Women's basketball searches for rehabilitating win
Team looks to stymie sloppy play, late-game struggles, avoid narrow Virginia defeat
In the midst of a tough stretch, the Virginia women’s basketball team is in search of more than just a win as it hosts Wake Forest at John Paul Jones Arena Monday. After a heart-breaking 64-62 collapse against Clemson Thursday — the team’s fifth loss in its last six games — the Cavaliers are looking now looking for an opportunity to bring their team all the way back to the fundamentals.
In the Clemson game, Virginia (15-11, 7-8 ACC) held an eight-point lead with less than three minutes remaining on the road, but sloppy play allowed the Tigers to claw their way back into the game and eventually take the lead in the final minute. It was a disappointing result for the Cavaliers, especially after putting up a strong effort for much of the game. Missing two of its normal starters, the team did, however, see good contributions from freshman guard Faith Randolph and sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh, who had 12 and nine points, respectively.
“I thought we came out for the first 30 minutes and we played well,” Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said. “We hit shots, we did a lot of good things and our young kids got tons of time. I think we’ve just got to be able to be smart down the stretch. We’re losing the ball out of bounds; we’re getting the ball tipped out of our hands. We’re just playing so erratic and we’ve just got to calm down.”
Boyle views her team’s late-game struggles against Clemson as a sign of a deeper problem. The Cavaliers have been inconsistent on both offense and defense recently, and with only three games left in the season they cannot afford to continue squandering games.
“We need an identity, and we’ve struggled with that this year,” Boyle said. “The last thing you want is to be unsure of what to play at the end of the game, and I think we’ve got to hone in and be disciplined and be really good down the stretch. We’re not there yet, and we’ve got to get there.”
In an attempt to combat their struggles, the Cavaliers have committed themselves in practice to working on the little things — tipped balls, bad passes and free throws — and not worrying so much about what their opponent is going to bring. They believe that if they can overcome their own errors, they will be able to handle any opponent.
“When it comes down to it, we game plan and we do all that, but in the end, we’re losing games because of 50-50 balls and missed free throws and turnovers at the end of the game,” Boyle said. “It’s not necessarily the game plan, we’ve got to grind out and get hustle plays. We’ve got to hold onto the ball.”
That preparation will need to be evident against Wake Forest (11-16, 4-11 ACC), which comes into Charlottesville for the teams’second matchup this season. The Cavaliers defeated the Demon Deacons Jan. 27 in Winston-Salem, N.C., the last game before their recent dismal six-game stretch. Virginia led by as many as 19 points in the second half in that game, but Wake Forest came storming back to cut the deficit to just five points with less than a minute to play. Virginia escaped with the victory, but the team does not want to struggle through any more frenzied final minutes like in the Clemson game.
“We just really have to shut them down, and at least take one of [their guards] out of the game,” junior guard Ataira Franklin said. “I think for us, it’s important to focus on us, and the little things that did happen in the Clemson game.”
The Demon Deacons enter the game amid a disappointing streak of their own, winning just two of their last 12 games. Wake Forest is near the middle of the conference in offense, but they are dead last in scoring defense, giving up 72 points per game. Their main scoring threats come from guards senior Lakevia Boykin and junior Chelsea Douglas, who are averaging 14.4 and 14.0 points per game, respectively.
Tipoff will be at 7 p.m.