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Virginia women’s basketball continues hot start with win over William & Mary

A dominating offensive performance propelled the Cavaliers to their third consecutive victory to begin the season

<p>Brunelle finished with 12 points in her first game of the year.</p>

Brunelle finished with 12 points in her first game of the year.

For the third straight game, Virginia dominated at home in John Paul Jones Arena, taking down William & Mary in an 80-51 victory. The Cavaliers (3-0-0, 0-0 ACC) had five players score in the double digits, including graduate student forward Sam Brunelle, who made her season debut against the Tribe (0-4-0, 0-0 CAA) after being sidelined by a prior injury. 

There were 3,588 fans in attendance to watch the in-state rivalry game. Virginia’s starting five demonstrated experience with a senior and two graduate students, including one of the Cavalier’s leading scorers, fifth year forward Camryn Taylor — Taylor is averaging an impressive 16.7 points per game on 41 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line. 

The game started fast for Virginia as graduate student forward London Clarkson managed to tip the ball in the lane within the first minute of the game which led to a fastbreak layup for freshman Kymora Johnson. The Cavaliers would continue their strong defensive showing, holding the Tribe scoreless more than two and a half minutes into the game and only allowing eight points in the first quarter.

Late in the first quarter, Brunelle was able to enter the game and immediately make herself known with a quick layup in the paint after a turnover. Her return is significant for Virginia, as she was a large contributor last year and adds even more experience to the already seasoned squad. The first quarter came to an end with a score of 14-8, with both teams struggling from beyond the arc, shooting a combined 0-8, albeit one of Virginia’s attempts was a half-court heave by Johnson at the end of the quarter. The Cavaliers made their mark in the paint with 12 points in the paint to the Tribe’s 6. 

Johnson opened the scoring in the second quarter for Virginia with a quick drive to the left side of the basket and a right-handed scoop and score. About two minutes later, Johnson once again showed her speed after grabbing a defensive rebound, pushing the ball down the court and euro-stepping through a pair of Tribe defenders to extend the Cavaliers lead to 20-11. In the ensuing offensive possession for Virginia, junior guard Jillian Brown caught the ball a couple feet behind the three-point line on the left wing and was able to freeze her defender before knocking down the shot extending the Cavalier lead three more. 

Virginia ended the half up with a score of 34-23, while also dominating in most offensive categories shooting a strong 36 percent from the field while holding William & Mary to a weaker 25 percent from the field. Brown led all scorers at the half with nine points, as well as the lone make for the Cavaliers from deep.

The second half opened much like the second quarter for Virginia with Johnson once again leading the charge and knocking down a pull up three-pointer, putting her total at 11 points for the game. Throughout the third quarter, the Cavaliers lead continued to hover around 11 points, failing to find the opportunity to truly pull away. 

The Tribe managed to get the game within six at one point, however that hope was dashed when Brunelle and Brown scored 10 consecutive points, with Brunelle hitting two three-pointers, one of which being a phenomenal stepback pull-up in transition, and Brown finishing a fastbreak layup through traffic to give Virginia a 53-41 lead at the end of the period. 

The Cavaliers ended the game extremely well, finding their offensive rhythm and eventually going on a 14 point scoring run that finally allowed them to pull away for good. William & Mary was unable to come within 15 after the fourth quarter, and was unable to contain the offensive juggernaut that led Virginia to put up an impressive 80-51 final score. 

Brown led all scorers for the Cavaliers with 17 points and seven reboundsl. Taylor had 12 points as well as 7 rebounds, Johnson finished with 11 points and 3 assists, freshman guard Olivia McGhee finished with 10 points in her season debut, Brunelle finished with 12 points and 3 three-pointers made. Virginia also dominated on the glass, collecting 56 rebounds compared to the Tribe’s 38, as well as forcing 14 turnovers with 8 blocks and 7 steals. 

The clear story of the game was Brunelle’s return, as Virginia now has yet another piece back from a squad that was heavily injured to start the year. In addition, the balanced scoring attack bodes well for the long stretches of ACC play, where the Cavaliers will likely need to rely on different players each night to be the No. 1 option.

Virginia will look to carry this momentum into their next game against their first ranked opponent in No. 25 Oklahoma. The game will be played at John Paul Jones 2 p.m. Sunday. The game will be streamed on ACC Network.