Sunday, January 08, 2006

Queens of the Hardwood

Perhaps the biggest story in UVA athletics is the women's basketball team. Completely under the radar, Debbie Ryan's squad was supposed to be rebuilding with her plethora of freshman. Instead, they are 11-1 and open ACC play this afternoon against 9-5 (0-1 ACC) Florida State.

So wait a minute, how did this happen? Better yet, how come no one is giving the women the credit they deserve?

Maybe it's the wins. Victories against Harvard and Yale are big when it's an academic bowl, but not basketball. However, the Cavaliers come into the ACC fresh off the heels of a road victory against Marquette 64-56, dropping their record to 10-2. Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence that women's basketball is legitimate might be their one loss, 69-64, on a neutral site, to 12th ranked Minnesota (The same team that bounced Virginia out of the NCAA tournament last year). Say what you want about beating down Yale, but the Virginia women clearly got game.

So that leads us back to HOW? After all, many of Virginia's top scorers and rebounders departed after last year's solid season. Well Siedah Williams has stepped up her game, the junior is the leading scorer with 11.9 ppg. In fact, 5 players average 9.5 ppg or higher. That type of balanced scoring makes it tough for opposing defenses to focus on just one player. The biggest answer though appears to be on the defensive side of the ball. Virginia is outscoring their opponents 834-592, that's an average of 49 1/3 points per game for the opposition.

Virginia has also played clean basketball. PG Sharnee Zoll averages only 2.33 turnovers a game, compared to 6.4 assists per game. That 3-1 ratio has been big in Virginia maintaining control of a game and has helped keep this record at an immaculate 11-1.

When Virginia rolls into Tallahassee they will have to use their defense to shut down the Seminole guards. Senior guard Ganiyat Adeduntan and junior guard Alicia Gladden lead the team in scoring with 12.9 and 11.2 ppg respectively. The Noles also feature a freshman sensation in center Britany Miller. Miller however leads the team with only 5.4 rpg. This means that Virginia will look to attack the boards. If they can be successful, their ACC opener should help fuel their momentum and give them confidence with top ten teams like Duke looming on the horizon.

Win and Virginia will be primed for a big showdown with N.C. State coming up this Friday and a match up with Virginia Tech as the Commonwealth Challenge heats up. Until then, Virginia knows not to look ahead. If they keep doing what they're doing, it's just a matter of time before the nation starts looking at them.


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