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Nov. 9, 2012

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia women’s basketball team opened the season with a 78-57 victory over James Madison. Sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh had a double double with 21 points and 10 rebounds in her collegiate debut.

Senior point guard China Crosby, in her first game back after suffering an ACL tear in a December 2011 game against JMU, scored five of Virginia’s first nine points, driving through the lane for a layup and pulling up for a three to give the Cavaliers an early 9-8 lead.

The Duke’s Kirby Burkholder single-handedly kept her team in the game, draining five three-pointers in the first 12 minutes, staking the visitors to a 19-17 lead.

Redshirt sophomore forward Sarah Beth Barnette, making her Virginia debut, fought hard down low to stick in a third-chance point, putting the Cavaliers up 21-19.

James Madison tied the game, 21-21, with 5:44 left in the first half. It would be the last points they would score in the period.

Sophomore Sarah Imovbioh, making her collegiate debut, got a fastbreak, converting the layup on the opposite end to make it 23-21. Junior guard Kelsey Wolfe drove baseline with three defenders on her, laying in the ball for a 25-21 score. Freshman Faith Randolph converted a scoop shot as she was getting fouled, using the and-one to make it 28-21.

The Cavaliers added 11 more points to head to the break on an 18-0 run, leading 39-21.

The Dukes didn’t find a quick answer early in the second half, with Virginia extending it to a 26-3 run before Burkholder caught fire again. The JMU guard hit her seventh three to pull her team within 14, 49-35. She began the game 7-of-10 from three-point range.

The Cavaliers began pounding the ball into the low post to Imovbioh. The freshman scored eight points in a span of two-and-a-half minutes, pushing the lead out to 55-40.

Ataira Franklin drained a late three, helping the Cavaliers take a 70-46 lead with 2:34 remaining.

The Dukes never threatened again, with Virginia holding on for the season-opening victory.

“I thought it was a great game for us,” said head coach Joanne Boyle. “I thought we had a will to a win, a lot of fight in us. I thought we did a really good job on the boards tonight – it was our Achilles heel all last year. I thought they really responded to doing all the little things. It was just a really good opening game for us.”

Imovbioh was a late addition to the starting lineup. Senior Simone Egwu was diagnosed with a stress reaction in her left shin late in the week. Egwu, who was the projected starter, will miss the next three weeks. Imovbioh finished the game with a team-high 21 points, going 8-for-9 from the field. She also added a game-high 10 rebounds.

“I knew that I had to step up to fill Simone’s shoes and do the little things,” Imovbioh said. “At the beginning I was kind of nervous, but when the game into me, I just wanted to play and have fun. I feel like I am still getting there, still getting better. I’m trying to move it up. I’m still learning and I’m enjoying the process.”

Franklin scored 20 points, going 7-for-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. She also had five steals. Crosby scored eight points with four assists and four steals.

Barnette also scored in double digits in her Cavalier debut, going 5-for-7 from the field for 10 points.

Virginia will be back in action on Monday, Nov. 12 when they face Penn at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia. The Cavaliers return home on Sunday, Nov. 18 when they host Providence.

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