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Nov. 12, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — With her best player slowed by chronic knee problems, Joanne Boyle can’t always field her ideal lineup. Even so, Boyle has many more options in her third season as UVa women’s basketball coach than she did in her first two.

A season ago, when Virginia limped to a 16-14 record, injuries left Boyle no choice but to shorten her rotation.

There are 12 players on the Cavaliers’ 2013-14 roster, and all got in before halftime Monday night in the home opener against High Point at John Paul Jones Arena. By game’s end, 10 had played at least 10 minutes apiece in Virginia’s 73-53 victory.

“It definitely helps us energy-wise, because if you go hard when you’re out there, you have a sub coming back in,” junior post player Sarah Imovbioh said after playing 22 minutes. “It all brings us together more when we’re all working together. There’s definitely more a teamwork-type thing.”

Boyle said: “We got to play a lot of people out there and look at different combinations. Obviously we’re a work in progress here trying to figure some things out … Eventually you gotta find what rotations are working, but it’s nice to be able to look at different combinations early”

All-ACC guard Ataira Franklin, a senior from Bowie, Md., came off the bench Monday night for the first time since her freshman season. She finished with six points in 20 minutes. Since enrolling at the University in 2010, Franklin has had three operations on her right knee, the most recent in April.

“She’s a worn soldier right about now, four years in,” Boyle said. “That’s the whole reason we’re tweaking the lineup a little bit … It’s nothing she’s doing [wrong]. Her knees are just really bad after four years. So we’re just trying to limit her minutes and get as much mileage as we can through the ACC [schedule]. I can’t use it all now, and then have her really be depleted in January.”

Franklin learned Sunday that she wouldn’t start against High Point. “Again, it’s nothing that she’s done,” Boyle said. “She hasn’t been on the floor for us since last spring. She really hasn’t been able to practice, so we’re really trying to keep her in practice for about 30 to 45 minutes twice a week, and play games. And because she’s been off, she’s obviously deconditioned. I don’t want to jeopardize where she’s at with her knees.”

Franklin scored only two points, on 1-for-6 shooting, in UVa’s opener Friday night, a 63-46 loss at JMU. Faith Randolph led the Cavaliers with 18 points in Harrisonburg, and the sophomore guard scored a team-high 19 against High Point (1-1).

As a freshman, when she averaged 5.0 points, Randolph shot only 26.3 percent from the floor. She still has to improve her accuracy and shot selection — Randolph is 8 for 28 from the floor this season — but she’s 18 for 21 from the line, and her improved conditioning makes her difficult to guard.

Franklin “has told me that our team is really gonna need me, not just offensively but defensively,” Randolph said, “and just bringing up [the energy level]. I’m just trying to find my role more this year, because it’s definitely a transition from last year to this year, and I’m just trying to find that role right now.”

Also scoring in double figures for UVa (1-1) against High Point were Imovbioh (14 points) and redshirt freshman guard Raeshaun Gaffney (10). Imovbioh dominated around the basket, pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds.

Junior forward Sarah Beth Barnette and senior guard Lexie Gerson had seven boards each for UVa. Overall, the Wahoos outrebounded the Panthers 57-30, a dramatic turnaround from Friday night for Boyle’s team. In the opener, JMU collected 49 rebounds to Virginia’s 26.

“Coming out of that game was really frustrating,” Imovbioh said, “and we went into practice, and Coach was on us, because we got outhustled in that game, and she was like, `We need to get every rebound. I don’t care how you do it. You need to find a way to get the rebounds, because we don’t want what happened at JMU to happen [again].’ I think everyone was on the same page with me. Everyone was boxing out, and I was just going for the ball, just to help my team.”

Next up for UVa is a Saturday afternoon game against Louisiana Tech (0-1) at JPJ. Against High Point, the Cavaliers applied lessons learned in Harrisonburg. They know they must continue to improve if they hope to reach their goals this season.

`We gotta play better,” Boyle said, “but again, it’s good to get a home opener and put that last game behind us and move forward.”

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