#3 Tennessee rallies, defeats UVa. women’s baskeball, 76-67

The UVa. women’s basketball team (3-3) could not hold on to a halftime lead, falling to No. 3 Tennessee (6-0), 76-67, in the opening game of the Junkanoo Jam Tournament on Grand Bahama Island on Thanksgiving Day.

uva-logo-new2Senior guard Ataira Franklin (Bowie, Md.) scored 25 points, including 19 in the first half, that helped the Cavaliers lead by as many as 10 points and hold a 39-35 advantage at the break.

Virginia jumped out to a 7-0 lead, holding the Lady Vols scoreless through the first 2:46 of the game. The Cavaliers started the game making five of their first six baskets with Franklin scoring six points in the first six minutes.

Tennessee scored the first five points of the second half to take its first lead of the game, 40-39.

The Cavaliers and Lady Vols traded points with three lead changes and two ties early in the second half until an and-one by Bashaara Graves started a 10-0 run that put Tennessee up 57-47 with 12:11 remaining.  Tennessee finished the second half outscoring UVa 41-28.

“I’m really proud of the kids and I thought they really fought hard,” said Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle. “We had four or five goals as a team for today, and they got almost every one. When we came out in the second half, it took us three or four minutes to get going. Tennessee is a team that just ramps it up, so they took advantage. We had to try to play catch-up a little bit. You have to play almost a perfect game against them, and I thought we did a good job, but there were little things like missed free throws that hurt us.”

Franklin had six assists in addition to her 25 points, also pulling in three rebounds and recording a steal. It was her second-straight game eclipsing the 20-point mark after scoring 23 at West Virginia. Sophomore guard Faith Randolph (Derwood, Md.) had 16 points with five rebounds, an assist and two steals.

The Lady Vols’ Meighan Simmons ended the game with 31 points, going 8-of-17 from three-point range, with five assists. Ariel Massengale had a double-double with 11 points and 13 assists.

Despite the Volunteers’ size advantage with six of their 10 players 6-2 or taller, Virginia trailed by only a single rebound, losing the battle of the boards 36-35.

Virginia took a 19-10 lead with 11:55 remaining in the first half when freshman guard Breyana Mason (Woodbridge, Va,) shot a jumper over one of Tennessee’s 6-2 post players.

Tennessee pulled to within two, 32-30, after Simmons hit her second-straight three with 1:34 remaining in the first half. After Virginia answered on its next possession, Randolph tipped a Tennessee pass, knocking the ball into the frontcourt. Randolph won the footrace down the court, getting the ball and making a layup to make it 36-30. The Lady Vols got the points right back, making a three and then getting a tip, steal and quick layup of their own to make it a 36-35 Virginia lead in the final seconds of the period.

Randolph released a shot from the left wing with 2.9 seconds left in the half, getting fouled on the shot. As she was at the line and in the midst of taking her three free throws, the Tennessee bench was assessed with a technical foul. Franklin took the technical free throws, making both, sending the Cavaliers to the locker room with a 39-35 advantage.

Just as both teams were about to resume play in the second half, a fuse at the gym blew, sending the gym into darkness and the game into a ten-minute delay while the problem was resolved and the lights heated back up.

After the Lady Vols 10-point second-half scoring spurt, the two teams traded baskets for most of the second half, with the Cavaliers narrowing the gap to five, 72-67, on a three pointer from the right corner by Randolph with 1:26 remaining, but Virginia couldn’t get the stop with Simmons getting a layup to keep the Cavaliers from narrowing the gap.

The Cavaliers will play in the consolation final of the tournament on Friday, Nov. 30 at 5:45 p.m., facing the loser of the Southern Methodist/ Kansas State game.

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