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Virginia women’s basketball struggles in 54-73 defeat to Duke

A poor offensive night saw the Cavaliers lose their chance at a first-round bye in the ACC tournament

<p>Freshman guard Kymora Johnson led the Cavaliers with 14 points in the team's loss Thursday.</p>

Freshman guard Kymora Johnson led the Cavaliers with 14 points in the team's loss Thursday.

After winning four of its last five contests with strong offensive performances, Virginia women’s basketball was unable to continue that momentum, falling to Duke 54-73 in Durham, N.C. The Cavaliers (14-14, 6-11 ACC) had a rough shooting night, making just 37 percent of their field goal attempts and managing only a single make from the three-point line. The Blue Devils (19-9, 11-6 ACC) were able to collect 11 more rebounds and outscore Virginia in each period of play, a charge that was led by junior guard Reigan Richardson, who totaled 24 points and four rebounds all while only missing four shots in the game. The game would ultimately end with Virginia staring down a 19-point deficit.

Duke jumped out to an early lead, scoring nine straight unanswered points. It wasn’t until nearly halfway through the first quarter that fifth-year forward Camryn Taylor put points on the board for the Cavaliers on a second-chance putback. Virginia continued to struggle to make shots, often getting clogged up in the paint or failing to see a good bounce off of the rim, as they didn’t reach double figures until one minute remained in the period. The quarter ended with a score of 17-12, with much of the game being controlled by the Blue Devils, spearheaded by nine points from Richardson. Although Duke had five turnovers in the first quarter, the Cavaliers were unable to capitalize on them. They also were unable to make any of their four three-point attempts, an indication of what their shooting performance would continue to look like for the remainder of the game. 

The start of the second quarter saw continued dominance from the Blue Devils, who built an 11 point lead just four minutes into the quarter. Freshman guard Kymora Johnson, sophomore guard Paris Clark and Taylor were three of only four players on Virginia that were able to get shots to fall. Clark had a stellar second quarter, scoring nine of the team’s 15 points. Despite her efforts, Duke continued to control the game, building a lead of as much as 14 and closing the half with a difference of 13 points between the two teams. 

At the half, both Johnson and Taylor had six points and Clark led the team with nine. During the second quarter, a major issue that was beginning to manifest was the Cavaliers’ inability to rebound as well as they have in past games, giving them a difficult time in mounting a comeback, especially on a night when shots were not falling. 

Virginia looked to open the half with new energy, but that would not be the case as the Blue Devils scored eight points in the first three minutes, a span in which the Cavaliers missed six straight shots. Duke led 53-38 coming out of the third quarter, despite shooting their lowest field goal percentage in any of the four quarters. Virginia still had yet to make a three-pointer up until this point, and the team was only able to convert on four of their 14 field goal attempts in the third quarter, continuing to be outrebounded and slightly worn down by the continued missed shots. Despite all of that, the third quarter was the closest of the game, as the Blue Devils were only able to outscore Virginia 13-11 in the period. 

The fourth quarter continued in a similar fashion to the rest of the game, with Duke adding to its lead and the Cavaliers desperately attempting to get shots to fall in hopes of some semblance of a comeback. However, it simply was not Virginia’s night, as the Blue Devils’ lead was never less than 15 points in the fourth quarter. Johnson led the Cavaliers in scoring with 14 points and six rebounds while Clark and Taylor both contributed 12 and 11 points respectively. 

Virginia displayed an uncharacteristic performance Thursday, especially given how well it had previously been playing. Off nights can happen, but a large factor in the Cavaliers being unable to come back was the rebounding margin, which ended up 35-24 in favor of the Blue Devils. A season-low rebounding night for Virginia paired with struggles offensively created too large an obstacle for the Cavaliers to surmount. Virginia will hope it can return to stronger form as the team heads into their last game of the regular season and begins preparing for ACC Tournament play, which is the Cavaliers’ only realistic avenue to an NCAA Tournament berth.

Virginia ends the regular season with a Senior Night matchup against arch-rival Virginia Tech at John Paul Jones Arena Sunday. The game will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams — the Cavaliers fell 76-63 on the road Feb. 1 — and another installment of the everpresent Commonwealth Clash. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ACCN. 

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