CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – In the case of the University of Virginia (UVA), slow and steady really does win the race. The Cavaliers picked up a close win on their home court against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 62-54, much in part to their patience on offense. Virginia moves to 4-0 in 2016, which is the fifth time the Cavaliers have started the season 4-0 since head coach Joanne Boyle took over six seasons ago.
“It was very much one of those grind out games,” Boyle said. “It was never start to finish by any means, but we found a way to win and tried to change up some defenses. We struggled a little bit defensively until the end of the fourth quarter, but we stuck it out.”
It was the beginning of a slow first quarter, but UVa’s Aliyah Huland El hit an early three-pointer to kick off a back-and-forth scoring spree between the two teams that would last the entire first half.
For Virginia who looked to protect their home court, the margin for error was small as the Rutgers took advantage of every offensive possession they could get. The Scarlet Knights fought hard against the Cavaliers who pulled away early and elected to play slowly and steadily — the exact opposite of Rutgers’ attack offense.
The first quarter remained close as both teams scored a majority of their points from offensive rebounds and second chance points. It wasn’t until the final two minutes of the first period where UVA took a five-point lead, 22-17.
“We really buckled down and tried to get stops on defense,” Huland El said. “We were just trying to get them on their toes because they were hitting shots very well.”
Virginia dominated on the offensive boards in the second quarter, but defensive breakdowns by the Cavaliers allowed Rutgers to eventually pull within one point, 22-21, with seven minutes to go in the second quarter.
The Cavaliers picked up right where they left off in period two and continued to slow down the game. Virginia chose to work the ball offensively, draining the shot clock, while Rutgers opted for quick shots.
The second of two scoring droughts in the first half was broken by a charging foul call on UVa’s Breyana Mason that paved the way for Khadaizha Sanders to score a wide open right-handed layup shortly after. This bucket finally put the Rutgers ahead for the first time in the game, 23-22, but Virginia took a 28-27 lead at halftime.
Virginia’s passing magic shined as bright as the orange letters on their jerseys in the third quarter, allowing them to move quickly away from Rutgers, 33-27, in the first two minutes of the second half. Rutgers remained scoreless for the next four minutes and the Cavaliers patiently wore down the shot clock with passing taking the best possible outside shots.
Although the pace of the third quarter remained the same, a standout spurt came at the 3:30 mark when UVA’s Huland El grabbed a steal and dished it off to Lauren Moses for a smooth transition layup inside the lane to make the score 35-32. This layup gave the Cavaliers their largest lead of the night at eight points with one minute left in the third quarter.
Both teams continued to battle back-and-forth, but the Scarlet Knights eventually changed their offensive approach to match UVA’s. This created a more consistent game on both sides of the court, but did not quite result in the change they needed.
Saving their best effort for last, UVA pulled away in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Virginia extended their lead and played their most intense offense and defense of the entire game during the last five minutes.
Rutgers battled back late, but the Cavaliers’ slow and comfortable game allowed them to solidify the win against the Scarlet Knights. Leading Virginia in scoring was Mason with 18 points followed by Huland El with 16 and Moses with 13.