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Virginia women’s basketball pulls off 73-68 upset against No. 20 Louisville

Propelled by a strong fourth-quarter comeback, the Cavaliers picked up their third consecutive road victory

<p>Sophomore guard Paris Clark posted 12 points and eight rebounds in the Cavaliers' win Thursday.</p>

Sophomore guard Paris Clark posted 12 points and eight rebounds in the Cavaliers' win Thursday.

Virginia women’s basketball traveled to the KFC Yum! Center Sunday afternoon to take on Louisville. The Cavaliers (14-13, 6-10 ACC) hadn’t won a game against the No. 20 Cardinals (22-6, 11-4 ACC) since 2016 — a losing streak totaling 10 games — and Louisville had won 56 straight home games against unranked ACC opponents — a streak dating back to 2014. Virginia was able to snap both of those streaks in an impressive 73-68 victory that featured a sizable fourth-quarter comeback.

The scoring opened just over a minute into the game when freshman guard Kymora Johnson found graduate forward Camryn Taylor for a quick catch-and-shoot three-point shot. Johnson’s 5.4 assists per game is ranked third in the conference, and she would tally five more throughout the game. 

Taylor was at it again on the very next possession, this time hitting a mid-range jump shot over her defender. The graduate student’s scoring abilities were crucial throughout the game, as she led the Cavaliers with 22 points. 

It wasn’t just the offense that was clicking early for Virginia. With six minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the quarter, Johnson caught the Cardinals sleeping and intercepted their inbound pass, which she immediately put through the net. Although Louisville would end the quarter on a 7-2 run, the opening frame was an overall success for Virginia, and they entered the second quarter with a 16-15 lead. 

The second quarter started off slow for the Cavaliers, and they weren’t able to record a basket within the first three minutes. This allowed the Cardinals to take their first lead of the game, as graduate guard Kiki Jefferson knocked down a three-point shot off an assist from junior guard Jayda Curry to give Louisville a three-point lead. 

That advantage did not last long, however, as with five minutes remaining in the half, graduate forward London Clarkson recorded a steal, and Virginia quickly pushed the ball up the court. Johnson then found junior guard Jillian Brown for the three-pointer to retake the lead. 

Brown was not done, as she had a quite impressive second quarter. On the next possession, Brown grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball straight back up for two points. Two possessions later, she made another three-point shot, with Johnson yet again recording the assist. This capped off an impressive 14-2 run for the Cavaliers. 

While the first half went great for Virginia — they walked into the locker room with a 32-26 lead — the third quarter did not go as smoothly, as the Cavaliers allowed 28 points in the period on 60 percent three-point shooting from the hosts. The first made three-pointer came from graduate guard Sydney Taylor just under two minutes into the half, and that shot began a barrage for Louisville. The hosts went on a 12-1 run in the middle of the quarter, allowing them to grow their lead to the largest of the game. With two minutes and 14 seconds left, they hit another three-point shot — this time by Curry — to grow their lead to eight. 

After a strong first half, Virginia stumbled significantly in the third quarter, and would need a fourth quarter comeback to avoid the loss. That’s exactly what they got — all at once, shots started to go in for the Cavaliers and stopped doing so for the Cardinals. Virginia made 57.1 percent of their fourth-quarter field goals compared to Louisville's 28.6 percent. 

The deficit started to dwindle with just over seven minutes remaining when Virginia profited from another made three-point shot from Brown. She would end the game going three for five from beyond the arc, a major improvement from her season average of 27.5 percent. Brown’s shot kicked off an 8-0 run for the Cavaliers which narrowed the deficit to a single point, and with just under four minutes remaining, Virginia finally regained the lead after Johnson made a shot from beyond the arc to put the Cavaliers in front 64-61. 

Things got dicey in the final moments of the game after Lousville knocked down a three-point shot with seven seconds left to make it a one-possession game, but Johnson knocked down both of her free throws and intercepted the Cardinals final inbound pass to secure the victory. 

Beginning the game on the right foot had been a struggle for the Cavaliers all season and led to a number of close losses. However, the last two games have been a different story, as they have outscored their opponents by a combined eight points in the opening frame. Keeping this up over the remaining games will be crucial if Virginia is to continue its hot streak, which has seen the Cavaliers win four of their last five games. 

Virginia’s next test comes Thursday night against Duke in Durham, N.C. The Blue Devils have already beaten the Cavaliers once this season, so when the game tips off at 7 p.m. on ACCNX, Virginia will be ready to enact revenge. 


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