The Virginia women's basketball team is looking to bounce back from a 73-50 loss against Boston College last Sunday as it hosts No. 9 Duke this evening in the team's penultimate regular season game.
A Cavalier upset against the formidable Blue Devils (24-3, 10-2 ACC) would boost Virginia's chances of earning a WNIT or NCAA Tournament bid.
To be competitive against the Blue Devils - who have been ranked as one of the nation's top-25 teams for 202 straight weeks - Virginia (15-13, 4-8 ACC) will need to come out much stronger than it did against the Eagles last Sunday. The Cavaliers fell behind 20-0 early during the loss and only managed to put points on the board nearly 10 minutes into the game. Overall, Virginia shot 28.2 percent from the field on 71 shots, missing all 12 of its three-point attempts. On the defensive side of the ball, meanwhile, the Cavaliers allowed the Eagles to convert on nearly 50 percent of their shots and connect on 9-of-17 three-point shots.
"I think that instead of playing stronger because we had good defense, we got weaker because the shots weren't going in," coach Debbie Ryan said. "That's not how you're supposed to play. You're supposed to buckle down on defense and find ways to get easy buckets and get to the free throw line."
Duke is coming into its final regular season road game of the season on a high, having crushed Virginia Tech 90-40 last Sunday in Durham. Senior guard Jasmine Thomas led her team on a 22-0 run against the Hokies during the middle of the first half and finished the night with a career-high 27 points. Thomas leads all Blue Devil scorers this season, averaging 14.7 points per game.
Freshman guard Tricia Liston also chipped in a career-high 19 points against the Hokies, while senior forward Karima Christmas added 12 points.
Thomas and company hope to extend the Blue Devils' 17-game win streak against the Cavaliers with a win tonight. Virginia's last victory against the Blue Devils came 11 years ago in a 61-49 victory at University Hall.
Despite Duke's firepower and Virginia's dwindling chances of hosting an NCAA Tournament first- or second-round game at John Paul Jones Arena, sophomore point guard China Crosby is optimistic about her team's chances of registering an upset.
"We just have to come out better [against Duke]," Crosby said. "The shots didn't fall, and it's up to us to create opportunities, drive to the lane, and make free throws."
Crosby, who has scored in double digits during two of her four most recent games, will team up with freshman guard Ataira Franklin in the backcourt to stop Thomas and the rest of the potent Blue Devil guards. Although the sophomore is known for her feisty defense, Crosby recently sustained an injury that may be of some cause for concern for the Cavaliers.
"I have to try my hardest and not think about being injured, because that's not good for the team," Crosby said. "We have to come out against Duke and just play as well as we can play."
Tip-off for tonight's game is slated for 7 p.m. following a ceremony honoring the team's senior members.