Virginia Women 74,
Georgia Tech 63
After allowing leads to slip away in the closing seconds of five games, Virginia knew better than to let tonight's game against Georgia Tech go down to the wire. The Cavaliers pulled ahead with a 17-3 run in the final six minutes and pocketed a 74-63 win, their first in ACC play.
Reeling from consecutive last-second losses to Duke and North Carolina State, Virginia (6-9, 1-4 ACC) put four scorers in double figures and leapfrogged Georgia Tech (11-5, 0-4) to get out of the conference cellar.
"I know everybody up here in Charlottesville was all a little bit panicky because [Virginia] had a couple losses," Yellow Jackets Coach Agnus Berenato said. "I said it before . . . it's nothing to worry about. . . . I think they were just going through some growing pains."
Six Cavaliers scored at least seven points, led by sophomores Brandi Teamer (14) and LaTonya Blue (13). Cherrise Graham, who finished a 2 1/2-game suspension tonight, added 11 points. Junior tri-captain Anna Prillaman had nine points after going scoreless in the past three games.
Virginia freshman Deidra Chatman, a wiry, 6-foot-6 center, saw her most extensive action of the season with first-string center Lynette O'Reggio (Elizabeth Seton) visiting her ailing grandmother in Canada. Chatman set season highs with 11 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes and tied a season high with two blocks.
Trailing 32-23 at halftime, the Yellow Jackets tied the game at four minutes into the second half. With 5 1/2 minutes remaining, Blue broke a tie at 55 with a driving layup, starting a run that concluded when Graham hit two free throws to give Virginia a 72-58 lead with 1 minute 9 seconds left.
"We played good defense most of the night, but our rebounding was real good down the stretch and that made the difference," said Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan, whose team had a 45-39 rebounding advantage.
Virginia didn't expect to be clawing out of the conference cellar at this point in the season. The Cavaliers returned all but one contributor from a young squad that finished third in the ACC last season and hoped with a year of experience and the addition of Graham, a highly touted transfer from Purdue, they could be even better this year.
It hasn't worked out that way. They let leads slip away in the final seconds against No. 1 Duke, North Carolina State, Liberty and Furman. At Clemson on Jan. 2, Blue missed a free throw that would have tied the game with seven-tenths of a second remaining.
The Cavaliers scored on just 6 of their first 24 possessions tonight, but they tied the game at 13 and later took a 32-23 halftime lead with a 10-0 run in the final three minutes of the half.