Virginia women fall on senior night
Cavaliers momentarily stop playing as team, lose early lead
Before the tip, before the band even blared, there was a pause on Thursday night at John Paul Jones Arena. Senior guards Ataira Franklin, Lexie Gerson and Kelsey Wolfe stood at midcourt alongside coach Joanne Boyle, arms draped around one another’s shoulders. It was senior night for the Cavalier captains, the culmination of many nights of basketball in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers (13-15, 6-9 ACC) did not get the result they wanted against the visiting Miami Hurricanes (15-13, 7-8 ACC), running out of steam in the second half at the moment the departing seniors might have hoped to stage one last comeback. For Virginia, this defeat was particularly difficult to swallow.
“Because it’s senior night, you get eager and you get excited, and there’s a lot of emotions that go into wanting to finish strong and, you know, put on a good show for the fans for the last time,” Franklin said. “I felt like everyone was on page with that excitement and that hunger going into the game, but like coach said, we just [got] complacent, and once Miami threw a punch at us, we were never able to punch back.”
Virginia cut a 15-point deficit to 10 when Franklin laid the ball in with 4:31 to play, but Miami senior guard Krystal Saunders hit a corner three on the other end, and sophomore forward Keyona Hayes scored inside, leaving Virginia right back where they had been minutes before. Miami ended up winning 83-63.
The Cavaliers started out strongly, sharing the basketball and scoring as a unit. Junior forward Sarah Imovbioh opened the game with a three-point play, and freshman guard Breyana Mason stroked a long-range jump-shot for an 8-3 lead 1:40 after tipoff. On the Hurricanes’ next possession, Gerson picked Hayes near midcourt and handed the ball to Wolfe on the break, while Franklin faded to the right wing. Wolfe’s shot a clean pass to Franklin, whose three-pointer was on the money.
“I thought earlier in the game, you know, we were sharing the ball more, we were passing a lot more,” Wolfe said. “I think at that point we should have just kept it going.”
Virginia went into halftime with a 36-32 lead despite shooting 31.3 percent to Miami’s 48.1. The Cavaliers were rebounding enthusiastically — Virginia grabbed 25 boards in the period to the Hurricanes’ 16—and had made five of 12 from behind the arc.
The Cavaliers’ winning formula, however, fell by the wayside in the second half. Virginia continued to shoot poorly — now from three-point land as well as two — and failed to hold its control of the boards.
“We had a lead, we we’re playing fairly well, and [Imovbioh] got in foul trouble a little bit,” Boyle said. “We just become very complacent at times in games that really cost us, you know, and that’s been part of the problem throughout the year.”
Virginian Adrienne Motley, a freshman guard, teamed with Hayes to pick apart the Cavalier defense. Motley, who had her own fan section behind the Hurricane bench, put together a 21-point, seven-rebound, four-assist stat line, while Hayes finished with 22 points and nine rebounds.
The most disheartening part of the Cavaliers’ loss, for Boyle, was her team’s lack of togetherness in the game’s crucial moments. Virginia, now out of contention for a .500 year, did not always look like a team Thursday night.
“I’m just disappointed obviously, you know, [this] being senior night,” Boyle said. “We were individuals out there. We didn’t play our game.”