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Women's basketball looks to rebound vs. No. 9 Maryland

Virginia squad heads to College Park Thursday for matchup with tough Terps team

Coach Joanne Boyle’s Virginia women’s basketball squad floundered against an athletic West Virginia team Sunday, but Boyle is hoping Virginia bounces back as the team heads to College Park Thursday for an early ACC matchup against No. 9 Maryland.

“I think our team is good about rebounding back from things,” Boyle said. “The girls really respond to watching film and seeing where their mistakes were.”

The Cavaliers (5-2, 0-0 ACC) struggled to establish consistency Sunday under the pressure of the Mountaineers’ rapid pace and lockdown defense. They will not find much respite as they take on the highly ranked Terrapins (4-2, 0-0 ACC). Despite having suffered two losses, Maryland has averaged almost 23 more rebounds per game than its opponents this season to lead the NCAA.

“They’re a very good team, but the game plan is very simple,” Boyle said. “You have to be able to battle and board against them, and you’ve got to be able to get back in transition, and you’ve got to make them play in the half court. If you can do that, then you’re going to be in the game.”

For the Cavaliers to curb the Terrapins’ dominance in the paint, their post players will need to build on previous success. After logging 33 minutes off the bench Sunday, senior center Simone Egwu returns to the starting lineup Thursday and should provide some much-needed height for the team in the paint. She led Virginia Sunday with 14 points.

Egwu will contribute to a Cavalier post rotation that includes sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh, who currently leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Imovbioh’s athleticism has helped power Virginia so far this season, and the team will be looking to her for continued reliability on the block.

“Our coaches have really challenged the post [players] to come out and play defense,” Imovbioh said. “They’re a very fast team, and a good rebounding team, so we have to come out to board. Rebounding is something that I love doing, so when the ball goes up, my mind is on the ball.”

Maryland has had Virginia’s number recently, winning all three matchups against the Cavaliers last year — including a 70-58 win in the ACC quarterfinals. The Terrapins enter Thursday’s showdown ready to improve on a Dec. 3 loss to No. 2 Connecticut in Hartford.

“Maryland is always a really exciting game for us,” Egwu said. “There’s a little bit of a rivalry there, and they’re also a very athletic and very talented team. It’s going to be a couple of intense days of practice this week.”

To compete against Maryland, Virginia must contain the frontcourt trio of Tianna Hawkins, Alyssa Thomas and Alicia DeVaughn, who have all averaged double-digit points so far. Hawkins’ 18.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game both lead the ACC.

“The big three is the big three,” Boyle said. “We’re going to have to do our work on all three of them. If we do that, we’ll definitely be in the game and have a chance to win it.”

The game tips off at 7 p.m. in the Comcast Center.


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