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Women’s basketball collapses late, knocked out of ACC Tournament by Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons ended the game on a 23-9 run to put an end to the Cavaliers’ season

<p>The Cavaliers endured a field goal drought of nearly eight minutes in the fourth quarter, a stretch of play that ultimately cost them their season.</p>

The Cavaliers endured a field goal drought of nearly eight minutes in the fourth quarter, a stretch of play that ultimately cost them their season.

Virginia women’s basketball traveled to the Greensboro Coliseum Wednesday evening to take on Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers (15-15, 7-11 ACC) were coming in with momentum, winning five of their last seven games, including an incredible upset Sunday against No. 11 Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons (7-24, 2-16 ACC) had defeated Virginia in the last two ACC Tournaments and were hoping to make it a third. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they fell apart in the final frame and lost the game 58-55. 

The game started rather sloppy for both teams, and Virginia committed turnovers in its opening two possessions. However, they turned it around on their next chance when sophomore guard Paris Clark found fifth year forward Camryn Taylor for the first points of the contest. 

With just over four minutes gone, graduate forward Sam Brunelle set a screen in the middle of the court, which allowed freshman guard Kymora Johnson to find open space deep beyond the arc. She made the most of the opportunity and knocked down the three-point shot. 

As the clock winded down, it seemed as though the Cavaliers would have the opportunity to take the last shot of the quarter. But Virginia went early as Clark found an open Taylor for a layup with 14 seconds left, which left just enough time for graduate guard Kaia Harrison to run down the court for a layup of her own, knotting the game at 11 each entering the second quarter. 

Within the first minute of the second frame, graduate guard Alexandria Scruggs secured an offensive rebound over the Virginia defenders and immediately went up for the second chance points. She was key to Wake Forest’s early offensive production, scoring eight of the Demon Deacons’ first 13 points. 

For the Cavaliers, it was Clark that was getting it done. With just over seven minutes remaining, she stole the ball away from junior guard Elise Williams and sprinted down the court for an easy layup. Then on the following two possessions, she assisted freshman guard Olivia McGhee and Johnson respectively to cap off a 7-0 run. Throughout the first half, she recorded an impressive five assists. 

After a strong offensive run for Virginia, Wake Forest responded with an 8-0 run of its own. After just over four minutes in the second quarter, Williams knocked down a three-point shot. Two possessions later, she hit yet another shot from beyond the arc to give the Demon Deacons the lead. The rest of the quarter was quiet on both sides, as both teams went scoreless in the final three minutes of the half. Wake Forest entered halftime with a narrow 25-23 lead. 

The Cavaliers dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Demon Deacons by 13 points in the frame. Within the first ten seconds, Taylor tied the game after she made a mid-range shot. On the next possession, with the shot clock winding down, Clark knocked down her first three-point shot of the night. Johnson’s layup, two possessions later, capped off a hot start to the quarter. 

In the middle of the quarter, Taylor took over the game and scored on three consecutive possessions. The first two of her made baskets came from the paint. Then, she capped off her personal 7-0 run with a three-point shot. 

Then it was Johnson’s turn. With just over two minutes remaining, she turned around from her defender and hit a fadeaway jump shot. Exactly one minute later, she created space for herself by stepping back beyond the arc and hit a three-point shot to give Virginia a 15 point cushion. The Demon Deacons would follow up with some free throws, but the Cavaliers headed into the last frame with a seemingly comfortable 11-point lead. 

Unfortunately, Virginia completely fell apart in the last quarter, which allowed Wake Forest to come back from their large deficit. With just under eight minutes remaining, redshirt freshman guard Kate Deeble knocked down a three-point shot off an assist from Scruggs. The next made basket came over two minutes later when junior guard Alyssa Andrews made a three-point shot of her own. Then to cap it off, Williams knocked down a shot from beyond the arc. Just like that, it was a one possession game. 

With ninety seconds left, Andrews got an offensive rebound and put the ball straight back up, making the shot and drawing a foul. After making the subsequent free throw, the Demon Deacons had taken the lead. The Cavaliers attempted to narrow the deficit by sending Wake Forest to the free-throw line, and while the Demon Deacons did miss two of their final six attempts at the line, Virginia could not break its cold spell and pounce on the opportunity. The Cavaliers lost the game 58-55, ending their season. Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton attributed Virginia’s early exit in the ACC Tournament to a lack of desire.

“[We] didn’t compete,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “Credit to Wake Forest. They wanted it more, they played well, they’ve got three kids on that team that understand what it takes to make a run in this tournament. And so, we will be better for next year, but we didn’t play our game.”

It is tough to see such a promising finish to the regular season — including wins in three of the last four games and an upset victory over a ranked rival — followed up by a game that ended in a late collapse. The Cavaliers will await a decision on if they will compete in any postseason tournaments, although the odds are unlikely after their lackluster conclusion to the 2023-24 season. 

While this game resulted in a disappointing finish, one loss is not a testament to the rest of the Virginia season, as the team made significant strides from last year. The Cavaliers won just four games in conference last season, bumping that number to seven — four of which came against ranked opponents — in 2023-24. Though Virginia is losing the likes of Taylor and Brunelle to graduation next season, the Cavaliers have a foundation of young players to build within the coming years. 


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