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Women's basketball dusts cold-shooting Friars, 61-42

Providence junior wing Danielle Pearson shook her head in frustration. She had just thrown an entry pass between her teammate’s legs for the Friars’ ninth turnover of the first half. Her team had authored five points in the game’s first 12 minutes, and the Cavaliers had jumped to a 13-point lead.

Six minutes later, the Friars’ body language changed to one of channeled intensity.

Sophomore guard Tori Rule had caught fire, scoring 11 points in two-and-a-half minutes, and her team’s deficit stood at nine.

Virginia (3-0, 0-0 ACC) eventually dusted the Friars for a 61-42 win, but when Rule knocked down her fourth long jumper, Providence (1-2, 0-0 Big East) was all confidence. Virginia coach Joanne Boyle was all displeasure.

“All the sudden our zone is looking more like a high school zone and we’re not really moving and flying around,” Boyle said. “We just have to become a team that can dictate for 40 minutes.

We’re not doing that — we’re waiting; we’re playing to the level of our competition at times, which means we are taking possessions off, and we need to not do that.”

Fortunately for Virginia, its cold-shooting opponent finished 16-for-58 from the floor and missed 10 of its 17 free throws. The Cavaliers’ defense was responsible for much of the Friars’ inability to manufacture offense, as the team employed a full-court, turnover-inducing zone press and a packed-in, jumper-inviting 3-2 zone, occasionally going man-to-man.

When it came to shooting, Virginia was not much better than Providence. Senior guard China Crosby missed nine of her 10 attempts from the floor, and freshman guard Faith Randolph, senior forward Telia McCall and redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Beth Barnette each turned in 2-for-7 shooting performances. The team went 23-of-63 from the field and shot just 59.1 percent from the free throw line.

“It’s just — it’s a little frustrating at times,” junior guard Ataira Franklin said. “I mean, I’m glad we were able to pick it up in the second half. The energy was definitely better. You know, we got some energy from Jaryn [Garner] coming off the bench, so that was really good for us, but we just need to be more consistent.”

Garner, a freshman guard who has been working her way back from injury, led all reserves with a personal-best six points. Randolph added four, as the freshmen duo combined to score 10 of Virginia’s 19 bench points.

“I said it in the locker room: I think a lot of freshmen would like to hear, you know, ‘We need you,’” Coach Boyle said. “You know, a lot of times, freshmen have to come in and kind of wait their time, and we’re just at a point in our program where we have an opportunity right here and now.”

The Cavaliers received contributions from more experienced players, as every one of the nine players who logged minutes scored. Junior forward Jazmin Pitts did the dirty work in her 15 minutes on court, grabbing six rebounds while hustling after loose balls and banging in the paint. Starting junior guard Kelsey Wolfe contributed seven points, five rebounds and three steals. She left the game after chipping her bottom teeth in the second half.

The Cavaliers played well enough in other areas of the game to offset poor shooting. Virginia outscored the Friars in the paint by a 32-8 margin and created 19 points off 17 Providence turnovers. The Cavaliers also grabbed 52 rebounds compared to the Friars’ 41. Sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh played only 13 minutes before fouling out in Virginia’s Tuesday game against Penn, but she stuck around longer this time. She collected a game-high 12 boards and scored 13 points while sinking 7-of-9 at the charity stripe.

“I told her at halftime, ‘No early fouls,’ and I thought she did a good job staying out of foul trouble,” Boyle said. “[That] allowed us to keep her in the game more, and obviously she just does such a good job for us on the boards, you know, and she gives us second- and third-chance points all the time, and we need that, you know, we really need that.”

Franklin was again a steadying presence for Virginia. Whether calmly dribbling off a screen to lose a trey or throwing a fake to get her defender up in the air, Franklin gave Virginia a reliable scoring touch in a game where most players laid bricks. The preseason All-ACC selection scored a team-high 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Franklin, however, is more than a scorer.

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