By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The sight of UVa junior Kelsey Wolfe writhing in pain on the court at John Paul Jones Arena was bad enough for her teammates and coaches.
What made Sunday night worse for the Cavaliers was their performance against ACC power Maryland after Wolfe went down with a knee injury about five minutes into the game.
Wolfe, a 5-10 guard from Germantown, Md., is Virginia’s second-leading scorer, and losing her is “tough for us,” classmate Ataira Franklin said, “but that’s the time where we need to rally together as a team and fight for her, and we didn’t do that tonight. I think that that’s the most disappointing thing, that we didn’t take pride in finishing the game strong for Kelsey.”
For the second time this season, Maryland humbled UVa. The Terrapins opened ACC play Dec. 6 by whipping the Wahoos 79-55 in College Park, Md. The Terps’ margin of victory was even larger in the rematch Sunday night.
In the annual Play4Kay game at JPJ, an event aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer, seventh-ranked Maryland romped 73-44 before a crowd of 4,872.
“We had a lot of fun tonight,” said Terrapins coach Brenda Frese, whose team made 11 of its first 13 shots from the floor.
Her counterpart did not share Frese’s enthusiasm. For Joanne Boyle, who’s in her second season at UVa, the loss was her team’s fourth in the past five games. In three of those defeats Virginia (15-10, 7-7) has failed to score 50 points.
“I just think we play fearful,” Boyle said, “and I don’t know what has changed, or why all of the sudden, but we have to figure it out … For me, it’s just like, why are we scared? What’s going on with our offense that all of the sudden we can’t make layups?”
The Terps tower over the Cavaliers. Maryland is more athletic, too. Still, Franklin said, that didn’t excuse Virginia’s lethargic effort Sunday night. The `Hoos never led and for much of the game were not even competitive.
“All you can do is go out and play hard, and I can’t say that we did that tonight, at least not for a full 40 minutes or even a whole 20 minutes,” said Franklin, a 5-11 guard who with 21 points was the only Cavalier to score in double figures.
Maryland led 10-7 when Wolfe, dribbling in transition, crumpled to the court after injuring her right knee. After Maryland scored at the other end, play was stopped, and a medical team examined Wolfe.
She came out on crutches at the start of the second half and watched from the UVa bench. Wolfe is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.
With Wolfe in the athletic training room, UVa fell behind 23-13 and then 25-15. Then came the only impressive stretch for the `Hoos, who scored eight straight points — five by senior forward Telia McCall, three by Franklin — to pull to 25-23.
The score was unchanged when Franklin attempted a 3-pointer that would have given Virginia its first lead. It missed, and Maryland closed the half on a 12-2 run.
The Cavaliers’ final points of the half came with 4:04 left, on a short jumper by Franklin. Virginia didn’t score again until the 13:37 mark of the second half, when Franklin hit her second trey. That cut Maryland’s lead to 49-28.
“The coaches always tell us the most important times of the game are the first five minutes of the first half and first five minutes of the second half,” Franklin said. “And where we were at the half, 12, is not a huge deficit. You score a couple buckets and you’re within single digits.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know,” Franklin said. “They got some quick buckets in transition, and we just weren’t able to hold on.”
Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins, a 6-3 senior, came in as the ACC’s leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder, but foul trouble limited her impact Sunday. The Terps didn’t need her. They had 6-2 junior Alyssa Thomas, who did whatever she wanted on the court.
Thomas, whose brother is a freshman standout for the Wake Forest men’s team, finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and one steal.
“She just makes the game look so easy, when we know it’s not,” Frese said.
Boyle said: “That’s why she’s an All-American. She’s very mentally tough, and she knows what her team needs, and they give her the ball, and she does what she does.”
With Wolfe out, freshman guards Faith Randolph and Jaryn Garner got extended playing time Sunday. Randolph (four points) was 1 for 8 from the floor in her 25 minutes. Garner missed the only shot she took but went 3 for 4 from the line in her 11 minutes.
“I feel like my freshman year I learned from experience,” Franklin said, “and this’ll definitely be an opportunity for them to get in there and just really get some experience, especially in ACC play. If they’re out there, it’s just another opportunity to get better.”
When Garner made a free throw with 7:24 remaining, she became the first player other than Franklin to score for UVa in the second half.
Maryland, which outrebounded Virginia 50-29 in College Park, was nearly as dominant on the boards (40-23) Sunday night. What bothered Boyle more, though, was her post players’ inability to make layups.
A “Division I basketball player [has] got to make layups,” Boyle said emphatically.
“Those missed layups, it’s two points for [the Terps], because there is no transition defense when it comes to a team that’s that athletic. If we always gotta play backpedaling, we’re in trouble.”
UP NEXT: Four regular-season games remain for the Cavaliers — two on the road and two at JPJ.
UVa plays Thursday night at Clemson (7-18, 3-11). Virginia’s next home game is Feb. 25 against Wake Forest (11-15, 4-10). The `Hoos defeated the Demon Deacons 69-64 on Jan. 27 in Winston-Salem, N.C.