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Cavs pummel Panthers, 67-41

Team humbles High Point as zone defense forces 26 turnovers, propels Virginia to 3-0 start to season

The Virginia women's basketball team overcame its first deficit of the year in short order last night, riding a 22-2 first-half run to put High Point away early and improve to 3-0 with a 67-41 victory.

The Cavaliers never trailed during their first two games, but the Panthers (1-1) jumped out to an early 9-4 lead as they dominated the offensive glass against the Cavalier zone defense, snatching seven of the first 10 rebounds under the Cavalier basket. The bench helped right the ship for Virginia, however, as sophomore forward Jazmin Pitts pulled down three rebounds and scored five points during a 13-0 Cavalier run during which the defense clamped down and shut out the Panthers for nearly six minutes.

"I thought one of the biggest keys was when Pitts came off the bench because she's been such a sparkplug for them," said Jennifer Hoover, High Point coach and former Virginia assistant. "We talked a lot about it [before the game], and I thought we had a hard time matching that kind of physicality and that intensity, and I thought she was able to change the game in a way that hurt us."

After sophomore guard Taylor Wimbish snapped the drought for High Point with a long two-point jumper to make it 17-11 with 7:54 to play, Virginia reeled off another 9-0 run to put High Point in a 26-11 hole.

Pitts finished with 13 points and four rebounds in just 17 minutes, becoming the Cavaliers' leading scorer for the season with 12 points per game on average in her role off the bench. Overall, the bench outscored the starters for Virginia, 35-34, as they were forced into heavy duty - not only by the lopsided score - but also by a scary injury to junior guard China Crosby.

Crosby went down in a heap with 2:31 remaining in the first half holding her bothersome left knee, which caused her to miss the second half of her freshman season in 2009-10 with a left ACL tear. Crosby limped to the sideline and began punching the vacant courtside chairs in pain before being helped to the locker room by the team trainer.

She did not return to the game, but the prognosis after the game was good. Virginia coach Joanne Boyle reported that Crosby just sprained the knee and should be able to play against Tennessee Sunday.

"You just need to stay focused on the game," Boyle said. "We'll deal with what we have to deal with after the game."

As to Crosby's frustrated reaction, Boyle said, "That's her personality. She's just a fireball, and I think she just gets upset because she is finally back healthy and playing well, and when she thought there might be a setback, she thought, 'Oh no, here we go again.'"

Junior guard Lexie Gerson replaced Crosby in the lineup to open the second half, while senior guard Ariana Moorer shifted to point guard. Moorer helped extend the Cavaliers' 30-15 halftime edge as she scored a game-high 14 points while pushing the ball in transition and setting up easy baskets for her teammates.

"We're a transition team - at least we try to be - so make or miss, we try to get the ball up quick and see who's up ahead and try to get it out as quick as possible," Moorer said.

Virginia opened the second half on a 22-6 run, opening up Virginia's largest lead of the night and closing the door on a High Point squad eager to pull off the upset.

The Cavalier zone defense was stifling, allowing just 12 points during a 24-minute stretch which saw the Cavaliers turn a five-point deficit into a 31-point lead. Virginia held High Point to 18 percent shooting during the first half and forced 26 turnovers for the game, leading to 26 Cavalier points.

"One of the things that's really going for them is that their zone defenses are giving everyone fits. They're huge," Hoover said. "We've watched two games on them and they played 80 minutes of zone, and now you can say they've played 120 minutes of zone. We had a lot of problems with their length on the perimeter."

Virginia will face its first ranked opponent Sunday, as No. 3 Tennessee and Pat Summitt - the all-time winningest coach in Division I history - come to Charlottesville.


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