Monday, March 19, 2012

WNIT: Virginia trumps Richmond to reach round of 16

"It's a privilege. Any time we get another opportunity to play, it's a privilege. I just love to play basketball, so I'm excited that we get to continue the journey." - Virginia's Lexie Gerson on playing in the WNIT.

And that, folks, is a big reason why we're picking Virginia to win this whole thing.

Of course, the main reason we're high on the Cavaliers is that they're really good. But really good teams without the right mental outlook flame out of the WNIT every year. Virginia thought it deserved an NCAA bid, but the Cavaliers have managed to embrace the invitation they received. That attitude, along with their NCAA-caliber game, just might take them a long way.

It was all a bit too much for Richmond Monday as Virginia made off with a 68-56 victory at John Paul Jones Arena. Back in December, the Cavaliers beat the Spiders 69-56 in Richmond, so Monday's score seems an accurate reflection of the gap between the two teams.

That's no knock on a youthful Spiders team that defied relatively low expectations by winning 23 games and finishing in the top four in the rugged Atlantic 10. It's more a credit to a Virginia team that also wasn't that heralded in the preseason but quickly bought into new coach Joanne Boyle's teachings and fashioned a season that nearly landed them in the NCAA Tournament.

As it is, the Cavaliers will advance to the WNIT's round of 16 where they will host Appalachian State (27-6) on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will be another rematch of Virginia, which crushed App State 80-48 on Nov. 11 in Charlottesville in the regular-season debut for both. In this tournament, though,  Mountaineers have already claimed one ACC victim - on Saturday, they marched into Raleigh, N.C. and snuffed out North Carolina State 66-62.

Richmond closes out its 2011-12 campaign at 23-9.

"It has been a great season," said Abby Oliver, the first-team All-Atlantic 10 guard and the Spiders' lone senior who scored a team-high 16 points in her final college game. "We came into the season and people were saying we were too young to do much. I think we just kind of took that, and that motivated us. We knew that we had a lot of talent and that we could do big things on the court. That motivated us to come in every day and to work hard and compete. It took us a long way."

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