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Women’s basketball faces Illinois in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Cavaliers finish three-game road swing against Fighting Illini

<p>Junior guard Faith Randolph leads Virginia in scoring at 19.5 points per game. </p>

Junior guard Faith Randolph leads Virginia in scoring at 19.5 points per game. 

The Virginia women’s basketball team will conclude its three-game road trip Wednesday night against Illinois in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Cavaliers (5-1) lost the first game of their road swing in Miami against Toledo in a game that went down to the wire, 64-62, in the opening round of the Florida International Tournament. The team bounced back with a 74-61 win against host Florida International in the consolation game Sunday, while Toledo beat Arizona to win the tournament.

“For the most part, we didn’t play a perfect 40 minutes,” coach Joanne Boyle said after the FIU game. “We went through some lulls here and there, but we always responded, and I thought we did a good job executing; we did a really good job on transition defense. That was a big focus for us. We had balanced scoring, and that’s always nice to see.”

In the game, the Cavaliers had four players score in double digits after only having two score more than 10 points against Toledo. Junior guard Faith Randolph was one of the players who scored in double digits in both games. Randolph compiled 37 points in the two matchups and was the only Virginia player named to the All-Tournament team.

“She’s just consistent,” Boyle said. “She guarded FIU’s best player. She got shots when I needed her to. She shot 50 percent from the field. She just plays a complete game on both ends of the floor.”

Freshman guard Mikayla Venson was one point shy of scoring 10 against Toledo and missed a possible game-winner as time expired, but she was more effective against FIU, posting 12 points on 5-7 shooting as opposed to 4-10 shooting Friday. On the defensive side, she added five steals in a game where the Cavaliers forced 25 FIU turnovers.

“I think just Mikayla being a first year, the more games she gets underneath [her] belt, the more you’ll see her coming out of shell a little bit," Boyle said. “She was disappointed in herself defensively against Toledo, so she really locked down against FIU.”

After starting the season with five straight wins, the Fighting Illini (5-2) have lost two straight games, including a 76-78 OT loss to Oklahoma in their last outing in the Virgin Islands. They return home against Virginia, where they are undefeated.

“We’re going to look at film, walk through, see what they’re doing, and just be us — Virginia basketball,” Randolph said Sunday.

Leading the Illini is senior guard Ivory Crawford, who received honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition at the end of last season. She was second on the team in scoring last year but now leads the Illini in the category, averaging 16.3 points a game.

Crawford is likely hoping her team can improve on its 9-21 (2-14 B1G) record from last season.

She will get help from freshman center Chatrice White, who is leading the Illini on the defensive end with 8.6 rebounds per game. White, a former McDonald’s All-American, was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week Nov. 24.

Virginia’s own potent scorer and high-volume rebounder — Randolph and senior center Sarah Imovbioh — rank third in the ACC in scoring, averaging 20.7 points a game, and first in the conference in rebounding at 15.3 per game, respectively.

Virginia won its last meeting against the Illini 63-39 in the 2008 version of the Challenge, also held in Champaign, Illinois.

The Cavaliers are 5-2 in the Challenge, while the Illini are 3-4 since the showcase’s inception in 2008 after winning two of the last three Challenges.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.