Virginia seeks sweet 16th win
Injured Crosby’s pain is Seminoles’ gain as short-handed squad seeks to avenge last season’s close loss
On the heels of another disappointing conference loss, the Virginia women's basketball team continues conference play this weekend when it takes on Florida State Sunday at John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia (15-7, 3-5 ACC) comes off a 63-53 defeat to Georgia Tech Wednesday evening and looks to notch a win against the Seminoles to improve its standing in the ACC. The Seminoles (11-10, 3-4 ACC) faced a similar fate as the Cavaliers last Sunday when they fell to the Yellow Jackets, 79-55. This game will be critical for two teams looking to emerge from the lower tier of the ACC standings, with Florida State seventh in the conference and Virginia ranked eighth.
Florida State averages 69 points per game and Virginia follows close behind with a 63.7 scoring average. The Cavaliers will need to up the ante on field-goal shooting, however, against a Seminoles team making 45 percent of its attempts from the floor, compared to Virginia's less-than-stellar 38 percent mark.
Virginia's strength, team defense, continues to compensate for the low shooting percentage by forcing turnovers and creating offense in transition on breaks. The team has also improved its paint scoring substantially as a result of Virginia's decision to embrace a defense-first philosophy which plays to the team's strengths and minimizes its problem areas.
"Our biggest focus was on the defensive end," sophomore guard Ataira Franklin said after the Boston College win last Saturday. "We were focusing on guarding the three [early] but we were giving them lanes to the basket. Once we picked it up on defense, everyone was able to get into more of a flow offensively."
Virginia has also been successful with its new four-man front court rotation of senior forward Chelsea Shine, junior center Simone Egwu, sophomore forward Jazmin Pitts and junior forward Telia McCall.
Florida State 6-foot-4 senior forward Cierra Bravard stands out as a key player for the Seminoles. She ranks seventh in the ACC with a scoring average of 14.7 points per game and also ranks 30th in the nation with her impressive 52.9 field goal percentage. Bravard averages 6.9 rebounds per game, but Virginia's Shine is not far behind with a 6.2 average on the boards.
Five projected starters for Sunday's tilt rank in the top 20 for scoring in the ACC - senior guard Ariana Moorer and Franklin for the Cavaliers and Bravard, redshirt junior guard Alexa Deluzio and sophomore forward Natasha Howard for the Seminoles.
Junior guard China Crosby's season-long absence with an ACL injury will be noted Sunday since Crosby was a key player during a close loss against the Seminoles last season. Crosby scored 14 points and shot 50 percent from the field during that game, when Virginia fell just short of besting Florida State, 74-78.
Without Crosby, McCall and junior guard Lexie Gerson have been the beneficiaries of extra minutes off the bench during the past few games. Gerson totaled 13 points against Boston College last Saturday and McCall followed close behind with 12 points in her 26 minutes on the court.
Although Moorer was the Cavaliers' sole double-digit scorer against Georgia Tech, Gerson still contributed across the board, posting seven assists, three rebounds and one steal, while scoring eight points in the game. Franklin also contributed with four steals and five total rebounds.
"If I could put [Franklin] at all five [defensive] spots, I would put her at all five spots, because it's all about length and movement and anticipation," coach Joanne Boyle said. "[She] and Lexie do a great job. Sometimes our posts are too slow to get out to the corners and it's nice that we can put a guard down low."
The Cavaliers have not recorded a win against the Seminoles since Feb. 24, 2009, when then-No. 19 Virginia secured a 68-63 victory against No. 11 Florida State at Tallahassee.
Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena. The game will also be televised by ESPNU.