Cavs find sense of accomplishment in loss
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 23, 2009
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Given the events of the first 10 games, some Virginia supporters could have been proud their team managed to cover the point spread at Clemson.
Mired in a downward spiral, the Cavaliers bought into the pre-game plan to pull off an upset against one of the nation’s top teams. Yet with no light at the end of the postseason tunnel, Virginia scored three offensive touchdowns, showed a rare dose of creativity with the playbook and limited Heisman Trophy hopeful C.J. Spiller well below his average. Once again, it ended in sour fashion with a 34-21 setback for the Cavaliers.
And with every underclassman on the team cognizant that a new coach could be in place in weeks, the performance and the ability of the players to block out the outside
distractions would appear to show a sign of character and pride.
“To say that means you don’t understand competition,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “If you like to compete, you do that in schoolyard basketball. It doesn’t make any difference. You don’t need it to be the NCAA tournament.
“We like to compete. People make too much out of that stuff. Competition and winning is usually enough in itself if you are any good. If you need events like [bowl games] to make something important then you are not really a competitor anyway.”
Witnessing that so-called desire to compete has not been prevalent throughout the entire course of the current campaign.
The Cavaliers have, in fact, been edged in scoring marginally in the second and third quarter and have been outscored 90-41 by their opponents in the fourth quarter.
For one day, however, Virginia’s players walked out of the locker room with a sense of accomplishment.
Some of that had to do with the opponent —Clemson, on a five-game winning streak, is headed to the ACC title game for a chance to play in the Orange Bowl.
“[Clemson] is a real good team … one of the best teams we’ve seen in a long time,” Groh said. “They’ve got a lot of good players on that team, and they play hard too.”
Perhaps the solace came from the temporary resurgence on offense, something that was expected when countless drills in spring and training camp practices were spent teaching a spread formation that eventually was all but scratched.
The jolt, which came when Mikell Simpson was inserted at quarterback in the Wildcat formation, also brought life to Virginia’s defense, a unit that has seemed to live on the field this season.
“It’s something that we want,” Virginia defensive end Nate Collins said of offensive prowess. “On defense, you always want your offense to score. You always want your offense to do well.
“I feel like the past couple of weeks that’s what they have been doing. It sucks that it’s coming at the end of the year, but anything that we can do is great for this team and it’s great for this program and this organization.”
Virginia’s offense and defense will face yet
another challenge this week with in-state rival Virginia Tech (8-3, 5-2).
Inside the stadium, the crowd is expected to make Scott Stadium essentially a neutral site.
On the field, the Hokies boast the nation’s 18th-best rushing attack and rank No. 13 in total defense and scoring defense.
“We’re definitely going to be up for the Virginia Tech game no matter what,” said Virginia defensive end Matt Conrath, “and I can’t wait to play.”
Virginia left with what-ifs
By Michael Phillips
Published: November 23, 2009
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As Virginia's seniors are honored this Saturday before the rivalry game with Virginia Tech, it will be easy to ask if things might have gone differently for this group of players.
What if Cedric Peerman had stayed for his senior season, giving the quarterback an experienced receiver?
What if Al Groh had Jeffrey Fitzgerald and J'Courtney Williams in the lineup, and Jameel Sewell was returning with a full year of starting experience?
What if Mikell Simpson hadn't been interrupted so often by injuries?
And what about Peter Lalich, who is now sitting on the sideline at Oregon State?
"Football in general is a talent-driven game, and I think in college football even more so," Groh said last week. "And the position where that is most significant is at quarterback. When the player who was designated 'quarterback to the future' was not available to us, it put us on a different course."
That course has included a five-game losing streak for the Cavs, with one game remaining.
It's impossible to know if a different lineup would have made the difference for Groh, who will likely take his final bow Saturday as U.Va. coach, but it's easy to speculate.
The coach said the loss of so many key players was a new experience for him, and he has hinted this year that the talent level in the program isn't as high as it has been in years past.
Lack of depth also has hurt the team, which was evident in the second half of Saturday's 34-21 loss to Clemson.
Simpson had captained the offense to success in the first half in the wildcat offense but injured his hamstring on the final play of the half. Groh said last night that the injury will be evaluated day by day this week as to his status for Saturday.
