Cavaliers Spoil Virginia Tech’s Senior Night
After falling to Virginia Tech in Charlottesville in January, Virginia got their revenge on Sunday, defeating the Hokies 86-76 in Cassell Coliseum.
Seniors Jocelyn Willoughby and Dominique Toussaint were the story for the Cavaliers (12-15, 7-9 ACC), scoring 29 points each and hitting on 19 of their combined 31 shots.
“These two [Willoughby and Toussaint] put us on their backs,” Virginia head coach Tina Thompson said. “It’s important to get this type of leadership from our fourth years— looking confident, being confident and also encouraging their teammates.”
Virginia made 31 of their 54 attempts (57.4 percent) and led for just under 36 minutes, giving the Hokies fits with their pick and roll offense. Thompson credited the team’s strategy in preparing for the rivalry matchup.
“We made our kids more responsible for the scout,” Thompson said. “It’s one thing to understand what you’re supposed to do but to then have to talk each other through it and direct each other. It gives you a lot more ownership of it.”
While Willoughby and Toussaint lifted the Hokies, Aisha Sheppard had a career-high 32 points for Virginia Tech (20-7, 10-6), hitting eight of her 15 three-point attempts.
“Shooters shoot,” Sheppard said. “I’ve struggled the past couple of games but my mindset hasn’t changed. I still need to shoot… Tonight it was just going in.”
The Hokies could not find a rhythm, however, partially due to early foul trouble. Graduate seniors Taja Cole and Lydia Rivers each went to the bench early in the first half with two fouls, while Trinity Baptiste picked up three quick ones.
“The early foul trouble really threw us off,” Brooks said. “We have kids that play strong minutes for us and they didn’t play hardly at all. We just didn’t play smart; we made countless mental mistakes.”
This forced Brooks to play freshman Cayla King and Makayla Ennis, the latter who had seen just twelve ACC minutes entering Sunday’s contest. King provided a spark, scoring eight points, including a solo 5-0 run in the middle of the second quarter that prompted a UVa timeout.
“We were hoping they were going to give us a boost of energy off the bench,” Brooks said. “We got good minutes from our freshman, which I’m very proud of… We can’t rely on that. We were never in sync.”
Freshman forward Elizabeth Kitley was the only other Hokie in double figures, tallying 16 points on 6-11 shooting. She also contributed nine rebounds, keeping Tech in the rebounding battle despite foul trouble.
As Tech struggled, hitting nine of 32 field goal attempts in the second half, the Cavaliers heated up, knocking down 16 of 26 shots.
The Hokies trailed 63-64 heading into the fourth quarter and snatched the 65-64 lead back on a Kitley basket with 9:04 to play, but never saw the lead again.
Virginia coasted the rest of the way, making nine of their twelve attempts in the final period.
The loss snapped the Hokies’ five-game win streak that dated back to February 9 against North Carolina.
Tech has another important game right around the corner, however. On Thursday, the Hokies host Duke in Cassell Coliseum in a game that will decide third and fourth place in the ACC standings.
“It just didn't work out the way we wanted it to today,” Sheppard said. “We’ll just have to watch the film and see [what] we need to work on. We're still in the position that we want to be, we just dropped one today.”
Photo Credit: Liam Sment