Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20th: Florida at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Florida made up all of a 14-point halftime deficit, but the one-two punch of Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford was enough for St. John's to prevail 72-66. Handford finished with 27 points and Grant with 26. Carlie Needles led Florida with 16 points, adding eight rebounds.

For worrying trends, mass transportation woes, the possibility of getting into a cab with a stranger, conditioning issues, proper hydration, lack of focus, and repurposed ducks, join your intrepid and unfocused blogger after the jump.

I hate my job. I do not necessarily hate my job because of what it is and what I do, but because I work in the industrial armpit of Queens, which means that if a truck stalls out on either the Grand Avenue Bridge or the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, I end up waiting 40 minutes in the cold for a bus and thus missing most of the first half of the St. John's game.

At halftime, it's 40-26 St. John's over Florida. That's the good news for the Johnnies. The bad news is that it's the Danaejah Grant/Aliyyah Handford show, which is not sustainable in the long run. Aliyyah has 17 and Danaejah has 16. That leaves seven points scored by other players. That's not sustainable in the long run. From what I've seen, we've been moving very quickly on both ends of the floor.

It's Military Appreciation Night at St. John's, so we got swearing-in ceremonies at halftime and the team has "We Support Our Troops" shirts.

I did not enjoy the sloppiness and lackadaisical play in the second half that allowed Florida to come back and take brief leads, and I'm still not comfortable with everything being about two players, but the season is still young, younger than most of our roster.

I'm really not feeling the black road jerseys for Florida, though I'm not sure what they should be wearing instead. Maybe blue?

There was a fairly large contingent of Florida fans- maybe two rows' worth- behind the bench. Why in the name of all that is sweet and holy would you come to New York from Florida in mid-November? It's cold up here! I know it's been cold in Florida, but it is way colder up here, are you people crazy? In any case, they were loud, and one of our fraternities did work trying to drown them out.

January Miller moves pretty well for a guard of her build. She was all up in everyone's business on defense. I keep meaning to check whether Haley Lorenzen is any relation to Jared Lorenzen. One of those random connections my brain throws up sometimes. I feel like I should be remembering more of the bench, but I think they played the bulk of their minutes in the first half, when I wasn't there to see them; it felt like the starters were the key players in the second half.

Carlie Needles has a really obnoxious habit of yelling out assignments while on the lane for free throws. It's to the point where it's legitimately disconcerting to the shooter, and I'm surprised that none of the refs got on her case for it. She seems to run that team. Cassie Peoples launched threes from all over the floor and showed a fair amount of hustle. Ronni Williams took a nasty spill in the second half and twisted her ankle- she came off limping, but was well enough to come back and come up with some big plays late in the game. Antoinette Bannister pressured the ballhandler, and when someone less sure than Aaliyah Lewis had the ball, it did not end well for St. John's. Kayla Lewis mixed it up down low, aggressive for a player with a relatively slimb uild for her height. She was impressive. I could have done without some of the forearm shivers, though.

Oh, Kyra Dunn. I can already tell that you're going to be that player who makes me want to tear my hair out. I love her shot blocking, and we do need height, but height is not particularly effective if it runs away from anything and everything in sight. It also distresses me that she's not terribly fast for her size. Usually it's the big posts who lumber, but despite looking kind of like a stick insect, Kyra does not move very quickly. She was in and out as necessary. Imani Littleton played in spurts, but when she made freshman mistakes, she was sent back to the bench, same with Tonoia Wade. Tonoia's gotta hit shots on the break like that. More oomph is required. Minutes were brief for most of the bench players, which worries me for the rest of the season. We need a blowout so they can get extensive minutes so we can determine who they are and what they can do.