With the team's top runner out, Groh turned to Vic Hall, who was unable to recreate the magic in one stalled-out wildcat drive. Hall was fighting a hip injury and hadn't practiced the entire week.
The offensive line also showed its strain, allowing six fourth-quarter sacks on Sewell, prompting Groh to insert true freshman Oday Aboushi. The job might have gone to Morgan Moses (Meadowbrook), but he's at Fork Union this year, and as such is not yet a member of Virginia's team.
For Simpson, the what-ifs have revolved around injuries. First he won the starting job in training camp, before being sidelined for the final weeks of practices. Then he finally started hitting his stride but was carried off the field with a neck injury during the Indiana game.
Depending on the severity of his most recent injury, his 127-yard first half against Clemson might be the last glimpse of his potential that fans get.
"He was obviously having his best game of the season against Indiana, and that ended with an injury," Groh said last night. "It seems to be a bit of an unfortunate pattern."
Cavaliers score season-high goal total in rout of Bucknell
Squad manages to shut out Bison thanks to key saves by red-hot Restrepo
Nick Eilerson, Cavalier Daily Senior Associate Editor
Men's Soccer / Sports
November 23, 2009 0
Entering yesterday’s match, if there was one thing about which you could criticize the Virginia men’s soccer team, it was its inability to score goals; the No. 2 Cavaliers ranked 106th out of 203 Division 1 teams in scoring. All doubts about their offensive prowess were cast aside yesterday afternoon, however, as the Cavaliers dismantled Bucknell 5-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Klöckner Stadium.
Virginia (15-3-3) sealed the game in the first half. Playing before a packed home crowd of 2,279, the ACC champion Cavaliers jumped out to an insurmountable 4-0 lead by halftime. The total marked the most goals Virginia had scored in a game all year.
“Just to get a win is great,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. “We’re flowing with confidence coming off the ACC Tournament.”
Virginia defeated a hot Bucknell (17-6-0) squad that entered the match boasting a school-record win total. Despite the lopsided score, the Cavaliers led the Bison only 7-5 in the shots-on-goal category, and Bucknell actually led Virginia 9-1 in corner kicks.
Sophomore midfielder Tony Tchani was instrumental in the early offensive explosion, scoring one goal and assisting two others. It all began in the eighth minute, when Tchani slid a pass into the middle of the box to freshman forward Will Bates. Bates one-timed his shot past sophomore Bucknell goalkeeper Tommy Caso for an easy goal, his first of two in the half. It marked Tchani’s first assist of the season.
“If we score early it kind of knocks them back a bit,” Bates said. “It’s hard to play when you go down one early. So that one early definitely helped us relax and start playing better soccer.”
Tchani instigated another goal in the 28th minute. Dribbling down the left flank, he booted a deft pass to sophomore defender Hunter Jumper, who struck a low right-footed shot from the edge of the box toward the near post for his first goal of the season.
Only two minutes later, senior midfielder Neil Barlow dished a pass in the box to sophomore defender Shawn Barry, who dribbled past a defender and was taken to the ground, prompting a penalty kick. Tchani slotted his shot to the low right corner of the goal to give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead.
With nine minutes to play in the half, senior midfielder Jordan Evans hit a cross to Bates in the middle of the box. After having his initial shot deflected, Bates fought for the rebound and put away his 10th goal of the season.
Although Virginia dictated the tempo of the opening stanza, Bucknell then countered with four shots of its own. Virginia junior goalkeeper Diego Restrepo — who already ranked second in the nation with a 0.336 goals-against average prior to yesterday’s game — thwarted the Bison’s attempts time and again, making one save after another. Perhaps his most critical stop came in the fourth minute, when Bucknell nearly jumped out to an early lead thanks to a blast from six yards out by sophomore midfielder Ryan Sappington. Restrepo’s cat-like reaction deprived Sappington of a goal, as his dive to the left allowed him to knock the ball away from danger.
“That save is what Diego has been giving us in big games,” Gelnovatch said. “When he makes that kind of save, maybe one a game, that’s the kind of save we’ve been getting from Diego all year in big games to keep us in it when it’s 1-0 or 0-0. I think that’s been one of the big differences for us in the back.”
