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Women’s basketball starts season strong with 76-52 win over UMES

Although they had a slow start, the Cavaliers pulled ahead of the Hawks and showed powerful defense

<p>A strong fourth quarter saw the Cavaliers pull away to secure a 24 point victory.</p>

A strong fourth quarter saw the Cavaliers pull away to secure a 24 point victory.

The Virginia women’s basketball team hosted its season opener Wednesday night against Maryland Eastern Shore and started the season off with a 76-52 win. The Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) slowly built up a rhythm that left the Hawks (0-2, 0-0 MEAC) struggling to keep up.

There were 3,797 people in attendance for the Cavaliers’ season opener. The starting five for Virginia featured three new faces — transfer junior guard Jillian Brown, freshman forward Edessa Noyan and freshman guard Kymora Johnson.

The game started off slow with a struggling offense from both sides. Virginia managed to make just one of their first 12 shots, thanks to a successful lay-up almost eight minutes into play from fifth-year forward Camryn Taylor. 

Although the Cavaliers initially struggled to get points on the board, they were patient. They managed to get into a strong rhythm and scored eight of the last 10 points — taking a 14-10 lead by the end of the first quarter. 

Virginia then extended its lead in the second quarter to 35-22 with a 9-0 run, including a three-pointer and fast break from Brown and three three-pointers from Johnson — making her collegiate debut.

However, there was still some struggle from the Cavaliers to have successful shots on offense, with the team having a 31.6 field goal percentage during the second quarter. In regards to making free throws, only four out of the eight free throws were successful.

In the third quarter, freshman guard Olivia McGhee and senior guard Alexia Smith were the key players — with McGhee scoring six straight points and Smith having six strong rebounds. Eastern Maryland Shore had a strong defense though, as it forced eight Virginia turnovers and caused the Cavaliers to increase their lead by only one point.

Taylor became the new key player to watch in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points through 5-of-5 shooting and three successful free-throw attempts. Part of her success in the final quarter was thanks to sophomore guard Yonta Vaughn dishing out four assists to Taylor that contributed to her overall game-high of eight assists.

Virginia then closed out the game with its largest lead of the contest after having a 19-7 run — winning 76-52. Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton was proud of how they played and briefly explained why the Cavaliers might not have seemed to be playing their best.

“That was a good game,” Coach Agugua-Hamilton said. “We had to kind of grind it out a little bit, get in the rhythm. We were thrown off a little bit in the beginning. I thought Edessa just got thrown into the fire and had to start. Olivia played the four pretty much the whole game when she was in, and that’s not a position that she usually plays, she plays the three. So, I was happy to see them step up.”

Noyan’s surprising role in the game was due to graduate student forward London Clarkson getting injured in warmups before the game. Coach Agugua-Hamilton had made no further comments as to what this may mean for upcoming games — it can be assumed that they’re focused on getting Clarkson back onto the court as soon as possible. 

A couple of Cavaliers had some notable achievements Wednesday night. Brown recorded her collegiate debut and first career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Agugua-Hamilton was happy with Brown’s first performance for Virginia.

“I’m really proud of JJ [Jillian],” Agugua-Hamilton said. “She’s a two-way player, she can play on both sides of the ball…she brings a different dynamic to the team.”

She was not the only player to make her collegiate debut — Johnson, McGhee, Noyan and graduate student center Taylor Lauterbach also had their Virginia debuts.

In terms of returning players, Taylor scored 22 points and posted nine rebounds —  making this her 12th career 20-point game. Vaughn’s game-high of eight assists tied her career high. 

The Cavaliers also had a significantly stronger defense in comparison to the Hawks, outrebounding them 60-37 and making this the second time that Virginia tallied more than 60 rebounds in a game under Agugua-Hamilton. 

Overall, this was a strong season opener for Virginia with room for strengthening its offense. As they face more teams, the Cavaliers will be given opportunities to better their playing as a team in a way that cannot be achieved through off-season practice or scrimmages.

Virginia will return to John Paul Jones Arena for its next game, where it will face Campbell (1-0, 0-0 Colonial Atlantic) — a team that recently defeated North Carolina Wesleyan 108-37 — Sunday at 2 p.m. 


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