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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (virginiasports.com) - The Virginia women’s basketball team (18-15, 6-10 ACC) defeated Rutgers (19-15, 8-10 Big Ten) 71-55 in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Sunday (March 20) at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscattaway, N.J.
The Cavaliers will play at Hofstra on Tuesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. in the Round of 16.
“Our players really want to keep playing and have banded together to become road warriors,” said Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle. “Different people are stepping up at different times and in different roles. I want to point out the great performance from Breyana Mason. She is basically playing the point position for a full 40 minutes. She has really put her head down and just said ‘I am going to do whatever I can.’ All of the players have been great. It was another really good team win. I thought we did a really good job defensively.”
The Cavaliers trailed 16-15 heading at the end of the first but a layup by Randolph 12 seconds into the second quarter gave the lead back to the Cavaliers and started an 11-0 run that shifted control of the game. Virginia would never trail again, building up a 22-point lead in the third quarter.
Senior Faith Randolph (Derwood, Md.) had her second-straight 20-point game, leading the Cavaliers with 23 points, going 7-of-12 from the field and 9-of-9 from the free throw line. Sophomore Aliyah Huland El (Randolph, N.J.) scored 17 points while playing in her home state. Fellow New Jersey native Lauren Moses (Mount Holly, N.J.) scored 13 points with six rebounds. Redshirt sophomore J’Kyra Brown (Rocky Mount, N.C.) led the team with a career-high 10 rebounds.
Kahleah Copper led Rutgers with 19 points, four assists and five rebounds. Tyler Scaife scored 13 points with five rebounds and three assists.
Virginia outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 43-26 and nearly matched scoring in the paint with Rutgers holding a 26-24 advantage.
After both teams combined to start the game making 2-of-15 field goal attempts, the game seesawed back and forth with five lead changes in the first quarter, including Randolph pulling up and hitting a jumper with 21 seconds remaining to give UVA a 15-14 lead only to have Scaife answer with jumper with three second left to give the Scarlet Knights a 16-15 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Cavaliers took over the game in the second quarter, holding RU scoreless for the first 4:25 of the period while mounting an 11-0 run. Randolph started the period with a jumper that gave the contest its sixth lead change. Junior Breyana Mason (Woodbridge, Va.) drained a three-pointer before Randolph followed with a steal and a fastbreak layup on the other end to put UVA up 22-16. Layups from freshman Debra Ferguson (Madison Heights, Va.) and sophomore Lauren Moses (Mount Holly, N.J.) capped the run. Randolph scored eight total points in the quarter as UVA went into the break with a 32-25 lead.
The Cavaliers opened the second half on a 9-2 run and added a 10-0 run midway through the period when they held the Scarlet Knights scoreless for 4:23. UVA outscored Rutgers 24-16 in the period, capped by a jumper at the buzzer from just inside the three-point line by freshman Moné Jones (Durham, N.C.).
The Cavaliers led 60-38 early in the fourth quarter. Rutgers cut the deficit down to 14, 69-55, with 1:37 remaining, but a pair of late free throws from Huland El with 60 seconds left in the game gave the contest its 71-55 final.
This was Rutgers first-ever WNIT loss. The 2014 WNIT champions fall to 7-1 in the tournament while the Cavaliers improve to 12-5. Virginia will be vying for its fifth trip to the quarterfinals when they face Hofstra on Tuesday. Virginia head coach Joanne Boyle won the WNIT championship in 2010 as the head coach at Cal.