Restrepo’s five saves secured his ninth consecutive shutout, and extended his single-season school record total to 13. In the 55th minute of play, Restrepo broke the program’s record for scoreless minutes, formerly held by Cavalier great Tony Meola since 1988. The team has now played 927 minutes without surrendering a goal.
“Tony Meola, I remember as a kid, I wanted to be Tony Meola,” Restrepo said. “So it’s a great honor to be able to go above him. But it’s all teamwork; it’s all the team in front of me. I’m happy to be here.”
Bates completed the first hat trick of his career with a third goal in the 50th minute. Jumper sent a long pass to a breaking Bates, who chipped the bouncing ball over the keeper’s head with ease. Bates appeared to be offside on the play, but the referee did not make the call.
With the win, the Cavaliers — who were one of 16 teams to receive a first-round bye — avenged last year’s 2-0 second-round loss to Connecticut at Klöckner Stadium. This postseason marks Virginia’s 29th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, the longest active streak in the country.
“I told our guys, great result; we managed the game very, very well,” Gelnovatch said. “We’re gonna put this one behind us and get ready for the next one now.”
Virginia will face Portland (12-5-5) — which defeated N.C. State 2-1 yesterday — Sunday at Klöockner Stadium in the third round. The Pilots will seek to avenge their 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Cavaliers in the season opener.
Bates’ Hat Trick Leads Virginia Past Bucknell
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/22/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE – The No. 2 Virginia men’s soccer team opened play in the 2009 NCAA Tournament with a 5-0 second round victory over Bucknell in front of 2,279 fans Sunday afternoon at Klöckner Stadium. First-year Will Bates (Chester, Va.) had a hat trick in his NCAA debut and goalkeeper Diego Restrepo (West Palm Beach, Fla.) posted his ninth consecutive shutout to lead the Cavaliers into the round of 16.
“It is always good to get that first NCAA game under your belt,” said Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch, whose team received a first round bye. “To win it in the fashion we did was even better. After winning the ACC Tournament, we were flowing with confidence. This was not only a great result, but we also managed the game well. We now have to put it behind us and get ready for the next round.”
The Cavaliers took an early lead in the eighth minute of play. Tony Tchani (Norfolk, Va.) slid a through ball to Bates, who one-timed in his ninth goal of the season. Later in the first half, Virginia tacked on three goals in a nine-minute span to take a 4-0 lead into the break. In the 28th minute, Hunter Jumper (Plano, Texas) took a pass from Tchani and fired home a shot from the top of the box for his first goal of the season. Two minutes later, Shawn Barry (Miramar, Fla.) was tripped in the area and Tchani converted the penalty kick for his seventh goal of the season. Bates closed out the first half scoring in the 37th minute when he put in the rebound of his own blocked shot from 10 yards out.
In the second half, Bates completed his hat trick in the 50th minute when Jumper sent him in on a breakaway and he chipped a shot over the charging goalkeeper. The five goals were a season-high for the Cavaliers.
Restrepo made five saves in net for Virginia to post his ninth consecutive shutout and extended his school-record total to 13 shutouts this season. In the game, Restrepo also broke Tony Meola’s school record for consecutive shutout minutes, with his streak now at 927:34. Meola had a shutout streak of 891:25 during the 1988 season.
Overall, Virginia had a 15-10 shot advantage, while Bucknell had a 9-1 corner kick edge.
The Cavaliers advance to the round of 16, where they will play Portland next weekend. The Pilots won 2-1 at NC State in the second round Sunday. It will be the second meeting of the season between the schools. Virginia won 3-0 at Portland on Sept. 4 in the season opener for both teams.
