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On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Cavaliers broke open a five-point game against Auburn by going on a 19-3 run in the second half, making 10 of their first 13 field goal attempts in the period while the Tigers went 3-of-14 and committed five turnovers in the same span to earn a 66-51 victory. Junior guard Faith Randolph scored 18 points, including going 3-of-4 from three point range in front of a great crowd of over 3,500 fans.

That was just the humble beginning to one of Randolph’s best days of 2014. That night after the game, the entire team went together to the Regal Stonefield movie theater on a group outing to see The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part I, several days after the film had been released.

“It was pretty hard having to wait those couple of days to see it,” Randolph said. “I talked to [Operations Director] Sarah [Holsinger] a month in advance to figure out when we could see it. We found a day on the calendar, that Sunday, that worked for us to go as a team. I had to adjust, but in the end it was good. Everyone love the movie and we were happy to see it as a team.”

Randolph, in case you couldn’t tell, is obsessed with all things Hunger Games.

“I watched the original Hunger Games movie and then read the book, but the book is way better than the movie,” Randolph said. “I read the first book the summer going into my first year. I just finished the series last winter. After the first one, I thought the series ended. Things got solved, but when I heard there was a second one, I knew I needed to go find that book. I read the second one in two days. The third one was kind of long and I didn’t have a chance to grab onto it because schoolwork and other things kept getting in the way, so it took me awhile to finish it.”

The team watched the first Hunger Games movie on the bus on the way down to Virginia Tech. After winning the ACC-opener in Blacksburg in a convincing manner, the team celebrated by watching the Hunger Games again on the way back to Charlottesville.

“Lauren hadn’t seen the first one, so I thought we should watch it on the bus,” Randolph explained. “You can never watch that movie too many times. You can always find something new that you haven’t seen before when you watch it again. Sometimes I have it on in the background while doing homework. It was a good way to end the day after winning at Virginia Tech.”

Last season, Randolph was treated to a pleasant surprise when the team traveled to Atlanta to play at Georgia Tech. The team hotel, the Marriott Marquis, was one of many Georgia locations used in the final three movies. Scenes from the Capitol as well as the training center were filmed there.

“It was a good vibe to be in a place that I knew had been a film location and to recognize it from the movies,” Randolph said. “That was something that I really enjoyed and the rest of the team did as well.”

Like so many other fans of the Suzanne Collins’ franchise, it is the central character of Katniss Everdeen that has fueled the passion in Randolph.

“I like that the main character is a female,” Randolph explained. “A lot of the things that she goes through are hard challenges. You can relate it to sports as well as the challenges that you go through as a person. I really admire her courage and her drive to help her family.”

Randolph, who has ranked in the top-10 in the ACC in scoring all season, gives a very Katniss-like answer when asked about the biggest difference in her responsibilities this season as a starter and a veteran leader from last season when she was voted the 2013 ACC Sixth Player of the Year.

“Last year, I was focusing on me individually, how I could help this team, but this year, I am focusing on helping others to help this team out,” Randolph explained. “I am reaching out more. I am much more vocal, using my experiences to share with other people on how we can make this team better.”

Randolph has also had to work on the physical adjustment of playing almost nine more minutes per game than she did last year.

“This year, I am focused on the rest I need and making sure I do treatments that I need while last year I was always trying to get in the gym to be ready when my name got called,” Randolph explained. “This year is different because there is more mental preparation than actually getting up extra shots because I really want to keep my legs fresh.”

In addition to the offensive outpouring and expanded playing time, Randolph has also had to adjust to becoming the key to the Cavalier defensive schemes.

“Our seniors last season were guarding the opposing teams’ best players,” Randolph said. “Coach Cory [McNeill] told me in the springtime that if I want to take on the challenge of defending the best players, it was up for grabs. I really took that to heart and worked on defense and watching the men’s team and how they defend and how they move their feet. Learning from them helped me to get better.

“I also had a class over the summer with Malcolm Brogdon. He helped me figure out the Pack Line Defense and how to defend better in it. He kept telling me it is a process and you get better at it every day. I learned a lot from him.”

Randolph, much like her favorite literary heroine, has a competitive spark that fans and Virginia opponents have seen this season on the court. Another person who got a strong taste of Randolph’s competitive nature was ACC Digital Network correspondent Clinton Portis. Randolph and Portis went one-on-one in a pop-a-shot competition at ACC media day.

“I won, just to make sure everyone knows that,” Randolph laughed. “As a Redskins fan, beating Clinton Portis meant a lot. Whoever I go against, I always try to beat, but it was a good competition. It was pretty cool. I grew up as a Redskins fan, so to walk in and see that it was Clinton Portis that I was playing against, it really got competitive and made it more fun. My uncle [Thadeous Roberts] is a huge Redskins fan and loves Clinton Portis, so I got to tell him that and he was very excited.”

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