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Three takeaways from UVA women’s basketball’s win over Campbell

How the ‘Hoos used a dominant second half to improve to 2-0.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Athletics

The Virginia Cavaliers women’s basketball team got all it could handle from the Campbell Fighting Camels in the first half on Sunday afternoon. A fourth-quarter Cavalanche, however, propelled the ‘Hoos to a 74-49 win as they improved to 2-0 on the season.

Here are three takeaways from the Cavaliers’ thirteenth consecutive non-conference win since the arrival of Coach Mox.

Kymora Johnson is her

The five-star freshman was the most impactful player on the floor for the ‘Hoos in just her second collegiate game, stuffing the stat sheet with 15 points (7-14 FGs), 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in 27 minutes of action. Johnson also led the team with an astronomical plus/minus of +38.

The difference for Virginia when Johnson was on the floor was night and day. The Charlottesville native led the ‘Hoos with six first-quarter points, catalyzing Virginia’s 13-0 run to close out the opening period. But after picking up her second foul with 7:38 in the second quarter, Johnson was forced to the bench where she remained for the rest of the half. The Camels took major advantage of her absence, outscoring the ‘Hoos 23-8 to close out the second quarter and take a six-point lead into the locker room.

But with Kymora back in the rotation in the second half, the ‘Hoos once again went to work. Virginia outscored Campbell 50-14 after halftime as Johnson poured in nine second-half points and helped the ‘Hoos get back to pushing the pace.

While we all know Johnson can light it up from beyond the arc, she also already looks like Virginia’s best asset in transition. While she dealt with foul trouble in the first half, the ‘Hoos managed only five fast break points, completely hamstringing an offensive attack built on getting easy transition buckets. But with Johnson leading things once again in the second half, Virginia got back to the up-tempo style that Coach Mox loves, scoring 17 fast break points as Johnson dropped five second-half dimes and converted on this highlight-reel and-one.

While some of the Cavaliers’ top offensive weapons remain sidelined (Sam Brunelle, Mir McLean, Kaydan Lawson, and Paris Clark were all out for the second-consecutive game), the ‘Hoos will continue to lean heavily on Johnson and fifth year forward Camryn Taylor (who led the team with 16 points on 5-12 FG shooting) to carry the offensive load. But even after the ‘Hoos return to full strength, Johnson will remain a major part of Virginia’s success this season and beyond.

The ‘Hoos late defense won this game

Virginia’s 50 second-half points and their run-and-gun style had JPJ in a frenzy as the ‘Hoos improved to 2-0 for the second-consecutive year under Coach Mox. It was the second-half defensive effort, however, that truly turned the tide on the Camels.

Virginia held Campbell to just 9 points on 4-of-27 shooting from the floor and 2-of-14 from beyond the arc after halftime. The ‘Hoos also had 7 steals after the break and 4 blocks, sparking the Cavaliers’ fast break barrage.

The second-half defense was truly remarkable, as the ‘Hoos came out of the locker room with an entirely different energy. In the third quarter, Campbell turned the ball over eight times, went on a scoring drought of over five minutes, and shot just 3-of-11 from the field. And then the Virginia defense somehow got even more dominant, holding Campbell without a point for the first 7:14 (!!!) of the fourth quarter.

The ‘Hoos got great defensive performances up and down the roster. Camryn Taylor had 4 blocks and 2 steals as she locked down the paint. Olivia McGhee, Alexia Smith, and London Clarkson each had 2 steals as well, and the aforementioned Johnson had a pair of blocks to go along with one steal.

London Clarkson’s energy really stood out for UVA on the defensive end. The graduate student and 2023-24 captain was back in action for Virginia on Sunday after tweaking something in pregame warmups before the ‘Hoos opener against Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday. Clarkson had 12 points in her season-debut, but her effort and leadership on both ends of the floor were sparks the ‘Hoos had really been missing with so many experienced players out of commission.

Rebounding and bench production could be issues

While Virginia was able to bounce back in the second half, their slow start exposed some weaknesses that the Cavaliers will have to take care of moving forward, primarily rebounding and bench production.

The ‘Hoos were out-rebounded 22-14 and only managed two second-chance points in the opening half after feasting on the offensive glass in the season-opener. Campbell’s Christabel Ezumah, a 6’2 senior, was particularly effective in neutralizing Virginia on the glass and had eight rebounds in the first half alone.

Virginia flipped the script in the second half from a rebounding perspective (as they did in most areas), out-rebounding the Camels 29-18 after the break, but they can’t afford slow starts on the glass moving forward. If Ezumah was able to dominate the boards in the first half, the upcoming matchups with LSU’s Angel Reese on November 25th and the plethora of talented frontcourt players in the ACC (namely Virginia Tech’s two-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley) could present problems for the ‘Hoos.

Virginia could also use some more production off the bench going forward. The ‘Hoos had zero bench points in the first half, and only finished the contest with nine thanks to some garbage time minutes in the fourth quarter. The problem stems primarily from the plethora of injuries Virginia is dealing with which have cut into the Cavaliers’ depth, but since the timelines on the four recovering ‘Hoos (beyond McLean who is likely out at least until January) are unknown, someone needs to step up in the meantime.