VIRGINIA 5, BUCKNELL 0
Bucknell (17-6-0) 0 0 - 0
Virginia (16-3-3) 4 1 - 5
UVa. Will Bates 9 (Tony Tchani) 8’
UVa. Hunter Jumper 1 (Tony Tchani) 28’
UVa. Tony Tchani 7 (penalty kick) 30’
UVa. Will Bates 10 (unassisted) 37’
UVa, Will Bates 11 (Hunter Jumper) 50’
Shots: UVa 15, BU 10
Corners: UVa 1, BU 9
Saves: UVa 5 (Restrepo 5), BU 2 (Caso 2, Byrne 0, Hartmann 0)
Fouls: UVa 13, BU 9
Weather: 55 degrees, clear
Henrich Suffers Narrow Loss at NWCA All-Star Classic
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/22/2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia's Chris Henrich (Jr., Lansdale, Pa.) dropped a tightly-contested, 7-6 decision to Nebraska's Stephen Dwyer on Sunday afternoon in the 174-pound weight class at the NWCA All-Star Classic, held at Cal-State Fullerton. Henrich is ranked No. 5 in the latest InterMat 174-pound rankings, while Dwyer stands sixth.
Henrich started off strong with a pair of takedowns in the first period, but Dwyer rallied to tie the match in the second period. Henrich chose the down position in the third period and scored a point on an escape, but Dwyer notched the deciding takedown later in the period to clinch the win.
Henrich became just the third UVa wrestler to compete in the prestigious event. Current UVa coaches Steve Garland (2000) and Scott Moore (2004) also wrestled in the classic, which is one of collegiate wrestling's premier showcases.
Henrich and the 19th-ranked Cavaliers are back in team competition this Saturday when they travel to the Northeast Duals to take on No. 11 Central Michigan, Hofstra and Sacred Heart.
Roles reversed for UT game
By Jerry Ratcliffe
Published: November 23, 2009
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Tennessee coach Pat Summitt looked across to Virginia’s bench during Sunday afternoon’s clash at John Paul Jones Arena and immediately thought back to last year’s game.
That was when a seasoned Cavalier team waltzed into the Lady Vols’ gym and delivered a stunning, 83-82 upset over then-6th-ranked Tennessee behind Monica Wright’s dazzling 35-point effort. Coach Debbie Ryan’s UVa team became only the 10th team all-time to defeat UT in its own building.
A year ago, Summitt was playing with a highly-rated freshman class and took some lumps along the way. Now, her Lady Vols are ranked No. 6 in the land and every bit as good as advertised.
Veterans lead the way
Sunday, before the largest crowd to ever see a Virginia women’s home game (11,895), the shoe was on the other foot.
This time, it was Ryan that had all the high-profile recruits on the floor, going up against a more seasoned Tennessee team, and it showed.
Tennessee 77, Virginia 63.
When it was all over, Ryan talked about the growing pains.
“I would say we’re probably mirror images,” the Virginia coach said in reference to her present team and UT’s team of a year ago. “It puts a lot of pressure on a first-year player to go into a game like this and have to perform at a very high level, and at a speed they’re not used to.”
Summitt could relate to the similarities from the current crop of Cavaliers and her team from last season.
“Sometimes there’s growing pains,” Summitt said. “But I would say as they go through this season, they’re going to be a lot better come tournament time. No doubt.”
A different team
Ryan certainly believes so as well. As she exited the court Sunday, she thanked the record crowd and promised them a better team by the end of the year.
She, too, recognized the growth from the team that conquered her squad a year ago.
“Those [Tennessee] kids came in here bigger, stronger, faster, and with tons more confidence,” Ryan said. “Last year when we played them, they were skinny little raggedy freshmen. They couldn’t hit big shots, they didn’t know what to do. They probably couldn’t run a play that Pat had drawn on the board.”
Nor could some of UVa’s youngsters in this showdown. Ryan drew up a play during the game and two of the Cavaliers’ freshmen post players lined up on the wrong side, then went over to the other side, then back again.
“It was like watching a rollercoaster ride,” Ryan said. “These are all things you deal with as a coach in college basketball.”
“The biggest leap they make is between their freshmen and sophomore years. Hopefully by Jan. 1 (about the time that ACC play begins), I can get them revved up a little more.”
Case in point, after the Cavaliers, who play mostly freshmen and sophomores outside of senior Wright and junior Paulisha Kellum, cut Tennessee’s halftime lead from 40-33 to three points at 42-39 within the first two minutes of the second half, things quickly fell apart.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t recognize that pressure point in the game,” Ryan complained. “Tennessee took advantage and we didn’t.”
Perhaps the difference in a year’s maturity by the majority of players on the floor.
