As the Virginia women's basketball team enters the halfway point of its ACC schedule tonight, it looks to remedy its early conference losses with a win at Georgia Tech.
Virginia (15-6, 3-4 ACC) started the season 12-2 but has since posted a less impressive 3-4 record in conference play. All four of those ACC losses came against ranked opponents, however, and with no remaining opponents which are currently ranked, the Cavaliers could finish strong and nab a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament. "I think that we can't necessarily look at the bigger picture and feel pressure like 'we have to get a win tonight,'" sophomore guard Ataira Franklin said. "[But] we have to look at the bigger picture and see that we're building towards something."
Virginia battled back to a come-from-behind victory last Saturday against Boston College (15-4, 0-6 ACC), but Georgia Tech (14-6, 4-3 ACC) may prove more threatening than the last-place Eagles. Like Virginia, the Yellow Jackets started their season with an impressive record, but have since dropped multiple tough games to ranked ACC opponents. Both teams are part of a crowded middle in the ACC which is competing for the conference's No. 4 slot.
Offensively, Georgia Tech has two players who rank in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring - senior center Sasha Goodlett and sophomore guard Tyaunna Marshall - so tonight's matchup will test Virginia's ACC-leading scoring defense. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech ranks first in defending three-point shooting, while Virginia sits last in the ACC from shooting behind the arc, so the Cavaliers will look to crash the paint.
Because junior guard China Crosby's season-ending injury left Virginia's bench thin, the team's success will largely hinge on its starting five. Three starters average more than 36 minutes a game in ACC play, including senior guard Ariana Moorer, who has averaged 39 minutes in conference games since assuming Crosby's point guard roll.
Junior forward Telia McCall is one bright spot on the bench, however, and has averaged more points and rebounds during the past seven games than her starting counterpart, junior center Simone Egwu.
"Telia's doing a great job for us," Boyle said. "She gives us a different look from [Egwu]. When we go with Telia, we're able to press more and play more man and be able to switch. ... It's nice when you have this kind of versatility."
Georgia Tech blew out Virginia by 20 points last season in Atlanta and the Cavaliers have not won there since 2005, but the team hopes a victory against lowly Boston College will spark wins against the conference's fiercer competitors.
"We always say you can't worry about what the jersey says; we have to go out and play our basketball," Boyle said after the Boston College game. She called it "a great win because we're going into a tough stretch with Georgia Tech coming up, and a lot of teams are right in the middle fighting for spots."
Tip off is slated for 7 p.m. at the Arena at Gwinnett.