On my drive to JPJ to watch the Cavalier Women's Basketball team take on the #25 North Carolina Tar Heels yesterday evening, the radio announcers - including a former Cavalier player whose name I didn't catch - were talking about times when contests between Virginia and North Carolina have gone to overtime - or even multiple overtimes.
Little did I know...
By the time the game was over, I had witnessed another classic. A double-overtime thriller. A career high 29 points from Ataira Franklin. The 14th consecutive double-digit game for Ariana Moorer. Seventeen (17!!) total steals by the Virginia defense.
The only problem? Carolina won the game 78-73.
It was a terrific effort by the Cavaliers, playing their first game knowing they'd be without guard China Crosby for the rest of the season. For 50 minutes they fought and showed that their close contest with Duke on Monday night wasn't a fluke. They just came up a tad short at the end.
Check back after the break for some more details on the game.
The Cavalier defense in the first half was absolutely stifling. Six steals - and twelve turnovers by the Tar Heels overall - are a pretty good indication of that. If not for some timely shooting by the Heels - particularly from behind the arc - the 'Hoos would have easily had a double-digit lead going into halftime. Regardless, they held a 34-27 lead at the half and had clearly been the better team on the floor for the first twenty minutes.
The second half would be a different story. While the defense was still there for the Cavs - they held Carolina to only 30 points and had another seven steals - they had to contend with a much more tenacious Tar Heel defense.
Having shot only 41% in the first half, including 13% from three-point range, Virginia needed a little better shooting night in the second half to make sure they stayed ahead of Carolina. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The 'Hoos shot only 27% in the second half, including just 11% from three-point range. Combining that with the Tar Heels taking 7 more free throws (and making 5 more) and you can easily see how the lead dissipated, even with solid defense.
In the end, you have to look to the offensive side of the ball to see the difference between the teams. While turnovers (UVA 10, UNC 28) and steals (UVA 17, UNC 6) were solidly in our favor and blocks (UVA 2, UNC 3) were a wash, the shooting percentage (UVA 33.3%, UNC 47.4%), three-point shooting percentage (UVA 15%, UNC 50%) and assists (UVA 10, UNC 16) were too much for Virginia to overcome.
Chelsea Shine, playing her first game with a mouth guard after what had to be quite the frightening dental injury against Duke, chipped in 10 points as the third and final Cavalier to score in double-figures.
Moorer's 15 points means she's scored double-figures in 14 consecutive games. She scored nine against Appalachian State and eight against Providence to open the season.
One interesting thing to note is that the Cavaliers played only seven players during the game. The starters - Egwu, Franklin, Gerson, Moorer and Shine all played at least 44 minutes. Moorer and Franklin actually played the entire 50 minutes. Kelsey Wolfe came in to spell Gerson for six minutes and Jazmin Pitts spelled Shine and Egwu for a combined eight minutes. I'm sure it'll be heavily debated why Telia McCall or Erinn Thompson didn't get a few more minutes. But then again, there's no way that Coach Boyle could have known the game would go to overtime and by the time she did know that, she needed her best players in the game. Still, with fatigue clearly being an issue as the second overtime wound down, it's something that I'm sure will be evaluated by the coaching staff.
I have to comment on the technical foul that was called on Sylvia Hatchell in the first half. I got a lot of funny and interested responses when I tweeted about it during the game, so I figure I should clarify.
Virginia was playing the type of close tight defense that it had been playing all game to that point. They managed to trap the Carolina guard along the sideline opposite the scorers table up near the half court line. The Carolina guard ended up falling out of bounds and the ref awarded the ball to Virginia. Hatchell was irate at the call, saying that the Cavalier defenders had pushed the Carolina guard and that's why she fell. Since the play occurred on the other side of the court, she had to yell quite loudly to get the attention of the ref who made the call (and who, by the way, was standing about 5 feet from the play). As she stormed around the court towards the ref, yelling at him (by name), the ref T'd him up. Much to the delight of the fans. Another ref actually had to restrain Hatchell until she handed her over to one of the UNC assistant coaches, who continued to restrain her.
Certainly one of the more entertaining comedy moments I've seen at a basketball game this side of something Uncle Fester does.
But back to Virginia. The Cavaliers (12-4, 0-2 ACC) now have a bit of a reprieve from top-25 action as they travel to Clemson on Sunday to take on the Tigers. This should be a win for the 'Hoos as no doubt the Clemson team is likely still in hiding after watching their football team's performance in the Orange Bowl. Back at JPJ next Thursday, the Cavs host in-state rival Virginia Tech. Clemson and Virginia Tech are a combined 10-18 on the season, though the Hokies are 2-0 in the ACC (those two wins coming over Clemson and 5-9/0-1 Boston College).
Virginia needs to win those two games to stay in the ACC race, as they face two more top-25 teams - Maryland and Miami - after that.