Instead of seizing the moment and applying more pressure to the Lady Vols, the Cavaliers deflated. UT’s Angie Bjorklund (24 points) drilled a shot from Bonusphere and was fouled for a four-point play, followed by another 3-pointer by teammate Taber Spani, opening up a 10-point lead.
The host Wahoos never threatened after that moment.
“We weren’t playing the screens well,” Ryan critiqued her team during that crucial span. “Our post players weren’t hedging hard.”
The good news for Ryan is that her team is young and will get better. She never bought into the preseason No. 12 national ranking and still doesn’t think her team deserves it, but believes they’ll get there down the road.
She liked the way that her team played in some aspects. They played the hardest they had played thus far this young season and her young post players (Simone Egwu and Telia McCall) showed some toughness in a rather physical game, not backing down.
“The next time we step up in a game like this it will be totally different,” Ryan pointed out. “You won’t have this at Maryland. You won’t have this at Duke. You won’t have to face it at Carolina because you’ve already been through it.
“With first-years, you have to worry about the environment, you have to worry about whether they slept well the night before, all that,” the Virginia coach said. “They don’t have any frame of reference. You can talk all you want, but when you get in [a big game like this one], it’s ‘Whoa,’” Ryan said, unable to contain a chuckle. “Yeah, it’s like ‘Whoa.’”
It won’t take long before her young team gets to find out. The Cavaliers meet Indiana in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas later this week.
Her goal is to get the young minds right.
“We can’t let Tennessee beat us twice,” Ryan said.
Once, was enough.
Lady Vols upend Cavaliers
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 23, 2009
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The promotion did its part.
The largest crowd to ever watch a women’s basketball game at Virginia spilled into John Paul Jones Arena with a hot dog and drink to boot.
Unfortunately, Tennessee’s new-look zone defense and overwhelming size did its part, too.
The latter meant more in the end.
Virginia, ranked 12th in the country, battled the sixth-ranked Lady Vols in neck-and-neck fashion into the early minutes of the second half before succumbing to an eventual 77-63 loss as 11,895 looked on.
The Cavaliers’ loss spoiled the chance for a home-and-home sweep — last year, Virginia (3-1) stunned a youthful Tennessee squad, 83-82, on the road.
“I would definitely say they were much more physical than they were last year,” said Virginia senior guard Monica Wright. “That one year of experience does a lot for a first-year class of All-Americans, so they did look better.
“They were a lot more in sync and physical. They just had more experience.”
That experience was visable after Virginia used a 6-0 run, capped by the lone field goal of the game by Chelsea Shine, during the first minute of the second half, cutting Tennessee’s lead to 42-39.
As they seemed to do all day, the Lady Vols answered with a flurry.
It started as Wright fouled Angie Bjorklund as she drilled a 3-pointer. It turned into a four-point play.
After a Virginia miss, Taber Spani connected on a 3-pointer for Tennessee.
Suddenly a margin that seemed manageable had disappeared.
“At those points we definitely need to take advantage of that momentum and make a run,” said Wright, who scored 21 to lead the Cavaliers. “We need to understand that that is when we need to buckle down and make stops — at those points.”
With 12:24 left in the game, Tennessee’s Glory Johnson nailed a jumper to extend the Lady Vols’ lead to double figures at 58-48.
It remained that way the remainder of the game, despite 17 second-half bench points from the Cavaliers.
Despite the loss, Virginia coach Debbie Ryan addressed the crowd that remained following the final horn, promising that her team, which numerous freshmen and sophomores, would look different in a matter of weeks.
“The environment was absolutely fantastic,” Ryan said. “I can’t say enough about it. Our town stepped up for us, Charlottesville, as well as the surrounding area. They were cheering the entire game.
“It just goes to show we can attract a good crowd and our team is ready to step up and perform at a really high level every night. This is a really great group of kids.”
That group, however, is still a work in progress, something that was apparent in the first half.
With 14:25 left in the opening session, Tennessee had raced out to a seven-point lead with a 13-6 advantage.
It was during that stage that coach Pat Summitt’s team employed a zone defense, something she admitted she had never opened a game with, outside of an earlier game this year with Baylor.
