Jan. 2, 2006
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -
Virginia won its seventh consecutive game with a 79-63 decision over Middle Tennessee State on Monday afternoon at University Hall.
The Cavaliers improved to 10-1 overall, while the Blue Raiders fell to 7-6. The 10-1 record is the team's best start since 1991-92 when UVa opened with a 13-0 mark en route to its third consecutive Final Four appearance.
In the first half, Virginia jumped on the scoreboard first and never relinquished the lead. The Cavaliers' biggest lead was eight points, 22-14 following a jumper by sophomore Denesha Kenion (Oxon, Md.). Middle Tennessee went on a 9-2 run to come within one, 24-23, but that's as close as the Blue Raiders would get. UVa held a two-point advantage at the half, 32-30.
"They're very good; they're very athletic, and they shoot the ball well," head coach Debbie Ryan said of Middle Tennessee. "We started feeling sorry for ourselves. At halftime, I talked to the (team) leaders about that. In the second half, we made better shots and were more positive."
In the second half, Virginia opened the stanza with a 13-5 run to go ahead by 10 points, 49-39 on a lay-up by freshman Lyndra Littles (Washington, D.C.). The Cavaliers built upon their double-digit lead, going ahead by as many as 19 points, 75-56 with 1:18 to play.
"Middle Tennessee did a nice job of changing up on us and adjusting the rhythm," Ryan added. "Our kids made adjustments at halftime. I was really pleased with their intensity in the second half. I knew we were in for a good fight."
For the sixth time this season, at least four Cavaliers netted double-figure scoring. Junior Siedah Williams (Cleveland, Ohio) paced the squad with 17 points and two blocks. Sophomore Takisha Granberry (Charlotte, N.C.) added 16 points, while senior Tiffany Sardin (Chicago, Ill.) had 15 points. Littles finished with 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds, and sophomore Sharneé Zoll (Marlboro, N.J.) had 11 points, eight assists, and seven steals.
LaCondra Mason was the sole Raider in double figures with 15 points.
Overall, Virginia out-rebounded Middle Tennessee, 34-31. UVa forced 23 turnovers while committing just eight.
Virginia travels to Marquette on Wednesday, Jan. 4 for a 7 p.m. CST game at Al McGuire Arena, named after junior Brenna McGuire's (Winchester, Mass.) late grandfather.
"The opportunity to take Brenna to her grandfather's gym is really special," Ryan said of the game at Marquette which was the last game added to the schedule. "I'll be honored to play there."
"I'm just thinking of it as Marquette and going 11-1," McGuire said. "We're all focused on the game. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and it's exciting."
1 2 - Final
Middle Tennessee (7-6) 30 33 - 63
Virginia (10-1) 32 47 - 79