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Women’s basketball opens conference play, wins two of three

The Virginia women’s basketball team opened conference play 2-1, coming off a 10-3 finish of non-conference play. The Cavaliers kicked off conference play Jan. 4 on the road against in-state rival Virginia Tech in a 62-47 victory, their 17th straight win against the Hokies dating back to 2008.

In the first half, the Cavaliers (12-4, 2-1 ACC) made five three-pointers, including a string of three straight to pull away with an 18-7 lead at the 11:46 mark.

The Hokies (9-8, 0-4 ACC) would score their next six points at the free-throw line before freshman guard Rachel Camp made her team’s first field goal in more than 10 minutes. Camp added nine points as the Hokies went on a 14-2 run to end the half to pull within four of the Cavaliers, 29-25. Camp would finish with a game-high 23 points, while sophomore guard Breyana Mason led the Cavaliers in scoring with 16 points.

After attempting 14 three-pointers in the first half the Cavaliers only attempted six after the break, but netted three of those attempts during a 16-2 run to start the half. The Hokies outscored the Cavaliers, 20-17, during the rest of the game, but with the sizable early lead, the Cavaliers were able to outlast their archrivals.

At home, the Cavaliers needed more than an early lead Jan. 8 when they took on Wake Forest (9-8, 0-3 ACC), eventually winning 72-70.

With the game tied at 70, freshman guard Mikayla Venson made two clutch free throws after drawing a foul on her way to the basket with one second left in the game. Venson received the ball following a steal by senior center Sarah Imovbioh with four seconds to go.

Virginia held a 38-31 halftime lead, but Wake Forest shot 59.3 percent in the second half to tie the game back at the 13:43 mark. Wake Forest led by nine at the 7:27 mark until Venson took over after only scoring five points in the first half, hitting back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to five, 62-57.

Still down by five with three minutes left in the game, she scored the next 10 Cavalier points — including those two game-clinching free throws — to force a last-second attempt by Wake Forest senior forward Dearica Hamby. Hamby finished with a game-high 27 points, but it wasn’t enough as her three-point attempt bounced off the rim. Venson finished with 21 points, her second 20-point performance of the season.

On Sunday, Venson was only able score nine points as No. 21 Syracuse (11-5, 1-2 ACC) handed the Cavaliers their first ACC loss, 70-58.

Syracuse jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, extending it to a 10-point lead by the 10-minute mark of the first half. Virginia would pull within four, but with 7:13 left the Orange went on a 20-6 run to end a first half in which the Cavaliers shot a paltry 25.6 percent from the field.

The Cavaliers halved the lead at the 12:30 mark in the second half, but never managed to take the lead as Syracuse coasted to its first conference win of the season. Junior guard Faith Randolph led the Cavaliers with a game-high 24 points to become the third different player to lead the Cavaliers in scoring during conference play.

The Cavaliers return to John Paul Jones Arena Thursday to face Boston College.

—compiled by Chanhong Luu