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Virginia dominates High Point 81-59 in first round of Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament

The Cavaliers cruised to their first postseason win since 2019

<p>Freshman guard Kymora Johnson scored 10 points and added six assists for the Cavaliers in their Thursday win.</p>

Freshman guard Kymora Johnson scored 10 points and added six assists for the Cavaliers in their Thursday win.

No. 4 Virginia faced off against High Point Thursday at John Paul Jones Arena in the opening round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament and put together a complete performance to dominate in an 81-59 victory. The Cavaliers (16-15, 7-11 ACC) boasted a well-rounded attack with five players tallying double digits, while the Panthers (20-12, 14-2 Big South) were stifled by the strong Virginia defense, being held to under 24 percent from behind the arc and 23 turnovers as a team. 

The game started off hot for the Cavaliers, with graduate forward Sam Brunelle knocking down a three-pointer on the first possession to set the tone for a sequential 7-0 run in the opening minute. However, High Point was undeterred and closed the gap quickly, eventually gaining a 10-9 lead with six and half minutes left.

That lead was short lived, as a three-pointer from graduate forward Camryn Taylor put Virginia back up 12-10. Both Taylor and Brunelle scored five points in the first period, and those were combined with six apiece from freshman guard Kymora Johnson and senior guard Alexia Smith to help put the Cavaliers up 26-18 at the end of the quarter. 

The second quarter gave the Cavaliers an opportunity to build their lead even more. Both teams struggled to put points on the board, but even in spite of that, Virginia was able to widen the gap, at one point having a lead of 19 with two minutes and 23 seconds left in the half. While Smith led the way for the Cavaliers with nine points, Johnson and Taylor also contributed eight each to have Virginia up 43-29 at the end of the half. The Panthers struggled to capitalize on much of anything, however they did score the last five points of the half, marking two of their three made field goals in the second quarter. 

Sloppy play from High Point in the third quarter prevented them from overcoming an already large gap. Despite the Panthers being slightly more efficient than the previous two quarters, their seven turnovers which led to 11 points for the Cavaliers made it all for nothing. Sophomore guard Paris Clark headlined the defensive effort for Virginia, grabbing three steals in the third quarter and six total for the game. The quarter ended with Virginia up 65-43, the game very much in control. 

The Cavaliers did not dip below 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, with lots of substitutions checking in to ensure the health of starting players. Sophomore guard Cady Pauley checked in and made eight points, knocking down two triples and a layup. Pauley’s last field goal and a few other buckets in the last few minutes of the game from High Point brought the final tally to 81-59. 

Clark, Smith, Taylor, Brunelle and Johnson all scored double figures, with Clark having a team-high 14 points. The Panthers were led by junior guard Bukky Akinsola, who scored a game-high 21 points, however no other player from High Point tallied double figures. 

The strong team effort and performance bodes well for Virginia’s future play in the tournament, as momentum is a huge factor in win-or-go-home scenarios. Coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton emphasized the impressive team performance postgame.

“That was a great team win,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “Really proud of our group. I thought everybody contributed. Everybody had energy. Everybody did something great when they were out there.” 

The Cavaliers next travel to top-seeded Villanova in the second round of the tournament at the Finneran Pavilion Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be shown on ESPN+. 


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