Virginia women’s basketball hosted Campbell Sunday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0 ACC) were coming off an impressive performance in their season opener when they beat Maryland Eastern Shore 76-52. The Camels (2-1, 0-0 Colonial Atlantic) had also started their season strong and one of their wins included a 71 point victory against NC Wesleyan. Ultimately, after a close first half, Virginia pulled away and won the game 74-49.
The Cavaliers entered the game as the taller team, and the key to winning would be to out-rebound Campbell and continue their success from the first game when they finished with 21 more rebounds than the Hawks. However, this was a problem early for Virginia.
Early in the first quarter, the Cavaliers did not take advantage of their height and struggled to defend against senior forward Christabel Ezumah. The All-Big South First Team honoree started the game strong with four first quarter rebounds alongside four points.
The Camels also benefited early from a couple of early three-pointers, including one from all-time Campbell three-point leader graduate student guard Shy Tuelle. It seemed like the Camel guards were moving around the perimeter with ease.
Virginia needed to make an adjustment, and it did. The spark was a three-point shot made by senior guard Alexia Smith, who had recently entered the game off the bench. This paved the way for a 13-0 run to end the first period for the Cavaliers. Along with the offensive surge, the Virginia defense also caught fire.
With just under three minutes left in the first quarter, freshman guard Kymora Johnson blocked a Campbell attempt and quickly made a mid-range shot. Within 30 seconds, graduate student forward Camryn Taylor had gotten the steal, and once again Johnson capitalized with points off the turnover.
However, the Cavalier momentum quickly faded in the second quarter. Virginia was outscored by 13 over the course of these 10 minutes, and only managed to shoot at a 30.8 percent clip while going zero for six from the three point line. The Cavaliers struggled most notably near the basket as 14 of the Camel’s 25 second quarter points came from the paint. Once again, the Cavaliers were not able to stop Ezumah as she made four of her five shots and was fouled three times.
The Cavaliers entered the locker room down 35-29. They had been outrebounded 22 to 14 in the first half despite being the taller team and needed to find a way to dominate the glass.
Starting from about halfway through the third quarter, the Cavaliers took control and there was absolutely no question as to who was the better team. The shift in momentum was sparked by a couple of free throws made by freshman guard Olivia McGhee to tie the game at 42.
Shortly after, Johnson showed why she was one of the top ranked recruits in the country. With the game still tied, she used her quickness to get past her defender and then extended her right arm to avoid a block and give the Cavaliers the lead on an impressive play. She then got the rebound on a Camel miss and found fellow freshman guard McGhee for the three pointer to extend the Virginia lead.
From here on out, the Cavaliers dominated. Campbell would score one more time in the third quarter, but then wouldn’t score a basket until 2:45 remained in the fourth quarter. Virginia also outrebounded the Camels 29 to 18 in the second half, so it seems if the Cavaliers can attack the glass, they should be on track to win.
The two players of the game for Virginia were undoubtedly Johnson and Taylor. Johnson ended the night with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists along with a steal and two blocks. Taylor finished with 16 points, three rebounds, two steals and an impressive four blocks. These two will be key to the Cavaliers finding success this season as they outscored the Camels by 38 and 39 respectively when Johnson and Taylor were on the court.
“I thought our team really responded,” Coach Agugua-Hamilton said. “I challenged a few players [at] halftime, [Alexia Smith] in particular, because she’s one of our defensive stoppers and I didn’t think she was doing that in the first half, [but] she really was a huge spark in the second half for us. Our bigs did great, especially in the second half defensively, they shut down number 32 and I just really liked how our team responded.”
Virginia has now started the season 2-0 for the second straight year and has yet to lose a non-conference game under Agugua-Hamilton. This strong start can largely be attributed to the depth of this year’s team. The Cavaliers had five players score in double figures for the first time since November of last year.
Virginia stays at home for their next contest and will play an in-state opponent in William & Mary (0-3, 0-0 Colonial Atlantic). The Tribe most recently lost a close contest against George Mason 72-77. The game will be Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena. You can also catch the game on ACC Network.