In what was a gigantic win for the program and their first ACC victory of the season, UVA earned their first road win over a ranked opponent since 2011 when they bested then No. 11 Maryland in College Park.
Here are five takeaways from the Cavaliers’ confidence-boosting, much-deserved first win in Tallahassee since 2012 which snapped UVA’s six-game losing streak.
Virginia played their best basketball of the season
Although Virginia entered Sunday’s matchup winless in conference play through six games, it felt like the ‘Hoos had some momentum on their side as they prepared for the Seminoles. In their last game on Thursday evening, a loss to No. 19 Notre Dame, UVA shot 57.9% from the floor and 42.9% from three-point range in the fourth quarter as they nearly pulled off a feverish comeback from a 20-point second-half deficit.
That momentum certainly carried over into the weekend as the ‘Hoos sprung out to an early 11-1 lead over FSU in the opening minutes of the first quarter, and, considering the opponent and environment, posted their overall best offensive performance of the season.
UVA’s 91-point output was their second-most in a game this season (behind only their 94 at La Salle on Dec. 3rd) as the ‘Hoos shot 36-of-67 (53.7%) from the floor and 8-of-17 (47.1%) from beyond the arc on Sunday, good for season-bests in both percentages.
The ‘Hoos finally got to shine
Coach Mox preaches the motto “grind now, shine later” to her program, emphasizing the hard work it takes to win and the adversity every team must face to be great, especially in the ACC. And until Sunday, this season had been much more about the grind for Virginia.
The ‘Hoos dealt with injuries up and down the roster early in the season, have battled through a grueling schedule that’s featured seven ranked opponents in 18 games, and started conference play with a disappointing 0-and-6 record.
Against No. 15 Florida State, however, the ‘Hoos finally got their moment to shine. We all know there’s a lot of talent on this Cavaliers’ squad, and after so many close losses and hard-fought games, it all came together against the Seminoles.
With a lot of young pieces playing key roles, Virginia has had a hard time finishing games in the fourth quarter, but they managed to exercise those demons on Sunday. The ‘Hoos outscored FSU 26-22 in the final period as they went 10-of-16 (62.5%) from the floor and iced the game at the free throw line.
Kymora Johnson should be ACC freshman of the week
After scoring a team-high 16 points against Notre Dame on Thursday, Virginia’s superstar freshman went ballistic on the Seminoles. Johnson finished with a career-high 35 points (14-20 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4-5 FT) to go with 7 rebounds and 6 assists while playing nearly the entire game (36 minutes).
Johnson’s scoring outburst is the most by a Cavalier this season and is tied for the fifth-most points in a game in program history.
Kymora Johnson’s 35-pt performance today is tied for 5th-most in game in UVa Women’s Basketball history and 2nd-most for a freshman behind only Dawn Staley #GoHoos— Brandon Lloyd (@blloyd8298) January 21, 2024
Johnson was also huge down the stretch for the ‘Hoos. She scored 10 points in the fourth quarter including Virginia’s final six points, all of which in the last minute of action, on a pull-up jumper with 26 seconds to go and four-consecutive free throws to seal the win.
The 2023 McDonald’s All-American is now up to 13.4 points per game on the season, second-most on the team behind Camryn Taylor and top-20 overall in the ACC.
Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo has taken home ACC Freshman of the Week honors eight times already this season, but after Kymora’s monster performance and Virginia’s upset win on Sunday, it’s high time the Charlottesville native gets some national recognition.
The future is bright
Johnson wasn’t the only young Cavalier to make an important contribution against the Seminoles, as freshmen Olivia McGhee and Edessa Noyan each had solid games as well.
McGhee, making her second-straight start and third of the season, finished with 12 points (5-10 FG, 2-5 3PT) and 2 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Her 12 points were second-most for Virginia on the afternoon and marked McGhee’s fourth-consecutive outing with at least nine points, as the Virginia native and former four-star recruit continues to take major advantage of her increased role of late.
Noyan also made the most of a larger role against FSU. She played 25 minutes (her most in a game this season) off the bench, finishing with 8 points (tying her career-high), 4 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal as she filled in for Camryn Taylor who again dealt with foul trouble. The freshman from Sweden hasn’t been given a lot of consistent opportunity, but she’s flashed her potential on several occasions this season.
With the trio of freshman that made Coach Mox’s 2023 recruiting class the 13th-best in the nation and sophomore transfer Paris Clark in the mix, Virginia has the makings of an elite core going forward. As the young group learns what it takes to win, there are a lot more games like Sunday’s in the future for this program.
UVA’s rebounding dominance continues
Virginia entered Sunday’s contest ranked 10th in the nation with 45.5 rebounds per game and had been outrebounded in just four out of their seventeen games on the season. UVA’s dominance on the boards continued against Florida State on Sunday, as the ‘Hoos outrebounded the Seminoles 48-30.
In addition to their overall rebounding advantage, the ‘Hoos managed to pull down 12 offensive rebounds which led to 15 second chance points. Their dominance on the glass allowed Virginia to overcome its 19 turnovers which led to 23 Seminole points.
Even in their losses, the ‘Hoos have played exceptionally hard all year, evidenced by their great rebounding numbers, and that dedication to doing the dirty work finally led to a breakthrough against the highly-ranked Seminoles.