The No. 21 Virginia women's basketball team will look for a bit of breathing room in the tightly-packed ACC when it travels to Coral Gables to take on conference foe Miami tonight.
Even though the Cavaliers (17-6, 6-3 ACC) have not lost to the Hurricanes (16-7, 3-5 ACC) since 2005 and own the all-time series record 6-1, this is no guarantee that Virginia will walk away with a win. Both squads are currently riding two-game winning streaks and are in the thick of a competitive battle for ACC supremacy.
"It's crazy," freshman guard Lexie Gerson said. "I love how anyone can win any day. I love the competition."
The Hurricanes provided a perfect example of the ACC's parity last week when they upset then-No. 9 North Carolina, as the win allowed Virginia to surpass the Tar Heels in the ACC standings. With the No. 7 Blue Devils going down to Boston College that same day, the ACC is more wide open than ever.
The contest, which will impact the rankings of both teams, will feature the top three scorers in the ACC, with senior guard Monica Wright - who is averaging 22.7 points per game - leading the way. Virginia has won its past two games handily, thanks to an aggressive, opportunistic defense and stellar play from Wright, who moved into fourth place on the ACC all-time scoring list last weekend against Maryland. She has shot 60 percent and scored 59 points during the last two games.
The Hurricanes also boast a high-octane offense with the second and third-ranked scorers in the ACC, sophomore guard Riquna Williams and sophomore forward Shenise Johnson, who are averaging a combined 38 points per game.
Stopping this Hurricane duo will be critical for the Cavaliers if they want to maintain their standing amidst the ACC's topsy-turvy standings. The unpredictable nature of the conference may be enjoyable for some fans and players but also adds to the significance of each of the Cavaliers' remaining six matchups.
"It's a lot of fun," Ryan said. "But every single game is going to matter in the end. Every loss by a team that's above you brings them that much closer, and every win by you brings you that much closer. This time of year, you have to be ready"