The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Assessing women’s basketball’s 2023-2024 season

The Cavaliers finished disappointingly, but their performance this season was a large step forward for the program

<p>Sophomore guard Paris Clark provided a spark on both ends of the floor for Virginia, averaging 9.9 points and 1.4 steals per game on the season.&nbsp;</p>

Sophomore guard Paris Clark provided a spark on both ends of the floor for Virginia, averaging 9.9 points and 1.4 steals per game on the season. 

Virginia women’s basketball watched its season come to a crashing conclusion in the ACC Tournament March 6. The Cavaliers led by 11 points over Wake Forest — holders of the No. 14 seed out of 15 and a 2-16 conference record — heading into the fourth quarter, only for Virginia to miss 14 of its first 15 field goal attempts en route to a shocking 58-55 defeat. However, despite a disastrous end to the year, the 2023-24 season should be viewed as a success for Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton and her Cavaliers.

Virginia played to expectations on paper, ending up 11th in the ACC — the preseason poll projected them to land in 10th — and tallying a 15-15 record for the second straight campaign. But the Cavaliers’ 15 wins this season were significantly more impressive than the year prior, sparking a newfound confidence in the team’s ability to hang with the country’s best.

Virginia knocked off four ranked opponents in 2023-24, all coming in conference play. The Cavaliers shook off a six-game ACC cold spell Jan. 21 with a thrilling 91-87 road victory over No. 15 Florida State, marking the program’s first top-25 road win since 2011. Virginia did it again a little over a month later, taking down No. 20 Louisville on the road in comeback fashion. In between, the Cavaliers throttled No. 20 North Carolina 81-66 at John Paul Jones Arena.

But the crowning achievement of Virginia’s season was its fourth and final triumph over a ranked foe, which came in the Commonwealth Clash March 3 against No. 5 Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers entered the game on a five-game losing streak against the Hokies, but finally got over the hump in a program-building 80-75 win. 

Virginia’s slew of top-25 wins is particularly eye-opening because the Cavaliers entered the 2023-24 campaign with a 1-39 record against ranked opponents in their last five full seasons. Virginia finished an impressive 4-6 in that category this year. For half a decade, the Cavaliers were helpless when matched up with the nation’s toughest competition, but in an 180-degree turn, Agugua-Hamilton’s team became one of the most dangerous Davids in a conference of Goliaths. The wins show tremendous growth and should instill excitement among Virginia fans about the team’s trajectory in future seasons.

Much of that promise lies in the hands of freshman guard Kymora Johnson, a Charlottesville native who took the ACC by storm in her first season in blue and orange. Johnson was phenomenal all year — to the tune of a team-leading 15.6 points, 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game — but she was particularly instrumental in the Cavaliers’ aforementioned quadruple of upset wins. The freshman averaged a blistering 24.8 points and six assists on 56.3 percent shooting from the field in those games, which included a 35-point performance against the Seminoles.

Johnson picked up All-ACC Second Team honors — becoming the first Virginia freshman to do so since 2002 — as well as a place on the All-ACC Freshman Team for her efforts. Proving to raise her game to its highest level when the competition is fiercest, Johnson will have Virginia in good hands for the next three seasons.

Other notable Cavaliers in 2023-24 included fifth year forward Camryn Taylor — who averaged a career-high 14.9 points and team-high 6.2 rebounds per game — and sophomore guard Paris Clark, who provided a spark on both ends of the court for Virginia after transferring from Arizona last offseason.

Despite Virginia’s success against the top 25, the Cavaliers ran into trouble when they encountered more winnable games. Virginia won only three of its seven ACC contests against teams with conference records below .500, which included the recent season-ending loss to the Demon Deacons, a road stifle against Georgia Tech and dispirited home defeats to Clemson and Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers finished with an equal or better ACC record than all four teams and held fourth-quarter leads against three of them, leaving many questioning the team’s ability to fend off lesser competition. 

Those questions will certainly bleed into next season and must be answered by Agugua-Hamilton and company if Virginia is to take another step forward in 2024-25. The Cavaliers will be losing three of their top five scorers — Taylor and graduate forwards Sam Brunelle and London Clarkson — in addition to graduate center Taylor Lauterbach. Virginia also has three seniors who have yet to make a decision about their extra year of eligibility, taking the team’s potential losses to seven players. 

But in the present, the Cavaliers are trending in the right direction. Virginia won two conference games in 2021-22, four in 2022-23 and seven this season. They won more games against top-25 teams this year than they had in their previous seven campaigns combined. The Cavaliers finished with a .500 or better road record for the first time since 2015-16, and their 72.8 points per game is the team’s most in a season since 2008-09. 

Agugua-Hamilton has Virginia women’s basketball in a position to vault up the ACC standings in the coming years, and the 2023-24 season proves that. It may have ended on the lowest of lows, but with more consistency and continued high-quality recruiting classes, the Cavaliers will soon return to the NCAA Tournament — a destination the program has reached just one time since 2010.


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.