Women’s basketball wins second straight, dominates Clemson 80-43
Franklin scores game-high 20, all 11 players play in win
The Virginia women’s basketball team scrapped the suspense early Sunday afternoon against Clemson, reeling off 17 straight points to transform a one-point deficit with 15:19 to play in the first half into a 16-point lead with 11:37 to go. The Cavaliers carried their advantage into the break and then piled on the points in the second half to win 80-43.
With the win, Virginia moves above .500 in ACC play. The team’s 37-point margin of victory was the largest in a conference game since coach Joanne Boyle came to Charlottesville in 2011.
“We really played well on both ends of the floor,” Boyle said. “I think our defense really kind of turned our offense up, because we got some really good stops and got out in some early transition and scored well.”
Everyone got in on the action for Virginia (12-10, 5-4 ACC), as Boyle mixed in sophomore Jaryn Garner and redshirt-freshman Raeshaun Gaffney — both guards who have played little this season — with more than five minutes to go in the first half. Garner and Gaffney contributed four and five points, respectively.
Their mostly strong play was part of a wider theme for Virginia. Nine Cavaliers logged 12 or more minutes on the afternoon, with five players reaching double-figures in scoring.
“We say we’re 11-strong, and we got to play 11 kids tonight, and just to have everyone contribute in some way is such a great feeling,” senior guard Lexie Gerson said. “It’s just really a good team win.”
Virginia broke the game open when senior guard Ataira Franklin, who finished with a game-high 20 points, pulled up for a jumper from the free-throw line with 15:12 to play. Gerson scored on a reverse lay-up and sophomore guard Faith Randolph finished in transition after picking off a pressure-induced Clemson pass.
Freshman forward Sydney Umeri got a jump hook to fall, and two Gerson buckets and a Franklin three-pointer later, Virginia had a 28-12 lead. Tigers coach Audra Smith wanted to talk to her team.
“One of the things that coach tells us is, ‘Make the other team’s coach call time-out,’”
Franklin said. “So, I think that we really, really wanted to focus on rebounding and getting those easy buckets and getting stops.”
The Cavaliers had a harder time scoring after the breather, putting in only 10 more points before the first-half horn. Freshman guard Tiffany Suarez threw the ball out of bounds, Franklin missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Umeri had her shot blocked on Virginia’s final possession of the half.
Clemson gained slight momentum going into halftime when freshman forward-center Sade Chatman made two free throws with 0.5 seconds to play.
Virginia, however, dispelled any thought of a Tiger comeback early in the second half. The Cavalier lead ballooned to 30 points with 12:52 to play, and again with 6:58 on the clock.
“[It’s] just an exciting win,” Boyle said. “I mean, when you get to play your whole team and you just go from start to finish … you’re just working and things are clicking on all cylinders — you don’t get to be in a lot of games like that — so I enjoyed it.”
The Cavaliers forced 22 Tiger turnovers and manufactured 33 points from those gaffes. Virginia was strong inside and out, scoring 32 points in the paint to Clemson’s 18, while knocking down 7-of-13 three-pointers. Virginia also won the rebounding battle, 42-29. Junior forward Sarah Imovbioh corralled nine rebounds, just a touch below her average of 9.5 per game in ACC-play.
The Cavaliers are in the midst of a three-game stretch — which began last Thursday against Wake Forest — that Boyle has labeled a “tournament” in hopes of spurring the team to consecutive victories and a higher place in the ACC standings. Virginia, currently seventh in the 15-team conference, concludes the week-long set against Boston College this Thursday at 7 p.m.
“We take one game at a time,” Gerson said. “It’s still one game at a time. We’re 2-for-2 in this mini-tournament, and we’ve just got to bring it home.”