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Boilermakers come to JPJ for Challenge

No. 15 Virginia returns from Bahamas with tournament crown to host perimeter-oriented Purdue Thursday night

November 22; Charlottesville, VA USA; Virginia guard Paulisha Kellum. No. 12 Virginia fell to No. 6 Tennessee 77-63.
November 22; Charlottesville, VA USA; Virginia guard Paulisha Kellum. No. 12 Virginia fell to No. 6 Tennessee 77-63.

Fresh off an undefeated run in the Junkanoo Jam Tournament held in the Bahamas during the Thanksgiving holiday, the No. 15 Virginia women's basketball team returns home tomorrow night to host Purdue in a Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup.

"We have [had] a really tough stretch," coach Debbie Ryan said. "Indiana, then ... South Dakota State, both very good teams, then you come home to Purdue. That's a really, really tough stretch."

The Boilermakers (3-3) enter Thursday night's game having lost three of their last four contests, though, mostly as a result of poor ball control and sloppy passing. In its most recent loss against Pepperdine, Purdue turned the ball over 16 times in the first 20 minutes alone.

Capitalizing on turnovers should not be too challenging for the Cavalier defense if Virginia's (5-1) aggressive performance Friday against South Dakota State was any indication. The team forced 26 turnovers and scored 31 points off its opponents' mistakes, helping it ease to victory.

If Purdue hopes to rectify its early-season problems Thursday against the Cavaliers, it also must find a way to improve its three-point shooting. Through six games, the Boilermakers are shooting 33 percent behind the arc. Senior guard Jodi Howell leads the squad with 13 three pointers, five of which came in the loss against Pepperdine.

Offensively, Virginia will try to maintain its consistently strong level of play, especially at the guard position. The Cavaliers are averaging an impressive 81.5 points per game as well as a 13.2 point margin of victory. Senior guard Monica Wright and redshirt junior guard Paulisha Kellum have combined for 176 points in the season's first six games, helping the Cavaliers dominate their opponents on the offensive side of the ball. Kellum scored a career-high 25 points against South Dakota State and was named MVP of the Junkanoo Jam Tournament.

Although the Cavaliers may appear to have an obvious statistical advantage, scoring against the Boilermakers may not be an especially easy task for Virginia. Purdue has allowed an average of only 50.5 points per game thus far.

The matchup against Purdue will be the first home game since Virginia drew a record-breaking crowd against No. 6 Tennessee on Hot Dog Day, and Virginia hopes the recent trend of high fan attendance in Charlottesville will continue against the Boilermakers.

"We showed that we definitely are a college that supports its athletics," Wright said. "I just want to say thank you to all the fans."

Thursday's contest is the first of a three-game home stint. Virginia plays host Sunday to in-state opponent James Madison at 4 p.m. and welcomes Furman on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.


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