Friday, February 20, 2015
Virginia joins the 'tough road loss' club
Hey, Virginia fans, frustrated by your team's inability to close out Pitt Thursday night?
Welcome to the club.
Pittsburgh's 68-63 overtime victory, a game in which the Panthers rallied from 12 down in the second half and never led until midway through the extra period, is just the latest in a series of stunning comebacks by home teams this season.
Now, this isn't to say the Cavaliers didn't contribute to their own demise. Surely there are some plays down the stretch they'd love to have back (a certain inbounds sequence quickly springs to mind).
Broaden out the lens a bit, though, and it seems as though these kinds of come-from-ahead losses by visiting teams are hardly uncommon, even to the best of teams. Shoot, just 24 hours prior, in men's basketball, we watched Duke erase a 9-point deficit in the final 2:23 of regulation, then claim a 92-90 overtime victory over what-just-hit-us North Carolina. At Duke, of course.
And the UConn women, they've had one close game all season. Honestly; their 25 victories include one by 16 points (St. John's), another by 18 (Notre Dame) and 23 others by 25 or more.
But in the one nail-biter, at Stanford, the mighty Huskies blew a six-point lead inside the final two minutes of regulation and fell in overtime 88-86.
Surely if it can happen to UConn, it can happen to anyone.
In this state, no team has seen this phenomenon play out as often as Richmond, and the latest occurrence came Wednesday at Duquesne. Led by a red-hot Janelle Hubbard (who made her first six shots, four from 3-point range), the Spiders built a 13-point lead. But Hubbard's shotmaking masked the fact that the rest of the Spiders were struggling to find the range. And once the Dukes got Hubbard under control, Richmond basically stopped scoring while Duquesne caught up. Richmond still found itself in position to essentially seal it at the free throw line up two with 13 seconds left. But Spiders star Genevieve Okoro missed two free throws, setting up a last-second, game-typing layup by Duquesne's Amadea Szamosi. Richmond then went scoreless in the entire extra period; the Dukes prevailed 58-51.
Now, Okoro is a 66 percent free throw shooter. Teammate Lauren Tolson, on the other hand, is one of the best free throw shooters in the United States of America (87.4 percent). But on Jan. 4 at Fordham, in an eerily similar situation (Spiders up two with 16 seconds left in overtime), Tolson missed a pair at the line. This time, Fordham's Danielle Padavano splashed a 3-pointer with one second left. Final: Fordham 65, Richmond 64.
Richmond currently sits in fifth place in the Atlantic 10, a game behind Fordham and two games back of Duquesne in the race for a coveted Top-4 seed. Oh, what might have been....
Now, no one questions Richmond's mental toughness and resolve; heck, these are the guys that a little over two weeks ago rallied from 20 points down to stun Saint Louis in overtime.
Of course, the Saint Louis comeback happened at home.
So by the time things started going sideways for Virginia Thursday night, it was disappointing, sure. But it was also nothing we hadn't seen before. It doesn't mean the Cavaliers lack heart or the "clutch gene. Nor does it have to define Virginia's season - Richmond won seven of its next nine conference games after the Fordham loss.
What it does mean is that if you play enough games, you're probably going to have one or two you steal at the end, and one or two that get stolen. The ones that slip away seem more likely to happen on the road. And these things tend to happen whether you're UConn or U.Va.
They don't tend to happen twice in a row, though, so we like Virginia's chances of making the plays they need to make Sunday against Virginia Tech.
Especially since the Cavs will be at home.