Women’s basketball falls to No. 18 NC State
Virginia loses regular season finale
The Virginia women’s basketball team (18-11, 7-9 ACC) closed the regular season by dropping a home contest to No. 18 NC State (22-7, 12-4 ACC), 59-48. The game was also on the team’s Senior Day, with the Cavaliers honoring their lone senior Breyana Mason before the matchup.
Virginia was not able to overcome the Wolfpack’s hot start from three and never took the lead against a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team.
“[I am] obviously disappointed in the loss,” head coach Joanne Boyle said. “[NC State head coach] Wes [Moore] has a veteran team and how they played tonight is how they’ve been playing all year. It hurts for the loss and for the opportunity, but also for [Mason’s] senior night. That’s not how we want to have her leave on our home court.”
Mason has been a rock for the team in her upperclassmen years, playing a huge leadership role as a senior among many freshmen this year.
“I have a lot of great memories here on this court and over my four years we’ve won more games here than we’ve lost. I keep that in the back of my mind,” Mason said of her time at Virginia.
Besides honoring Mason, the game was also important for Virginia’s morale and momentum going into the postseason with the ACC Tournament looming as well as the chance to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“They know. We’ve talked about it throughout the year,” Boyle said of her message to the team about the postseason. “We’ve learned a lot this year and tonight was an opportunity to put it all together … Talking about the tournament, we’ve done that before, so they know what’s out there for us.”
NC State jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the middle of the first quarter after starting three-of-four from three-point range, and closed the quarter on a 6-0 run to take an eight-point lead going into the second frame.
Virginia’s struggled from the field in the first half, making only six of 24 baskets and unable to come back before the half. The Cavaliers won the third quarter to pull within nine points, but the Wolfpack kept its foot on the gas in the final frame, scoring 18 points to solidify the win.
Virginia shot a measly 28.6 percent, unable to get much going against a tough Wolfpack team. Junior guard Aliyah Huland El led the team with 10 points, while Mason chipped in seven points and five rebounds in her final game at John Paul Jones Arena.
A two-game slide to end the season is not what the Cavaliers wanted to signal to the rest of the league as a bubble NCAA Tournament team, and Mason knows the team must overcome the late season fatigue to make a title run.
“Everybody at this point is probably feeling a little tired or fatigued, but you just have to grind it out and keep going. The great players and the great teams are going to be the ones who overcome it,” Mason said.
The first postseason test for the Cavaliers will come in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Eight-seeded Virginia will take on ninth-seeded Wake Forest Thursday in the first round of the tournament. Virginia outlasted Wake Forest a few weeks ago in an overtime thriller at home.
Coach Boyle knows the Cavaliers will have to take a war-like mentality into the postseason, with each game as a battle to survive and advance.
“When you go to the tournament, you’re going to war,” Boyle said. “No team is coming in at this time and changing who they are. You’re not practicing the next day or day and a half. You are who you are. So before you talk about what you’re going to run, you have to know you’re about to go to war. We need to be getting back to where we were growing and doing well as a team.”
The Cavaliers will look to put their recent losses behind them as they begin their pursuit for an ACC title Thursday in Conway, S.C. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.