Women’s basketball upsets California in first round of NCAA Tournament

Cavaliers advance to the second round with first tournament win since 2009

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Leading the way for Virginia on offense was sophomore center Felicia Aiyeotan, who scored 16 points on the night with 8-for-11 shooting.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

Even though just a few days ago the Virginia women’s basketball team wasn’t sure it would get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, the No. 10-seeded Cavaliers (19-13) showed they deserved to be there by upsetting No. 7-seeded California with a score of 68-62 in the first round.

The win over the Golden Bears (21-11) Friday night marked the first time since 2009 that Virginia has won a game in the NCAA Tournament, and it snapped Cal’s streak of seven-consecutive first-round NCAA wins. Also, this was the first victory for the Cavaliers as a lower-seeded team since 1996.

The victory didn’t come easily for Virginia, though, and the game remained close the entire time, with neither team ever getting the lead to double-figures. 

California edged out the Cavaliers in the first two periods and held on to a slight 31-30 lead at the end of the first half. However, starting just a few minutes into the third period, Virginia went on a 20-8 run to lead 50-43 in the fourth quarter. Although California was able to tie things back up, a three-pointer by sophomore guard Dominique Toussaint with 1:06 to play put Virginia back in front, where it would remain for the rest of the game.

Leading the way for Virginia on offense was sophomore center Felicia Aiyeotan, who scored 16 points on the night with 8-for-11 shooting. Sophomore guard Jocelyn Willoughby and senior guard Aliyah Huland El were also key factors in the win for the Cavaliers with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Defensively, the Cavaliers forced the Golden Bears to 15 turnovers — which was nine more turnovers than Virginia committed — and 41.2 percent shooting from three. The Cavaliers also recorded eight steals in the game. While the defensive performance from Virginia forced the Golden Bears to struggle, California also had the added challenge of not having their leading scorer and rebounder in junior center Kristine Angiwe, who was medically ruled out from playing.

Virginia now takes on No. 2-seed South Carolina — who is coached by former Virginia women’s basketball player, Dawn Staley. Staley was a three-time All-American guard while at Virginia from 1988-1992 and she’s an inductee of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

The two-time National Player of the Year, who led Virginia to three Final Four appearances, has done an incredible job as head coach for the Gamecocks (27-6). Under Staley, South Carolina has picked up four regular season titles, three SEC Tournament titles, two Final Four appearances and a National Championship.

Virginia will have its work cut out as it takes on the reigning national champions in the second-round matchup. But, with one upset win of the tournament already under their belts, the Cavaliers can’t be counted out of getting another win as the lower seed.

Tip-off from Columbia, S.C. is scheduled for 9 p.m. Sunday, March 18.

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