Moorer (13 points), senior forward Chelsea Shine (12) and junior point guard China Crosby (10) also scored in double figures for UVa, and Egwu added 8 rebounds. On a night when the Cavaliers outrebounded Indiana 44-39, they distinguished themselves on defense, too, limiting coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s team to 26.5-percent accuracy from the floor.
On offense, though, Virginia made only 19 of 48 field-goal attempts — 4 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc — and had only 10 assists.
“I think we’re working really hard in the zone defense,” Boyle said. “We’re getting great traps, we’re getting tips, we’re getting steals. We’ve got to be able to convert that. What happens is we’re working just as hard on the offensive end. It’s hard enough to work on the defensive end, and if you’re going to get easy baskets, then we’ve got to be able to convert them.”
If the Cavaliers appeared sluggish at times Thursday night, there was good reason. The ‘Hoos didn’t get back from Hawaii — where they went 1-2 in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown — until Tuesday night.
“You never want to make an excuse, but it’s been a long haul,” Boyle said. “How long is it to Hawaii? It’s 12 hours on a flight. We don’t have a deep bench. We played three games, and most of the teams that I have talked to that were out there, they’re not playing again until Sunday. So to come back and be playing on Thursday, it’s a little rough.
“It’s a challenge for us. I’m not going to back away from a challenge. It’s another game to learn from. I’m glad we came out on the upper hand, but we got a lot of work to do.”
Boyle has 10 scholarship players available this season, and all except 6-4 sophomore Erinn Thompson came in averaging at least 9.7 minutes per game. Against Indiana, however, Thompson played a season-high 13 minutes. Two other post players — 6-1 sophomore Jazmin Pitts and 6-1 junior Telia McCall — played only 5 and 1, respectively.
“I feel Erinn deserves a shot,” Boyle said. “Telia and Jaz have been getting some minutes, sometimes productive, sometimes not. [Indiana] played a lot of zone tonight, and Erinn’s got a little bit more height to her. She’s a good passer, and she did really well at the high post. She’s not in any way a selfish player.”
Through Virginia’s first six games, Pitts averaged 8.0 points and 4.5 rebounds, but her production and playing time have plummeted since then.
“Jaz was doing a great job in the first four games of coming off the bench and producing for us,” Boyle said, “and played hard, played smart, played physical. She has to get back to that.”
Virginia will play two more games before breaking for final exams. The first comes Sunday afternoon at the University of Richmond, where Boyle went 67-29 in three seasons as head coach. This will be Boyle’s first trip back to the Robins Center since she left for the University of California in 2005.
She may not have liked everything she saw Thursday night, but Boyle believes her players are learning valuable lessons and will benefit from these experiences.
“They’re a smart team,” she said. “They really are. They’re a smart team. They didn’t play smart tonight, but we always have to play smart, or to the best of our ability, which I didn’t think we did tonight.”
The Hoosiers’ coach came away more impressed with Boyle’s team.
“You have a great coach here,” Legette-Jack said. “I think she does a tremendous job of creating discipline in the team and discipline in her defense. They don’t get over-emotional on missed opportunities. They just get back and play defense.”