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Women’s basketball: UVA downs Saint Joseph’s 62-56 in WNIT First-Round

uva basketballThe UVA women’s basketball team (20-12) picked up a 62-56 victory over Saint Joseph’s (17-15) on Friday (March 17) in the first round of the 2017 Women’s National Invitation Tournament at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia, Pa.

The Cavaliers built up an 11-point lead with 15 minutes left in the game, but Saint Joseph’s opened up the final quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 50-47 lead with 7:03 left in the game. Virginia outscored the Hawks 15-6 the remainder of the game to pick up the road victory.

The Cavaliers will play at James Madison on Sunday, March 19 at 2 p.m. in the tournament’s second round.

Freshman guard Jocelyn Willoughby (East Orange, N.J.) scored a career-high 25 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Willoughby was 10-of-14 from the field and 5-of-7 from the free throw line. Willouhgby also had a team-high seven rebounds. Junior guard J’Kyra Brown (Rocky Mount, N.C.) scored 14 points, going 6-of-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Breyana Mason (Woodbridge, Va.) also finished the game in double-figures, scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

Sarah Veilleux led the Hawks with 15 points. Chelsea Woods came off the bench to contribute 12 points and a team-best nine rebounds.

“We have talked about how in postseason, sometimes you just have to put your team on your back and go. Down the stretch I thought Jocelyn did a really good job of that,” said Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle. “Typically we have a little more balance with scoring, but on any given night it could be anybody and Jocelyn has done it many times. Tonight, I thought she just was really determined to get to the free throw line and the rim. She had a couple of three-point plays. She has grown and grown this season. We needed her tonight and she really stepped up.”

After Virginia took an early 6-0 lead, the Hawks answered with 10-straight points of their own. Freshman center Felicia Aiyeotan (Lagos, Nigeria) snapped a streak of six-straight misses for the Cavaliers, hitting a jumper from above the free throw line to reignite the offense. Trailing 15-10 heading into the final 30 seconds of the period, the Cavaliers picked up four quick points on a jumper from junior forward Lauren Moses (Mount Holly, N.J.) followed by a steal and a jumper from Mason to close out the first quarter.

Willoughby put the Cavaliers in the lead with a jumper 13 seconds into the second quarter, the first of five lead changes in the period. Willoughby went on to score the Cavaliers’ first six points of the quarter. Trailing 23-22 with two minutes left in the half, Mason hit a three-pointer to put UVA up two. Saint Joe’s tied the game at 25 with 56 seconds remaining, but Mason closed out the half by converting an and-one with 13 seconds left to send the Cavaliers into the break with a 28-25 lead.

Brown opened the second half with a three-pointer, expanding UVA’s lead to 31-25. Moses hit a jumper as the shot clock expired with just under seven minutes remaining to build up a 35-27 advantage. Mason gave the Cavaliers their first double-digit lead, 40-29, scoring an off-balance jumper with just under five minutes left in the period. Saint Joseph’s clawed their way back, finishing the quarter on a 9-3 run.

The Hawks started the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets from Amanda Fioravanti and Jaryn Garner to pull within one, 42-41, and then tied the game, 45-45, on a three-pointer from Kristalyn Baisden with 8:37 remaining. The Hawks retook the lead, 47-45, on a jumper from Chelsea Woods 40 seconds later. Willoughby ended the 9-2 run by hitting a layup, knotting the game at 47.  Brown hit a three-pointer with four minutes remaining that put UVA up 51-50, but Saint Joesph’s retied the game. The contest was knotted again with 1:08 remaining when Willoughby hit a jumper. After Moses grabbed a steal, Willoughby made the most of the opportunity, making a layup to put UVA up 57-53 with 22 seconds remaining. Saint Joseph’s began fouling, with Brown heading to the line six times in the final 15 seconds to close out the game.

Virginia shot 42.3 percent (22-of-52) while Saint Joseph’s went 21-of-55 (38.2 percent). The Hawks held a 36-32 edge in rebounding.

Second round games will be held March 18-21. The third round is slated for March 22-24 with quarterfinals runningMarch 25-27, and semifinals March 29-30. The WNIT Championship Game will be played at 3 p.m. on April 1 and be televised by the CBS Sports Network.

   
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