With 3:06 remaining in the second half and Virginia leading in-state foe Virginia Tech 68-35, Cavalier fans Sunday afternoon were focused on the only thing that the Virginia women's basketball team had not yet accomplished in the game: the 70 points needed to satisfy the Canes Challenge.
Sophomore guard Lexie Gerson scored that 70th point at the 2:22 mark in the second half, giving a towel-waving Virginia fan base the chance not only celebrate the Canes Challenge but also the team's 72-37 victory - its first conference win in five tries.
The Cavaliers (12-9, 1-4 ACC) were determined to prove that their previously winless record in ACC play was not representative of the team's ability on the court, especially following a heartbreaking 75-77 overtime loss to No. 15 Maryland only two days before.
"Yesterday [after the Maryland game Friday], we weren't going to watch film," Ryan said. "We just wanted to put the game behind us. The mood was terrible ... because we were so disappointed about that game. Losses can make you feel very tired, and we just needed to remind the players about all of the good that we've done."
Ryan mentioned after the Maryland game that her team's game against the Hokies (9-10, 0-5 ACC) was a "must-win" game but that she simply wanted them to play basketball without an additional mental burden.
Ryan's players certainly heeded her advice against Virginia Tech, as they played an intense brand of basketball that stymied the Hokies. The Cavaliers set the tone early in the game by playing stellar defense. Virginia jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game before stretching the score to a 28-19 edge at halftime.
After trading baskets for the first four minutes of the second half, the Cavaliers went on a 12-0 run during the next three minutes to take a 47-25 lead at the 13:01 mark. As Virginia Tech continually struggled to make shots, Virginia expanded its advantage and won by a final margin of 35 points.
Ryan was particularly impressed with her team's defensive performance, as the Cavaliers held the Hokies to 27.5 percent shooting on the afternoon.
"Honestly, I think that we've finally gotten to a point where we're good defensively," Ryan said. "We help each other, we're doing a good job of switching, we're coming to help and we're figuring out when we need to stay and when we need to go."
Sophomore point guard China Crosby - who added seven points and four assists -