The Virginia women's basketball team fell to Florida State 78-74 last night in an ACC affair that saw the home-team Cavaliers nearly overcome a 17-point deficit during the final minutes of the game.
Virginia (13-12, 2-7 ACC) closed the game to within two points at 72-74 for the first time since ceding the lead to the opposing No. 14 Seminoles (19-5, 7-2 ACC) when junior guard Ariana Moorer slashed through multiple Florida State defenders and hit a jumper with 47 seconds remaining. Redshirt senior guard Paulisha Kellum then stole the Seminoles' ensuing inbounds pass, but was called for a traveling violation when she attempted to pivot away from Florida State defenders.
"I'm not allowed to criticize officials, but that is a particular move that has not been called in any arena that I've been in this year," coach Debbie Ryan said. "It's called a spin move."
After that controversial call, the Seminoles ran a precious 26 seconds off the clock before scoring a jumper, expanding their lead to 76-72 with 15 seconds remaining in the game. The Cavaliers missed a shot during their ensuing possession, but grabbed an offensive rebound with nine seconds left. After a timeout, Virginia responded with a successful mid-range jumper by freshman guard Atiara Franklin, who received the ball off of an inbounds play with five seconds remaining.
Ryan noted that the inbounds play - which was designed for Franklin to curl from the baseline to an open spot in front of the free throw line - called for the team to score a quick two points and then commit an intentional foul with hopes of the opposition missing the subsequent free throws.
"You're not going to be able to make up four points in that amount of time," Ryan said. "You can hope for a three, but we were going to take the [more certain] two and hope that they missed a foul shot."
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, the Seminoles hit their foul shots during the final seconds to put the game out of reach.
"I'm proud of our effort tonight," Ryan said. "Our team was never going to give up, especially at home in JPJ where John Paul Jones said, 'I've not yet begun to fight.'"
Franklin, the team's leading scorer on the night with 16 points, added that her team must learn how to start strong and avoid falling into deep holes against talented teams such as Florida State. The Seminoles built a comfortable second-half lead because of junior forward Cierra Bravard's dominant interior performance, Bravard scored 22 points and added nine rebounds. The Seminoles outscored the overmatched Cavaliers in the paint by a 40-22 margin.
"If we [start] the game hard and [finish well], then they'll be the ones behind," Franklin said. "We need to be aggressive."
Although the Cavaliers dropped their seventh conference game of the season, they were encouraged by the their resilience. Sophomore point guard China Crosby - who recovered from an injury scare late in the second half - scored on three straight offensive possessions in the middle of the Cavaliers' comeback run. Crosby finished the evening with a career-high 14 points. Redshirt freshman forward Erinn Thompson also chipped in with nine points in 16 minutes of game action.
Ryan was encouraged with the performances of Crosby and Thompson, both of whom are slowly adjusting to playing with the team after suffering major injuries last season.
"It's unfortunate, we just haven't been able to finish when we've had the opportunities, but we're finding some players with the right attitudes and right approach to the game," Ryan said. "They're now positioning themselves to step up. Hopefully we'll just continue to get better"