Virginia faced off against two ACC rivals this weekend, falling at the hands of powerhouse Louisville 56-71 before rebounding and notching the Cavaliers’ most dominant win of 2020 — a 90-60 blowout of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Virginia faced its toughest conference opponent in No. 5 Louisville Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. The Cardinals (20-1, 9-0 ACC) gained the lead midway through the first quarter and maintained it through the remainder of the game. Despite the Cavaliers’ (8-12, 3-6 ACC) lopsided performance, freshman guard Shemera Williams and senior guard Jocelyn Willoughby played at elite levels — contributing a combined 66 percent of the team’s point total.
Virginia got off to a quick start, alternating baskets with Louisville. Freshman guard Carole Miller scored the team’s first six points. However, with 6:05 remaining in the first period, the Cardinals stole the lead and never lost it. The quarter came to a close with a score of 25-13 after Louisville went on a 12-2 run.
The Cardinals continued scoring at a high rate through the second quarter and secured a 20-point lead with 6:26 to go in the period. The Cavaliers remained resilient until halftime, outscoring the Cardinals 7-4 in the final minutes, yet still trailed 39-22 heading into the break.
Virginia continued its momentum into the third period and played its best quarter of the contest, outscoring Louisville 17-12. Five Cavaliers scored during the first six minutes of the quarter, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 11 at 44-33. Williams led the charge with eight points of her own during the third quarter.
Virginia held its own through the start of the final quarter. However, Louisville quickly regained control and grew the lead to 20 points once again. Refusing to give up, the Cavaliers, led by Williams, finished the game on a 9-4 run. Williams scored 12 of Virginia’s 17 points in the final period.
The Cardinals won the matchup with significantly higher field goal, three-point and free throw percentages. Louisville also outrebounded the Cavaliers 40-33.
Once again, Virginia’s inconsistent play caused problems, and a single quarter put the game out of reach. While the Cavaliers faced significant challenges in the first quarter and trailed by 12 points, the deficit throughout the remaining three periods combined to just three points.
“We dug a hole for ourselves in that first quarter and then we had to fight after that,” Coach Tina Thompson said. “In the second, third and fourth quarter, we were very consistent in playing how we wanted to play. We have to put together a full game, especially when we are playing a team like this.”
Sunday’s matchup fared far better for Virginia, as the scoreboard would ultimately reflect.
Notre Dame (7-13, 2-6 ACC) visited Charlottesville for a battle between two teams that are both seeking a crucial win for ACC standings.
Virginia was firing on all cylinders in this game — scoring a season-high 90 points while the 30-point margin of victory was the Cavaliers’ largest of the season. In a fast paced, offensive-driven game, Virginia found its touch from the field while never relinquishing the lead through all four quarters.
The Cavaliers came out hot from the field early on but the Fighting Irish kept it close. Virginia led 19-12 going into the second quarter as Notre Dame was able to get to the free throw line to slow Virginia’s pace and keep itself in the game. However, Virginia took firm control in the second quarter and never looked back.
The Cavaliers quickly scored four points to open up the second quarter en route to a 12-3 run thanks to stellar outside shooting that opened up driving lanes for easy buckets. Virginia shot a remarkable 72 percent from the field, including 66 percent from three-point range in what would become a 34-point quarter. As Notre Dame struggled to contain Virginia’s quick guards from finding open shooters throughout the period, the Cavaliers were able to capitalize, and amassed a 24-point lead going into halftime.
The second half featured more of the same from the Cavaliers, as they clamped down on Notre Dame’s comeback attempt on the defensive end while continuing the offensive efficiency the team showcased in the first half. The Fighting Irish were held to just eight points in the third quarter while Virginia scored 20 points. Heading into the fourth quarter, Virginia led 73-37.
The Cavaliers hung on to secure their eighth win of the season, improving to 3-6 in ACC play. Four Cavaliers scored in double digits during Virginia’s onslaught — Willoughby, Miller, Williams and senior guard Dominique Toussaint. Williams has had a surge in scoring the last two games, averaging 17.5 points per game amidst a difficult stretch for the Cavaliers.
Virginia finished the day shooting 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range — both figures well above its season averages. The Cavaliers will look to keep their momentum going as they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. Thursday to face off against North Carolina. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Dean E. Smith Center.