CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — There's nothing like a reward to reinforce that hard work is paying off.
Chelsea Shine and Virginia learned that on Sunday afternoon, outlasting No. 3 Tennessee in overtime to give new coach Joanne Boyle a big victory in just her fourth game as coach. Could be that a national ranking is just around the corner, too.
"This goes to show that the hard work and the program that we're buying into is worth it and it's real," Shine said after scoring 18 points, including a basket early in overtime.
"Everyone on this team is totally sold out on what the coaches want us to do."
The Cavaliers (4-0) came into the game allowing just over 42 points a game, and dictated the pace against a Lady Vols team averaging 90.5 points and accustomed to playing at a fast pace.
And in the overtime, it was Virginia that dominated, scoring 11 consecutive points to answer an opening 3-pointer by the Lady Vols' Taber Spani. With each turnovers forced, rebound secured or added points to their tally, the crowd of 6,450 loudly expressed its appreciation.
"I just saw us mature in those last five minues," Boyle said of the overtime, saying seniors Ariana Moorer and Shine took over, with some help from junior point guard China Crosby. "They punched and we punched back. They played a chess match and we played a chess match."
Moorer scored 10 points, but had a driving try at the end oif regulation slapped away. She finished 3 for 16 from the field, but said the rejection did nothing to alter her approach.
"It's all about the next play," she said. "I got my shot blocked. That's fine, but you still have to be in attack mode."
In the extra period, she hit a pair of free throws, then put Virginia ahead to stay with a jumper from the free throw line.
Taber Spani led the Lady Vols (2-1) with 22 points, including a 3-pointer 59 seconds into overtime that gave Tennessee a 61-58 lead, but by the time she hit another one, only seconds remained and the Cavaliers were celebrating their third victory in 16 tries in the series.
Crosby had 13 points, Ataira Franklin 12 and Lexie Gerson 10 for Virginia.
Shekinna Stricklen had 16 and Glory Johnson 15 for the Lady Vols.
In the overtime, after Spani's 3-pointer, Moorer hit a pair of free throws, and then a foul-line jumper. Shine followed a turnover the Tennessee with a short baseline jumper, and Crosby hit 3 of 4 free throws to make it 67-61.
The Lady Vols never had an answer, and each time they failed to score and Virginia came away with the ball, the crowd of 6,450 at John Paul Jones Arena got louder and more excited.
Stricklen had a chance to give the Lady Vols the lead near the end of regulation when she was fouled while scoring, but she missed the free throw, one of 10 misses in 21 tries for Tennessee. The Lady Vols also had 24 turnovers that the Cavaliers turned into 27 points.
Crosby broke a 56-all tie with 36.6 seconds to go in regulation, hitting a desperate shot from the baseline with the shot clock running down. After a timeout, Spani calmly swished a 12-footer from the left baseline with 22.8 seconds to go, pulling Tennessee even again.
The Cavaliers tightened their defense and Tennessee continued to be sloppy early in the second half as Virginia opened the half on a 14-6 run. The Cavaliers led by as many as nine and by 47-40 when the Lady Vols began asserting themselves on the offensive glass and rallied.
Tennessee scored eight straight points, taking its first lead since the first half, but Shine scored inside and Crosby's three-point play boosted the Cavaliers' edge back to 52-48.
The Lady Vols pulled even three times, but only led once thereafter.
It was the first road game for Tennessee since coach Pat Summitt announced in the offseason that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She received a warm welcome when she came out onto the floor just before the game.
Virginia used a 12-2 run to take a 24-20 lead in a sloppy first half. The Lady Vols turned the ball over at least seven times in the drought, and went almost 5 minutes without scoring.
Spani, who hit the floor hard at one point and went back to the locker room, led Tennessee with 12 points in the half, and Gerson led the Cavaliers with eight.