Women’s basketball drops contest to No. 6 Mississippi State, 72-44

Cavaliers fall in season opener to Bulldogs

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Junior center Felicia Aiyeotan recorded a career-high 16 rebounds along with four blocks. 

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia women’s basketball team tested itself with one of the top teams in the country in their season opener, as they hosted No. 6 Mississippi State. While the Cavaliers (0-1) didn’t get the result they hoped to start their season — or Coach Tina Thompson’s career at Virginia — the Cavaliers learned a lot in their 72-44 loss to the Bulldogs (2-0). 

“Well I will say I’m very encouraged by our second half,” Thompson said. “We learned a lot about ourselves. We were executing and doing the things that we’ve coached and preached up to this point in the season. In the first half, I think our nerves got the best of us, just a little bit.”

The Cavaliers struggled at the start of the game, as the Bulldogs got out to a quick 18-2 lead. The first quarter finished up with Mississippi State ahead 26-13. The Bulldogs continued to pull away in the second quarter, putting up 19 points compared to Virginia’s four points in the second quarter, making the score 45-17 at halftime. 

“We were just kind of rushing and just not executing in the way that I’m used to or that was comfortable in order for us to get to things that we needed to do in order to put some points on the board,” Thompson said. 

In the second half, the Cavaliers looked more competitive as they outscored Mississippi State 18-10 in the third quarter, off of 43.8 percent in the period. The Bulldogs, however, had an answer and held Virginia to just nine points in the last quarter while they put up 17 points. 

“I’m not discouraged, I believe in this team,” Thompson said. “Although we’re kind of short manned a little bit, we have pieces that we can actually use to make things happen. I’m proud of these two guys, they fought really hard.” 

The Cavaliers were led on offense by junior guard Dominique Toussaint, who scored 19 points, which matched her career-high. Junior center Felicia Aiyeotan led things on the defensive end, recording a career-high 16 rebounds along with four blocks. 

“We have to find a way to get [Aiyeotan] more looks but I appreciate her toughness, the way she rebounded the ball, the way she defended,” Thompson said. “It definitely helps in the foundation of where we’re trying to go moving forward. It’s the expectation that I have for her and I challenged her and she rose to the occasion.”

As a team, the Cavaliers finished the night shooting 26.2 percent overall, 38.5 percent from three and 58.3 from the free-throw line. Virginia’s shooting troubles were also coupled with 23 turnovers. 

“I think that we have to do better when it comes to execution,” Aiyeotan said. “We have to pay attention to the details like we have been at practice. Coach [Thompson] always emphasizes getting open and trying to get open and it definitely showed up today. I think we need to get better and pay more attention to the details.”

Even though the loss was tough, the Cavaliers have said they are optimistic and excited for what is in store for this upcoming season. 

“They’re working really hard and we are building something,” Thompson said of her team. “We are under some renovations a little bit, but we are building … It is going to take a little time, but we are going to get better. Great first game. We didn’t show up the way we wanted to in the first half, but we ended in a way that we can build from and I appreciate that.”

Virginia will now hit the road for their next two games as they take on Kentucky Nov. 15 and Old Dominion Nov. 18. The Cavaliers will be back in John Paul Jones Arena Nov. 20, when they host North Carolina A&T.

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