In Tina Thompson’s second season at the helm, the Virginia Cavaliers are off to a 2-1 start, their lone defeat coming on the road to her alma mater, USC. A big reason why the Cavaliers won the two games that they did was the stellar play of Jocelyn Willoughby.
Over her first three games of her senior season, the guard from East Orange, New Jersey is averaging 20 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and a block per-game. Her 31-point performance against Bucknell on Nov. 5 earned her ACC Player of the Week honors. She is the first Virginia player to earn the honor since Faith Randolph in 2015.
Willoughby shined for the ‘Hoos a season ago, leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per-game. But due to injuries and other circumstances, the Cavaliers limped to a 12-19 record.
So far this season, they seemed like an improved squad, and it looks like Willoughby has upped her game as well.
“A lot of the offseason was more so mentally preparing myself. I think that’s sometimes undervalued,” Willoughby told High Post Hoops at ACC Media Day last month. “On the court, skill-wise, definitely worked on being more consistent of shooter and working on my pull-up game. I think I was pretty good from the spot-up, but getting my shot off in different ways is going to be big for me this year.”
In their first three games, the Cavaliers have held each of their opponents to under 61 points. They also forced Bucknell, USC and CSUN into double-digit turnovers. Each team also connected on less than 31 percent of their three-pointers vs. Virginia.
Early on, Willoughby and defense have been strengths for the ‘Hoos.
“I think our hat will be hung on the defensive end,” Willoughby said. “Those are still things that we’re trying to refine.”
Virginia’s next tough test comes Saturday, when they host No. 13 Kentucky at 5 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.
How did Navy beat Clemson?
In one of the more shocking upsets of the season, the Navy Midshipmen went down to South Carolina last weekend and beat the Clemson Tigers 65-52.
Consider this: Navy had never beaten an ACC opponent and the Tigers won an NCAA tournament game last season. The Midshipmen forced the Tigers into 31 turnovers though and made them look like a JV team on their home court. Clemson also hit just one three-pointer.
How did the Midshipmen pull it off? High Post Hoops caught up with Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper after her team fell to North Carolina on Monday.
“Clemson zoned us the whole game,” Pemper said. “You saw (against UNC, how) taller, faster, stronger (players) can affect our offense in man. When you zone, you don’t have that same type of physicality. So, we were freed, able to move the ball freely, cut freely against Clemson. So, we shot the ball well.
“The other thing there is, (Clemson) didn’t have great point guard play. I was saying to someone before the game, ‘I know it’s Clemson but, we’re going to play better opponents a lot this year.’”
In the Patriot League, Navy might not see exceptional post players like UNC’s Janelle Bailey – who tallied 20 points and 15 rebounds against the Mids – but they will see strong guard play. Clemson didn’t seem to have much of either in their defeat.
The Tigers are now 1-2 on the season after also losing to Alabama on Tuesday.
Bugg is back
Aysia Bugg was forced to sit out the majority of last season due to blood clots. On Monday, the sixth-year senior looked better than ever as she flushed a career-high six three-pointers in an 81-73 win for Pitt over Central Connecticut State.
Bugg, a native of Bolingbrook, Illinois, chose to stay at Pitt instead of transferring when head coach Lance White was hired before the start of last season. Now, she is White’s most senior player, a leader and perhaps his top play-maker. She finished the game against CCSU with 26 points, four assists and two rebounds.
“On the court, her ability to score… Just to have that person that can assume that and have that burden put on her a lot,” White said of Bugg at ACC Media Day. “You can’t ever replace experience. So, having someone who has been through the wars, that is invaluable.”
Pitt is 1-1 this season and hosts Georgetown on Saturday.
- Georgia Tech leads the ACC and is third nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 40 points per-game. Under the direction of Nell Fortner, the Yellow Jackets have beaten Houston and Grambling State, and face in-state rival Georgia on Sunday.
- N.C. State landed two four-star recruits in the early signing period. Genesis Bryant (guard from Jonesboro, Georgia) and Dontavia Waggoner (guard from Nashville, Tennessee) both inked their letter-of-intent’s on Wednesday. Both class of 2020 products have ESPN scout grades over 93.
- Leaonna Odom became the eighth Duke Blue Devil to notch more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks for her career Thursday, collecting 13 points, three rebounds and one block in Duke’s 57-45 road win over UNLV.
- Here’s what UNC head coach Courtney Banghart had to say after the Tar Heels’ win over Charleston Southern on Friday: “I thought there were moments of good things. We only took about 10 threes against Navy because their zone was more extended. These guys really packed it in, tried to take away our inside game, so we had to share it and shoot it. We did that… We can play with better energy on the defensive end, and we will. But to have five in double-figures, to have two double-doubles, to have Shayla Bennett come outside of herself and celebrate others in such an aggressive way was really fun to see.”
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