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Virginia women’s basketball loses fifth straight to North Carolina

Despite a strong performance from their bench, the Cavaliers continued their losing streak

<p>The Cavaliers shot just 33.8 percent from the field in their Saturday afternoon defeat to the Tar Heels</p>

The Cavaliers shot just 33.8 percent from the field in their Saturday afternoon defeat to the Tar Heels

Virginia women’s basketball traveled to Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C. to take on North Carolina Sunday afternoon. The Cavaliers (8-8, 0-5 ACC) were hoping to rebound after a blowout loss to NC State Thursday night, while the No. 20 Tar Heels (12-5, 4-1 ACC) were also coming into the game following a loss of their own to Florida State. While Virginia kept it close for the majority of the game, it allowed North Carolina to pull away in the final few minutes, ultimately losing the game 68-81. 

Both sides started off the game sloppy with each team committing turnovers on their first possessions. But the scoring kicked off when senior guard Deja Kelly knocked down a three-pointer from the left side of the court. This marked the beginning of her highest-scoring game of the season, as she would finish the night with 27 points.

The Cavaliers needed a little more time to get on the scoreboard and missed their first four shots, but after grabbing a rebound, senior guard Alexia Smith ran up the court and found graduate student forward Camryn Taylor who drained a mid-range shot to get Virginia on the board.  

The Cavaliers quickly found themselves down 11-2 after the Tar Heels converted on three consecutive possessions, but Taylor again helped Virginia cut the deficit. After grabbing her own miss, she set up in the corner and received a perfectly placed pass from sophomore guard Yonta Vaughn to convert her second basket of the night. 

Shooting problems persisted for the Cavaliers for the rest of the quarter, with only graduate student forward Sam Brunelle making a shot outside of Taylor. However, as the quarter came to a close, they were very much in the game, down 19-12. 

The second quarter was much better for Virginia, in large part due to their defensive prowess. After a slow start in which North Carolina grew their lead to 14 points, freshman guard Reniya Kelly tried to find sophomore guard Indya Nivar for a pass. Unfortunately for her, sophomore guard Paris Clark read it perfectly, swiftly intercepting the ball and turning it into two points. This was one of four turnovers forced by the Cavaliers in the second frame. 

With under three minutes left in the second quarter, Virginia was down 12 and it looked as if the Tar Heels were pulling away. However, the Cavaliers would go on an impressive run to end the half.

With two minutes and 32 seconds remaining, Clark drove to the basket, pulling an extra defender with her. This left graduate student center Taylor Lauterbach wide open for the easy layup. Then, about a minute later, freshman forward Edessa Noyan found freshman guard Olivia McGhee for the midrange jump shot to cut the lead to single digits. Virginia would score three more points in the quarter and ended the half down just five points. 

The third quarter was the Cavaliers’ best, and although they shot just 35.3 percent from the field, they capitalized on a number of important three-pointers. With seven minutes and 17 seconds left in the quarter, Smith found freshman guard Kymora Johnson who stepped back from her defender and used the separation to put up her first points of the game.

Then, with four minutes and 13 seconds remaining, Vaughn inbounded the ball and connected with Taylor again who executed a perfect catch and shoot over her defender. As the Virginia bench stood up, it seemed as though the momentum was shifting. 

The Cavaliers took this momentum to go on a 10-4 run to end the quarter. With under a minute left, Taylor drove down the left side of the paint and forced a foul, sending her to the line with the chance to tie the game. She hit both of her free throw attempts, and for the first time since the start of the contest, the game was knotted up. 

Unfortunately for Virginia, the fourth quarter didn’t go as planned. The Cavaliers were only able to score three times while allowing North Carolina to try 13 free throw attempts. The game still remained close for much of the final quarter, and with just under five minutes remaining, the Cavaliers were only down four points. 

However, Virginia would go into a scoring drought of over three minutes which allowed the Tar Heels to go on an 8-0 run to take control of the game. North Carolina never looked back as they built up the lead, sending the Cavaliers to their fifth consecutive defeat. 

Although the Cavaliers ultimately couldn’t get it done, they received another strong performance from their bench. Led by McGhee, Virginia received 28 points from its bench, meaning that the team’s reserves have combined for at least 25 points nine times this season.      

The Cavaliers return home Thursday to take on No. 18 Notre Dame at 7 p.m. The game is set to be streamed on ACCNX. 


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