The Virginia Cavaliers had a lot of notable performances in their season-opening 76-52 win over Maryland Eastern shore on Wednesday night, but no one stuffed the stat sheet more than junior guard Jillian Brown.
Brown, who transferred to UVA from Northwestern this past offseason, was in the starting five for her Virginia debut and poured in 14 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds, three blocks, one steal, and an assist in 30 minutes of action.
“I’m really proud of Jillian,” Coach Mox said after the win. “She’s a hard worker and she lives in the gym. We’ve just been working a lot on her understanding of our system, just believing in herself, and having confidence, so for her to have that success in her first game in a Virginia jersey — I’m just so proud of her.”
Brown brings a lot of experience to a young Cavalier backcourt. In two seasons with the Wildcats, Brown appeared in 57 games and made 34 starts during which she averaged 8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2 assists per game as a freshman and 6.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1 assist per game as a sophomore.
Her two previous collegiate seasons have added a level of versatility to her game that Coach Mox commended, saying “she’s a two-way player, she can play on both sides of the ball… [and] she can score at all three levels. So, she brings a different dynamic to our team.”
With young guards in the backcourt like Kymora Johnson and Olivia McGhee who can score in bunches, Brown provides a lot of value as a rebounder and defender, traits that were on display all night against UMES.
“I just want to do whatever I can to help the team, whether that be rebounding or scoring,” Brown said postgame. “It’s definitely been an adjustment to the system, but I love how we play and there’s been so much support which has helped a lot with the transition. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Virginia was inconsistent from beyond the arc on Wednesday, forcing the Cavaliers to put more emphasis on getting to the rim and feeding the post. Brown was at the center of their interior attack, dishing to forward Camryn Taylor (who led the ‘Hoos with 22 points) and scoring for herself in the paint while often forcing UMES to send her to the free throw line (where she went 5-for-5).
Coach Mox emphasized postgame the need for Virginia’s “guards to touch the paint, drive it, create, look for their shots or get somebody else open” in the second half. “I thought we did a good job of that, and especially [Jillian] too, she did a lot of that.”
With five veteran Cavaliers out of action Wednesday and continuing to recover from injuries, Jillian Brown should play a big part in leading the younger ‘Hoos through the beginning of this season. And even as the group returns to full strength, her versatility as both a rebounder, scorer, and facilitator will make her an x-factor all winter.