The Virginia Cavaliers fell to 7-3 on Saturday afternoon as Wofford pulled a 71-70 upset inside John Paul Jones Arena. Here are five takeaways from a disappointing non-conference loss for the ‘Hoos.
The ‘Hoos looked rusty
Coming off a ten-day exam break, Virginia looked rusty rather than refreshed in their return to the court against Wofford.
The ‘Hoos shot a respectable 28-of-68 (41.2%) from the floor but went just 4-of-23 (17.4%) from beyond the arc, and they didn’t look like the same energetic and passionate team that we’d seen through the first nine games.
Although Virginia led for over 33 minutes, they never managed to pull away from the Terriers, largely due to the brilliance of Wofford’s Rachel Rose who lit UVA up to the tune of 21 points (including the game-winning floater with 0.4 seconds remaining), 10 rebounds, and 9 assists.
The poor defensive effort was a point of emphasis for Coach Mox postgame, since even in previous poor offensive performances, the execution on that end of the floor had been something the ‘Hoos could consistently rely on.
So much for getting healthy
A few ‘Hoos were under the weather heading into the exam break, but from an injury standpoint Virginia finally seemed to be turning a corner. With ten days off, the hope was UVA could hit the ground running at full strength beginning with the matchup against Wofford.
Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. In addition to Mir McLean who has still yet to make her season debut, the ‘Hoos were without backup point guard Yonta Vaughn and freshman forward Edessa Noyan against the Terriers. Additionally, Sam Brunelle took a shot to the face late in the first half and did not return to the court.
Coach Mox indicated postgame that both Vaughn and Noyan should be back in action soon. Vaughn “tweaked something” over the break and Noyan, who was coming off a career-high eight points against Rider, is in concussion protocol.
In addition to the injuries, Virginia’s leading scorer Camryn Taylor was held out of the first half of play on Saturday in what Coach Mox called a “coach’s decision.” Coach Mox did not elaborate on what led to the decision.
Two young ‘Hoos led the way offensively
With Taylor only on the court for the second half, sophomore Paris Clark and freshman Olivia McGhee picked up the slack offensively, leading the way with 14 points apiece. If not for the upset loss, the excellent play of two of Virginia’s top young talents would’ve been the main takeaway from this one.
Clark, who went 5-for-9 from the field and added 5 rebounds and 3 assists, has now scored in double-digits in four of Virginia’s last five contests. After an ankle injury led to a slow start on the season, her scoring average is now third best on the squad at 9.4 per game and she’s established herself as a go-to option behind Taylor.
McGhee wasn’t quite as efficient, shooting 6-of-15 from the floor, but she was the only Cavalier to knock down more than one triple (2-6 3PT). Her 14 points matched the career-high she set against Oklahoma on November 19th and she added 3 rebounds and 1 steal in 26 minutes of action off the bench. It’s been an up-and-down season so far for McGhee, but as the ‘Hoos continue to search for reliable three-point shooting, her smooth stroke could earn her a bigger opportunity moving forward.
Virginia takes its first bad loss
Before Saturday’s result, Virginia’s only previous losses had come to then No. 25 Oklahoma (although the Sooners have since lost three of their last four) and No. 7 LSU. The ‘Hoos were competitive in each of those games and losses to ranked opponents aren’t going to kill your season.
Wofford is a different story, however. The Terriers entered Saturday’s contest ranked 266th in the NET rankings with blowout losses to the likes of High Point and Davidson. As for the ‘Hoos, the loss dropped them from 57th to 76th in the NET.
For a Virginia squad hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018, this loss certainly puts a stain on their at-large resume. The ‘Hoos will have plenty of opportunities to pick up quality wins in a loaded ACC, but for now this one hurts.
UVA doesn’t have long to flip the switch
The ‘Hoos seemingly have the talent to be a tournament team, but they’ll need to quickly bounce back from Saturday’s letdown. Coach Mox indicated in her postgame press conference that the team held a player’s-only meeting after the loss, so hopefully this one will serve as a wake-up call and a learning moment for Virginia.
But UVA doesn’t have the benefit of many more mid-major opponents to right the ship. After their final non-conference matchup with Fordham on Thursday, the ‘Hoos host No. 3 NC State on New Year’s Eve to kick off conference play.