Struggling Cavs conclude season
A late season slide has left the Virginia women’s basketball team with only a slim chance of making an NCAA tournament appearance, but going into their final weekend of the regular season, the Cavaliers are still determined to finish strong.
“I think all of the pressure is off now,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “We can recover, we can have a great last two games and we can have a great showing in the ACC tournament if we want. As long as there’s games out there to be played then you have something to play for.”
The Cavaliers (15-12, 7-9 ACC) suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Wake Forest Monday evening, falling 73-68 in overtime. It was Virginia’s fourth straight loss and sixth in seven games, but the team does not have time to dwell on yet another defeat as they make a quick turnaround for a Thursday evening game against NC State in Raleigh. The Wolfpack (13-15, 5-11 ACC) enter the game on a three-game losing streak themselves, most recently falling at rival North Carolina Sunday.
“It’s hard in terms of prep because we play three games in six days, so today we kind of had to move on,” Boyle said. “We’ve been living in this element of finishing games and all of that, and we’ve got to figure out a way to do that, but at the same time, we’ve got a game in 48 hours, and we’ve just got to move on and do that.”
Virginia showed flashes of strong play against Wake Forest, including an impressive performance from sophomore Sarah Imovbioh. The forward has had an up-and-down season for the Cavaliers, dominating early in the season but struggling as the ACC schedule picked up. Against the Demon Deacons, she showed her immense talent by scoring 18 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Boyle is hoping that Monday’s performance is another step forward in Imovbioh’s first season on the court for Virginia.
“[Monday] was one of the hardest games I’ve seen her play in a long time,” Boyle said. “She’s a [first year player], and she’s got to learn to finish better for us. Her Achilles’ heel has been learning plays, and we’ll just progress and get better with that.”
Virginia will look to continue to develop its young talent Thursday as a largely disappointing season nears its conclusion. Sunday’s game against Florida State marks the final regular season contest for three Virginia seniors: guard China Crosby, center Simone Egwu and forward Telia McCall. The trio has started the vast majority of games for the Cavaliers this season, and their experience has helped the team remain competitive despite injuries to guards junior Kelsey Wolfe and senior Lexie Gerson.
Crosby is the only player to start all 27 games for Virginia, a remarkable feat given her injury history. The former McDonald’s All-American has undergone two ACL surgeries on her left knee during her career at Virginia that have restricted her time on the court.
“One of my main goals was to play a full season, and I played a full season,” Crosby said. “I’m happy with the fact that I stayed on the court. I told myself I wasn’t going to be sitting out for nothing, and I made it all the way to the last two games of the season.”
In what could be her last game at John Paul Jones Arena Sunday against Florida State, the guard is hoping to continue to show the home crowd the spark that she has provided for Virginia in her limited career here in Charlottesville.
“I’m trying to go hard, trying to do what I can do, trying to show the fans what I was capable of doing these last four years,” Crosby said. “It’s going to be a good game. Some of my family members are coming, and it’s the first time they’re going to ever see me play, so I’m just going to try to have some fun.”
Florida State (20-7, 10-6 ACC) comes into Charlottesville after an uncharacteristically weak stretch. The No. 24 Seminoles have dropped three of their last four games, including a shocking blowout loss to ACC lightweight Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Sunday. The Seminoles remain the highest-scoring team in the ACC with 77.6 points per game and they will present a strong challenge for the Cavaliers in the regular season finale.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday against the Wolfpack and 1 p.m. Sunday against the Seminoles.