In a continuation of a frustrating season for the Virginia women’s basketball team, the Cavaliers (3-13, 0-6 ACC) dropped all three ACC matchups last week to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Duke. Although it showed glimpses of promise at times, Virginia simply could not overcome the challenges that go along with capturing the team’s first conference win of the season.
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Virginia women’s basketball lost to state rival Virginia Tech 69-52 Jan. 18 at the Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. The Cavaliers struggled all game shooting, going 18-50 – 36 percent – from the field. Despite having a similar shooting percentage, the difference for the Hokies (14-5, 6-2 ACC) was the turnover battle and three-point shooting.
“They were just very timely [three-point] shots that put a little bit more space in between them and ourselves and in regards to the score,” Coach Tina Thompson said. “But 7-of-22. I think that we guarded the three-point line very well. It's just that the timing of when they made them that was kind of heartbreaking.”
Hokie junior center Elizabeth Kitley continued her dominant season with 24 points and 10 rebounds, recording her seventh straight double-double. Kitley currently leads the Hokies with 18.9 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game on the season.
The game got off to a fast start with graduate student guard Amandine Toi and Hokie senior guard Kayana Traylor exchanging three-point jumpers in the first couple minutes of the opening quarter. Kitley scored the next ten points for the Hokies en route to a run that put Virginia Tech up 13-6 with 2:14 left in the quarter. Virginia narrowed the lead to three at the end of the quarter and trailed 15-12.
The Cavaliers came out hot in the second quarter, scoring on three of their first four possessions with a layup from graduate student forward Eleah Parker and two baskets from Toi. This streak cut the Hokie lead to just one. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they did not hit a single shot for the final 7:55 of the half and Virginia Tech strengthened their lead to 10 points going into the halftime break.
The Cavaliers had a good start to their second half with the help of six straight points from junior guard Taylor Valladay that brought the Hokie lead to only four. Valladay led the Cavaliers with her season-high 16 points while totaling six boards and six assists. The Hokies finished the third quarter on an 11-4 run, giving them an eleven point lead going into the final period.
Two early fourth quarter three-pointers from the Hokies made the lead seem insurmountable with a 52-36 edge with 8:20 left in the game. However, the Cavaliers continued to fight and went on a 7-0 run, getting the lead down to single digits. Great free-throw shooting down the stretch for Virginia Tech was key to pulling away late and ultimately iced the game. On the day, the Hokies were an impressive 16-17 – 94.1 percent – from the line, a great feat for a team that has only shot 71.7 percent from the line for the year.
“I'm proud of our effort tonight,” Thompson said. “Although we had some miscues at times, like defensively, we continue to stay in it and try to impose pressure offensively and defensively. We’re in a place where we've experienced a lot in the last couple of weeks and the next couple of weeks are not going to be any different. But our goal is to continue to show up and continue to compete.”
Virginia vs. North Carolina
Following their bout with Virginia Tech, the team went on to lose 61-52 to North Carolina in Chapel Hill Thursday night. After a tight first quarter, the Cavaliers struggled on offense in the second frame, allowing the Tar Heels (15-2, 5-2 ACC) to take command. Virginia rallied in the fourth quarter to keep it close, but were unable to fully overcome their second quarter lapse.
Sophomore guards Deja Kelly and Kennedy Todd-Williams for North Carolina put up impressive performances, scoring 18 and 15 points respectively. North Carolina didn’t have a particularly good scoring night overall, shooting 31.67 percent from the field and scoring on only 19 of 60 shot attempts. Despite this, they were excellent from the free throw line, making 18 of 25.
The Cavaliers were without their second highest leading scorer, junior forward Camryn Taylor, who averages around 13 points per game. Without Taylor, Valladay stepped up big for Virginia. She shot eight for 13 and led the team in scoring with 18 points. Toi and graduate student forward Eleah Parker also played well, scoring 10 and eight points, respectively. Sophomore guard Kaydan Lawson was excellent for the Cavaliers on the boards, finishing with 14 rebounds. Overall the Cavaliers were 23 of 69, shooting 33.33 percent from the field.
Throughout the first quarter the two teams were locked in a tight battle. Virginia opened up the game strong, striking first. The Cavaliers played good defense at the beginning of the game, limiting the Tar Heels to one chance on a lot of drives. However, there were glimpses of defensive breakdowns when Kelly hit a step back jumper followed by a three, which she was fouled on. This allowed North Carolina to take the lead 6-4.
