CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - The Virginia women's basketball team's late rally came up short with No. 25 West Virginia holding on for a 54-47 victory.
The Cavaliers (5-2) led 26-23 at the break, but the Mountaineers (4-2) started the second half on an 11-0 run. After trailing by 13 points midway through the second period, Virginia narrowed the gap to three points, 48-45, with 3:12 left in the game. West Virginia hit a three-pointer with just over two minutes left to push the lead back out to six, 51-45 and held on for the victory.
The game was a battle of defenses with West Virginia shooting just 35.6 percent (21-of-59) in the game while the Cavaliers converted 25.9 percent (15-of-58) of their shots. Simone Egwu (Sr., Odenton, Md.), in her second game back after missing the start of the season with a stress reaction in her leg, led Virginia with 14 points.
After four early lead changes and two ties in the first five minutes of the game, the Cavaliers broke open an 8-8 tie by going on a 9-0 run, with five of those nine points coming from the free throw line after drawing fouls while battling in the low post.
The Mountaineers countered with an 8-0 run of their own, draining a pair of three-pointers to make it a 17-16 contest with just over nine minutes left in the first half. West Virginia extended the run by stealing the ball under the Virginia hoop, racing down the court, and converting the layup to take an 18-17 lead. After tying the game up, the Cavaliers took a 23-18 lead on four straight points from Egwu. The center drew contact and a foul call beneath the basket, making both free throws. She drove the hoop on the next possession, getting the layup for the five-point lead with 4:28 left in the first half.
The Cavalier defense turned up the pressure, forcing the Mountaineers to turn the ball over five times in their final six possessions. Additionally, West Virginia got called for a technical in the final 23 seconds of the first half for having six players on the court.
Virginia only scored one point off of those opportunities, taking a 26-23 lead into the halftime break.
The Mountaineers scored the first 11 points of the second half, taking a 34-26 lead, the sixth lead change of the game. After five straight missed baskets by Virginia to start the half, Ataira Franklin (Jr., Bowie, Md.) snapped UVa's cold streak and ended the West Virginia run with a layup with 16:30 left in the game.
After West Virginia pushed the lead out to double digits, 43-30, with 11:39 remaining, the Cavaliers used a put back and a pair of free throws from Sarah Imovbioh (So., Abuja, Nigeria) to narrow the gap to single digits, 43-34, with just under ten minutes left in the game.
Franklin helped get the team closer, draining a three-pointer from the top-right side of the arc, making it 47-41 with six minutes left in the game. After the Cavalier defense forced the Mountaineers on their next possession to launch a shot from the free throw line that didn't touch the rim, Virginia came up with the rebound. China Crosby (Sr., New York, N.Y.) set Egwu up on a pick-and-roll, making it a 47-43 game with five minutes remaining.
The Cavaliers had three chances to narrow the gap, but couldn't convert. A pair of free throws by Egwu put UVa within three, 48-45, with 3:10 on the clock. After the two teams traded turnovers and missed baskets, West Virginia's Christal Caldwell drained a three-pointer from the left corner to put WVU up 51-45 with 2:01 left in the game.
Ten seconds later, Egwu dribbled under the basket, converting a reverse layup to make it 51-47.
After both teams traded missed shots and defensive rebounds, West Virginia threw up another three point attempt, the ball clanking off the rim and into the hands of Caldwell who took a jumper three feet from the basket to give WVU a 53-47 lead with 35 seconds left in the game.
The Mountaineer defense did not give Virginia a clean look at the basket in the final 30 seconds with UVa missing a layup and two three-pointers. West Virginia held on for the 54-47 victory.
"It is tough team to play with a day turnaround," Boyle said. "When people are pressuring you like that, you should get over-the-top looks and high-lows. We were throwing the ball out of bounds. The first play of the game, we ran what we wanted and got a layup. Then, all of a sudden, we couldn't execute. I thought it was a lot of poor execution but I'm not going to take anything away from West Virginia. They made us become that team, too."
In addition to Egwu's 14 points, Franklin also scored in double figures with 12 points. Crosby scored seven points with five rebounds. The point guard also had six of Virginia's seven assists. Imovbioh, despite playing just 13 minutes, had a team-high six rebounds and seven points.
The Cavaliers have one final game on the schedule before breaking for finals, heading up to College Park to take on No. 11/10 Maryland on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. It will be the first ACC game of the season for both teams. After taking on the Terps, the Virginia players will have an 11-day break, before returning to action on Tuesday, Dec. 18 when they host Coppin State at 7 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena.