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Women’s basketball triumphs 67-54 over Duke

The Cavaliers get their first ACC win since February 2020

<p>The Cavaliers celebrate after earning their first ACC win of the season.</p>

The Cavaliers celebrate after earning their first ACC win of the season.

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Virginia women’s basketball defeated Duke 67-54 in Charlottesville Thursday night. The Cavaliers (4-21, 1-14 ACC) controlled the game and were able to outlast the Blue Devils (15-10, 6-9 ACC) for their first conference win of the season.

The Cavaliers started well and were able to generate points early on, leading 14-7 halfway through the first quarter. Junior forward London Clarkson was posting up and getting points in the paint, while graduate student guard Amandine Toi and junior guard Taylor Valladay scored off layups and jumpers. Although Duke struggled to make shots and didn’t open the game strong, they came back to bring the score within five points at the end of the first quarter by capitalizing off trips to the free throw line.

The second quarter opened with sophomore guard Mir McLean getting a layup down low. Sophomore forward Deja Bristol was able to post up and get a basket to increase the Virginia lead to 10 points. The Blue Devils were able to score some baskets to bring the score to 27-21 with 4:52 remaining in the half. 

The Cavaliers generated more points by scoring in transition, with both Valladay and Toi getting layups. With 2:03 left in the second quarter Virginia was leading by eight points. Toi ended the first half strong for the Cavaliers, knocking down a three-pointer and scoring a layup, but Duke was able to respond with a three-pointer of its own to close out the quarter. Virginia held the advantage 38-28 after the half. The Cavaliers were in control of the game, playing good defense and taking advantage of the 2-3 zone Duke was playing to get points in the paint.

Virginia started the third quarter strong on defense, forcing a shot clock violation on the first offensive possession for the Blue Devils. Both teams were slow to generate offense at the beginning of the second half. Duke struck first, with junior guard Celeste Taylor scoring a layup following a Virginia turnover. However, the Cavaliers continued to play with energy as McLean posted up for a layup and Clarkson was fouled driving to the basket and made both free throws. The score was 42-32 with 3:58 left in the third quarter.

The Blue Devils attempted to make a comeback, scoring a layup, but Virginia responded with Toi making a three-pointer and sophomore guard Kaydan Lawson driving in transition, getting fouled, and making both free throws. This helped the Cavaliers extend their lead to 47-34 with two minutes remaining in the quarter. The momentum continued to stay in the direction of Virginia as Duke drove to the basket for a floater but was called for a charge. Following this, Clarkson was fouled and made both free throws. Graduate student guard McKenna Dale capped off the third quarter for the Cavaliers by knocking down a three-pointer as time expired. This big shot to end the third quarter brought more energy for Virginia as it led 52-36.

However, Duke started hitting shots at the start of the fourth quarter, making a three-pointer of its own followed by another basket. The Blue Devils were able to get more points down low to decrease Virginia’s lead to 10 points with six minutes remaining in the game. The Cavaliers didn’t falter under the pressure and kept the energy going as Valladay drove to the basket, scoring a layup and getting fouled. On top of that, she made the free throw. 

Virginia led 57-44 with 4:11 left. A basket by Clarkson down low and free throws for Toi and McLean helped the Cavaliers maintain their lead and stay in control. With 34 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Virginia was winning 65-51. Duke hit a three-pointer to bring the lead down to 11 points, but McLean responded by going to the line and making both free throws. The Cavaliers were able to come out on top over the Blue Devils after dominating the game.

The Blue Devils struggled to get going offensively. They weren’t able to score much and had trouble hitting shots. The Cavaliers were able to limit Duke, holding freshman guard Shayeann Day-Wilson to just eight points. While the Blue Devils faced difficulties on offense, Virginia got a lot of points in the paint and found ways to score off of the Duke defense.

The Blue Devils were just 19 of 56 from the floor, shooting 33.93 percent. Taylor led the scoring with 11 points, followed by graduate student forward Jade Williams with 10 points. For the Cavaliers, Toi had an impressive performance, scoring 21 points. She was 7-9 from the floor and 3-3 from three-point range. McLean had a double double, scoring 12 points and getting 14 rebounds. Clarkson and Valladay also played well. Virginia made 23 of its 53 shots for a field goal percentage of 43.40 percent. They were also 17-24 from the free throw line, making 70.83 percent of their attempts. The Cavaliers dominated inside the paint, scoring 38 of their points from down low.

The Cavaliers were able to control the game and responded to Duke when the Blue Devils started to chip away at the lead. They played with energy, were poised and composed and didn’t fold under pressure. Virginia got the lead early on in the game and was able to maintain it throughout all four quarters.

“We knew at some point they were going to try to make a run or make a push and when they did, we did not fall apart,” Coach Tina Thompson said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about all season, keeping our composure and responding and we did a great job of responding tonight.”

The Cavaliers were able to come away with their first ACC win in 721 days, since February 27, 2020 against Pitt. Virginia will next face Pitt at home Sunday at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.