WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The Virginia women's basketball team held off a late rally by the Demon Deacons to earn a 69-64 victory at Wake Forest.
After Virginia built up a 19-point lead, Wake, with its pressure defense and three-point shooting, managed to cut the deficit to five points, 65-60, with 34 seconds left in the game, but the Cavaliers' late free throw shooting along with grabbing an offensive rebound in the final six seconds of the game helped Virginia hold on for the victory.
Ataira Franklin (Jr., Bowie, Md.) scored a season-high 23 points, shooting 50.0 percent (7-of-14) from the field and going 7-of-8 from the free throw line, including hitting a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds.
"I told the team I was very proud of them for how we played the first 34 minutes of the game," said head coach Joanne Boyle. "We came out and were so composed and everything was going our way. After [Wake head coach] Jen Hoover got called for a technical foul, that fired up the Wake team and we didn't keep our heads about us. It was the unforced turnovers: we had three three-second calls, we twice stepped over the line. If we didn't let them get every rebound they wanted in the last six minutes, we wouldn't have been in a situation of having to go against the press."
Wake Forest had the advantage early, with the Deacons leading through most of the first ten minutes of the game. Wake Forest held its biggest lead of the game, 19-14, when free throws from China Crosby (Sr., New York, N.Y.) and Faith Randolph (Fr. Derwood, Md.) pulled UVa to within a point. A layup by Wake's Millesa Calicott temporarily kept the Deacons in the lead, 21-18. A steal by Simone Egwu (Sr., Odenton, Md.) set up a fastbreak layup by Franklin to cut the lead to one, 21-20.
After Franklin took a charge on the defensive end to give possession to UVa, Randolph pulled up for a jumper to put UVa up by one, 22-21. Simone Egwu (Sr., Odenton, Md.) trapped the Wake Forest point guard on the sideline, causing a Wake turnover. Egwu took advantage of the possession, getting an up-and-under basket to put the Cavaliers up 24-21. A banked-in three-pointer by Crosby gave Virginia a 27-21 lead with 4:33 left in the half. The Cavaliers would add six more points to extend the scoring run to 15 straight points.
Wake's Chelsea Douglas ended a 7:50 scoring drought, hitting a jumper with 55 seconds left in the half.
The Cavaliers used long-range shooting, a three-pointer from Franklin and a pair from Kelsey Wolfe (Jr., Germantown, Md.), early in the second half to extend the lead to 17, 49-32.
Wake would end a nearly eight-minute second-half field goal drought with Lakevia Boykin pulling up for a jumper with 7:56 left in the game.
The Cavaliers held a 56-38 lead with 5:22 left in the game when Wake Forest began their charge, with Asia Williams hitting a three-pointer with just over five minutes left in the game.
Wake took advantage of Cavalier missed layups to make it a 10-point game, 58-48, when Franklin hit a pull-up jumper, her 20th points of the game, to extend the lead back to 12 points 2:53 remaining.
Wake's Asia Williams hit a three-pointer with 45.4 seconds left in the game to cut the lead to single digits, 64-55. After the Cavaliers inbounded the ball, the Wake defenders trapped it and caused a turnover. Wake hit a pair of free throws to make it 64-57 with 40 seconds left.
After an immediate foul, Franklin made one of two free throw attempts. Wake answered on the other end with another Williams three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining to make it 65-60.
After Virginia free throws by Franklin, followed by a quick layup by Wake, Wolfe went to the line for UVa with 21 seconds remaining, pushing the lead back out to seven, 69-62, only to have Wake get another quick layup on the other end, making it 69-64 with 11 seconds remaining.
The Cavaliers again inbounded the ball, with Telia McCall (Sr., Marietta, Ga.) getting fouled and sent to the line with six seconds remaining. McCall missed both free throws, but charged through the lane to get the offensive rebound after her second miss to secure the victory for Virginia.
"We, as a whole, needed to become a little bit tighter," Crosby said. "Some of us, myself included, kind of lost our heads. When that happens, it trickles down to everyone else. When that happens, a good team like Wake Forest is going to come back. The last six minutes wasn't good for us. We are going to have to learn from it."
Crosby, with 11 points, was one of three Cavaliers to finish the game in double figures. Wolfe scored 13 points, hitting three of her five field goal attempts and going a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range. Franklin's 23 points was the eighth time this season a Virginia player scored 20 or more points in a game.
With the win, the Cavaliers improved to 14-6 (6-3 ACC) and are alone in fifth place in the ACC. Wake Forest fell to 10-10 (3-5 ACC).
Virginia will have a week off, returning to action on Sunday, Feb. 3 when it hosts Georgia Tech at 1 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on the ACC Regional Sports Network. The Feb. 3 game will be National Girls and Women in Sports Day with Virginia senior swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Lauren Perdue signing autographs pregame and being honored in a halftime ceremony. Feb. 3 is also Kids Day with a pregame youth zone featuring sign-making, face-painting, and youth-oriented activities. After the game, the women's basketball team will sign autographs on the main court.