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Virginia women’s basketball earns historic first conference win against No. 15 Florida State

The Cavaliers defeated the Seminoles 91-87 on the road largely due to freshman guard Kymora Johnson’s 35 points

<p>Freshman guard Kymora Johnson poured in a career-high 35 points Sunday to lead the Cavaliers to victory</p>

Freshman guard Kymora Johnson poured in a career-high 35 points Sunday to lead the Cavaliers to victory

Virginia women’s basketball went on the road Sunday to face off against Florida State — its fourth ranked opponent in the last six games — in another ACC matchup. The Cavaliers (9-9, 1-6 ACC) picked up their first conference victory of the season with a 91-87 defeat of the No. 15 Seminoles (14-6, 5-3 ACC), shooting over 53 percent from the field and ending their six-game losing skid. The player that led Virginia to the win was freshman guard Kymora Johnson, who posted a career-high 35 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 

From the start of the first quarter, it was apparent that Virginia was ready for the matchup. Within the first three minutes of play, the Cavaliers leaped out to an 11-1 lead thanks to scores from sophomore guard Paris Clark, Johnson and freshman guard Olivia McGhee. 

Halfway through the period, Florida State started to settle in offensively, trimming Virginia’s initial lead down and making the game closer. Junior guard Jillian Brown drilled a three-pointer with 30 seconds left in the quarter to make the score 27-22 at the end of the first period. McGhee led in scoring for the Cavaliers in this opening quarter, scoring seven points. 

In the second quarter, the Seminoles showed why they find themselves inside the top 25 nationally. They took their first lead of the game halfway through the second quarter, going on a 7-0 run. They also outscored the Cavaliers 21-12 in this period, with eight of Virginia’s 12 points coming from Johnson. 

A majority of Florida State’s points came from Virginia turnovers, as the Seminoles turned 13 turnovers into 19 points for themselves. Their offense was also strong, as they didn’t have a single turnover in the opening half. 

Although Florida State led following the second period, the score was split by only four points when the teams headed into halftime. Because it was so close and both teams were playing to the best of their abilities, the second half contained a lot of back-and-forth.

Virginia started out the second half strong and scored the first seven points, but Florida State responded quickly with its own 9-0 run. Halfway through the third quarter, the Seminoles grasped their largest lead of the game as they jumped out to an eight-point advantage. 

However, Johnson and Brown fought hard to score nine points and a three-pointer, respectively. Their aggressive offense helped Virginia take the lead with under one minute left in the third quarter, but before the period could end Florida State scored a layup to tie the game 65-65 going into the final period.

After scoring the first point of the final quarter, the Seminoles took the lead again. However, this was the last time they would be leading in the matchup against Virginia. With a little less than four minutes left in the game, McGhee drilled a three-pointer to give the Cavaliers their largest lead of the game at 82-74. 

The outcome of the game came down to the last minute, where Florida State applied a full-court press after Johnson hit a floater to put Virginia up 87-83. Their pressure only allowed Johnson to score more points, however, as they sent her to the foul line twice in the final 16 seconds. Johnson made all four attempts at the line, which sealed the 91-87 victory for the Cavaliers.

Johnson’s 35 points tie for sixth in program single-game history and are the most in a game for a Virginia player since 2010. Johnson is also only one of two freshmen in program history to score at least 35 points in a single game, the other being Cavaliers legend Dawn Staley.

As a team, Virginia had won only three of its last 50 matchups against ranked opponents before this victory. The Cavaliers’ total of 91 points is their most in regulation against an ACC opponent since Jan. 30, 1998, when the Cavaliers scored 93 points against Georgia Tech. Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton was extremely proud of how Virginia played Sunday afternoon, highlighting how much her squad has fought through to get to this point.

“I just am so proud,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “A lot of teams fold when you go through adversity six games in a row. It’s easy to just be like, ‘Alright, we’re throwing in the towel.’ But everybody kept believing. I kept believing, I was not gonna let us quit. Our players were not gonna let us quit. There was so much fight in this team, and if you watched our games, we kept getting better and better.”

Agugua-Hamilton also noted Johnson’s historic individual display.

“Mo [Kymora Johnson] was phenomenal,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “She had that refuse-to-lose mentality — we are not leaving here without a win — which was everybody’s mentality, but she really walked that walk on a sprained ankle, mind you, from last game.”

Virginia’s next matchup is back home at John Paul Jones Arena, where it will host Pittsburgh (6-13, 0-6 ACC) Thursday at 7 p.m. The matchup is set to be streamed on ACC Network.

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