Unable to recover from a lengthy scoring drought in the second half, the Virginia women’s basketball team lost its third straight game Sunday afternoon in a 68-62 bout with Georgia Tech at home.
“A lot of credit to Georgia Tech fighting back,” coach Joanne Boyle said. “We were disappointed. We started off the game like we have in the past — really strong — and we just had breakdowns. We’ve got to be able to take care of the easy things of the game because the difficult things are difficult enough.”
The Cavaliers (13-6, 3-3 ACC) narrowly escaped the first half with a two-point lead over the Yellow Jackets (13-7, 3-3 ACC), 32-30, after missing eight shots in a span of almost five minutes. The Cavaliers got out to an early lead in the game, but Georgia Tech retook the lead after two straight three-point plays — a jumper from beyond the arc and an and-one play to go up 12-10 with 12:29 remaining in the half.
The Cavaliers regained the lead with a three-pointer by freshman guard Aliyah Huland El, who provided the only spark off the bench for the Cavaliers with all seven of her points coming in the first half.
At the 7:27 mark, a Huland El layup gave Virginia a 10-point lead, 24-14, then the Cavaliers missed their next eight straight shots as Georgia Tech went on a 12-0 run to take a 26-24 lead. But after that Virginia junior guard Faith Randolph took control and scored her team’s last eight points to put the Cavaliers up at the half.
Georgia Tech started off the second half with three layups and two free throws to take a 38-36 lead. The two teams would go back and forth before Virginia’s scoring drought. With the score tied at 51 at the 9:07 mark, the Cavaliers did not make another bucket until the 4:40 mark. At that point, the Yellow Jackets had built up a four-point lead that the Cavaliers were unable to recover from, as Georgia Tech was perfect from the free-throw line when fouled down the stretch.
“In those situations, we just have to play good defense and try to get points off the defense, whether it’s getting a rebound or starting our offense early, getting to the basket and to the free throw line, and not panic particularly — but we don’t always execute the way we always like to in those situations,” sophomore guard Breyana Mason said.
In the second half, the Cavaliers closed the offensive rebounding gap, 14-10, after losing 9-4 in that category in the first half, but could not take advantage of the opportunities it created.
“We missed our fair share of wide open layups — you’re talking eight to 10 points a game,” Boyle said. “We’re not shooting the best percentages at the free throw line, and we’ve always been a good free throw shooting team. We just need to get tougher when it comes to 50-50 balls. I just feel like we’re getting pushed around down in the paint at times and that’s something we have to correct. We turned the ball over at two crucial times in the game — that might be attributed to youth — I don’t know. We just kind of got really relaxed in situations that are crucial — in a three to two-point game — and I think those things are hurting us. We’re not the tallest team and we have to makeup with it with a little more fight.”
For the game, the Yellow Jackets dropped in all 14 of their free throw attempts, while the Cavaliers only made three on seven attempts.
Georgia Tech sophomore guard Kaela Davis made six of her team’s free throw attempts and finished with 31 points in a shootout between two of the conference’s best scorers.
“She’s a good physical player,” Randolph said. “Her teammates really look to get her open, constantly setting ball screens for her. We kind of fell short [in defending her] today.”
Right behind Davis at No. 4 in the conference in scoring comes Randolph, who finished with 23 points to lead her team. Freshman forward Zaire O’Neil added 16 points for the Yellow Jackets. Mason also added 14 points for her the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers return to the court on Thursday when they face NC State, again at home.