Jocelyn Willoughby can do it all on the basketball court, but Virginia women’s basketball coach Tina Thompson said her senior has one vital characteristic that can’t be drawn up during a timeout.
“She has a very high IQ and she matches that with effort and intensity throughout the entire game,” Thompson said. “I don’t think there’s ever moments where I have to coach her effort and her mentality. She brings a level of intensity and toughness that’s just her. I never have to encourage her to be ready to play. She’s always ready. That’s just the mark of a really good player and every coach in the country wants to have one like that.”
That effort was on display Sunday afternoon during the Cavaliers’ 73-62 loss to 11th-ranked UCLA in the Cavalier Classic at John Paul Jones Arena.
Willoughby poured in a team-high 22 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks as Virginia (4-4) held its own against another nationally ranked opponent.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Thompson said. “We had back-to-back games where we played tough, especially our starters. They played a whole bunch of minutes in a short period of time, and the consistent thing about who we are and what we do is that we continue to fight and I appreciate that.”
Virginia shook off a slow start to build a lead after one quarter of play. After the Wahoos missed their first five shots from the floor, Dominique Toussaint scored nine points as the Cavaliers closed the first quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 17-13 lead.
UCLA (7-0) bounced back in the second quarter, pounding the ball inside to all-conference performer Michaela Onyenwere and Lauryn Miller to seize control of the game. Onyenwere tallied seven points and Charisma Osbourne added five more during a 22-6 run that gave UCLA a 35-26 lead with 2:56 left in the half.
Willoughby brought the Cavaliers back, scoring six points during the final three minutes, and Lisa Jablonowski added a 3-pointer to trim the lead to 35-30 at intermission.
The third quarter belonged to Onyenwere, who imposed her will inside. The senior scored nine points, including a jumper in the lane midway through the third quarter to extend the UCLA lead to 46-38.
Virginia didn’t go away quietly. Toussaint buried a 3-pointer and Kylie Kornegay-Lucas turned a steal into a layup at the other end to tie the game at 46-46 with 3:30 left in the third.
The Bruins stretched the lead to 55-49 with 32 seconds left in the quarter, but Jablonowski answered with another trey from the corner to make it a one-possession game, 55-52, with 10 minutes left to play.
UCLA used a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter and pulled away from there. Virginia trimmed the lead to 10 points twice in the final quarter, but was never able to get the lead under double digits.
Miller finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and was a big reason UCLA held a 28-1 edge in second-chance points for the game. Osborne finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Japreece Deane chipped in 11 points and three assists.
“They were physical,” Thompson said. “We had a tough time keeping them off the offensive boards. They got a lot of second-chance points in the paint. We’re a little undersized, but Michaela [Onyenwere] as well as Lauryn [Miller] do a really good job of crashing the boards, so we lapsed a little bit in that area.”
Despite the loss, Thompson said she was pleased with the way her team continued to battle.
“We could do a lot better in our execution and just finishing plays, but our effort is pretty consistent,” she said. “It’s a good feeling for a coach when you don’t have to coach effort, and that it’s the basketball things that you have to coach. That’s something that you can fix in practice and things like that. It would be a different story if we didn’t work. Our work ethic shows every time we go out and compete so I’m really proud of that. Of course, a loss doesn’t feel good, but I am proud of our effort.”
Toussaint tallied 16 points and four rebounds to give Virginia two players in double figures. Jablonowski added nine points and two rebounds and Kornegay-Lucas finished with eight points and six boards off the bench.
For Willoughby, it’s games like this one that will only help the team as they prepare for ACC play.
“We learned that we have to be more physical than we are right now,” Willoughby said. “I think we got outworked a lot on the offensive rebounds. We just need to do a better job of just wanting it, honestly. It’s tough when you come from back-to-back games, but when you’re in a tournament, that’s what it’s going to be like. So just learning from these games and being mentally and physically tough.”