Virginia obliterates Golden Gophers
After 90-68 victory against Minnesota, Cavaliers host West Virginia Sunday
The Virginia women’s basketball team capitalized on effective shooting and dominant post play to power past Minnesota, 90-68, in Minneapolis Thursday evening.
Minnesota captured an early 10-point lead behind a slew of three pointers and led 16-6 just four minutes into the game. The Cavaliers responded with a 12-2 run of their own, however, capped by a 3-pointer from senior guard Ataira Franklin with 11:40 remaining in the half.
Virginia eventually took the lead at 25-23 with 9:28 left and never looked back, outscoring the Gophers 21-11 during the last nine minutes for a 46-34 halftime lead.
Junior Kelsey Wolfe had 15 points in the half for the Cavaliers, her biggest scoring effort since a 22-point performance against Penn. Overall, Virginia shot almost 63 percent from the floor for the half, countering a Minnesota team that was 6-for-9 from behind the arc.
The Cavaliers continued to roll in the second half, as Wolfe added 8 more points for a career-high 25. Virginia clearly prevailed in the battle down low, as the Cavaliers held a 44-22 advantage on points in the paint and outrebounded the Gophers 39-29.
After turning the ball over a woeful 22 times in their last-second loss to Syracuse, the team committed just 13 turnovers against Minnesota. Virginia’s tight ball handling prevented the Gophers from ever chipping into the lead, and the Cavaliers finished with a 22-point victory.
Virginia now turns its attention to Sunday’s matchup against West Virginia, where it will look to perpetuate its strengths from Thursday evening. Sunday’s game should see the full return of injured center Simone Egwu, who played eight minutes against Minnesota and should be more of a factor against the Mountaineers.
“Simone’s coming back into the flow with us, so having her back will be great. It’ll give us a little more depth in the post,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “We’ll ease her back into practice, ease her back into minutes.”
Egwu’s return will certainly give the team a jolt in the post, but even during her absence, the Cavaliers have pounded the paint this season. The team has outrebounded its opponents in all but one game, an advantage the players credit to Boyle’s persistent focus on defense.
“It’s just one of the things Coach emphasizes a lot,” sophomore Sarah Imovbioh said. “When you rebound, you win games, so we just want to get the rebounds, and fight for the ball every time. You can’t give up the rebounds.”
Virginia comes up against a struggling West Virginia team that dropped its last two games at the FIU Thanksgiving Classic against LSU and Iowa. Junior Taylor Palmer highlighted the Mountaineers’ otherwise gloomy weekend in Miami, pacing the squad with 19 points per game in the tournament.
Palmers’ prolific shooting poses a challenge to any opponent, but the Cavaliers believe they have more than one answer to West Virginia. During its young season, Virginia has received standout play from a wide variety of players. In addition to Imovbioh and Wolfe, who each have two 20-point games, junior Jazmin Pitts and senior China Crosby have provided consistently strong efforts. The players feel confident they have an arsenal of scoring options and can find timely performances when needed.
“We see the floor, and we just feel like we need to step up and help our team, especially when they need us,” Imovbioh said. “When they need us to rebound, we definitely need to do that, but when they need us to score, we definitely need to do that also.”
Tipoff at John Paul Jones Arena is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.