After losing to East Carolina Sunday, Virginia women’s basketball faced James Madison in its second home game of the season Thursday. After a solid start, the Cavaliers (0-3, 0-0 ACC) fell behind and a late game comeback was not enough to beat the Dukes (2-1, 0-0 CAA).
There were two changes in the Virginia starting lineup from Sunday. Freshman guard Aaliyah Pitts and graduate student forward Emily Maupin were given the nod for their first collegiate and Virginia starts, respectively, over sophomore guard Dylan Horton and freshman forward Deja Bristol who were available off the bench.
Sophomore guard Carole Miller initiated the Virginia offense scoring eight points in the first quarter to give the Cavaliers a slim 13-12 lead over the Dukes. In the first quarter, Virginia capitalized on 6-of-11 field goal attempts, while James Madison only scored on 5-of-22. The Virginia defense also limited the Dukes’ scoring chances with 10 defensive rebounds in the first quarter — four of which came from Maupin.
“We’re a defensive minded team,” Coach Tina Thompson said. “And even though we’re playing defense to create opportunities on offense, it is something that we talked about from day one, that is a part of our identity of who we are.”
Sophomore guard Amandine Toi extended the Virginia lead to 22-17 after scoring seven points over a three minute period in the second quarter. However with 4:22 remaining in the half, the Dukes responded with a scoring run of nine points before sophomore forward Meg Jefferson finally netted a jumper in the paint. James Madison finished the half with a eight-point lead as the scoreline read 34-26 in the Dukes’ favor. Their lead was solidified by two three pointers from freshman guard Jamia Hazell in the final minute.
After the break, James Madison came out hungry and the Virginia defense could not keep up. The Dukes made nine of their first 12 shots in the second half, which included an eight-point scoring run that extended their lead to 46-29 — a 17 point differential. James Madison was shooting extremely well in the third quarter, making 73 percent of its field goals and three of four three-point attempts.
With just over two minutes remaining in the quarter, Virginia came back to life and rallied with a seven-point scoring run which included a layup and jumper from Jefferson. James Madison’s Hazell ended the quarter with a three-point shot, pushing the Dukes’ lead to 59-48.
Despite being down by over 10 points, the Cavaliers shined in the fourth quarter thanks to their defensive work rate and an impressive late-game scoring effort by Toi. Virginia opened the quarter with two three-pointers — courtesy of freshman guard Kaydan Lawson and Miller — to cut the deficit to nine points with 7:01 left in the game. For the next five minutes, the teams went back and forth as Virginia slowly inched closer to James Madison.
With less than two minutes on the clock, Toi hit two baskets in the paint bringing the score to 68-64 and ensuring a tight finish. After the Dukes’ timeout, sophomore guard Kiki Jefferson scored a jumper, at a critical moment with only 23 seconds remaining.
Down six points with nine seconds left to play, Toi scored a three-pointer to keep the Cavaliers alive. Unfortunately for Virginia fans, the Cavaliers never scored again. Virginia slowed the game down and committed three fouls — which allowed James Madison’s Jefferson to score a free throw, finalizing the score at 71-67.
The loss marked Virginia’s third defeat of the season — in three games — though it is clear the young squad is learning and growing in confidence.
“We continued to make youthful mistakes,” Thompson said. “A lot of that happens to be a part of our immaturity and our youth are playing a lot of young people in general … But their fight is there so we’re going to use that as fuel to continue to get better.”
Even with a young roster, several players are stepping up and proving to be critical to the team's success. Four players — Toi, Miller, Jefferson and Lawson — scored in the double digits. Toi led the team with a career-high 17 points which included three three-pointers and two free throws.
Miller was close behind with 16 points, followed by Jefferson with 14 points and Lawson with 12 points.
Despite both players being in their sophomore year, Toi and Miller have helmed Virginia with both skill and leadership.
“[Toi and Miller are] playing heavy minutes, and they’re kind of putting it all out there,” Thompson said. “They’re learning how to be leaders at this level … they’re just taking the weight of, you know what we do offensively, but also just leading the charge defensively.”
Although Toi found individual success with her scoring, she believes the team needs to work on building confidence and consistency.
“I think [we have to] just put ourselves in the game the entire game, and be the team that’s actually up and they have to come back from us,” Toi said.
Virginia has fought from behind and fell just short in its past two games. As they look for their first win of the year, the Cavaliers will be back in action Sunday to close out its non-conference against George Washington. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN+.