Cavs lose fourth straight
Struggling through injury, the Virginia women’s basketball team put up a strong performance against Wake Forest but again succumbed to the same late-game struggles that have plagued the squad recently, as the Demon Deacons pulled away in overtime for a 73-68 win at John Paul Jones Arena.
“They finished the game, and that’s been our Achilles heel, so we’re still trying to figure out how to do that,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “I’m proud of our kids’ fight, we just have to figure out how to be smart down the stretch.”
Virginia (15-12, 7-9 ACC) had just eight available players for the game as senior forward Telia McCall was again out with concussion symptoms. The Cavaliers used all eight, giving significant minutes to freshman guard Jaryn Garner and junior forward Jazmin Pitts off the bench. Sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh started in McCall’s place and got off to a quick start, scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds in the first five minutes of the game.
The two teams stayed close for much of the first half, with neither team leading by more than seven points. Without the injured Kelsey Wolfe, junior guard Ataira Franklin drew extra attention the entire game from Wake Forest (12-16, 5-11 ACC), as the Demon Deacons employed aggressive double teams to limit her to just six points on two field goals in the first half. Imovbioh helped keep Virginia close with 10 rebounds in the first half alone, however, and Virginia went into the break down just 29-26.
“Coach said in practice that we were down a couple of players, so people just needed to step up,” Imovbioh said. “Today I think the post just demanded the ball and coach told us that we really need to rebound in this game, and in my mind, I’m just like ‘Alright, I’m just going to go for every rebound.’”
Virginia came out of halftime strong. Senior point guard China Crosby knotted the score at 31 with a 3-pointer just more than two minutes into the half, and the Cavaliers took the lead with 15:00 to play. The lead swelled thanks to Imovbioh and timely scoring from the bench. Garner and Pitts had 10 and six points respectively and helped Virginia build as much as a six-point lead with less than ten minutes to play.
The Demon Deacons, though, would claw back to tie the game at 58. Senior center Simone Egwu put the Cavaliers up two with a layup with 1:37 to play, but Wake Forest center Sandra Garcia responded to tie the game again at 60. After Garcia missed a possible go-ahead layup with 29 seconds on the clock, Virginia grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. Crosby brought the ball down the court and found Franklin for a lay-in, but the struggling Franklin failed to convert. She collected her own rebound but missed the put back, and Imovbioh missed yet another layup as time expired.
“The plan was kind of just to go to the basket for the score, but try to draw the foul,” Franklin said. “There was some contact, but in a close game, a hard fought game from both teams, the ref isn’t going to call that. We fought hard, had a couple of offensive boards, but just weren’t able to connect.”
It was a disappointing lack of execution for the Cavaliers, who were then forced to push their depleted lineup five minutes more in overtime. Virginia took the lead at 65-64 on a 3-pointer from freshman guard Faith Randolph with 3:01 to play and looked primed to extend the lead after Egwu corralled a miss from Wake Forest’s Lakevia Boykin, who led all scorers with 25 points.
However, Egwu lost the ball on the baseline, and back-to-back layups supplied the Demon Deacons with a 68-65 lead. Crosby brought the game within two with a free throw, but Boykin sealed the game with a 3-pointer to help Wake Forest pull away and take the win.
Imovbioh led the Cavaliers with 18 points and a career-high 18 rebounds and five steals.
It was the Demon Deacons’ first win in Charlottesville since 1978 and just their fifth win in 68 tries against Virginia. For the Cavaliers, it marks their fourth straight loss and sixth defeat in their last seven games.
“We keep reliving the same horror film — we keep reliving it,” Boyle said. “There was the effort tonight, but we have to be smarter.”
Looking to halt their late-season skip, the team now heads to Raleigh for a Thursday game against NC State. Virginia defeated the Wolfpack 78-59 Jan. 13.