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Women's basketball seeks remedy to "easy" mistakes

Wolfpack visit JPJ on two-game losing streak

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Looking to snap a three-game losing streak and improve on a struggling offense, the Virginia women’s basketball team will return to the court Thursday night at John Paul Jones Arena to face conference rival NC State.

"The good thing is that we will be home,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “I told the girls in the locker room that we are in all of the games, and they are all winnable games. We need to clean up the constant mistakes and take care of the easy things. We need to make layups and be a decent free throw shooting team. We have to get more 50/50 balls — the things that are under our control.”

The Cavaliers (13-7, 3-4) are coming off just their second loss at home this season to Georgia Tech last Sunday, 68-62. The Cavaliers were out-rebounded and out-scored in the paint for the third straight game.

“Obviously our size definitely hurts us, and sometimes we've been either even or close; … it's some of those toughness boards that we're missing out on,” Boyle said. “I think if we can take care of the easy things in the game, then we get into situations where it won't be so glaring on the other side of the scorecard."

In the game, the Cavaliers allowed Georgia Tech to score 19 points off turnovers in comparison to their own 13, despite having the same number of turnovers as the Yellow Jackets. Overall, the Cavaliers posted a better shooting percentage than the Yellow Jackets, but only made three of seven free throw attempts. The Cavaliers were also only three of 15 from three-point range — below their customary 5.7 per game.

The Cavaliers’ offensive struggles were evident when they could not score for more than four minutes in both halves against the Yellow Jackets. According to sophomore guard Breyana Mason, the game fell to their defense.

“We’re not really getting into things fast enough,” Mason said. “If it’s just a half-court set, our execution, the way we come off screens may not be setting our defense up in the best way — so that kind of makes things break down.”

NC State (12-8, 3-4 ACC) is in a two-game losing streak of its own after falling to No. 12 North Carolina and No. 23 Syracuse. The Wolfpack are also winless on the road against conference opponents after winning 25 games last season and reaching the NCAA Tournament. But the team lost two of its best players — forward Kody Burke and center Markeisha Gatling — to the WNBA Draft in the offseason.

Burke was the team’s leading rebounder and finished her career second all-time in blocks. Burke’s presence has been missed — the Wolfpack have the fewest blocks in the ACC this season.

Burke and Gatling were also the team’s best rebounders and scorers, averaging 6.3 and 7.2 rebounds per game, respectively, during their senior season. NC State’s current rebound and blocks leader, junior Carlee Schuhmacher only averages 5.5 rebounds per game. Gatling led the team in points scored and had the best field goal percentage in the nation for the last three months of the 2013-14 season.

Both Schuhmacher and the Wolfpack’s best scorer this season, redshirt sophomore Dominque Wilson, did not play the previous year. Both women are transfers, Schuchmacher from Des Moines Area Community College and Wilson from Arkansas.

The Cavalier offense will need to be on its top game to compete with Wilson and her fellow teammates who are first in the league in free-throw shooting — something Georgia Tech took advantage of by going a perfect 14-for-14 from the stripe last Sunday — and fourth in the league in 3-point field goals made per game. Despite the inexperience of NC State, Boyle was quick to give the Wolfpack credit where it was due when asked about her initial thoughts about her next opponent.

“They’re a good team — very guard-oriented,” Boyle said. “I think their record is somewhere around ours, but again [they are] another up-tempo team that’s very athletic.”

Tip off is set for 7 p.m.

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