Women’s basketball vs. No. 18 Syracuse — a breakdown

Cavaliers look for upset on the road

sp-willoughby-rwalsh

Junior small forward Jocelyn Willoughby has been Virginia's leading scorer with 12.4 points per game.

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

A Breakdown: The Virginia women’s basketball team (8-12, 2-5 ACC) will travel to Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday night to take on the No. 18 Orange (16-4, 5-2 ACC) at 7 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

The Cavaliers are fresh off a 52-42 loss at home Sunday afternoon to Wake Forest, while Syracuse has lost two of their last three games, beating Duke on the road but falling to Georgia Tech away and Miami at home.

Virginia struggled to score against Wake Forest and did not lead at any point in the game as the Demon Deacons earned their first conference win of the year. Junior guard Dominique Toussaint was the only double-digit scorer for the Cavaliers, as the rest of the team combined for 23 points.

Key Matchup: Tiana Mangakahia and Dominique Toussaint

The two shooting guards are both key scorers for their respective teams and will likely be called upon to defend one another Thursday. Mangakahia leads Syracuse with 15.9 points per game this season but scored only five points against Georgia Tech and 12 against Miami. Toussaint will need to shut her down to keep Virginia competitive.

Toussaint, meanwhile, has scored 19 points in each of her last two games, matching her career high. Virginia’s offense is less reliant on Toussaint for points than Syracuse’s is on Mangakahia, but if one player can keep the other off the scoresheet as much as possible, it will be critical to the outcome of this game.

The X-Factor: Jocelyn Willoughby

The Virginia junior small forward has been Virginia’s leading scorer with 12.4 points per game this year and was briefly the nation’s leader in three-point shooting percentage two weeks ago. However, Willoughby shot 0-5 from three against Wake Forest –– only putting up eight points in total –– as the Cavaliers struggled to score. Willoughby needs to return to her typical form Thursday night to give Virginia a second scoring option.

The Pathway to Victory: Handling a larger Syracuse team

Virginia has been playing without a true center for much of the year, with junior Felicia Aiyeotan out injured. Without Aiyeotan, Virginia lacks forwards off the bench, with only junior forward Shakyna Payne healthy and eligible to play.  Against a tall Wake Forest team Sunday, the Cavaliers were outrebounded 48-34 and their two starters in the frontcourt, senior forward Mone Jones and junior forward Lisa Jablonowski, combined for only six points total.

Like Wake Forest, Syracuse has a big starting five, with 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Digna Strautmane and 6-foot-1 senior forward Miranda Drummond among their scoring leaders. The Virginia defense gave up 21 points to Wake Forest’s leading scorer, 6-foot-2 forward Ivana Raca, Sunday and cannot afford to do the same against Strautmane and Drummond.

The Bottom Line: The Cavaliers need to make three-pointers

The Cavaliers were only able to hit three three-pointers in total against Wake Forest. In order to have any hope of an upset at Syracuse, Virginia must rely on their perimeter shooting. Toussaint, Willoughby, sophomore guard Brianna Tinsley, sophomore guard Khyasia Caldwell and freshman guard Erica Martinsen have to take their chances from behind the arc because the Cavaliers will have a hard time scoring in the paint.

related stories