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Three takeaways from UVA women’s basketball’s loss to Clemson

Virginia’s comeback effort fell short on Sunday.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 Women’s - Virginia at Virginia Tech Photo by Brian Bishop/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers (10-12, 2-9 ACC) fell to Clemson 75-69 on Sunday evening inside John Paul Jones Arena. Donning pink uniforms for their annual Play4Kay game, the ‘Hoos battled back from a double-digit deficit to briefly take the lead in the fourth quarter, but they ultimately came up just short.

Here are three takeaways from the disappointing home loss.

Another fourth quarter comeback falls short

The ‘Hoos have had a unique stretch of games inside JPJ lately, with last Sunday’s thrilling upset over No. 20 North Carolina sandwiched between three eerily similar contests against Notre Dame (Jan. 18), Pittsburgh (Jan 25), and now Clemson. In each contest, slow starts for Virginia morphed into double-digit third-quarter deficits before the ‘Hoos came to life in the fourth quarter… only to come up short in the final minutes.

Against Clemson on Sunday, the ‘Hoos shot just 11-for-32 (34.4%) in the first half as the Tigers flustered Virginia’s offense with several different zone defenses. UVA never looked comfortable early on and went into the locker room trailing by six.

The Clemson lead grew to 10 by the end of a back-and-forth third quarter, but the ‘Hoos came out scorching hot in the fourth, using a 16-to-4 run take a brief two-point lead.

Six lead changes later, the ‘Hoos trailed 65-64 with three minutes to play, but back-to-back triples by Clemson’s Mackenzie Kramer and a strong, driving layup through contact by Dayshanette Harris with 20 seconds to go put the game on ice.

Virginia went 9-of-15 (60%) from the floor and 4-of-9 (44.4%) from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter, but Sunday provided another example of how hard it is to overcome slow starts. The ‘Hoos never quit and have provided a lot of excitement with these furious fourth-quarter rallies, but double-digit second-half holes are nearly impossible to climb out of. The ACC is just too tough a conference to wait until the fourth quarter to try and flip the switch.

Rebounding and fouls cost Virginia

The ‘Hoos dearly miss Camryn Taylor — who was sidelined for the third-straight game with a left knee injury — for many reasons, but her work on the glass might be at the top of the list.

Virginia entered Thursday’s contest at Virginia Tech inside the top ten in the nation in rebounds per game but was out-rebounded 47-to-31 by the Hokies and then 41-to-30 by the Tigers on Sunday.

Virginia allowed Clemson to pull down 15 offensive boards — including an essentially game-sealing rebound with 20 seconds to play off a missed free throw — leading to 18 second-chance points for the Tigers.

Virginia also had a tough time playing defense without fouling on Sunday, as the ‘Hoos committed 25 personal fouls that sent Clemson to the line 28 times.

A 25-to-13 foul margin that saw the Tigers beneficiaries of several questionable calls down the stretch is a tough pill to swallow for Virginia, but it’s not the first time this season the ‘Hoos have posted lofty foul totals.

Dayshanette Harris (in what was reminiscent of a vintage 2018 James Harden performance) took major advantage of Virginia’s handsy defense, relentlessly attacking the rim all evening to draw 15 fouls and get herself to the charity stripe 16 times.

Two unlikely ‘Hoos played major roles

Kymora Johnson (24 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) and Sam Brunelle (24 points, 6 3PM, 4 blocks) led the way offensively for Virginia, but the ‘Hoos also got great contributions from freshman Edessa Noyan and sophomore Cady Pauley.

Noyan registered a season-high 28 minutes off the bench and made the most of her increased role, posting six points and four rebounds along with a team-best plus/minus of +12. Noyan has now scored at least five points in four of Virginia’s last five contests as she continues to give the ‘Hoos great minutes while Cam Taylor is out of action.

Pauley has had a tough go of it from the beyond the arc this season, entering Sunday just 7-of-38 (18.4%) from deep, but the sophomore knocked down two huge triples in the fourth quarter against Clemson, catalyzing UVA’s comeback. Pauley showed flashes of excellence from three-point territory her freshman season, and a return to form could be huge for Virginia during the second half of the conference schedule.