This first quarter was a back and forth fight, as both teams struggled to gain dominance. The momentum started to shift in the direction of North Carolina, as Kelly hit a three and Lawson missed two free throws for Virginia. Although the Tar Heels initially struggled in the first quarter, they went on a 12-2 run to finish it. At the end of the first quarter North Carolina held the advantage, leading 20-16. Both teams had six turnovers in the quarter.
Despite the strong first quarter, things started to go downhill for the Cavaliers in the second. The Tar Heels dominated the quarter, mostly due to their strong defense and ability to make free throws. The Virginia offense struggled immensely, scoring only four points in the whole quarter. As a result, North Carolina was able to extend its lead and started to pull away. At the half North Carolina led 32-20.
In the third quarter, the play for Virginia improved, but the Tar Heels continued to increase their lead. Their lead extended to as much as 17 points over Virginia.
Despite capturing some momentum, Virginia missed free throws and failed to take advantage of opportunities, while North Carolina was able to capitalize on fouls, scoring a decent amount of points from the free throw line. By the end of the third quarter, the Tar Heels were winning by 14 points.
The Cavaliers continued to work away at the Tar Heel lead in the fourth quarter, bringing the game closer. With 8:45 left in the quarter, North Carolina led 50-39. Despite the game seeming out of reach, Virginia came back and made it a nine point game.
With 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, North Carolina was leading 58-50. A layup scored by Valladay decreased the lead to six. Although the Cavaliers came back and brought the game within striking distance in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, fouls again brought trouble for them and prevented them from fully coming back to overtake the Tar Heels.
Fouls and free throws made a big difference in this game and were a large reason why Virginia ultimately fell short. The Cavaliers consistently fouled, which led to free throws and points for the Tar Heels, while they struggled to make their own whenever they got a chance to go to the line. Virginia also had trouble offensively for a large part of the game, and a lot of the dents they made in North Carolina’s lead in the third and fourth quarters ended up being nullified by turnovers and fouls.
The Virginia defense was strong and held North Carolina, one of the best teams offensively in the ACC, well below their average points per game. However, the Cavaliers struggled to produce on the offensive end. North Carolina was ultimately the better team, but the Cavaliers put up a fight. They did not let up after a disappointing second quarter and kept battling to bring the game back within reach.
Virginia vs. Duke
On Sunday, the Virginia Women’s Basketball team fell to No. 21 Duke 57-48 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. The contest saw the Cavaliers stage a big comeback late in the game, turning the Blue Devils (13-4, 4-3 ACC) 16 point lead to 5 within the final minutes of the game. But to no avail, Virginia dropped the game and are still in search of their first ACC victory of their 2021-2022 campaign.
Leading the Cavaliers in points was sophomore guard Kaydan Lawson coming off of the bench. Her 10 points tied her season high. Duke had two double digit scorers – freshman guard Shaeyeann Day-Wilson with 13 and sophomore guard Vanessa de Jesus with 11.
Day-Wilson opened the scoring for the Blue Devils, setting the stage for a 10-3 run to open the game in the first four minutes. After a basket from Valladay that narrowed the lead to five, there was a long scoring drought from both teams lasting almost four and a half minutes. Two buckets from Day-Wilson extended the Blue Devil lead to nine at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began even with both squads trading baskets early. A three-point jumper from Toi brought the score deficit down to five. The Blue Devils were quick to shut down the comeback. Duke went on a 14-3 run to finish the quarter and led 34-18 going into the halftime break.
The Cavaliers scored the first four points of the second half thanks to two baskets from Valladay and Lawson. However, Duke was quick to respond with two three-pointers from junior guard Nyah Green. Both teams exchanged baskets to end the quarter and the Duke lead was 17 heading into the final period.
It was all Virginia to start the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers scored on their first five possessions, giving way to a 16-4 run. A layup from Lawson capped the run and shrunk the Blue Devil advantage to 50-45 with 2:33 left in regulation.
Down the stretch, time was the main challenge for the Cavaliers. Duke was additionally solid from the free throw line which prevented Virginia fouls from making up any ground. Ultimately, this allowed Duke to pull away with a nine point victory.
The match-up against the Blue Devils was definitely a step in the right direction for a Cavalier team that has had a challenging season.
Virginia will come home to Charlottesville Thursday to meet rival Virginia Tech for the second time in two weeks. The game will air live on ACCNX and ESPN+ at 7 p.m.