Anyone who has watched the Virginia Cavaliers the past two years, anyone who has read this column, knows that these women play harder than anyone else in the ACC. After getting run off the court in the second quarter by the best, deepest team in the ACC, Virginia stormed back and made Duke eke out a win.
The Duke Blue Devils had nine players log more than 10 minutes, and when their second unit comes in, it is like facing an entirely different team. Virginia just doesn’t have the horses. It’s been something of a broken record the past four or five games, and it’s going to continue for the remainder of the season. UVA has, for all intents and purposes, just seven players, and once again, the team wore down late.
Down six points with one minute left, Virginia forced a five-second violation and scored on ensuing play. Duke’s Celeste Taylor, their highest scorer on the season was bricking her foul shots while Virginia’s Alexia Smith was converting hers. It was a one possession game. That’s how close it was. Which is even more remarkable because Virginia’s Cam Taylor, arguably the team’s best player, had her worst game of the season. She was 3-12 on the day and once again was in foul trouble. If she was even close to her normal lofty standards, Virginia would have won this one.
McKenna Dale was the only player recognized on Senior Day. She’s a wing yet she’s been pressed into service as a four. She’s leading the team in rebounding since Sam Brunelle was hurt and on the day she was the second leading scorer with 10 points. Since she was the only player so recognized on Senior Day, I presume that Taylor Valladay and Cam Taylor will return next season along with Brunelle, which when coupled with a top 20 recruiting class, this team will be deep and experienced. The future is bright for women’s hoops.
That's our Senior!! @DaleMcKenna47 makes it a one-possession game!!!— Virginia Women's Basketball (@UVAWomensHoops) February 19, 2023
Duke 50, Virginia 47 4:01 remaining
Watch UVA vs Duke live on ACCNX
Hopefully either Kymora Johnson or Olivia McGee, the five-stars headlining next year’s class, can shoot from deep. Because no one currently on the roster can at a consistently high clip. UVA suffered from another abysmal performance from beyond the arc, going 4-14. That’s 29%. Which actually raised the team’s performance on the year, if you can believe it. Duke shot 8-18 and that was effectively the difference.
Once a bugaboo of the team, foul-shooting has become something of a strength of late and the women were a sparkling 10-11 from the line highlighted by Dale going 3-3 in the midst of a Cavalier 10-0 run late in the third frame.
Valladay had a second strong game, leading the way with 19 points on 8-13 shooting and 3-4 from the line. Valladay made a point at going right at Duke’s 6’6” Kennedy Brown all game long. Brown had one block – she does have 10 inches on Valladay — but Valladay beat her to the rim three times. Brown pummeled Virginia last time out; this time the Cavs exposed Brown all game long.
@forevertay3 WILL. NOT. BE. DENIED!!!— Virginia Women's Basketball (@UVAWomensHoops) February 19, 2023
Watch UVA vs Duke live on ACCNX
The game is firmly in Cady Pauley’s head. She is zero for a lot from deep the past 12 games. She logged a single minute in the first half and got a good look from three. The ball rimmed in and out, which was a fitting metaphor for the second half of the season. She’s got a good stroke, a bright future, and I don’t think that next year can come fast enough for her.
The Duke women are just as whiney as the Duke men. Kennedy Brown and Celeste Taylor, both transfers, have picked up on the worst of the Duke Brotherhood. In what was a well-called game, Brown and Taylor couldn’t possibly imagine that they’d committed a foul. Ever. It really is a Duke thing. The whiniest women in soccer are fellow Blue Devils.
Virginia was especially effective on the break, outscoring Duke 18-6. Most of those points came off of Virginia steals and the ‘Hoos had a season-high 13 thefts.
Putting the in transition O! @forevertay3 with the finish— Virginia Women's Basketball (@UVAWomensHoops) February 19, 2023
Watch UVA vs Duke live on ACCNX #GoHoos ⚔️ #GNSL
The attendance was over 6,300 as the women played in front of their largest crowd in over 12 years. Talk about a sign of good things to come.
Next Up: Virginia travels to Clemson on Thursday, February 23rd to take on the Tigers. Game time is 7:00pm and the game is on the ACC Network.