March 16, 2018
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Dominique Toussaint hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:08 to go and No. 10 seed Virginia held off seventh-seeded Cal 68-62 in the Albany Regional for its first women’s NCAA Tournament win in nine years on Friday.
Felicia Aiyeotan led the Cavaliers (19-13) with 16 points, just her second game in double figures since Jan. 7.
Cal had a streak of seven straight first-round NCAA wins entering the game, but played without leading scorer and rebounder Kristine Anigwe, who was medically ruled out after missing a morning shoot-around. The team would not detail what was wrong with the 6-foot-4 junior.
No doubt Anigwe’s absence gave Virginia and especially the 6-9 Aiyeotan room to move down low. Aiyeotan was 5-of-5 in the final two quarters as Virginia moved in front.
The Cavaliers will take on the winner of No. 2 seed South Carolina – coached by the most famous female in Virginia athletics, Dawn Staley – or No. 15 seeded North Carolina A&T.
Despite missing Anigwe, Cal appeared ready to take control as they scored the first two baskets of the third quarter to move in front 35-30. That’s when Virginia went on a 20-8 run to lead 50-43.
Cal was not done, though, as Asha Thomas and Kianna Smith combined to score 12 straight points in the fourth quarter. Thomas’ foul shot tied things at 57-all with 1:53 to play.
On Virginia’s next time down court, Toussaint struck from the left side of the arc for her go ahead shot. Smith cut things to one with her basket a moments later before Aiyeotan was alone once more for an uncontested basket to restore the Cavaliers margin.
Cal could not respond.
It was Virginia’s first NCAA Tournament victory since defeating Marist, 68-61, in the opening round in 2009. The Cavaliers had not been back to the tournament since 2010.
For Cal, it was the latest disappointing postseason showing.
The Golden Bears have only been past the second round one time in coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s six tournament appearances when they reached the Final Four in 2013.
Smith led Cal with 20 points while Thomas added 17.
Virginia: The Cavaliers turned up their defense in the final two quarters to overcome Cal’s hot start. The Golden Bears had 14 of their 20 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. Virginia will need that kind of effort if they hope to go further in the Albany Regional.
Cal: The Golden Bears needed more push from the rest of their starters with Anigwe out and did not get it. Mikayla Cowling and Penina Davidson, who combined for 17 points a game this season, were held to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting.
Virginia will play either South Carolina on Sunday, March 18 at 9 p.m.