That helped hold Wright, a pre-season All-American, to 14 points fewer than she managed last year at Tennessee.
“We went primarily with our match up in the first half [on Wright],” Summitt said, “and the second half, we went to our switching man and I thought that kept us in front of them in most possessions, but they are so quick and do a great job of getting by.”
For the game, Virginia struggled from the outside, shooting 33.8 percent (24 for 71) from the field and missed 16 of 23 3-pointers.
Wright had little help outside of rookie center Simone Egwu, who scored 10 points, and a 12-point effort from sophomore Ariana Moorer.
The Lady Vols (3-0) were much deeper with three players having scored 14 points or more. Bjorklund, who missed the game with UVa last year, paced the attack with 24 points and nailed half of her 10 3-point attempts.
“She tore it up tonight,” Wright said. “She was just so hot. It was hard to stop her.”
Virginia returns to action Thursday against Indiana in the Junkanoo Jam at 2:15 p.m. on the Grand Bahamas Island.
Record crowd sees Vols knock off UVa's women
Tennessee evens up the score with the Cavaliers.
By Katrina Waugh
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Momentum was lingering at the Virginia sideline, thumb out, hoping to hitch a ride but the Cavaliers missed the signal.
Less than two minutes into the second half of Sunday's game against the No. 6 Tennessee women's basketball team, the Cavaliers had hacked a dougledigit Vols' lead down to just three points. But they let up. Virginia gave up back-to-back barely contested 3-pointers and the comeback drive was over. Monica Wright led the Cavaliers with 21 points, but Angie Bjorklund had 24 for the Vols as Tennessee beat No. 12 Virginia 77-63 in front of the largest home women's basketball crowd in school history.
"Unfortunately we didn't recognize that pressure point in the game, and that was a huge pressure point," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan.
"We did not recognize that we needed to get a stop and score consecutively," said Wright, who is a senior captain. "That's leadership. I take responsibility for that."
The curtains that usually cover the upper sections of John Paul Jones arena during women's games were pulled up and the school reported a crowd of 11,985. The previous mark was set on Feb. 5, 1986 with a standing-room-only crowd of 11,174 at University Hall. Both games featured free hot dog give-aways.
Ryan said the Vols had clearly come a long way from the freshman-laden team Virginia beat 83-82 last fall in Knoxville behind 35 points from Wright.
"They are bigger, faster, stronger," Ryan said.
"Last year they were skinny little, raggedy little freshmen," she added with a laugh. "They probably couldn't even follow some of the plays that Coach [Pat] Summitt drew on the board. I know they couldn't, cause I saw what they did."
Ryan said her youthful team is a "mirror image" of that now. She recounted seeing her freshmen forwards line up in the wrong positions, switch sides and then switch back on Sunday.
"Why would you do that?" Ryan said shaking her head. "It's like watching a roller-coaster ride."
Freshman center Simone Egwu, who has started in the Cavs' first four games, said it was "pretty unnerving at first to be a first year and to get so much playing time."
What's helped, Egwu said, was that "my teammates understand that I'm going to make freshman mistakes."
Ryan said she expects her freshmen to be a lot better by tournament time.
Egwu had 10 points and six rebounds, even going up against Tennessee's 6-foot-6 center Kelley Cain.
"We all were aware of her because she's so big," Egwu said. "It was better once we figured out how to get around her."
That took a while. Cain had six points and six rebounds, but she also had six blocks and her presence and the zone defense made the Cavaliers shy away from the lane.
"Unfortunately we were settling for long-range jumpers," Ryan said.
And they weren't hitting them. Virginia hit just 33.8 percent of its shots, and just 28.9 percent in the second half.
Wright, who had four rebounds, six assists and five steals, hit eight of 21 shots. She went 3-for-11 in the second half.
Forward Glory Johnson (14 points, 6 rebounds) said the Vols focused their defense on Wright after watching her score 35 points on them last year.
"We were making sure she never did that again," Johnson said.
But Bjorklund, scanning the stat sheet, jumped in: "She still had 21."
Johnson conceded the point. "She was creating her own shots all night, I mean her teammates set a couple screens for her, but she was doing a lot on her own. ... We're a lot happier with 21."