Amber Thompson remains a strong defensive force and a tough rebounder. I don't know if she's looking ofr her offense and not finding it, or if she's been told not to shoot, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with her only getting two shots. If she's not a credible threat, then there's more defense on Aliyyah and Danaejah. Jade Walker came up with big baskets down the stretch, and it's absolutely amazing that she didn't foul out of the game, since there were three calls after her fourth foul that I thought were going to be on her and were instead passed. At least she's trying. I'm not sure I like the outside jumpers, but as long as they're falling, I shouldn't complain. Aaliyah Lewis is growing into her own as a point guard- still a little unsure of herself, but growing in confidence both with her teammates and within herself. I just wish she weren't so tiny! Aliyyah Handford was hot in the first half, but cooled somewhat in the second, though I think Florida intensified the defense on her. She went down late in the game and scared the living daylights out of most of the people in the arena. She got back up, though. I think she came up with a steal right after that. Danaejah Grant was fantastic in the first half and again at the end of the second half. I think she was letting some of the foul calls get into her head- I'm not sure she was completely engaged. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm a little wiped out.

We got frustrated with the officiating, as always. But if they'd called everything we had seen, I'm pretty sure Amber would have fouled out, so there's something to be said for non-calls. I guess.

We got our first look at the new student section for St. John's, the 6th Man. I certainly hope they're involved for longer stretches of the game than this during men's games. Three rows of standees at center court are not going to be very popular if all they're doing is standing, not cheering. The guys from the baseball team, on the other hand, were pretty cool. (Yes, I'm demanding when it comes to fan participation.)

I'm not worried about Binghamton or Wagner. But I'm starting to worry about Auburn and Seton Hall.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16th, 2014: Sacred Heart at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona's two stars hit milestones, but Sacred Heart hit 12 threes to spoil the Gaels' home opener, 82-80. Kelcey Castro, Shelby Hickey, Hannah Kimmel, and Adaysha Williams each had 14 points to pace a balanced Pioneer attack. Damika Martinez poured in a game-high 37 points for Iona in the loss, while Joy Adams added 16 points and 12 rebounds.

For many trains, leaping bleachers in a single bound, not learning from mistakes, culinary disappointment, shiny screens, and lots of points, join your intrepid and strongly psyched blogger after the jump.

And here we are once more into the breach, or something like that, as your intrepid blogger finally gets to see a home game for one of her teams. Iona opens up at home against Sacred Heart.

I am a little disappointed in New Rochelle. I'd been jonesing for the last few days for blackout fries and a sandwich over at the Blackboard, only to discover that the Blackboard is under new ownership and is apparently now a pizza joint. Breaks my heart- that was some of the best pregame eats anywhere in my travels; the only ones who had them beat were LIU, and that's because if you go to an LIU game, you're a fool for not going to Junior's. We're going to investigate a couple of other places in that area, but I still want my blackout fries. :(

Speaking of boards, though, Iona has installed two huge, new, shiny boards, equipped with constant stats for all players on the roster. I approve this message so hard, you have no idea.

We're sitting with Damika's family, which promises to be loud and epic, since Damika is two points away from breaking the Iona scoring record, which is pretty much a certainty unless something unspeakably awful happens. Please don't let something unspeakably awful happen.

Someone on Sacred Heart's team, either an assistant or an injured player, is rocking a jacket straight out of the '80s Coaches' Collection. I think it's more Kim Mulkey, my husband thinks it's more Andy Landers. But it's a bilious green with a pattern that looks almost like camo. I do not approve in any way, shape, or form.

Sacred Heart, we need to have a talk about your roster and why at least three of your players are wearing jerseys that don't match the roster on your website. It's very confusing.

It's a day of milestones here at the Hynes Athletics Center, as Joy Adams joins the 1000 point club and Damika Martinez has made a club all of her own, taking over the Iona career scoring record. And given that she's at 1905 right now, the odds of her hitting 2000 are pretty good. But Iona's only up two at the half. Hannah Kimmel's been big for the Pioneers, and so have the four triples of Shelby Hickey.

