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Cavalier women hammer Hurricanes in ACC opener

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UVa women's basketball

Virginia guard Breyana Mason (12) shoots in front of Miami defenders during the game Sunday at the John Paul Jones Arena.

Joanne Boyle, sitting on the scorer’s table, waited out the “Good Old Song” before she took the microphone.

The 3,656 in attendance finished swaying when the Virginia women’s basketball coach got them to cheer once more.

“We have a goal in mind,” Boyle announced, “and that’s to get to the NCAA Tournament.”

For two hours on a Sunday afternoon in January, the Cavaliers took on the look of a team destined for March.

UVa crushed No. 20 Miami, 76-56, making a loud statement in its ACC opener.

“I’m really proud of the team and the effort they gave,” Boyle said. “They know some things are on the line and we’ve been searching for a signature win. And this is one of them.”

The Wahoos (11-4, 1-0) never trailed and led by as many as 33. They had five players reach double figures in scoring. They forced a season-high 28 turnovers. This all coming against a UM bunch (13-2, 1-1) that whipped N.C. State by 29 on Wednesday.

What sparked such a breakout performance? A hug.

Yes, Virginia wasn’t always dominant against Miami. They held a slim advantage of 12-11 after an ugly first quarter that saw them commit eight turnovers and shoot less than 36 percent from the floor.

“I gave them a big hug to take their nervous energy away,” Boyle said. “They seemed nervous at the start of the game and I was like, ‘OK, let’s do a group hug. You’re all good. Let’s just step out there and play our game.’”

What transpired was a game-opening 28-9 second quarter run. UVa, 5 of 14 in the first 10 minutes, went 12 of 19 in the next 10.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes, who entered Sunday averaging an ACC-low 13.1 turnovers per game, were up to 20 by halftime.

Virginia’s man-to-man defense turned smothering.

“We were getting shot clock violations, getting steals and that led to easy offense,” said guard Breyana Mason, who scored 14 points. “And once we got rolling, for a while there we just couldn’t miss. It was fun for me to watch.”

Following UVa’s 71-51 win over Richmond on Tuesday, Boyle told media members she needed better defense out of her team as it approached the ACC portion of the schedule.

Sunday, the ’Hoos held the league’s No. 3 scoring offense to under 39 percent shooting, made 10 steals and had seven blocks, including three from guard Aliyah Huland El.

“We’re not going to hit our shots every night,” Boyle said, “but we can play defense like we did tonight. If we do that, we’ll have a chance to be in every game.”

Virginia took away any hint of Miami’s comeback chances early in the third quarter with a 7-0 run that made it 47-20 at the 8:04 mark.

“We talked in the locker room about not letting up and keeping our feet on the gas,” Mason said, “and staying consistent and playing hard for all 40 minutes and not letting up at all. So I think that was great for us to just be able to get that early point and then continuing it from there.”

Faith Randolph tied Lauren Moses with a game-high 16 points, but also tied her career-high with eight assists. The senior is now averaging 5.3 dimes over her last six games. The Wahoos are 5-1 in such contests.

“It’s our guard play,” Randolph said. “We’re just so strong in guard play. When you have [J’Kyra Brown] coming in knocking down shots, Aliyah hitting her shots, I don’t have to do much. It’s just great. We work well together and we just got to keep it up.”

Huland El had 11 points and Mikayla Venson added 12 with five assists.

Miami got 12 points from Jessica Thomas, but top scorer and Newport News native Adrienne Motley missed all nine of her field goal attempts.

The Cavaliers, losers to the two ranked opponents on their nonconference schedule by a combined 42 points, already have a significant victory in ACC play.

“It sets the tone for ACC season,” Randolph said.

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