Cavs to face coach's alma mater Duke
The Virginia women’s basketball team has been impressive at home this season, winning nine of 11 games including its first four in ACC play. Following a disappointing 65-62 loss to Georgia Tech Sunday in Charlottesville, however, the team faces its toughest test yet against No. 4 Duke Friday at John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia (14-7, 6-4 ACC) will look to recover after squandering a 29-22 halftime lead against the Yellow Jackets. After the break, Georgia Tech adapted and overcame Virginia’s defensive pressure, shooting 44.1 percent on 34 second-half field goal attempts. The Yellow Jackets outscored the Cavaliers 44-33 in the second period to earn just their third win in ACC play.
In the loss, senior forward Telia McCall provided somewhat of a silver lining with a career-best performance. McCall scored 28 points and connected on 16-of-17 free throw attempts to keep the team competitive. She also scored eight straight points after her team fell behind 56-51 with six minutes remaining to help the Cavaliers regain the lead. Virginia scored just three more points in the final 3:56 as its offensive woes proved fatal in the losing effort.
“I think part of the problem against Georgia Tech is that they fouled us every possession,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “It was hard to get into a rhythm offensively.”
Boyle and the Virginia offense will not get much of a break against Duke, who has played superb defense this season and is allowing an ACC-best 50.4 points per game. But the Cavaliers can take some solace in knowing that Duke fits well with their style of play.
“Duke’s style is more conducive to how we play,” Boyle said, “Half-court man-to-man, or matchup zone. They’re just a different style.”
The Cavaliers may feel more comfortable on offense against the Blue Devils (20-1, 9-0 ACC), but few teams have been able to contend with Boyle’s alma mater. Duke is coming off an impressive 84-63 win against No. 11 North Carolina., during which Blue Devil junior guards Chloe Wells and Tricia Liston posted a career-high 18 and 15 points respectively. Overall, the Blue Devils are averaging 77.1 points per game, good for second best in the ACC and have a scoring margin of plus 26.7 points per game.
“They’re a really good team,” Boyle said. “They shoot the ball well. They try and put you in uncomfortable situations, so today we just worked a little bit on us on man and kind of went over their stuff.”
Boyle is very familiar with the Blue Devils program. She was a four-year letter winner at Duke and then spent 1993-2002 working as an assistant coach under coach Gail Goestenkors. In that time, Duke enjoyed eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament and reached the Sweet-16 in each of her final five seasons at the university.
Virginia has competed in the NCAA tournament eight times since 2000, but is still looking for its first appearance with second-year coach Boyle. Last season, the team missed out on a bid because of its lack of statement conference wins, making Friday’s matchup against Duke that much more critical in light of the team’s setback loss to Georgia Tech.
“We’re just going to capitalize on what we do well,” McCall said. “Keep attacking. We’re not going to go backwards; just be aggressive.”
After facing Duke, the Cavaliers will travel to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech Sunday. The Hokies (7-14, 1-9 ACC) fell at John Paul Jones Arena 52-48 Jan. 3 and Virginia is 37-10 all-time against Virginia Tech.