CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – This time, there was no second-half collapse. After losing seven straight games, including two contests where it led by double figures, the Virginia women’s basketball team (15-11, 4-11 ACC) defeated No. 22 NC State (17-8, 7-7 ACC) by a 71-59 score at John Paul Jones Arena on Sunday (Feb. 12).
The Cavaliers relied on late-game free throw shooting to hold off a Wolfpack comeback effort. The victory was the first by a Virginia team against a ranked opponent since downing Florida State in 2017.
Senior guard Taylor Valladay led the way for UVA with a season-high 22 points and season-best eight rebounds to go along with seven assists. She converted 8-of-10 free throws during the final four minutes of the contest when NC State started to deliberately foul in hopes of making a comeback while trailing by double figures. As a team, UVA converted on 13-of-16 at the charity stripe in the final four minutes.
NC State was led by senior forward Jada Boyd’s season-high 22 points. The Wolfpack’s leading scorer, Diamond Johnson, scored just five points on a 1-for-12 shooting effort that included missing all eight three-point attempts versus a Cavalier defense that played zone the entire game due to its shortened roster.
The Cavaliers’ win, the first for the team since downing Boston College on Jan. 15, avenged an 87-62 loss at NC State on Jan. 8, the most lopsided defeat of the year for Virginia. It snapped a six-game winning streak the Wolfpack had against the Cavaliers. UVA last downed NC State during the 2017-18 season. The all-time series between the teams is tied at 41-41.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Both teams found success early attacking the basket from the paint. Camryn Taylor scored UVA’s first three baskets and when Valladay drove the lane at 3:44 of the opening period to give the Hoos an 8-7 lead. Back-to-back drives down the lane by Alexia Smith and Valladay built the UVA advantage to 12-7. The Wolfpack’s Jada Boyd then converted a three-point play and put-back offensive rebound for a score in the quarter’s final minute to end the opening period tied at 10-10.
Kaydan Lawson’s three-point shot early in the second quarter put the Hoos up 15-12 and they never trailed again. Smith sparked the team with four points in the quarter, including a pull-up jumper with 10 seconds left to give UVA a 28-24 halftime advantage.
The first-half shooting numbers set the theme for the game. NC State struggled against the Cavaliers’ zone that would sag down on entry passes. The Wolfpack shot just 10-for-35 (28.6 percent) in the opening 20 minutes and hit just two of 11 three-point tries. NC State’s shooting didn’t improve in the second half, finishing with just four three-pointers in 28 attempts. The Wolfpack shot just 29.3 percent from the field (22-75) while UVA shot 46.4 percent (26-56).
The Wolfpack entered the game shooting 45 percent from the field on the season. In the team’s previous meeting in Raleigh, NC State shot a much-more efficient 57.4 percent (31-54) from the field.
Johnson, who entered the contest averaging 13.2 points per game for the Wolfpack, was held scoreless until the 2:51 mark of the second quarter and finished the half with just two points on four shots from the field.
The Cavaliers used a 9-0 run early in the second half to grow their lead to 39-27. First, Taylor hit a jumper from the left baseline to put the Hoos ahead 30-24. Then Lawson connected on a three-pointer from the left wing. Smith stole a pass in the front court and raced in for a contested layup to build the UVA advantage to 37-27. Valladay then capped the scoring spurt with a baseline drive to put Virginia ahead 39-27 at the 5:50 mark.
Following a second-chance basket by the Wolfpack’s River Baldwin, Lawson connected on another three and Valladay led a fast break for another basket to increase the lead to 44-29.
After NC State’s Mimi Collins made a layup with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter the Wolfpack switched to full-court pressure against the Cavaliers and trailed 48-26 heading into the final period.
NC State’s Johnson was fouled on a three-point shot to open the fourth quarter and cut the UVA margin to 48-39 after making her free throws. Valladay slashed down the lane for a lay-in as the shot clock was set to expire to put the Cavaliers ahead 50-39. She finished the final quarter with 10 points.
NC State managed to close UVA’s lead to 50-43 with 7:50 remaining on a driving layup by Aziaha James, but that was as close as the game would get. While the Wolfpack’s press did force Virginia into four turnovers in the game’s closing four minutes, the Cavaliers’ performance on the free-three line iced the game.
- Virginia played most of the fourth quarter with Taylor, McKenna Dale and Clarkson with four fouls. Taylor fouled out with 4:37 remaining and Dale picked up her fifth foul at the 3:07 mark. UVA ended the game with six players
- UVA led for all but 3:26 of the game
- Virginia’s largest lead was 18 points (61-43) with 3:15 remaining
- The Cavaliers scored 21 fastbreak points
FROM HEAD COACH AMAKA AGUGUA-HAMILTON
“I’m really, really, really proud of our group. We’ve been through a lot of adversity outside of the game, and people just see a losing streak and things like that, but there’s just been so many things that have happened behind the scenes. So, even being down to eight players that are available to play, we never wavered. Our players just kept believing, they kept believing in me, kept believing in each other, kept believing in themselves, believing in the game plan. We’ve been close in a lot of games, but no one no one’s feeling sorry for themselves, we didn’t want any pity or anything like that. We just kept fighting and when you do that, great things can happen and that’s what happened tonight.”
ON THE HORIZON
- The Cavaliers have a bye on Thursday before hosting No. 9 Duke on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. in their final home game of the season
- The game on the 19th will be Virginia’s annual celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day in including a pregame NGWSD Youth Sports Festival on the upper concourse from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. (Note: doors open 30 minutes earlier for this game). Youth in eighth grade and under completing all of the sports stations will receive a complimentary t-shirt. Admission to the festival is free with a game ticket
- Letterwinners from the first women’s varsity teams to compete at the University of Virginia will be honored in a halftime ceremony
- The game on the 19th will also be Virginia’s Play4Kay game
- The game on the 19th will also be Senior Day with McKenna Dale being honored in a pregame ceremony
Highlights from the victory against No. 22 NC State