Virginia picked up a 63-55 victory at UNLV to advance to Saturday's Duel in the Desert Championship game where it will face No. 15 Mississippi State 

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LAS VEGAS – The Virginia women’s basketball team (5-5) picked up a 63-55 victory over UNLV (3-8) on Friday (Dec. 20) in the opening round of the Duel in the Desert tournament, being held at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UNLV built up an 11-5 lead in the first quarter, but the Cavaliers opened the second period on a 10-0 run and held a 26-23 advantage at halftime. A 14-0 run to start the third quarter helped the Cavaliers build up a 17-point lead. The Lady Rebels rallied in the fourth quarter, outscoring UVA 24-17 in the frame, but Virginia held on to earn a spot in the championship game.
Senior guard Jocelyn Willoughby (East Orange, N.J.) had a double-double with a team-high 17 points with 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Shemera Williams (Milwuakee, Wisc.) scored 13 points. Haley Rydlach led UNLV with a 10-point performance.
Virginia will face No. 15 Mississippi State (9-2) on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET to play for the tournament’s title.
Virginia got off to a slow start, making just two field goals in the first quarter and falling behind 11-5. Willoughby ended a 5:39 field goal drought by hitting a jumper to start the second period. Senior guard Dominique Toussaint (Staten Island, N.Y.) tied the game, 11-11, 1:31 into the second period, grabbing a steal and converting a layup on the opposite end. Back-to-back baskets from redshirt sophomore forward Dani Lawson (Cleveland, Ohio) capped a 10-0 Virginia run that gave UVA a 15-11 advantage. Virginia led by six with 2:13 remaining in the first half, but the Rebels made back-to-back baskets, including a three-pointer from Justice Ethridge, to make it a one-point game, but Virginia answered and went into the break leading 26-23.
The Cavaliers started the second quarter on a 14-0 run, building up a 40-23 advantage. Toussaint capped the quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating corner three to send UVA into the final 10 minutes with a 46-31 advantage. A three-pointer from Williams gave UVA its largest lead of 17 points, 51-34, with 7:28 remaining in the game, but UNLV went on an 11-2 run to narrow the gap to single digits, 53-45, with 3:36 remaining. A three-pointer from Willoughby with 2:51 remaining put an end to the run. UNLV refused to go away, however, scoring eight points in a span of 46 seconds, to cut the deficit to 62-55 in the final 14 seconds of the game, but UVA held on for the victory.
“Even though our man defense is strong, we noticed on film that UNLV struggled with their shooting against a 2-3 zone, so we just took a chance on it [starting in the second quarter]. We don’t go zone a lot, but when necessary, we will do it. Basketball is all about strategy and we were being strategic in that moment. The adjustment we made in the second half was not turning the ball over. We uncharacteristically were turning the ball over. Unforced turnovers. I know that we were getting adjusted to the floor and the ball was a little different than what we are used to playing with, but it was no excuse for turning the ball over in that fashion. We did a better job with that after that in the second half. Tomorrow, against Mississippi State, we are going to get after it. We play the schedule that we play for a reason. If we want to be one of the top teams in the country, then we are going to have to play the top teams, and we are going to have to win, so we are going to come out playing tough. We are going to play our defense and are definitely going to try to keep them from pounding the ball inside. It is one of the things that they do.”  


  • Jocelyn Willoughby logged her fifth double-double of the season
  • Willoughby was 5-of-9 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line
  • Shemera Williams had her second-straight double-digit scoring game
  • Williams was 4-of-6 from the field, including going 2-of-3 from beyond the arc
  • Dominique Toussaint scored nine points with five assists and five rebounds
  • Virginia shot 22.2 percent in the first quarter (2-of-9) but went 18-of-36 from the field (50.0 percent) the remainder of the game
  • Virginia held a 41-35 advantage in rebounding
  • Virginia committed 24 turnovers, with eight of those coming in the first quarter
  • UNLV shot 27.7 percent (18-of-65), including a 1-of-15 shooting stretch during Virginia’s second quarter run
  • Mississippi State defeated South Florida, 86-61, in the opening game of the tournament to advance to the championship game


  • Saturday’s games will be streamed live online through FloHoops (subscription required)
  • All of the 2019-20 Virginia women’s basketball games – home and away – are available locally on the radio on NewsRadio 1070 AM and 98.9 FM WINA
  • Live stats will also be available