Randolph seals win on senior night, 72-68

Cavaliers edge North Carolina in back-and-forth contest Thursday

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Senior guard Faith Randolph scored both the first and last basket Thursday in her final game at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers defeated North Carolina for the first time since 2010.

Emma Lewis | Cavalier Daily

With her final game at John Paul Jones Arena in jeopardy of ending in a loss Thursday, senior guard Faith Randolph made two plays down the stretch that willed her Virginia women’s basketball team to victory over North Carolina, 72-68.

The Cavaliers maintained possession with a 68-64 lead with a minute to go. The shot clock was winding down, as junior guard Breyana Mason stepped through on the low block and saw none of her teammates open.

Her contested shot glanced off the backboard and landed up for grabs in the middle of the paint. Amidst Tar Heel blue, Randolph snatched the loose ball and pitched it out to sophomore point guard Mikayla Venson.

North Carolina had little choice but to foul Venson. She sank both free throws to give Virginia a six-point advantage with 28 seconds left on the game clock. 17 ticks later, a Tar Heel bucket off a replay-reversed turnover cut Virginia’s lead to just two points, 68-70. 11 seconds remained, plenty of time for a steal and layup or a foul and last-second effort.

But that’s when Venson, toeing the endline, saw space behind North Carolina’s press and delivered a touchdown pass to a streaking Randolph that sealed the deal.

“I looked up, and Faith was wide open,” Venson said. “I didn’t think she would be that wide open, but she had a clear path. I gave the ball up to her, knowing she would make the easy layup.”

Faith’s final basket gave her 11 points on the night, to go along with seven rebounds. For the second-straight game and victory, three other Cavaliers finished in double figures.

Knocking down big-time jumpers and hitting 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, Venson led the way with a game-high 23 points. Her trio of three-pointers Thursday gave her 64 on the season, a new Virginia single-season record.

Despite shooting 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, Mason stayed aggressive off the bounce and tallied 13 points. Sophomore J’Kyra Brown, a transfer from East Carolina, put together perhaps her top performance in the orange and blue. Brown recorded 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting and added seven rebounds.

“She kept balls alive,” Boyle said. “She obviously shot it well, and I thought she took timely shots … So again, she was a spark. But the thing we’ve been on JB a lot about was her rebounding, and I thought she did a good job with that.”

Virginia will conclude the regular season Sunday against its archrivals in Blacksburg. Wearing street clothes and a splint around her thumb, Randolph watched Virginia Tech take it to her Cavalier teammates from the sideline on Feb. 7. The Hokies won that first meeting 66-46 in Charlottesville.

Randolph is ready to suit up for the rematch.

“It’s going to be my last Virginia-Virginia Tech game, so I want to make the most of it,” Randolph said. “I saw that Virginia Tech, they had a great point guard that kind of attacked the rim and really got her teammates open. It’s going to be a good defensive game on Sunday.”

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