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Women’s basketball knocked out of WBIT by Villanova in 73-55 loss

The Cavaliers weren’t clicking offensively and are now officially done for the season

<p>The Cavaliers were outscored 19-6 in the second quarter, allowing the Wildcats to open up a double-digit halftime lead that was never surmounted.</p>

The Cavaliers were outscored 19-6 in the second quarter, allowing the Wildcats to open up a double-digit halftime lead that was never surmounted.

Virginia women’s basketball traveled to Villanova, Pa. Sunday afternoon to take on Villanova at Finneran Pavilion. The Cavaliers (16-16, 7-11 ACC) were coming in off an impressive performance in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament, beating High Point by 22 points, while the Wildcats (20-12, 11-7 Big East) were led by junior guard Lucy Olsen’s 29 points in their own first-round victory over Virginia Commonwealth. Both teams were hoping to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament, but Olsen led Villanova to another win, beating Virginia 73-55. 

The Cavaliers struggled to contain Olsen in the first quarter, as she scored 14 of the Wildcats’ 17 points in the opening frame. On Villanova’s opening possession, senior guard Bella Runyan found Olsen way beyond the arc and she knocked down a three-point shot to record the opening points of the game. 

While the Wildcats scored largely through one player the entire quarter, Virginia spread the ball around, with six different players recording points in the opening frame. With just under nine minutes remaining, freshman guard Kymora Johnson benefited from a screen set by graduate forward Camryn Taylor, which opened up a lane to the basket to record the Cavaliers’ first points. 

A few minutes later, Johnson found senior guard Alexia Smith who created space to give herself a wide-open shot from mid-range. Throughout the quarter, it was largely a back-and-forth affair and the score remained close by the end, with Virginia down 17-14 after ten minutes of action. 

The second frame was one to forget for the Cavaliers, as they only managed to score six points while struggling defensively. With just under six minutes remaining, Johnson attempted to find graduate center Taylor Lauterbach under the basket, but the ball was tipped away by freshman forward Brynn McCurry and it eventually deflected off junior guard Jillian Brown’s foot for a backcourt violation. 

The Cavaliers failed to learn from their mistake on the next possession, as Smith tried to find graduate forward Sam Brunelle on the sideline but threw the ball away for Virginia’s second consecutive turnover. 

With the Cavaliers struggling offensively, Villanova began to run away with the lead. Throughout the quarter they made eight field goals, including three from beyond the arc. This included a drive to the basket by Runyan, who impressively shot the ball over Taylor for the basket. This capped off a 17-2 run by the Wildcats, and as the first half came to a close, Virginia was down 16 points.

The third quarter was the only frame in which the Cavaliers outscored their opponents, but it didn’t get off to a good start. On their opening possession, Virginia attempted four shots, missing all of them before eventually turning the ball over following an offensive foul on Taylor. 

They quickly turned things around though, and on their next possession, Brunelle found Johnson for a layup. Then, Villanova struggled to get the ball up the court, and sophomore guard Paris Clark recorded the steal to set up a quick three-point shot from Brunelle. Following a miss on the other end, Taylor found Brown from beyond the arc and she knocked down a three-point jump shot to cap off an 8-0 run that shrunk the deficit from 18 points to 10.  

Unfortunately, the Wildcats would go on a run of their own. With a little over six minutes to play, Olsen made a fadeaway mid-range jump shot over her defender to push the lead to double digits. After two more Villanova baskets, junior forward Christina Dalce found McCurry for an open mid-range jump shot to cap off their own 8-0 run. In the end, despite a much improved offensive quarter, the Cavaliers didn’t gain much ground and entered the fourth trailing 54-39.

If Virginia was to win the game, they were going to have to take control of the fourth quarter, and unfortunately this was not the case. The Wildcats extended their lead to 20 points with six minutes remaining, quieting any doubt about the game’s outcome. Although Johnson had an impressive final two minutes of the game that included six points, it was too little too late for the Cavaliers, who fell 73-55 in a season-ending defeat.

Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton noted that her team’s struggles out of the gate Sunday, paired with their inability to contain Olsen, were what ultimately cost Virginia its season.

“Anytime you go down early it’s an uphill battle,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “They came out hot. Lucy Olsen is a phenomenal talent. We know that coming in and she kind of had her way with us.”

In spite of a tough loss, Agugua-Hamilton still talked with great pride about the team’s resilience throughout the 2023-2024 campaign.

“I’m just really proud of our group,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “We had a year filled with so much adversity and I’m just really proud of how we continued to fight.”

With the loss, Virginia’s season and Coach Agugua-Hamilton’s second run with the team is now over. Although the Cavaliers finished the season right at the .500 mark, they’ve made significant strides and are seemingly heading in the right direction. They made more three-point shots this season than any Virginia team ever had, and pulled off major upsets over great teams currently competing in the NCAA Tournament. With players like Johnson and Clark leading the way, big things can be expected from the Cavaliers in the next few seasons. 

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