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Cavs seek spark in home stint

Virginia hopes to find offensive balance, renewed energy against confident Demon Deacon squad

The Virginia women's basketball team returns home after an unsuccessful two-game road stint - losses against North Carolina and Clemson - looking to rebound against conference foe Wake Forest tonight. "It's good to finally return home," junior forward Chelsea Shine said. "We're ready to get the taste of losing out of our mouths. The losses start to build up and it's not a good feeling to have. We're just ready to play again on our home court, and to play one game at a time."

The Cavaliers (12-11, 1-6 ACC) hope that an appearance at home not only will halt the team's current two-game skid, but also bring out the dominant play that guided Virginia to a 72-37 win against Virginia Tech two weeks ago at John Paul Jones Arena.

"It was just clicking in the [Virginia Tech] game, and everything went well," Shine said. "We're a young team and we need to be more consistent with our play. I'm staying in the gym too, practicing and working hard so I can be more consistent on the floor."

Assistant coach Wendy Palmer noted that the offensive burden cannot lie on Shine alone, who averages a team-high 10.9 points per game. Palmer would rather see more players step up to assist Shine on the offensive side of the ball.

"Everyone on this team has a role and we all have to execute," Palmer said. The coaching staff urged for players to carry a ball with them around on Grounds before the road trip.

"It wasn't just a matter of reducing turnovers, it was also making sure the players know how important basketball is to them," Palmer said. "Wake Forest is going to be a tough game and we have to be ready to play."

The Demon Deacons (11-12, 2-5 ACC) come to Charlottesville brimming with confidence after downing Boston College Monday night at home by a score of 82-64. During that victory, five Wake Forest players scored in double figures, including sophomore Sandra Garcia, who tallied a game-high 21 points. Garcia currently ranks second on the team in scoring with an average of 10.7 points per game and should serve as a defense challenge down low for Virginia sophomore center Simone Egwu.

Shine admitted that the team is beginning to feel a bit of added pressure knowing Virginia's NCAA tournament chances - and the opportunity to play potential first- and second-round games in front of a home crowd - are dwindling with every loss. But despite the squad's recent struggles, Shine asserts that the team will focus on the challenges at hand, beginning with Garcia and the rest of Demon Deacons.

"We're at a point where we have to focus on one game at a time," the 6-foot-2 forward said. "We're a young team that doesn't handle lots of pressure particularly well, so we need to focus on what we can control, which is a lengthy Wake Forest team."\nTip-off for Thursday's game is 7 p.m.