Shekinna Stricklen had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Tennessee (3-0).
Sophomore guard Arianna Moorer came off the bench to score 12 points and grab five rebounds for Virginia (3-1).
The Cavs fell behind by as many as 13 in the first half, and were down 40-33 at halftime.
Tennessee hit the first bucket of the second half, then Wright led a 6-0 run with an offensive rebound, a layup, a steal and an assist as the Cavs cut the lead to three points on a layup by Chelsea Shine.
But the Vols found Bjorklund wide open for a 3-pointer on the very next possession. Wright lurched at her at the last minute and was called for a reach-in foul. Bjorklund added the free throw.
Taber Spani added another 3 on the next possession and Tennessee was in control.
Cavs see pluses in loss to Lady Vols
VIC DORR JR. TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published: November 23, 2009
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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Defeat? Yes. Indigestion? No. That was the bottom line for the University of Virginia women's basketball team following a spectacularly successful Hot Dog Day promotion at John Paul Jones Arena.
The No. 12-ranked Cavaliers, young, slender and perhaps a bit wide-eyed, absorbed a predictable 77-63 setback from the No. 6 Tennessee yesterday in front of a raucous crowd of 11,895 -- the largest, by far, ever to watch U.Va.'s women play a home game.
The fans were lured not only by the game but also by the promise of free food -- a hot dog and a soft drink for each customer.
Virginia (3-1) provided something resembling dessert: a tenacious and at times effective performance during which the Cavaliers seldom backed down from their aristocratic opponent.
"This was the hardest we've played all year," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. "Had we played like this [during the first week of the season], UMBC and Manhattan would have been 50-point games. If we continue to play like this, we're going to beat some people. Actually, we might beat a lot of people."
Said senior guard Monica Wright, who led the Cavaliers with 21 points: "I think this gives us a little peek at what we might be capable of -- and we didn't even play our best game."
For that, Tennessee was responsible. The Lady Vols, larger and more powerful at every position, got 24 points from wing guard Angie Bjorklund and 20 from point guard Shekinna Stricklen. They blocked nine shots while stifling the Cavaliers with a combination of matchup zone and man-to-man. Virginia shot 28.9 percent in the second half and 33.8 percent for the game.
Tennessee (3-0) made every big play -- or so it seemed. So solid and steady was the Lady Vols' effort that coach Pat Summitt felt a reward was in order. She rescinded the eviction order she placed on the door of her club's palatial home dressing room during last year's nightmarish -- by Tennessee standards, certainly -- 22-11 season.
"We celebrated for about five minutes," said Lady Vols forward Glory Johnson. "It's the best feeling I've had this week -- well, except may for this win."
Virginia, which stung Tennessee in Knoxville a year ago, hung around with gnat-like persistence for the first 25 minutes. A 6-0 spurt, built upon baskets in the paint by three Cavaliers, pared Virginia's deficit to 42-39 early in the second half. The crowd's response seemed likely to separate the arena's roof from its supporting rafters.
Then everything changed. Bjorklund, a 6-0 junior, buried a 3-pointer from the left wing while simultaneously drawing contact from Wright. She converted the free throw for a four-point play.
Wright, who led the Cavaliers with 21 points, saw her pull-up jumper blocked at the other end. Tennessee pushed the ball upcourt in an unsettled situation and found freshman guard Taber Spani free in the deep right corner. Spani hit the bull's-eye with a 3-pointer at 17:49. The Lady Vols' advantage ballooned from three to 10 in less than 30 seconds.
"There are pressure points in every game and that was one -- it was a huge one, in my opinion -- and unfortunately we didn't recognize it," Ryan said. "Tennessee took advantage and we didn't."
Said Wright: "You have to understand tempo and momentum and what's going on in the game."
At 42-39, "we needed to buckle down and play defense and stop them -- maybe get consecutive stops. That comes with leadership, so maybe it's my fault."
No agreement was forthcoming from the Virginia sideline. Wright's ability to create and shoot under pressure kept the Cavaliers in the game. She produced eight of her club's 24 field goals and assisted on six others. Tennessee seemed satisfied to have held her to 21 points.
"She got 35 against us last year," Johnson said. "We just wanted to make sure that never, ever happens again."