Women’s basketball: UVA opens 2018-19 season with No. 6 Mississippi State

UVA basketballThe UVA women’s basketball team (0-0) opens the 2018-19 season by hosting No. 6 Mississippi State (1-0) on Friday, Nov. 9 at John Paul Jones Arena at 7 p.m.

All of the 2018-19 Virginia women’s basketball games – home and away – are available locally on the radio on NewsRadio 1070 AM and 98.9 FM WINA. The game will also stream on ACC Network Extra, which is available to authenticated subscribers of ESPN3 through WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Fans can also keep up with the action through live stats on VirginiaSports.com.

The Cavaliers are receiving votes in the AP poll. Mississippi State is ranked No. 6 in the AP poll, its highest-ever preseason ranking.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Tina Thompson begins her first season at the helm of a team that advanced to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Thompson is a two-time Olympic Games Gold Medalist (2004, 2008) and was the number-one pick in the inaugural 1997 WNBA draft, guiding the Houston Comets to the first four WNBA Championships (1997-2000). The nine-time WNBA All-Star was named one of the WNBA Top 15 Players of all time in 2011 and was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in June.

Thompson will be guiding a veteran squad led by juniors Dominique Toussaint (Staten Island, N.Y.), Jocelyn Willoughby (East Orange, N.J.) and Felicia Aiyeotan (Lagos, Nigeria).

Toussaint was an honorable mention in All-ACC voting last season, leading the team in scoring (11.4 points per game) and also in assists with 122. She was ranked 10th in the ACC in assists per game (3.7).

Willoughby, who played guard and forward last season, is one of twenty players named to the preseason Cheryl Miller Award watch list, an honor that recognizes the top small forward in the country. Willoughby is a two-time member of the All-ACC Academic Team and has started every game for the Cavaliers in her first two seasons of play, averaging 29.5 minutes per game. She led the team in rebounding her freshman season and was second last year with 5.4 rebounds per game. She has a 9.7 points per game career scoring average.

Aiyeotan was the conference leader in blocked shots last season (2.09 per game) and comes into her junior season tied for fourth in UVA history in that statistical category with 123. A member of the 2018 ACC All-Defensive team, she started 27 of 33 games, averaging 7.4 points per game with seven double-doubles, and looks to be an even bigger presence on the court this year.

Back-to-back National Finalist Mississippi State has won 37-straight regular-season non-conference contests. Last year, MSU won a nation’s-best 37 games, the second-most in SEC history. After winning the first SEC regular-season title for any MSU women’s sport, the Bulldogs were picked to repeat as league champions by both the media and the coaches. The Bulldogs return seven letterwinners from last year’s squad, led by senior Teaira McCowan, who was named the Preseason SEC Player of the Year by both the league media and coaches. Last season, McCowan grabbed 544 rebounds, an SEC record and second-most in NCAA Division I history. She also set a league record with 29 double-doubles, the second-most in the nation a year ago and T10th in NCAA DI history. The squad added graduate transfer Anriel Howard from Texas A&M. Howard set the A&M record for career rebounds with 1,002, and the single-season record with 439 rebounds, ninth-most in SEC history.

Mississippi State opened its season on Tuesday with an 88-53 home victory over Southeast Missouri State. McCowan, recorded her 40th career double-double, with 24 points, 17 rebounds and also added a career-high seven blocked shots. Jazzmun Holmes and Chloe Bibby each added 11 points, while Jordan Danberry had 10 points.

This is the second-ever meeting between the two teams. Last year, the Cavaliers fell 68-53 in a season-opening game in Starkville. Toussaint scored 17 points going 5-of-10 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. McCowan scored seven points with 10 rebounds.

The Cavaliers will play a pair of road games at Kentucky (Nov. 15) and at Old Dominion (Nov. 19) before next returning home for the Field Trip Day on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m., when UVA hosts North Carolina A&T.

New this year for all regular-season home games, available reserved single-game tickets can be purchased for $8 in advance, online and via mobile devices, or for $10 at the John Paul Jones ticket office on game day. General admission single-game tickets are $5 in advance, online and via mobile devices or $8 at the John Paul Jones ticket office on game day. Courtside seats are $15.

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