Squad looks to repeat last month's win against Eagles
Victory would provide Cavaliers late-season boost; coach emphasizes distance shooting, defensive strength
With the end of the regular season in sight, the Virginia women’s basketball team heads to Massachusetts Thursday evening looking for a conference road win against Boston College. The Cavaliers (15-8, 7-5 ACC) downed the Eagles (9-14, 3-9 ACC) 69-57 in Charlottesville Jan. 24 and will look to use the lessons from that game to enjoy similar success.
Virginia led 33-27 at halftime in January’s contest, and held the Eagles without a field goal for the first 12 minutes of the second half to build a large lead before surviving a late Boston College run.
Known for their perimeter shooting, the Eagles lead the ACC in 3-point field goals made with 6.9 per game. In January’s meeting, however, Virginia held the Eagles to just five 3-pointers on 19.2 percent shooting from behind the arc, and Virginia coach Joanne Boyle’s game plan for Thursday calls for similar stinginess on the perimeter.
“It’s a little bit different of a traditional lineup than we’re used to,” Boyle said. “Everyone’s going to have to sit down and guard for us, because we’re opposite of where their strengths are. You really got to take away their 3-point shooters. They’ve got three girls who can really shoot it.”
Senior guard Kerri Shields leads the Eagles with 55 3-pointers on 42.6 percent shooting from behind the arc, with fellow wingers junior Kristen Doherty and freshman Nicole Boudreau also shooting close to 40 percent from distance. The 6-foot-3 junior center Katie Zenevitch provides Boston College’s most dependable post presence, averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds on the season.
With much of the Eagles’ offense coming on the wings and from Zenevitch inside, the Cavaliers will need standout defensive performances from not only their guards but also their post players. That may mean turning to sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh, who has seen more action recently after limited outings for much of the conference schedule. The forward played 26 minutes in Sunday’s win against Virginia Tech, scoring eight points and grabbing 11 rebounds, and her athleticism could provide a jolt for Virginia defensively.
“This is going to be a difficult game for our traditional post in that they’re going to have to be out in the wing and really defend,” Boyle said. “[Imovbioh] proved she can do it against Virginia Tech, so I assume she’s going to be in that same situation against BC.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cavaliers are hoping to jump-start their own perimeter shooting. Virginia had been on fire from behind the arc for much of January, but the last three games have seen a sharp decline. The Cavaliers are shooting just 16.7 percent from the perimeter and have averaged just two 3-pointers per game over the stretch. Because the squad may need to answer the sharpshooting Eagles’ 3-pointers with some of their own, restoring the squad’s distance shooting prowess has represented a major focus in practice this week.
“Today we spent about 45 minutes just getting shots up,” Boyle said. “I think at this point their legs are a little tired, so we’ve got to spend time just getting shots up in practice, and I was happy we got to do that today.”
A win at Boston College would supply a late-season boost for the Cavaliers as they head into the home stretch of the regular season.
“We’re definitely on the way up,” senior center Simone Egwu said. “There’s still a couple of kinks to be worked out, but I have complete faith that we’re going to get that stuff together and really be hitting our stride by the ACC tournament.”