GREENSBORO, N.C.—With more assistant coaches than available players on Virginia’s bench for Wednesday’s opening round of the ACC women’s basketball tournament, the deck was as stacked against Cavaliers as it has been all season.
No. 12 Virginia’s hot start against No. 13 Boston College was short lived, but as they have all season, third-years Jocelyn Willoughby and Dominique Toussaint proved to be the aces UVa head coach Tina Thompson stashed in her sleeve.
Willoughby scored 13 points in the third quarter to help erase a halftime deficit and Toussaint scored her 1,000th career point as part of a pivotal second-half run in Virginia’s 77-61 victory.
“Even when they are tired, they look tired and they tell me they are, I kind of ignore them at times and then gauge when it’s really severe,” Thompson said. “How they approach the game is how our team approaches the game.”
The Cavaliers (12-18) advanced to the second round and return to the Greensboro Coliseum on Thursday for an 11 a.m. tip against No. 5 Syracuse (22-7).
“This was big for us not only because we wanted to win, but we knew what kind of game we were coming into and that it was going to be a grind-it-out game,” Thompson said. “Our first game against Boston College was similar. We knew it was going to be physical, and we knew it was literally going to be trading baskets throughout the game.”
Virginia trailed 29-23 at halftime and 37-25 after a 3-pointer by Sydney Lowery, but Willoughby answered with a three of her own and proceeded to score six points during an 8-0 UVa run.
Toussaint and Caldwell added 3-pointers in the third, and Willoughby scored six more points in the final two minutes of the quarter as the Cavaliers went into the fourth up, 49-44, thanks to a 16-4 run.
Willoughby finished with a season-high 29 points and added 13 rebounds to record her fifth double-double in Virginia’s past eight games and 10th of the season.
“She really took it to us, and she’s one of those players, skill set wise, who can score on three levels. She can shoot the three, post people up and she has a good mid-range game,” Boston College coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “On our end, we didn’t do a great job of limiting her touches in the second half, which is one of the things we wanted to do.”
Willoughby also went 12-for-12 from the free-throw line, with 10 points coming from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. As a team, Virginia went 26-of-29 from the stripe while Boston College (14-16) finished the game just 3-of-4.
“For me, I look at it as a whole other possession. It’s two more points and another possession where the other team will have to try to catch up to us,” Willoughby said. “Free throws are super important, and just dialing in and giving our team a better chance to win the game was big for me.”Virginia scored the game’s first 11 points, but Boston College ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run and the Eagles’ offense got into a rhythm in the second quarter.
A pair of 3-pointers by Milan Bolden-Morris (12 points) were part of a 10-2 run that gave the Eagles a 24-21 lead with 3:30 left in the opening half. Marnelle Garraud (11 points) added a three to send Boston College into halftime with its 29-23 lead.
Boston College outscored Virginia 19-9 in the second quarter, and Bolden-Morris and Garraud came off the bench to score 13 of the Eagles’ 29 first-half points. Emma Guy ended the first half with 14 points, but as Virginia controlled the bulk of the final two quarters, she was limited to four the rest of the way.
“We just kind of reminded them to be exactly who we are,” Thompson said. “We are a team that gets out in transition. We are a team that pushes the tempo. We are a team that creates opportunities for ourselves from our defensive effort.”