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Virginia women’s basketball picks up victories over Missouri, La Salle

The Cavaliers showed their potential this week with excellent performances at home and on the road

<p>The Cavaliers improved their record with hard-fought victories over skilled competition.</p>

The Cavaliers improved their record with hard-fought victories over skilled competition.

Virginia women’s basketball proved itself last week in the Cayman Islands Classic where they crushed Tulane and gave the former national champion LSU a run for their money. The Cavaliers (6-2, 0-0 ACC) continued to excel this week, winning an overtime thriller against Missouri at John Paul Jones Arena before dominating La Salle in Philadelphia. 

Game 1 — Virginia 87, Missouri 81

Virginia hosted the Tigers (6-3, 0-0 SEC) Thursday evening in the inaugural ACC / SEC Competition. Missouri had a strong start to its season but was hoping to rebound after a close loss to Kent State. In its 50th anniversary of their first game, Virginia pulled off the win 87-81.

After winning the opening tipoff, Virginia brought the ball down the court and took the lead on a mid-range jumper from sophomore guard Paris Clark. A subsequent Clark steal set up a three-point shot from graduate student forward Sam Brunelle. Unfortunately, this would be the only three-point shot made in the quarter for the Cavaliers, who fell behind early. 

However, the Cavaliers struggled to stop graduate student forward Angelique Ngalakulondi, who racked up eight points and an impressive four offensive rebounds in a first quarter that concluded with Virginia down 13-26. 

A second-quarter spark came from sophomore guard Cady Pauley who came off the bench and knocked down a deep shot to stop the Cavaliers’ run of 10 straight missed three-pointers. Virginia also forced five turnovers in the quarter, including an impressive block under the basket from freshman forward Edessa Noyan. The Cavaliers trailed 36-28 at the half, despite picking up nine fouls which gave Missouri ample opportunity at the free throw line.

The third quarter was one of Virginia’s best of the season. The Cavaliers went on a 9-0 run to open the second half, capitalized by a steal from freshman guard Kymora Johnson who found senior guard Alexia Smith for a layup. Throughout the third quarter, Virginia forced 10 turnovers and scored a whopping 27 points to enter the final quarter with a 55-49 point lead. 

The Tigers didn’t stop fighting and the fourth quarter turned out to be a showdown. With less than three minutes remaining, Clark knocked down a massive three-point attempt to give the Cavaliers the six-point advantage. Unfortunately, freshman guard Grace Slaughter responded with a three-point shot of her own which quieted the crowd and made it a one-possession game with just over a minute remaining. 

Trailing by three with four seconds on the clock, Missouri graduate student forward Hayley Frank missed a shot but was fouled and easily made her three free throws to send the game to overtime. 

As the game hung in the balance, the Cavaliers scraped out a four-point advantage after graduate student forward London Clarkson took a charge to force the turnover and give the Cavaliers possession. The Tigers began to foul, but the game was ultimately out of reach, as Virginia secured a hard-fought 87-81 win.

Game 2 — Virginia 94, La Salle 73

The Cavaliers’ next matchup was a more lopsided affair, as they traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Explorers (3-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10). Virginia won by a 21-point margin, with significant contributions from the bench allowing it to total nearly 100 points in just regulation. 

Virginia was able to get out to an early lead thanks to several makes from Clark as well as threes from Johnson and Brunelle. Virginia shot 60 percent from the field as well as 50 percent from three in the first quarter, leading 25-16.

After a short burst by La Salle to begin the second quarter, the Cavaliers settled in, dominating in the paint by a margin of 16 points to the Explorers’ eight. Virginia took a double-digit lead they would not relent, and remained firmly in control even as the first quarter’s hot shooting streak regressed to the mean.

Virginia used the third quarter to extend the lead further, making it 20 points by the end of the quarter. The Cavaliers were back to their efficient ways, shooting 56 percent from the field and 2 for 3 from three. Virginia also cleaned up on the glass, managing five more rebounds than La Salle and seven second-chance points as opposed to the Explorers’ zero. 

The Cavaliers maintained the advantage with ease into the fourth quarter, tallying their highest point total of the regular season so far. Virginia had six players score in double figures, two of whom came off the bench — junior guard Jillian Brown contributed 12 points and four steals from the bench. Virginia managed to dominate La Salle in nearly every offensive category in the 94-73 victory, not allowing the Explorers to lead or even tie the game after the opening two minutes. 

Though the victories were energizing, they came under difficult circumstances. Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton learned early Thursday that her father, Lambert Agugua, had passed away unexpectedly. She admirably continued to coach and led her team to victory. 

“I didn’t know how I was going to do it,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “But I knew I wanted to do it, because that’s how much I care about this group of people, and I just didn’t want to let them down.”

Virginia looks to carry the momentum of this offensive performance over Wednesday as they return home to face Rider at 7 p.m. EST in JPJ.

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