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Women’s basketball drops regular-season finale to Miami

The Cavaliers now shift their focus to the ACC Tournament

<p>Senior forward Camryn Taylor led the Cavaliers with 21 points and seven rebounds.</p>

Senior forward Camryn Taylor led the Cavaliers with 21 points and seven rebounds.

The regular season came to an end for the Virginia women’s basketball team Sunday inside the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Fla., as they fell to Miami 85-74. The Cavaliers (15-14, 4-14 ACC) put up a valiant effort despite dressing only six players for their matchup with the Hurricanes (18-11, 11-7 ACC). The loss, nonetheless, marks Virginia’s 10th in their final 11 games, a disappointing end to a season that began with such promise.

“I typically don’t believe in moral victories,” Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton said. “I want to win. I’m competitive and so is my team. But I’m proud of the fight that we showed today.”

The Cavaliers got off to a quick start, taking an early 5-0 lead on a midrange jumper by senior forward Camryn Taylor followed by a corner three-pointer from graduate guard McKenna Dale. Miami responded with a 14-0 run of their own, however, to take a 16-7 lead on its way to a 22-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Virginia never let the game get out of hand, however. The two squads traded buckets throughout most of the second quarter and freshman guard Cady Pauley drilled back-to-back three-pointers to send the Cavaliers into halftime down just 40-30. Dale and junior guard Alexia Smith each had big first halves for Virginia. Dale had nine points and four rebounds while Smith added eight points and five boards.

Miami again threatened to break the game open early in the third quarter, expanding their lead to 46-32 on their first three possessions. But the resilient Cavaliers responded yet again, going on a 12-4 run to get back within six points. Taylor had five points during the stretch and Pauley knocked down another three-pointer as Virginia pushed the tempo, getting out in transition and attacking the basket.

After the Hurricanes were able to expand the lead again late in the quarter, Taylor and senior guard Taylor Valladay converted on back-to-back old-fashioned three-point plays to send the Cavaliers into the fourth quarter down just 67-60.

Taylor had 13 points in the third quarter and Valladay added nine as Virginia doubled their first-half score with a season-high 30 third-quarter points.

That was as close as the Cavaliers would come, however, as Miami finished strong in the fourth quarter. Miami went 3-4 from deep in the final period to expand their lead and iced the game at the free throw line down the stretch to secure their 11-point victory.

Despite the loss, Virginia showed a lot of heart. Dealing with a plethora of injuries and a one-game suspension for senior forward London Clarkson, the Cavaliers kept it close against a projected NCAA Tournament team. Taylor led the way with 21 points, Valladay poured in 16 to go with six assists, and Pauley knocked down four triples as Virginia got meaningful contributions from each of their six active players.

“I’m proud that we were able to compete for 40 minutes with all the adversity, low numbers and barriers that were put in our way,” head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton said. “So this is something that we can build on for the ACC tournament.”

Virginia is on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament at this point in the season after flirting with a top 25 ranking halfway through. Even before the most recent loss, ESPN’s Women’s Bracketology website did not project the Cavaliers to make the NCAA Tournament. With the injuries faced and continued downward spiral, it will take a miracle run in the ACC Tournament for Virginia to change its future.

The Cavaliers enter this week’s ACC Tournament as the No. 13 seed. They will face 12-seed Wake Forest Wednesday in the opening round of competition at 1 p.m. inside the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. Coverage will be available on ACC Network. 

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