The Virginia women’s basketball team traveled to the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa., Wednesday night, where they cruised to an 89-68 against Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Cavaliers (9-0, 0-0 ACC) remain undefeated and continued their best start to a season since 1991 with the victory while the Nittany Lions (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten) were handed their first loss of the season.
Virginia came out of the gates hot, jumping out to an 11-2 lead thanks to five early points from graduate forward Sam Brunelle and a pair of buckets from senior forward Camryn Taylor. After a Penn State three-pointer, the Cavaliers used a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 20-5.
Virginia’s defense was dominant in the first quarter, holding Penn State to just seven points on 2-15 shooting in the opening period.
The Cavaliers stretched their lead to 18 early in the second quarter before the Nittany Lions were finally able to get their offense going. Penn State used a pair of 7-0 and 6-0 scoring runs to fight back to within 11 points, but four free throws by junior guard Mir McLean and a triple by freshman guard Yonta Vaughn pushed the Virginia lead to 44-28 going into the half.
The second quarter was the Cavaliers’ worst shooting quarter of the night at 37.5 percent, but they went 7-7 from the free throw line in the quarter and knocked down 3-7 three-pointers to maintain their lead.
Virginia’s lead surpassed 20 points two minutes into the third quarter after a 6-0 spurt on a midrange jumper by senior guard Taylor Valladay and back-to-back layups by Taylor and senior guard Carole Miller. The lead would remain around 20 for the rest of the quarter as the Cavaliers took a 68-48 lead into the fourth.
The two squads traded buckets through much of the fourth quarter with both teams shooting just over 50 percent. A late 5-0 run by Virginia on a pair of buckets by junior guard Alexia Smith extended the margin to a game-high 23 points and secured the Cavaliers’ 89-68 win.
McLean led the scoring effort for Virginia with a career-high 24 points on 7-11 shooting while also posting a game-high 13 rebounds. McLean continues her stretch of stellar play, notching her third-consecutive double-double.
Taylor was also highly efficient from the field, adding 17 points for the Cavaliers on 7-9 shooting. While McLean and Taylor led the scoring charge for Virginia, it was a balanced effort across the board with 10 Cavaliers entering the score column.
“This was a gritty, tough win for us and to go on the road and perform the way we did was just really impressive,” Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton said. “I thought we moved the ball well, we shared the ball [and] we played together defensively.”
Virginia’s ball distribution showed up on the stat sheet as well. Of the Cavaliers’ 33 made field goals, 24 were assisted — far exceeding the team’s average of 17.1 assists per game so far this season.
While Virginia will no doubt face its fair share of challenges once the bulk of the ACC schedule starts in late December, a dominant victory over a previously unbeaten Power Five school on the road is a positive sign going forward. If the Cavaliers can continue this level of play into conference action, look for Virginia to far exceed its preseason pick to finish 11th in the ACC.
Virginia will look to improve to 10-0 when they host UNC Wilmington Sunday at 2 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena. Coverage will be televised and streamed on ACC Network Extra.