Women’s basketball takes on No. 4 Florida State
Cavaliers hope to boost NCAA Tournament resume against Seminoles
It’s crunch time for the Virginia women’s basketball team, as it looks to pick up some statement wins with the NCAA Tournament looming. The Cavaliers (16-9, 5-7 ACC) face their toughest challenge on their quest for a bid Thursday when No. 4 Florida State (23-3, 11-1 ACC) comes to John Paul Jones Arena.
In its last game, Virginia outlasted Wake Forest in a tough overtime win, seeing its strong halftime lead dwindle before coming back to ultimately best the Demon Deacons.
“I think we came out a little tentative because they’re [a] great rebounding team,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “We were just trying to match that intensity on every play, and I think we came in and out of it. We just have to learn to take care of the ball better when we’re tired.”
Despite the fluctuations in play during regulation, the team got a much-needed win after a solid overtime performance led by freshman guard Dominique Toussaint’s 12 points.
“[Situations like overtime] are moments we work on in practice, whether in a drill or a play, just finishing out and executing well,” junior guard J’Kyra Brown said. “I felt like we got good shots and second chances.”
Brown got the Cavaliers in a rhythm in the first half of the game, going off for 16 points and making all of the their four shots from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. Brown has taken her play to a new level lately, shining as the Cavaliers’ sixth man. She had a double-double against Georgia Tech and 15 points against Miami to go along with her 17 against Wake Forest in three of the team’s last four games.
“We struggle to score at times, but [Brown] has come in and made some tough shots,” Boyle said. “She was 4-8 from three last game; those bonus points really help. When she makes her first one and gets in a rhythm … she usually makes a few in a row. She’s been playing really solid.”
As tough of an opponent as Wake Forest was for the Cavaliers, the road only gets tougher going forward. The team’s last four games include No. 4 Florida State, No. 14 Louisville, No. 15 NC State and archrival Virginia Tech, making for quite the gauntlet. However, this difficult remaining schedule also gives Virginia a chance to show the selection committee that it deserves to play among the country’s best teams if it can pick up some signature wins.
“These last four teams are really, really good, and we just have to focus on the things that have been crucial to us winning,” Boyle said. “Our transition defense has to be on point, we have got to rebound the basketball and we have got to take care of the ball and value positions. We have to consistently do those things well, and if we do I always feel like we have a good outcome.”
Thursday’s matchup against ACC leader Florida State is the toughest the Cavaliers will have down the stretch. The Seminoles enter the game having lost only their third game of the season, dropping a 92-88 double-overtime thriller at the hands of non-conference foe No. 8 Texas. Before that, Florida State was tearing through ACC teams, entering the Texas matchup having won its last 10 games in a row against conference opponents.
The Seminoles boast the ACC’s top scoring offense at 82.5 points per game while holding opponents to the third least points per game at 57.8.
“[Florida State] is going to try to run it down our throats, they love to play fast and they have great rebounders,” Boyle said. “They’re a complete team, they go nine to 10 [players] deep, they’re great athletes and they have great chemistry together. We’ve got to slow them down, we want them to have to beat us on jump shots, and we’ve got to rebound and take care of the basketball.”
Virginia will try to ride its mantras of rebounding and valuing possessions as it looks to take down the ACC’s best squad and send a message that its NCAA Tournament ready. Tipoff against the Seminoles is scheduled for 7 p.m. at JPJ.