By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Point guard China Crosby hasn’t played since the first minute of UVa’s Dec. 20 game against JMU, when she went down with the third knee injury of her college career, and she won’t play again this season.
What the Virginia women’s basketball team learned earlier in the week became public knowledge Thursday evening. UVa announced that Crosby had undergone season-ending surgery Wednesday to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
“First and foremost, I just feel awful for her,” Joanne Boyle, the Cavaliers’ first-year coach, said Thursday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
“It’s hard as a coach to see a player that loves the game so much, and wants to be such a part of it, not to be able to have an ACC season.”
Crosby, a 5-6 junior from New York City, first tore her left ACL in January 2010 and missed the rest of that season. In 2010-11, Crosby sprained her left knee in the opener at Hofstra and missed the next nine games. Now comes another major setback for the former McDonald’s All-American.
“It’s definitely hard,” sophomore guard Ataira Franklin said. “China’s feisty. Everybody knows that. She’s definitely a spark for us. But she’s not the type of person that would want us to mope around. She’s not moping around. We can’t spend time asking whys and ifs and hows or anything like that, because we don’t have those answers. Right now all we can do is look forward, stay positive. Before the game, everyone’s writing No. 1s on their shoes, so right now we’re just playing for her.”
With Crosby, who wears jersey No. 1, sidelined, the Wahoos are missing their starting point guard and emotional leader, and her absence leaves Boyle with only nine healthy scholarship players. But UVa is conceding nothing, as No. 7 Duke discovered Monday night in Durham and another ACC power, North Carolina, learned Thursday night at JPJ.
The Cavaliers took the 25th-ranked Tar Heels to double overtime before falling 78-73 in front of a crowd of 3,250.
Senior Ariana Moorer, who played all 50 minutes at point guard for UVa, forced overtime with a driving layup that dropped through with 18.8 seconds left in the second half. Virginia had possession at the end of the first OT with the score 69-69, but Moorer missed a contested runner.
In the second OT, Virginia (0-2, 12-14) led 73-71 with 1:40 left. But UVa missed its final four shots from the floor, all of which the taller, fresher Heels contested. UNC (2-0, 12-2) went ahead for good on a drive by Krista Gross with 39 seconds to play.
“We definitely let one slip away tonight, but we just can’t let a loss like this deflate us,” said Franklin, who led the Cavaliers with 29 points — seven more than her previous career high — and 9 rebounds.
“We played hard. We put forth 100 percent of our effort.”
Like Moorer, Franklin played the full 50 minutes. UVa’s other starters didn’t get much rest. Senior forward Chelsea Shine logged 48 minutes, and junior center Simone Egwu and junior guard Lexie Gerson played 44 apiece.
“You never want to go into two overtimes when you have [such a short rotation],” Boyle said, “but I felt good in every overtime. In both of the overtimes we came out and we scored and we got ahead, and then we just got, obviously, tired throughout.”
Chay Shegog, a 6-5 senior from Stafford County, led Carolina with 23 points and also pulled down 11 rebounds. Shegog hurt UVa around the basket, but UNC’s outside shooting might have been a bigger story. Led by junior guard Candace Wood, the Heels hit 8 of 16 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
Wood, whose father is former UNC great Al Wood, sank back-to-back treys during an 11-0 run in the second half. For the game, she was 3 for 6 on 3-pointers.
“We knew she could shoot it,” Boyle said. “We lost her a couple of times.”
Virginia, meanwhile, was 3 for 20 from beyond the arc and shot only 33.3 percent overall. Franklin, Moorer and Shine combined for 54 points, but they were a collective 18 for 58 from the floor.
“I think our offense right now, we’re just at a really slow pace,” Boyle said. “Obviously we got tired legs, so we’re not getting everything that we want out of that.”
At the other end, the Cavaliers stayed in their trademark zone defense for most of the game and forced 28 turnovers. Virginia finished with a season-high 17 steals, led by Franklin and Moorer with 5 each.
Next up for UVa is its second ACC road game, Sunday afternoon at Clemson (0-2, 4-9). Boyle’s message to her players after the tough losses to Duke and UNC?
“We have to stay the course,” she said. “We’ve played two of the better teams in the conference. We’re in every game. But there’s points in the game that we can keep learning from. Obviously, fatigue and all that, it is what it is, but there’s definitely moments where we can really teach off of these two games. That’s the idea: to learn as much as we can here early. It’s a long season, and you don’t win a championship, and you don’t finish in the top of your conference. the first weekend.
“We’re competing with the best teams in the conference and, ultimately, the best teams in the country. You have to look at it as a positive. Our kids believe every time they step on the floor that they can compete and win those games, and that’s half the battle. If they can do that, and we can do better at some of the things we talked about in the locker room, we’ll be good.”