Here are three takeaways from a difficult road test against the Hokies.
The ‘Hoos ran into a buzzsaw
For most of the evening, Virginia managed to hang with the Hokies despite playing in its most hostile road environment of the season — a sellout crowd of 8,925 at Cassell Coliseum.
The Cavaliers went into halftime trailing by only five points and even outscored Tech in the fourth quarter, but a disastrous third quarter in which Virginia was outscored 17-to-5 made all the difference.
The undermanned ‘Hoos also had no answer for Tech’s dynamic duo of Elizabeth Kitley (33 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Georgia Amoore (20 points, 14 assists). Kitley and Amoore combined for more made field goals (23) than Virginia had as a team (21) on the evening.
Third quarter aside, UVA had a lot of promising performances themselves. Kymora Johnson continued her stretch of scorching hot play — finishing with 22 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists — and Paris Clark had arguably her best game as a ‘Hoo — scoring 18 points to go with 8 rebounds.
The ‘Hoos posted decent offensive numbers overall and knocked down 6-of-17 (35.3%) shots from beyond the arc to keep the game competitive for most of the night, but it truly would’ve taken a herculean effort for Virginia to knock off the Hokies — who improved to 12-and-0 on the season in Cassell — on their home floor.
Virginia felt Cam Taylor’s absence in a major way
The ‘Hoos managed to take down then-No. 20 North Carolina even without their second-leading scorer (14.1 PPG) and leading rebounder (6.3 RPG) on Sunday, but Cam Taylor’s absence caught up to Virginia in Blacksburg.
With Taylor — who injured her left knee against Pittsburgh on Jan. 25th — sidelined once again, the ‘Hoos were outscored in the paint 28-to-24 by Tech, but even more glaring was the rebounding margin.
The Hokies out-rebounded UVA 47-to-31 overall and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds leading to 19 second-chance points. Virginia only managed to grab eight offensive boards themselves, making it hard to overcome their 11-for-28 shooting performance on layups.
Taylor has been at the forefront of Virginia’s previous rebounding dominance this season. The ‘Hoos had only been out-rebounded in four contests prior to Thursday and entered Blacksburg ninth in the nation in rebounds per game.
Without their All-ACC forward, Virginia especially had no answer for Kitley defensively or on the glass. The Hokies’ two-time ACC Player of the Year posted her sixth 30+ point outing of the year and fourth 15+ rebound performance.
Injuries are once again piling up
Cam Taylor (left knee) and Yonta Vaughn (concussion protocol) were not in uniform once again, and during the second quarter, freshman guard Olivia McGhee went down after she appeared to roll her ankle while getting tangled up with Paris Clark. McGhee did not return to the game after being helped off the floor and to the locker room.
McGhee’s rolled ankle continues what has been a brutal two years of bad injury luck for the ‘Hoos. Fortunately, both the injuries to Taylor and Vaughn are not believed to be season ending, but we’ll have to wait on an update for McGhee.
Hopefully all the injured Cavaliers make it back to the court soon, especially since Virginia’s schedule finally lightens up in the coming weeks. After facing their ninth ranked opponent of the season on Thursday (the most of any team in the ACC), none of UVA’s next three opponents (Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest) are currently in the AP Top 25 nor even have more than three conference wins.
A lot depends on if the ‘Hoos can get healthy, but with the way they’ve been playing of late and an easier schedule on the horizon, there’s a path for Virginia to leapfrog a few teams in the ACC standings and perhaps set themselves up for a first-round bye by the time the ACC Tournament come around.