November 27, 2020 

ACC notes: Virginia struggles, Louisville’s Cochran shines in opening day

Notre Dame will be without some key players this weekend

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Virginia head coach Tina Thompson coaches against UNC in Carmichael Arena on Jan. 30, 2020. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Tina Thompson’s third season at the helm of the Virginia Cavaliers might be her most trying one yet.

Of the 11 ACC teams that played Wednesday, the ‘Hoos were the only team to lose their season-opener, falling on the road to UCF, 60-34.

It was an abysmal performance for Virginia in many ways. After ending the first quarter with a 13-5 lead, UCF outscored the ‘Hoos 53-14 over the second and third quarters. In the third period, there was a span of 6:25 where Virginia didn’t score. Thompson’s side was 0-for-9 on three-point attempts and committed 30 turnovers. The Cavaliers won the rebounding battle – 33-28 – but shot just 31.1% from the floor and tallied just four assists.

The latter statistic could be a product of the lack of chemistry the unit has. Virginia brought back just two of its top seven scorers from a season ago. On Wednesday, not a single Cavalier scored double-digit points. In her first career start, sophomore Meg Jefferson led the way with eight points and four boards in 30 minutes of action.

“Today, there were a lot of turnovers,” Jefferson said. “I know I personally at times dipped energy and everything, and that’s where I need my team to sort of lift me back up and I think they tried their best to do that. But I think as a first game, we can always do better with energy.”

Thompson’s post-game statement was brief.

“Definitely excited about getting the first game under our belt to begin the season. The outcome, not so much,” Virginia’s head coach said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ll come back after the holiday and get back after it.”

Virginia’s next game is Sunday at home against East Carolina, a stingy defensive unit that was second in the nation in steals per game (13.6) and turnovers forced (24.1). After that, the ‘Hoos host James Madison, which finished 25-4 last season.

The Cavaliers have work to do. They’ll have to turn things around quickly if they want to be competitive in the ACC this season.

Cochran strong in Louisville debut

Jeff Walz said this offseason that freshman Olivia Cochran was “by far the best back-to-the-basket post player” he’s had at Louisville.

The 6’3 forward from Columbus, Georgia began to live up to that hype on Wednesday, tallying 17 points, eight rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in her collegiate debut. Cochran led No. 5 Louisville in scoring in just 18 minutes of play in a 74-53 road win over Southeast Missouri State.

Fellow highly-touted freshman Hailey Van Lith had 13 points, eight rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in her debut too. Reigning ACC Player of the Year Dana Evans had 15 points and six assists.

Louisville was at its best in the second quarter, outscoring the Redhawks 20-8.

“I thought we did a really nice job in the second quarter defensively to create some offense for us,” Walz said. “We’ll have to do that throughout the entire year.”

The Cardinals were supposed to visit Cincinnati on Saturday, but the game has been canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Bearcats. It is the fourth change to Louisville’s non-conference schedule.

Louisville did replace its canceled game vs. Bellarmine, announcing Thursday that it had scheduled UT Martin for a Dec. 6 contest at the KFC Yum! Center.

Notre Dame will be short-handed in opener

Niele Ivey will have a short rotation in her first two games as head coach of the Fighting Irish.

During a Zoom call Wednesday morning, Ivey said that Sam Brunelle, Katlyn Gilbert, Mikayla Vaughn, Amirah Abdur-Rahim and Natalija Marshall will be unavailable for Notre Dame against Ohio and Miami (OH) this weekend.

Ivey didn’t give much specifics, but said that Brunelle is dealing with a “nagging injury” and that Vaughn and Marshall are still working their way back from offseason surgery.

“With quarantine, with the time of their surgery, it just depends on their strength level and their clearance from doctors,” Ivey said.

The first-year head coach added that her likely starting five for Friday vs. Ohio will be Dara Mabrey, Destinee Walker, Abby Prohaska, Anaya Peoples and Maddy Westbeld.

Mabrey, the sharpshooting transfer from Virginia Tech, is expected to handle the majority of the point guard duties. She played point guard most of her freshman season at Virginia Tech, but was more of a shooting guard last season as a sophomore.

“I think I’ll definitely be at the one spot a lot, playing the point. But you know, I also play the two a lot. I kind of just go with whatever Coach Ivey says,” Mabrey told The Next on Wednesday. “I’ll find a way to contribute. I’m definitely willing to play any position to help this team, but I definitely will be at the one a lot this year.”

ACC extras

Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley takes a free throw inside Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 11, 2020. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)
  • Virginia Tech rode strong performances from sophomore Elizabeth Kitley and freshman Georgia Amoore to an 85-64 win over Richmond on Wednesday. Kitley poured in 15 points and 17 rebounds while Amoore had 19 points and four assists. Three other Hokies also scored in double digits.

  • Sophomore Jaida Patrick had a career-high 21 points as Kara Lawson picked up her first career victory as the head coach of Duke. Onome Akinbode-James added 15 points and 16 rebounds in the 94-64 win over Longwood.

  • Here’s what Lawson said about Patrick: “JP has the makings of a really good defensive player with her length and her athleticism. It’s just a matter of focusing and locking in on the matchup each night. On the offensive end she keeps growing each day. She keeps working on getting better at scoring, getting better at making reads, getting better at seeing the passes and putting in a lot of time after practice.”

  • Before Wednesday’s game, Duke announced that sophomore Jennifer Ezeh will miss a second consecutive season after tearing the ACL in her right knee during practice. Ezeh tore the ACL in her left knee in August 2019. She was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school, but has yet to play a game for the Blue Devils.

  • Duke guard Mikayla Boykin did not play vs. Longwood due to “knee soreness,” a source close to the program told The Next.

  • UNC head coach Courtney Banghart after the Tar Heels’ 90-61 win over Radford: “We’ve been preaching that we think we have depth, that we have options in various positions and different players that can hurt you in different ways. I thought they proved me right today and that made me really happy. It’s a hungry group – they’ll be ready tomorrow morning and we’ll start with film and move on to the next opponent.”

  • Jayla Everett had 18 points, three rebounds and two blocks in her Pitt debut as the Panthers topped George Mason 72-57 on Wednesday. Sophomore Dayshanette Harris chipped in 11 points, 10 boards and six assists. Pitt’s defense was particularly strong as they held the Patriots to 20% shooting from the floor. Pitt led the game start to finish.

  • Pitt head coach Lance White said: “I thought Jayla Everett has really helped us gives us another punch that’s really going to help us in ACC play. The overall development of being able to be deeper and now you look back to the bench and be able to see a lot of players that I really think can contribute and help us, which is a huge positive of where we’re going as a program.”

Written by Mitchell Northam

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