After suffering its first loss of the season in Durham Dec. 21 against now-No. 19 Duke, the Virginia women’s basketball team bounced back at home, earning a 69-63 win over Georgia Tech Dec. 29 inside John Paul Jones Arena.
Coming off an eight-day holiday break, the Cavaliers (13-1, 2-1 ACC) avoided taking a second-consecutive loss with several ranked opponents looming on the upcoming schedule while the Yellow Jackets (9-5, 0-3 ACC) were handed their second loss in their last three contests.
After Georgia Tech scored the first three points of the game, the Virginia offense went to work, putting together an 11-0 scoring run highlighted by back-to-back buckets by senior forward Camryn Taylor and a three-pointer by junior guard Alexia Smith.
The two squads traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter, but with 1:15 remaining junior guard Mir McLean picked up her third foul, sending her to the bench for the rest of the half.
With McLean sidelined in the second quarter, the Yellow Jackets took full advantage. The Cavaliers’ offense stagnated and they struggled to get stops on the defensive end. As a result, Virginia was outscored 20-12 in the period and their early lead turned into a 31-28 deficit going into halftime.
The Cavaliers came out of the break looking like a brand-new team, however. The fully rested McLean made up for lost time, scoring nine of Virginia’s first 11 points in the quarter as the Cavaliers battled back to take a 41-40 lead with 4:42 remaining in the third. After a Georgia Tech free throw tied the game at 41, Virginia outscored the Yellow Jackets 14-6 to end the quarter, taking a 55-47 lead into the fourth.
After seeing the lead grow to double digits early in the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech began to battle back, trimming their deficit to just three after a 7-0 run midway through the final period. With the Yellow Jackets turning up the pressure late, the Cavaliers were sent to the foul line 13 times in the fourth quarter and were able to knock down just enough — 8 out of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter — to keep Georgia Tech out of reach. Graduate student forward Sam Brunelle iced the game for Virginia, knocking down the game’s clutchest pair of free throws with 0:21 remaining to put the Cavaliers up by five.
Despite missing time due to foul trouble, McLean led Virginia in both scoring and rebounds with 13 and nine, respectively. Junior guard Alexia Smith — who made her second start of the season — was the only other Cavalier in double figures with 10 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. All 10 Virginia players who checked into the game made a field goal as the Cavaliers shot 47.3 percent from the floor.
Virginia returns to action Thursday when they face their toughest test of the season so far on the road against No. 7 Virginia Tech. The Commonwealth Clash begins at 7 p.m. with coverage on Regional Sports Networks.