The Virginia Cavaliers fell to No. 20 North Carolina 81-68 inside the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill on Sunday afternoon. The game was a lot closer than the 13-point final margin would suggest, but the ‘Hoos nonetheless dropped their sixth game in their last seven contests.
With UVA falling to 8-8 (0-5 ACC) on the season, here are five takeaways from the hard-fought loss.
There’s no quit in these ‘Hoos
Virginia had lost five of their last six games coming into the matchup with the Tar Heels and UNC landed the first punch on Sunday, jumping out to a quick 11-2 lead which grew to as many as fourteen points early in the second quarter. This one had all the makings of a blowout and the ‘Hoos easily could’ve rolled over and gone down without a fight, but they battled from start to finish.
The ‘Hoos outscored the Tar Heels 18-9 in the final seven minutes of the first half to cut the UNC lead to five heading into the break and then clawed their way all the way back to within one point at the end of the third quarter. Every time is seemed UNC was beginning to pull away, Virginia would respond with a run of their own to close the gap.
UVA was never able to get over the hump and North Carolina managed to stretch the lead back out down the stretch, but the ‘Hoos went down swinging. It hasn’t been an easy stretch for Coach Mox’s squad, but one thing’s for sure — this group doesn’t quit.
It’s a lot more fun when you make threes
Virginia’s overall shooting percentage (22-65 FG, 33.8 FG%) wasn’t pretty once again as the ‘Hoos have still yet to eclipse the 35% mark from the floor in conference play, but Virginia was finally able to knock down some shots from beyond the arc against the Tar Heels.
UVA went 8-for-19 (42.1%) from three-point range as Camryn Taylor (2-3 3FG), Olivia McGhee (2-4 3FG), and Kymora Johnson (2-5 3FG) were all able to knock down multiple triples. It was the Cavaliers’ second-best output of the season both in terms of three-pointers made and three-point percentage (behind only the 15-of-35 3FG performance vs. Tulane on Nov. 24th).
The ‘Hoos have struggled mightily in the three-point department all season, but as evidenced by Sunday’s performance, there are capable shooters on this roster and UVA’s offense functions much more efficiently when they can stretch the floor.
The ‘Hoos are asking a lot of Camryn Taylor
The Cavaliers’ senior forward stuffed the stat sheet once again on Sunday, finishing with 16 points (5-15 FG) and 7 rebounds. Taylor has now scored in double figures in ten consecutive games and has raised her team-leading scoring average to 15.4 per game.
Taylor started hot against the Tar Heels with 9 points in the first quarter as it seemed to be a point of emphasis early on for Virginia to feed her down low. With the recent offensive struggles, it makes a lot of sense for the ‘Hoos to rely heavily on Taylor who has been a consistent force all season.
The problem is that as her role continues to expand, Taylor has now dealt with foul trouble in each of the ‘Hoos last six games. Against UNC, she was forced to the bench for the entire second quarter with two early fouls and finished the game with four personals.
Virginia hasn’t learned how to finish games yet
Four of Virginia’s eight losses this season have come by four or fewer points and Sunday’s loss at UNC was well within reach down the stretch too.
Finding ways to win close games is a skill in and of itself, but it’s one the ‘Hoos haven’t yet mastered. The Tar Heels managed to outscore UVA 28-16 in the fourth quarter on Sunday as their veteran-heavy rotation flashed its experience in crunch time.
It’s important to keep in mind that Coach Mox has a lot of young pieces playing key roles on this team, and they’ll no doubt gain valuable experience on how to win games moving forward.
Olivia McGhee needs more minutes
Virginia’s freshman guard posted a great performance in a difficult road environment, finishing with an efficient 12 points (4-7 FG), 4 rebounds, and a team-best plus/minus of +7 in 22 minutes of action off the bench.
McGhee has now scored in double figures six times this season and has flashed a smooth three-point stroke and efficient offensive arsenal on multiple occasions during her first collegiate campaign.
Her minutes, however, have fluctuated dramatically from game to game. Sunday was her sixth time playing 20+ minutes, but she’s also played fewer than 10 minutes on six occasions. Moving forward, however, there’s no reason for McGhee not to be squarely in the rotation. She figures to be a big part of Virginia’s future, so it’s time to start racking up experience as the ‘Hoos struggle to win games.