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Virginia advances to WNIT quarters

Moorer pours in 15 points as squad tops Boston College in close 53-48 defensive struggle, extends Ryan

Coach Debbie Ryan's 34th season was extended for at least two more days as the Virginia women's basketball team beat Boston College 53-48 last night during the third round of the WNIT.

Featuring a chess match between Virginia's strong, aggressive guard pressure and Boston College's dominating size differential, the game constituted a defensive struggle until junior guard Ariana Moorer took control for the Cavaliers at the end of the half, scoring eight straight points to give Virginia a 28-24 halftime lead.

During the first half, "Every point seem[ed] like it was pulling teeth," Ryan said.

The start of the second half consisted of more of the same for both teams until around the 12-minute mark, when Boston College's senior center Carolyn Swords committed two quick fouls in less than a minute - one offensive, and the other after too much contact on a Cavalier cutting across the lane. Swords was taken out immediately, but she returned one minute later and promptly received her fourth foul within seconds and left the game again with Virginia leading 34-29. When Swords returned to the game with 7:35 remaining, the Cavaliers had stretched their lead to 42-33.

"We really worked hard at getting Swords and [senior forward Stefanie] Murphy in foul trouble," Ryan said. "That was part of the plan because they're so tough inside. They're big, they're strong, and it's just tough to stop them."

Boston College did trim Virginia's lead in the closing minutes, and though the Cavaliers did almost everything they could to help the Eagles's comeback by committing multiple turnovers, surrendering consecutive offensive rebounds and missing several free throws, they still held on for a close victory.

"This was a battle tonight," Boston College coach Sylvia Crawley said. "Back and forth, you could never relax for ... one second. We had a hard time getting open. They just denied the ball, they were everywhere, [and] they were very aggressive."

Swords finished with 21 points to lead all scorers and Murphy tallied 14 for the Eagles, while Moorer paced Virginia with 15 and was the only Cavalier to score in double figures.

The win - number 739 for Ryan, who unexpectedly announced her retirement March 13 - certainly has taken on more meaning for the coach because of her impending departure.

"It means everything to me," Ryan said. "I just think I want to stay with them, they're my girls, and I just think this is great, and I have nobody to thank but them."

As Ryan continued her college basketball farewell tour, she especially noted the outpouring of kindness and appreciation from several unexpected sources on the court.

"All the officials ... They hugged me," Ryan said. "I've never had an official hug me."

Virginia advances to face Charlotte (26-9) at home 7 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Win or lose, the game officially will mark Ryan's last game at John Paul Jones Arena because of the arrival of Cirque Du Soleil - Alegria during the next round of the tournament. But no matter what comes next, Ryan believes the Cavaliers can handle it.

"The players are ready to guard anything," Ryan said. "We've been really, really tested this year. And we're a good road team"