UVA stays perfect through nonconference schedule with 84-28 drubbing of Morgan State

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia stayed perfect heading into ACC play, dismantling visiting Morgan State, 84-28, at John Paul Jones Arena Sunday in the final nonconference tuneup of the season. After a tight first quarter, UVA outscored the Lady Bears 70-18 over the final three to remain unbeaten.

The Cavaliers are now 12-0 on the season, including an undefeated 11-0 mark in nonconference play, a feat they achieved Sunday for just the third time in program history (1985-86 and 1991-92).

The Wahoos showed signs of rust after the long exam break, committing 15 turnovers before halftime, but it didn’t take long before they started feeling it on both ends of the floor. As it turned out, it was the first time in nearly a decade that Virginia had held an opponent under 30 points in a game (Norfolk State, Dec. 28, 2012).

“I’m just really proud of our players,” said UVA first-year coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. “I think coming into this, I knew the first half would be a little bit sloppy and we just came off a little 10-day break, and I just really believe in trying to keep them mentally physically fresh.

“So we do sprinkle in off-days during that time — work on individual, fundamental development and practice — so I knew that we would be a little out of rhythm, and we did a good job of just weathering the storm and then getting into stride in the second half.”

Junior forward Mir McLean came up one rebound shy of another double-double, but still finished with game-highs of 16 points and 9 rebounds. Senior forward Cam Taylor stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and a pair of steals, making 7 of 8 attempts from the free-throw line.

UVA established a quick 9-2 advantage, but the Bears (7-4) fought back and hung tight in the opening quarter. Senior forward Sam Brunelle scored 8 of her 13 points in the period — including two 3-pointers — as UVA led 14-10 through 10 minutes.

The Cavaliers began to catch fire in the second, as a Kara Lawson corner 3 gave Virginia its biggest lead up to that point, 21-10, and then McLean added a pair of free throws as the Cavaliers scored the first nine points of the period.

Taylor added an old-fashioned three-point play in transition on a nice feed by Alexia Smith to stretch the lead to 16 midway through the quarter. The Bears finally ended their scoring drought and trimmed their deficit to 28-14 before Taylor picked off a pass and found Carole Miller on the break for a layup.

Virginia went into the locker room with a comfortable 33-14 advantage. UVA shot 50 percent (11 for 22) in the first half, while holding MSU to 16 percent (5 for 31) from the floor. Taylor, Brunelle and McLean each had 8 points at halftime to lead the way.

Brunelle scored on an easy layup to begin the third quarter, then followed it up with her third triple of the day. On the next trip down, Taylor converted a second-chance and-1 to make it 41-16. Taylor got right back to the charity stripe and swished a pair, then senior point guard Taylor Valladay added two more, as UVA began the second half on a 12-2 spurt.

Miller scored off of a Bears turnover and a perfect long lead pass by Valladay, then Taylor tacked on a bucket off a spin move to extend the lead to 49-18 with still 6:26 left in the third, and Morgan State called for a timeout to temporarily stop the Cavalier onslaught.

Later in the quarter, McLean’s three-point play made it 58-20, then the UConn transfer added two more from the line, as she has now scored in double figures in six-straight contests, and 8 of her last 9. She’s the first Virginia player in eight seasons to be averaging a double-double (13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds coming in).

“She’s driving it way better, she’s shooting it better from the outside,” Coach Mox said of McLean’s performance as of late. “Obviously, rebounding is something that comes very easy to her, but she has to work at it too. So she just her motor, especially on the boards, is really impressive and it inspires our team.”

Freshman Cady Pauley sank a long 3 in front of the Wahoo bench, and Virginia led by 41, 63-22, heading into the final frame. The Hoos tripled up the Bears, 66-22, on a Valladay 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter. With 4:43 remaining, all 11 UVA players got themselves on the score sheet, as McKenna Dale sank two free throws to make it 73-24.

Pauley wowed the crowd with a no-look, behind-the-back assist to Clarkson, then collected a rebound and scored on a coast-to-coast layup, and the Hoos led 79-24 with 2:54 left. Pauley added the finishing touches with a nifty reverse as the fans at JPJ began chanting her name in the closing minutes.

“She was actually committed to us when I was at Missouri State,” Coach Mox said of Pauley, “so we watched her play a lot in high school and she would do all that behind-the-back, no-looks, shooting from half court, all that kind of stuff. So I know what she has in her bag, she knows what she has in her bag, and she’s getting more and more comfortable out there. But I was happy to see her just kind of bring everybody to their feet at the end, bring some excitement.”

UVA shot 56 percent (29 of 52) on the day, 40 percent (6 of 15) from downtown and 71 percent (20 for 28) from the stripe, outrebounding Morgan State, 51-30. The Hoos outscored the Bears 46-16 in the paint and 33-6 on fast-break opportunities, and converted 20 MSU turnovers into 15 points. UVA assisted on 24 of its 29 makes, with Valladay leading the way with a game-high 6.

“We have the chemistry where we’re excited for someone else to make a good basket or a good pass,” said Valladay. “So just sharing the ball is one of the things, I think us as a team, we’re very, very happy about, so any little thing you can think of, I think this team has soaked up just great energy as a whole.”

It was a much different story for the Bears, who shot a woeful 17 percent (11 for 66), including an 0-of-19 showing from long range. Sunshine McCrae (12 points) and Ja’Niah Henson (10) scored all but six of the Bears’ points, as senior forward Charlene Shepherd, who came in averaging 13.1 points per game, was held scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting.

Virginia resumes conference action at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night, as the Hoos and the 10-1 Blue Devils tip off at 7 p.m. on ACCNX.