A foul in the final 0.4 seconds of the game was the deciding factor in the Virginia women basketball team’s 74-73 loss to Syracuse in the finale of the San Juan Shootout.
Sarah Imovbioh scored the first nine points for the Cavaliers, staking them to an early 9-6 lead. Imovbioh helped extend the lead to 12-6 by receiving a pass in the low post and after not finding a clean look, dished the ball out to a wide-open China Crosby who drained a three.
Imovbioh made two more free throws right before the 15-minute mark, putting her in double figures in first five minutes of the game.
Virginia extended the lead to 21-14 on a pair of fast break buckets, with Crosby racing down court to score an unassisted bucket. Telia McCall had a turnaround jumper from the free throw line for the other.
After the Orange pulled to within a bucket, a three-pointer by Faith Randolph from the top of key made it 26-21 with 8:46 left in the half. Randolph struck again at the 6:50 mark, hitting a three from the left corner to make it 29-21. Imovbioh got fouled as she was converting a put-back. After converting the and-one, Virginia had its first double-digit lead, 32-21, with 6:12 left in the half.
After Syracuse cut the lead to 34-28, Kesley Wolfe won a scrum for a rebound, running the length of the court for a layup. Sarah Beth Barnette scored a transition basket in the next possession to extend the lead to double digits, 38-28.
The Orange drained a three pointer with less than minute left in the period to narrow the gap to seven, 40-33. The two teams went into the break with that score.
Syracuse scored the first six points of the second half on a three layups, pulling within one, 40-39, with 17:43 left in the game. A free throw from McCall and put-back by Imovbioh pushed the lead back out to 43-39 with 16:04 remaining. Moments later, Wolfe grabbed a steal, getting a pass out to Crosby who got an and-one to make it 46-39 with 15:22 on the clock.
The Orange made another run, pulling within two, 48-46, after hitting a three-pointer from the left corner with 13:40 remaining. Virginia answered with McCall scoring on a set inbounds play. Crosby grabbed a steal seconds later, taking it to the hoop to push the lead back to six, 52-46 with 13 minutes remaining.
Syracuse finally erased the last of the one-time 12 point deficit, hitting a three pointer to make it 58-58 with just over eight minutes left in the game. McCall’s turnaround jumper mere seconds later put Virginia back in the lead.
After tying the game two more times, Syracuse took its first lead with 2:30 left in the game on a second-chance layup, going up 68-67.
The game was tied 69-69 with two minutes to play. Virginia got a low post feed into Jazmin Pitts, who missed the layup. Syracuse got the rebound, getting the ball down court and out to the left corner, draining a three to take a 72-69 lead with 1:20 remaining.
On Virginia’s next possession, Imovbioh drew a foul down low, making both free throws to pull within a point, 72-71. After another three-point attempt by Syracuse, the Cavaliers came up with the rebound with 42 seconds left on the clock.
With the shot clock expiring, Wolfe drove the basket, missing the layup, but Virginia earned the rebound after the ball went out of bounds off a Syracuse player.
With 18.9 seconds remaining, Wolfe got the ball inbounded to Imovbioh who handed it back off to Wolfe. Wolfe, who had made her last 13 consecutive free throws, drove the hoop, drawing a foul with 8.5 left. She made both of free throws in the one-and-one opportunity to give Virginia a 73-72 lead.
After a quick inbounds play, Syracuse’s guard dribbling up court lost control of the ball. Players from both teams piled on to tie up the ball. Syracuse had the possession arrow, getting to inbound the ball with 2.1 seconds left in the game from its own baseline. They got the ball into Elashier Hall. Hall, positioned right under the basket, went up for a layup, but was fouled with the whistle blowing with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. Hall made both free throws to put Syracuse up, 74-73. The Cavaliers did not have time to get off a shot as the game clock expired.
The Cavaliers had four players in double figures. Imovbioh had her second 20-point game of the season, scoring 20 points. Imovbioh was 6-for-8 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Crosby had her second consecutive double-digit scoring effort with 10 points. Pitts followed up her 20-point performance against Vanderbilt with a 10-point effort. Wolfe went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, extending her consecutive made free throw streak to 15, scoring 10 points.
“It’s one of those losses that is really tough because the kids really battled hard,” said head coach Joanne Boyle. “I thought we played a great game. The first five minutes of the second half, we really had a lapse. I think that is where Syracuse got their momentum, then we were just fighting them off the whole game. At the end, we scrambled for a loose ball and it comes down to that possession. They said we fouled and Syracuse shot free throws to win the game.”
With the loss, the Cavaliers fall to 4-1 on the season. Syracuse, which beat Georgia Tech in overtime in their other game at the tournament, improved to 6-0 on the season.
“I am proud of the girls,” Boyle said. “We came into this weekend a little depleted because of the health of our personnel, but we battled both days. This game in November is just our fifth game, but it is going to pay dividends for us in the long run.”
After returning from the Caribbean, the Cavaliers will face Minnesota in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against the Golden Gophers on Thursday, Nov. 29 in Minneapolis. The team returns home on Sunday, Dec. 2, hosting No. 12/14 West Virginia.