Coming into tonight, the Virginia women's basketball team had played five ACC contests. Two of them were against unranked teams - Clemson and Virginia Tech. They won those by seven and thirteen points respectively. The other three were against ranked teams - #7 Duke, #25 North Carolina and #8 Maryland (rankings at the time we played them). They lost those by eleven, five and seven, respectively. In all three games they were right there in it in the second half, sometimes even leading.
So when #11 Miami came to town, one had to wonder which trend would end. Would Virginia finally pull off a win over a ranked ACC team? Or would they finally get blown out by a ranked ACC team?
Turns out, none of the trends would be broken. Virginia hung tough with the visiting Hurricanes, leading 53-51 with just minutes remaining in the game. But Miami scored the last five points and Virginia missed free throws down the stretch to allow the Hurricanes to escape with a 56-53 road win.
Ariana Moorer led the Cavaliers with 18 points, but no one else had more than eight points. Jazmin Pitts and Lexie Gerson both had eight, Telia McCall, Kelsey Wolfe and Ataira Franklin had five and Simone Egwu and Chelsea Shine both had two. Shine suffered from foul troubles, sitting most of the first half after getting two early fouls called on her. Franklin, Virginia's leading scorer (actually tied with Moorer at 12.4ppg) was not her usual productive self for much of the game.
But the story of the game was not really the offensive production from the floor. It was the offensive production from the line. Virginia was only 11-for-24 from the free throw line, a disturbingly low 46%. Ariana Moorer in particular was a very uncharacteristic 2-for-8. Coming into the game she was shooting 75% from the charity stripe.
There are a lot of parallels between the women's and men's teams. Defense is what keeps both teams running. Offense is what gives them wins and losses. The difference is just which side of that thin line the teams are on. The women's team has the defensive effort down. They just can't get the offense working.
The Cavaliers forced 27 turnovers tonight, while only giving up 15 of their own. That includes ten steals by the 'Hoos. Miami came into the game averaging 79 points per game. Virginia held them to 56, the second lowest output by the Hurricanes this season.
This is a Cavalier team that is on the cusp of being a legitimate top-25 team. It's very impressive what Coach Boyle has managed to get out of this team that she inherited from legendary coach Debbie Ryan. They're a tough, hard-nosed defensive team with players that can, but don't always score efficiently. If this is what the Boyle era looks like less than a year in, I'm very excited for where it'll be after two, three, four years and beyond.
Virginia has a quick turnaround, as they host Boston College on Saturday at 7pm. Luckily for Virginia, they're one of the teams in the unranked category. In fact, the Eagles are 0-5 in the ACC and 5-13 overall.