In their first game of conference play, the ‘Hoos led one of the nation’s top teams at the half 32-31, but the Wolfpack managed to flip the switch in the second half as UVA fell to 8-4 (0-1 ACC) on the season.
The effort was there, but the shots just weren’t falling
The ‘Hoos played hard until the final whistle (evidenced by an 8-0 run to close out the game in the final minute), but ultimately it’s nearly impossible to beat one of the nation’s best teams when you shoot just 20-72 (27.8%) from the floor.
Virginia’s top five scorers coming into the game — Camryn Taylor (6-15 FG), Kymora Johnson (5-22 FG), Paris Clark (2-6 FG), London Clarkson (1-4 FG), and Sam Brunelle (1-7 FG) — each had cold shooting nights, which is not an ideal way to pull what would’ve been the program’s first upset of a top-three team since 2011.
Defensively, the ‘Hoos largely played well enough to pull the upset. They held the Wolfpack to 72 points and a 35.7 field-goal percentage, which were both below their season averages coming into the matchup (79.0 PPG / 45.5 FG%). The Cavalier’s offense, however, just never managed to get into rhythm.
There were plenty of positives before things got out of hand down the stretch
The Wolfpack outscored UVA 23-8 in the third quarter to take control of the game and led by as many as 22 late in the fourth quarter. Before that, however, there were plenty of positives that Virginia can build on as ACC play continues.
For one, Camryn Taylor had a monster first half with a near double-double before the break (9 points and 10 rebounds) before foul trouble limited the Cavalier’s leading-scorer in the second half. Taylor went to the bench with her fourth foul when the ‘Hoos were still within single digits early in the third quarter.
Also, Taylor Lauterbach had her best game as a ‘Hoo with 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 11 minutes off the bench. Her height had the Wolfpack flustered for a stretch in the third quarter as she anchored Virginia’s defense and gave the Cavaliers a true rim protector. Lauterbach also knocked down her first three-pointer of the season.
Don’t yell “and-one” on Fatou Cissoko-Stephens’s watch
In a strange sequence late in the first half, the ‘Hoos benefitted from a pair of technical fouls called by referee Fatou Cissoko-Stephens on the Wolfpack’s Madison Hayes and Mimi Collins.
Both technicals were called after Hayes and Collins appeared to merely yell “and-one” following buckets in the paint that put NC State up 23-21 and 25-23, respectively. Post-basket exclamations were clearly a point of emphasis in Wolfpack Head Coach Wes Moore’s halftime adjustments, as NC State was able to survive another pair of and-ones early in the third quarter without any additional damage.
Unless there was some extra chatter the ACC Network broadcast didn’t pick up, UVA probably caught a break from the quick whistles as Sam Brunelle knocked down all four technical free throws to keep the ‘Hoos right in the game heading into the half.
The ‘Hoos are still searching for their signature win
Virginia looked competitive against then-No. 25 Oklahoma back on Nov. 19th, took No. 7 LSU down to the wire in the Cayman Islands over Thanksgiving weekend, and led No. 3 NC State 32-31 at the half in this one before being outscored 23-8 in the 3rd quarter as Camryn Taylor dealt with foul trouble.
Frustratingly, however, the ‘Hoos still haven’t been able to get over the hump as the first signature win of the season still eludes Coach Mox’s squad. With six ranked teams in the loaded ACC, Virginia still has plenty of opportunities in front of them to change that and build an NCAA Tournament resume, but there’s a lot of work to do.
Time to regroup in 2024
As 2023 comes to close, it’s time for the ‘Hoos to regroup after falling in two of their last three contests. There’s a lot of talent on the roster, but Virginia is clearly still learning how to win with their fairly young rotation.
Luckily, the ‘Hoos have a great opportunity to pick up a couple of solid wins over middling ACC competition in their next two contests. UVA travels to Georgia Tech on Thursday before returning home to host Duke next Sunday in JPJ.
It was an up-and-down calendar year for the program, but things are still squarely headed in the right direction under Coach Mox and there’s plenty of excitement and opportunity for the ‘Hoos as we head into 2024.