Littles Leads Cavaliers Past Tigers In First Round Of ACC Tournament, 89-82
March 1, 2007
BY STEVE PHILLIPS
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Virginia sophomore Lyndra Littles watched from the bench at the start of Thursday's Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Tournament first-round game against Clemson.
All in attendance at the Greensboro Coliseum were aware of her presence at the finish.
Littles scored a career-high 32 points, and freshman Monica Wright added 24 as the eighth-seeded Cavaliers overcame a five-point halftime deficit to claim an 89-82 win.
Virginia's reward is a 3 p.m. date with top-ranked and unbeaten Duke in Friday's quarterfinal round. But Cavaliers coach Debbie Ryan, whose team dropped a 76-61 decisioin in the only regular-season meeting between the teams, seemed undaunted.
"We prepared well the first time we played them, and we're just going to prepare the same way," Ryan said. "Just because Duke is No. 1 and undefeated at this point, that's no reason for us to pack the bags in. We're going to go, and we're going to play. And we're going to play with the intention of winning."
Virginia plans on having Littles around for the start against the Blue Devils. Ryan held the 6-foot-1 forward out of the starting lineup on Thursday for missing what was described as an academic appointment earlier in the week.
``That was something that was unfortunate," Ryan said. "But at the same time, it gave our team a chance to see what Lyndra is going to be able to do, regardless of when she comes into the game."
Once she entered the game, Littles indeed responded in grand style. She had 18 points by halftime, when the Cavaliers had dented what had been a nine-point Clemson lead. Virginia stayed within striking distance until midway through the second half, when it forged ahead with a 15-4 run.
Brenna McGuire capped the flurry with big plays on back-to-back possessions. The Cavalier senior connected on a 3-point shot, then fed Littles for a spinning layup that drew a foul and turned into a three-point play that put Virginia ahead 69-65 with 10:14 remaining.
Virginia went on to build a seven-point lead. The ninth-seeded Tigers (12-18) trimmed the margin to a single point twice in the final seven minutes but couldn't pull even.
"We had some crazy plays and some crazy turnovers and made a couple of fouls that weren't necessary," Clemson coach Cristy McKinney said. "As a young team, we just didn't handle that stretch very well."
D'Lesha Lloyd led Clemson with 23 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Sophomore Susan Yenser, who came in averaging 5.2 points per game, delivered a career-high 21 on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Yenser went 4-of-4 from 3-point range en route to 16 first-half points. Yenser said she tried to feed off last weekend's effort, which saw her score 13 points in an 86-85 loss to the Cavaliers at Clemson.
"They made some mistakes and left me open sometimes, and my team did a great job of finding me," Yenser said. "I came into the game pretty confident, knowing I'd had some open looks last Sunday."
Ryan felt at least part of Clemson's high-scoring first half? could be attributed to what she termed a ``absolutely horried'' defensive effort by the Cavaliers.
"We know we're a good offensive team, but we have to get so much better on defense," Ryan said. "We finally decided to do that in the second half, and it was a good time to decide that."
Now Virginia looks for consistency as it prepares for Duke. Littles had her Thursday night routine already mapped out.
"I'm going to get an ice bag," said Littles, who also led Virginia's rebounding with 10 in the physical game against the Tigers. "I'm going to get some rest and stay off my feet.
"And I'm probably going to go back and write a paper."