Cavaliers suffer mixed weekend performance
Virginia triumphs against Virginia Tech, halts two-game skid following Duke loss
An early lead was not enough to save the Virginia women’s basketball team Friday evening, as a physical No. 5 Duke team used a huge second half to deal the squad a 62-41 loss that came on the heels of a Feb. 3 loss to Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers managed to halt their two-game skid on Sunday, however, with a 50-47 victory against arch rival Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
The Cavaliers (15-8, 7-5 ACC) looked prepared taking the court against the Blue Devils (21-1, 11-0 ACC), securing an early lead on strong shooting in the paint despite the presence of Duke sophomore center Elizabeth Williams, the ACC’s leading shot blocker. Virginia was also able to contain Williams on the other end of the floor, holding her to just four points in the first half.
“We didn’t want to back away from Elizabeth at all,” Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said. “If you get someone like that in foul trouble … their game plan changes. We didn’t want to be leery of her in any way.”
At the 6:12 mark in the first half, junior guard Ataira Franklin hit a layup to give Virginia a 22-13 lead, and it looked briefly as if a major upset might be brewing.
But the talented Blue Devils could not be held down, and mounted a comeback before the end of the half. Virginia turned the ball over five times in the period’s last six minutes, aiding an 11-0 scoring run that gave Duke a 24-22 halftime lead.
“I think we played hard and aggressive,” Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. “I don’t remember all of the plays in the 11-0 run, I just think that we took it up a few levels. We really did not start the game very aggressively, so I think we just kind of took advantage of some plays and went from there.”
Coming out after halftime, the Cavaliers knew that they would need to halt Duke’s momentum if they were going to stay in the game, and they managed to pull that off through the first five minutes of the half. Freshman guard Faith Randolph pulled Virginia within two points by sinking two free throws to make the score 29-27 at the 16:02 mark, but that would be the closest the Cavaliers would get. Duke junior guard Chelsea Gray hit a 3-pointer to go up 32-27 and the Blue Devils never again hit the breaks.
“That was a tough shot,” Franklin said. “I felt like we played hard up to that point. I don’t feel like that play necessarily lost us the game or broke us as a team, but it definitely gave them momentum, and I think once they got momentum, it was hard for us to regain it.”
Duke outscored Virginia by a 30-14 margin in the remainder of the game as the Cavaliers struggled to regain the consistent scoring they had demonstrated earlier. Meanwhile, Williams found her groove for the Blue Devils and scored 14 points in the second half to overpower Virginia.
“We weathered the storm in the first five minutes,” Boyle said. “It was the five after that [which] got away from us… We left too many points out there. Someone told me we had 16 missed layups. When you’re going to leave that margin out there, a great team like that is going to capitalize.”
Virginia turned the ball over 21 times in the game, leading to 20 Duke points. The Cavaliers, however, were strong on the boards as they managed to outrebound Duke 42-32. Of those 42 rebounds, 21 came on offense, but the Cavaliers had a difficult time converting, posting a mere eight points off of second chances.
“The girls knew going into this game that we’d have to [rebound], but we just struggled to score,” Boyle said. “In that matchup, we got rattled. We didn’t shift the zone and we didn’t hit outside shots, and it becomes more important that we get those easy layups … It just put too much pressure for us to score outside of that.”
In a rematch against Virginia Tech (8-15, 2-10 ACC) Sunday, the Cavaliers again found themselves challenged by their in-state foe. After coming away with a four-point victory against the Hokies in Charlottesville on Jan. 3, Virginia grabbed the edge early in a low-scoring affair but let the Hokies stay in contention. With seven minutes left in the first half, Virginia Tech took the lead on a 3-pointer from senior guard Alyssa Fenyn and used an 8-2 run to end the half up 30-24.
After the break, the Hokies continued to stay out in front, building as much as an eight-point lead midway through the second half. Virginia fought back, tying the games multiple times, but did not take the lead until Franklin hit a jumper with 2:59 to go, putting the Cavaliers up 46-45. With a 48-47 Virginia lead in the last minute of the game, senior guard China Crosby stole the ball and hit a layup with just four seconds left on the clock. Hokies junior guard Monet Tellier put up a desperation 3-point attempt to try to force overtime, but it clanged off the rim to give the Cavaliers the win.
Franklin and senior forward Telia McCall tied for a Virginia team-high 12 points, while McCall added 8 rebounds. The Cavaliers outrebounded the Hokies 36-34 and outshot them from the floor, shooting 39.6 percent to the Hokies’ 30.8 percent. Despite getting to the line effectively and attempting 20 free throws throughout the game, Virginia could only convert a dismal 50 percent of its attempts.
The Cavaliers now head to Chestnut Hill for a Thursday evening game against Boston College, followed by a Sunday game against No. 7 Maryland.