By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE — On the opening possession of the second half, China Crosby banked in a desperation 3-pointer to give UVa a 27-14 lead over Virginia Tech in their women’s basketball game at John Paul Jones Arena. She smiled sheepishly when asked later about her circus shot.

“I don’t know what that was, to be honest with you,” Crosby said. “I knew the shot clock was running down and I got the ball and threw it up, and the basketball gods were with me.”

There were more highlights to come from the senior point guard Thursday night.

As the second half progressed, the Cavaliers’ lead steadily shrunk, and with 1:48 left the Hokies went ahead for the first time, 46-45, on two free throws by Monet Tellier. For much of the half, the Wahoos had been in what their head coach, Joanne Boyle, calls “panic mode,” and suddenly their 12-game winning streak over Tech was in serious jeopardy.

The home fans in the crowd of 4,031 need not have worried. Crosby saved the day and extended the streak.

In the game’s final minute, she was fouled as she attempted a shot from the right side. She muscled the ball up through the contact, and it banked off the glass to make it 47-46 with 54.3 seconds remaining.

“It was amazing,” Virginia guard Ataira Franklin said of Crosby’s basket, a shot that nearly wasn’t attempted.

“I actually was going to pull it out to run an offensive set,” Crosby said, “but Coach B, she was waving her hand and saying, ‘Just go.’ And when she said that, I just went and tried to make a play out of it. Glad it went in, but I was really looking for the foul to get to the free-throw line and hit the free throws.”

Crosby completed the three-point play to make it 48-46. Twenty-eight seconds later, she went 2 for 2 from the line to make it a four-point game, prompting chants of “U-V-A! U-V-A!” from the crowd. Two more free throws, these by Franklin, made it 52-46, and the game ended with the scoreboard showing 52-48.

“We’re just happy to get our first ACC win,” Boyle said. “I thought Virginia Tech played hard. When they were down, they didn’t quit.”

Crosby, who’s been battling a cold, led the `Hoos (9-4, 1-1) with a season-high 16 points. She went 5 for 9 from the floor and 5 for 5 from the line and also had three steals. In her past three games — all Virginia wins — Crosby has totaled 12 assists, nine steals and only five turnovers.

“I still haven’t been playing the way I can play, as Coach B has been saying,” Crosby said Thursday night, but “I did take it personal as far as not turning the ball over too much and making sure I’d be a better leader in that aspect.”

She arrived at UVa in 2009, a McDonald’s All-American from New York City, only to face one obstacle after another during her college career. In the 13th game of her freshman season, Crosby tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, a season-ending injury. Early in the 2010-11 season, she sprained the same knee and suffered a severe bone bruise, setbacks that forced her to miss nine games. Then another torn ACL, in the same knee, limited Crosby to 12 games last season, the Cavaliers’ first under Boyle.

And so Boyle takes special delight in the perseverance shown by Crosby, who leads the team in assists and is second in steals this season. Crosby wears a brace on her left knee but said she doesn’t “think about it at all. I just go out and play.”

Boyle said: “I think any time people go through struggles and have things taken away from them, they come back and they fight and they work hard. You always want your players to see success, and believe me, I’m not easy on China. I get on her about stuff, because she’s better at times [than she shows]. But, again, I’m just happy for her and happy for the team. The last couple games, people weren’t playing China [to shoot], and she made them pay for it tonight. That’s a great basketball player, and she’ll have more of those games too.”

Boyle described her team’s play for much of the second half as “discombobulated,” and Crosby blamed herself for some of that.

“Being the leader on the floor, I have to do a much better job, now that we’re in conference play, to control the team and make sure we’re doing the things we did early in the game to get the lead,” Crosby said.

Boyle said: “There’s always positives you can find in wins and losses. And in this, it’s always good to see that our team can grind it out. China hit some big free throws, our posts got some big rebounds. But you always want to give them both sides of the coin. When you’re playing a much better team down the road and you’re in that situation, can you pull it out? I’m glad we did it, but if we don’t have to be in those situations in every game, let’s not put ourselves there.”

If the Cavaliers were frustrated by their lapses Thursday night, imagine how Tech (7-6, 1-1) felt about its breakdowns. The Hokies haven’t defeated UVa since Jan. 22, 2007.

In 2011-12, Dennis Wolff’s first season as the Hokies’ coach, the `Hoos handled his team by 13 points at JPJ and by 26 at Cassell Coliseum. That the latest game in this series wasn’t decided until the final minute did nothing to lift the spirits of Wolff, a former assistant in the UVa men’s program.

“We still lost,” he said. “There is no consolation at all. These kids are bitterly disappointed. We thought we could have won the game.”

Instead, thanks in large part to Crosby’s heroics, the Hokies headed home to Blacksburg with another loss.

“We’ll take more,” Boyle said, smiling.

UP NEXT: Virginia meets Miami (11-2, 2-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Coral Gables, Fla. The Hurricanes also won Thursday night, pounding Clemson 78-56 at the BankUnited Center.

“They want to get in a track meet with you, so we can’t do that,” Boyle said. “We can run on them, we just can’t get into the track meet. They put a lot of pressure on you, and you gotta be able to take care of the ball. It’s nothing we haven’t seen this year from some other teams. We just gotta be able to handle the pressure and execute and do better at these things that we’ve been talking about tonight.”

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