Virginia enters the last week of the regular season after losing 47-62 to Duke and winning 86-76 against Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers (12-15, 7-9 ACC) struggled to score against Duke (16-10, 10-5 ACC) in a slow, back-and-forth game in which Duke’s defense prevented Virginia from generating any offensive rhythm. Virginia quickly turned around a few days later and had one of its highest-scoring games against Virginia Tech (20-7, 10-6 ACC) in a shocking upset win.
Thursday’s match-up was one of the ugliest offensive showings for both teams, as Virginia and Duke played uncharacteristically poor on offense. The difference in the game, however, came down to who was able to maintain a run. Ultimately, Duke did just that to break open a lead that the Cavaliers could not surmount.
Virginia’s three-headed backcourt of senior guards — Jocelyn Willoughby, Lisa Jablonowski and Dominique Toussaint — scored 37 of Virginia’s 47 points as Duke’s on-ball pressure forced them to create their own shots as opposed to Virginia’s traditional passing offense. The Cavaliers scored just 20 points in the first half while Duke built up a 15-point lead heading into halftime.
As Virginia’s defense tightened up in the second half, the Cavaliers could not put up enough points to cut Duke’s lead. The Blue Devils slowed down the pace in the fourth quarter and hung on to secure a 47-62 win.
Virginia quickly bounced back Sunday night against in-state rival Virginia Tech in one of the Cavaliers’ most consistent offensive games of the season. The Cavaliers used the scoring abilities of Willoughby and Toussaint and a collective defensive effort to secure a 10-point win over the Hokies.
The game started out slow until Virginia launched a 9-0 run to grab a 16-7 lead a little over five minutes into the game. Virginia maintained defensive pressure and offensive efficiency to close out the opening quarter up 27-18.
In the second quarter, Virginia’s field goal percentage dipped from 71.43 percent to 35.71 percent, resulting in a slight Virginia Tech advantage. With a lower shooting percentage and Virginia Tech’s increased offensive output, the Hokies cut the Cavaliers’ lead to five entering halftime 45-40.
A common theme throughout the game was Virginia’s ability to answer when Virginia Tech made big plays. Most notably, Virginia Tech junior guard Aisha Sheppard, who scored 32 points in the contest, hit a three-pointer right out the gate in the third quarter to close the gap to 45-43. In the next two minutes, Toussaint and freshman guard Carole Miller answered with baskets of their own. Later in the same period, Willoughby responded with a jumper of her own to kickstart another Cavalier run.
The Hokies however continued to linger on and hit a clutch three-pointer to close out the third period down by one at 64-63. Then, in the first minute of the final period, Virginia Tech completed the comeback and secured a one point advantage.
When needed most, the Cavalier seniors showed up. Toussaint scored eight straight points to give Virginia a five-point lead heading into the last half of the quarter. Toussaint, along with Willoughby, then helped the Cavaliers close out the game smoothly and on top.
Incredibly, both Toussaint and Willoughby scored 29 points apiece. Led by their offensive contributions, the Cavaliers scored more points in the first three quarters alone than their season game average of 60 points.
“[Dominique Toussaint and Jocelyn Willoughby] put us on their backs,” Coach Tina Thompson said. “I mean they had incredible offensive and defensive gains. It was really important for us to get this kind of leadership from our fourth years."
After losing to Virginia Tech earlier in the season at home, Virginia made it their mission to even the series.
"The first time we played them this season, we dropped the ball,” Thompson said. “We wanted to come in here today and play a complete … game. They were listening to each other, and they executed all the things that they talked about in the first game and going into this one."
The final two games of the team’s regular season are approaching. Up next, Virginia hosts Pittsburgh Thursday at 7 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena.