Women’s basketball: UVA spends Thanksgiving in Las Vegas

virginia basketballThe UVA women’s basketball team (4-0, 0-0 ACC) will be competing this week at the South Point Shootout, being held Nov. 25-26 at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Cavaliers face St. John’s (1-2) on Friday(Nov. 25) at 6:30 p.m. ET and Nebraska (3-1) on Saturday (Nov. 26) at 9 p.m. ET.

All of the 2016-17 Virginia women’s basketball games – home and away – are available locally on NewsRadio 1070 AM and 98.9 FM WINA with Channing Poole calling the action. Live stats will also be available.

The Cavaliers are looking to start the season 5-0 for the second-straight year and the second time in head coach Joanne Boyle’s six seasons at Virginia. Boyle is also approaching a career milestone, coming into the tournament with 298 career victories, with the possibility of hitting the 300-win milestone on Saturday against Nebraska.

Virginia leads the ACC in three-point shooting percentage and ranks 20th nationally, making 41.5 percent of their long-range attempts (27-of-65).  Junior Aliyah Huland El (Randolph, N.J.), who scored 16 points against Rutgers on Sunday, was 9-of-16 (56.2 percent) from the field in the two games last week, including going 5-of-10 (50.0 percent) from three-point range. In the last three games, Huland El is averaging 5.0 assists per game. Senior Breyana Mason (Woodbridge, Va.) was 5-of-9 (55.5 percent) from three-point range in the two games last week. Junior J’Kyra Brown (Rocky Mount, N.C.) leads the team in three-point efficiency, going 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) this season.

A different freshman has led UVA in rebounding in each of the first four games. Jocelyn Willoughby (East Orange, N.J.) opened the season with a nine-rebound performance against Middle Tennessee. Felicia Aiyeotan (Lagos, Nigeria) followed with 12 boards against Coppin State and Dominique Toussaint (Staten Island, N.Y.) had nine at Richmond. In Sunday’s 62-54 win over Rutgers, Lisa Jablonowski (Ernster, Luxembourg) had six rebounds in 13 minutes on the court, tying for the game-high with Huland El.

Aiyeotan comes into the week ranked No. 4 in the nation in shots blocked (15) and ninth in blocks per game (3.8) while averaging 12.5 minutes per game. The Cavaliers are third in the ACC, averaging 6.0 blocked shots per game. Last season, they were 11th in the ACC, averaging 3.0 per game.

This is Virginia’s first trip to the South Point Shootout Thanksgiving tournament. Arizona State, Maryland and Washington State will also be playing in the tournament, but will not face the Cavaliers.

Virginia is 2-0 all-time against St. John’s, but this is the first meeting between the two teams since a regular-season contest 1991. The two teams also met in the first round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament with UVA picking up an 85-64 victory. Last year, the Red Storm won the program’s first Big East Tournament Title in 28 years.

St. John’s has played in the NCAA tournament six times in the last seven seasons.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Nebraska and Virginia. It is the second of three games the Cavaliers play against Big Ten teams in a three-week span after taking on Rutgers last week and then heading to Northwestern on Dec. 1 for this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game. The Cornhuskers were 18-13 overall last season, including a 9-9 Big Ten mark, falling in the first round of the WNIT. Jessica Shepard, a 6-4 sophomore forward, claimed a spot on the 2016-17 Preseason All-Big Ten Women’s Basketball Team after coming off a first-team All-Big Ten campaign in 2015-16. Shepard averaged team bests of 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on her way to Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Year honors in 2015-16. Nebraska alum Amy Williams is in her first season as the Huskers’ head coach. Williams spent the last four seasons as the head coach at South Dakota, where she has led the team to two regular season Summit League championships, one Summit League tournament championship, and the 2016 WNIT Championship, while posting an overall record of 96-44 (.686).

After the South Point Shootout, UVA will play at Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Thursday, Dec. 1 before heading to Bowling Green on Sunday, Dec. 4 for their last game before breaking for finals. The Cavaliers return to John Paul Jones on Friday, December 16 when they host UIC.

Single-game ticket prices for all home games are $10 for Reserved seating, $8 for adult General Admission and $6 for youth (18 & under), senior (60 & over) and UVA faculty/staff General Admission. Fans may purchase home game tickets through the Virginia Athletics Ticket Office online at VirginiaSports.com, by phone and in person. The Virginia Athletics Ticket Office is located in Bryant Hall at Scott Stadium and open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Telephone purchases can be made by calling 1-800-542-UVA1 (8821) or locally at 434-924-UVA1 (8821).

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