Virginia women’s basketball traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C. Sunday to take on Wake Forest in an ACC showdown. Though the Demon Deacons (4-20, 0-12 ACC) pulled up to within two possessions late in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers (12-12, 4-9 ACC) made enough plays down the final stretch to eke out an 87-79 victory and earn their second consecutive conference win.
Virginia was led by stellar performances from freshman guard tandem Kymora Johnson and Olivia McGhee. Johnson has had an extremely impressive rookie season and continued to impress with 23 points and seven assists Sunday, while McGhee put up a career-best 22 points on 60 percent shooting from the field. The duo’s efforts, as well as double-digit performances from senior forward Camryn Taylor and graduate forward Sam Brunelle, catapulted the Cavaliers to a relatively comfortable win.
The game began with Virginia getting off to a hot start, scoring 22 points in the first quarter while nailing six of their first ten field goal attempts. The defense played spectacularly, holding the Demon Deacons to a meager 11 points and forcing five turnovers. McGhee was especially impressive, leading all scorers with nine points on 66 percent shooting. The Cavaliers had set the tone in an impressive manner, jumping out to one of their more blistering starts since early in the season, showing out on both ends of the court.
However, the second quarter saw Wake Forest crawl back into the game, managing to cut the Virginia lead to 38-32 by halftime. The Demon Deacons’ comeback efforts were mostly due to their 13 points scored off of turnovers as well as five second-chance points. However, the Cavaliers completed the half shooting at an extremely impressive rate, making 14 of their 26 attempts from the field as well as 62 percent from three-point range. In contrast, Virginia managed to hold the Demon Deacons to just 34 percent from the field.
The third period saw the Cavaliers build their lead back up, this time thanks to an explosive quarter from Johnson. The freshman scored 12 points to go with three assists, missing only two shots throughout the entire period. Brunelle also tallied 8 points without missing a single one of her field goal attempts. By the third quarter buzzer, Virginia had pushed their advantage to 15 points and was in full control of the game. The Cavaliers looked as though they had made adjustments at halftime in response to the strong second quarter by Wake Forest, and it was apparent that they cleaned things up in order to limit turnovers.
The fourth quarter was similar to the second in the sense that Wake Forest was able to mount a semblance of a comeback. The Demon Deacons cut the lead to as little as seven points with 41 seconds remaining, showing extreme resilience despite being down by as many as 18 points earlier in the contest.
However, their efforts were not quite enough, as Virginia managed to seal the game with clutch free-throw shooting. The Cavaliers connected on 10 of their 11 free-throw attempts throughout the quarter, keeping Wake Forest at arms length and coasting to an important win.
Though the Demon Deacons are winless in conference play this season, every game poses its challenges in the ACC, and Virginia will be delighted to travel back to Charlottesville victorious. The win is the Cavaliers’ second consecutive on the road, and three of their four conference triumphs this season have now come away from home.
With two straight home games looming on the schedule, Virginia will look to improve on its 1-5 home record in the ACC as the postseason nears. The Cavaliers are still fighting for seeding in the ACC Tournament, which can make all the difference in March. Virginia will carry its momentum into Sunday when the Cavaliers face Syracuse at John Paul Jones Arena. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ACCN.