The Virginia women’s basketball team snapped their seven-game losing streak Sunday with a 71-59 upset of No. 22 NC State inside John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers (15-11, 4-11 ACC) showed incredible resiliency in defending their home floor to earn their first victory since Jan. 15 against Boston College and to secure the program’s first victory over a ranked opponent since beating Florida State in 2017.
Virginia was without two of their top three scorers in junior guard Mir McLean — who has been out since early January due to a torn ACL and graduate forward Sam Brunelle, who announced Saturday that she would be undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a foot injury. Multiple Cavaliers dealt with foul trouble in the contest as well, including senior forward Camryn Taylor who fouled out with 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Despite the adversity, Virginia made it clear from tip-off that they were not going to back down. Taylor got the Cavalier’s offense going early by attacking the basket, scoring the team’s first six points and eight of the first 12, setting the crowd abuzz.
The Wolfpack (17-8, 7-7 ACC) ended the first quarter on a 5-0 run to tie the score at 12, but that was as close as they’d get as Virginia didn’t face a deficit the rest of the game.
A three-pointer by junior guard Kaydan Lawson got the scoring going in the second quarter, getting the crowd into the action after the lull to end the first quarter. Senior forward London Clarkson and junior guard Alexia Smith each had four points in the period as the Cavaliers took a 28-24 lead into halftime.
Taylor got Virginia on the board first in the second half with a midrange jumper and after NC State converted an and-1 on the other end, the Cavaliers broke the game open with a 9-0 run to extend their lead to double-digits to the resounding approval of the home crowd.
Senior guard Taylor Valladay went to work throughout the third, scoring 10 points in the period including Virginia’s final six of the quarter to help the Cavaliers maintain a 12-point lead going into the fourth.
The Wolfpack switched to a full-court press in the fourth quarter which caused some confusion for Virginia. The Cavaliers were called for two 10-second violations in the final period and committed four other turnovers against the press as NC State was able to cut their deficit to seven.
Virginia was able to regain their composure, however, and clinched the game down the stretch with clutch free-throw shooting. The Cavaliers made their final nine free throws of the game including a stretch of five in a row by Valladay — who had 10 more points in the fourth quarter and a team-high 22 overall.
“I’m really, really, really proud of our group,” Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity outside of the game, and people just see a losing streak and things like that, but there’s just been so many things that have happened behind the scenes. Our players just kept believing, they kept believing in me, kept believing in each other, kept believing in themselves, believing in the game plan.”
The streak-snapping loss is certainly a morale booster after the difficult stretch the Cavaliers have faced. Unfortunately, Virginia still remains in the basement of the ACC, currently sitting at the 12th seed. The Cavaliers will need to collect more wins and form a late-season streak in order to secure a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament, a privilege reserved for seeds one through nine.
Virginia gets the week off to shore itself up for a final push before hosting No. 9 Duke Sunday at 2 p.m. to close out its home schedule.