Despite my love for the Syracuse zone as run by Jim Boeheim, I am really starting to develop a distaste for it, mostly because coaches that fall in love with it won't get out of it, no matter how badly they're getting sliced up. If you allow six threes in the first half because Sacred Heart is driving and dishing and getting open looks and hitting open looks, it might be time to reconsider your game plan. Instead, Iona stuck to the zone and gave up six more threes in the second half. Give up 12 triples in a game, and you're probably going to lose.

Lerae Ettienne makes quite the first impression- tall, broad-shouldered, copper-haired- and she did an excellent job of getting inside for the Pioneers. (I know that at least once in the game I yelled something along the lines of "How can you miss her?!" after she got the baseline and went up for a lay-up. Kelcey Castro brought offense off the bench, coming up with big threes in the second half. Tykera Carter and her giant pouf of hair got good looks from the outside, though she wasn't able to hit them, and I think she was also part of the roving defensive brigade on Damika Martinez. (Well, pretty much everyone defended Damika Martinez at one point or another. She's the Gaels' primary and secondary offensive options.) Katherine Haines was the first player in off the bench for Sacred Heart, but she didn't play much.

Katie Shepard is a nice little point guard- did more of her distributing in the first half, then started hitting shots in the second, when her team needed a little bit of an offensive boost. She was also pesky on defense. Hannah Kimmel did a little bit of everything- rebounding, inside lay-ups, outside jumpers, defense. I think the disconnect between her academic age and her calendar age- she's a redshirt sophomore who spent two seasons injured- is interesting, as she has a lot more experience and maturity than you would see from a regular sophomore, and that might be a big help to them in the next year or two. Shelby Hickey killed us in the first half beyond the arc, then she started taking the baseline too, just when everyone else was starting to set up outside. Adaysha Williams took a lot of shots. They were not all good shots. Alissa Tarsi seemed like a non-factor until the second half, when she was committing fouls- I think Ettienne got a lot of her minutes in the first half.

We got our first look at Ashley Murray in this one. I like her size, but like every freshman post before her, she has to learn to use her body without committing fouls. (Though she does apper to be of the school that if you're going to commit a foul, you might as well go for it with gusto- her second foul almost had her opponent in a half nelson.) Kristin Mahoney spelled Damika in the first half and seemed very nervous. There was no excuse other than nerves for that fumble. Karynda DuPree had a nice block in the first half, but was otherwise very passive, and she was parked on the bench for the second half. I like Philecia Gilmore's instincts, and I like her hustle, but she's got deplorable foot speed. I'm not going to harp on her conditioning in every set of game notes, because I am the last person who has any right to comment on that. I assume she's going to work on that at some point. Aaliyah Robinson found her shot again and was all over the boards. I love her heart and her hustle, and if Damika weren't a phenomenon, Aaliyah would be my favorite Gael.

But Damika Martinez is a phenomenon, a scoring force of nature the likes of which I have never had the chance to root for before, a near certainty to join the 2000-point club and making a good run at the MAAC career scoring record. She looked at the situation in the second half, where Iona wasn't scoring anything from anywhere, and basically took matters into her own hands, with 25 of her 37 in the second half. She wasn't asked to run point in this one, which she has occasionally been asked to do (this is not a good plan). I just wish she'd looked at the clock before taking the last shot after the buzzer. It didn't go in, but it's the point of the matter. Cassidee Ranger did a lot of running around to create screens and try to get looks, being more successful with the former than with the latter. Joy Adams missed makeable shots, but I love how she works on the boards. I'm just not sure what her position is. Marina Lizarazu moved the ball to the right people, but still seemed a little hesitant- we got luck on at least one play that should have been a five-second call. Aurellia Cammock had trouble holding on to rebounds- I'm pretty sure she would have had at least three more boards if she'd been able to maintain control. I love her hustle- she just needs to work on her hands. (And on getting people to spell her name correctly. She's been showing up as Auriella in some parts of the roster, and while Auriella is a beautiful name, it's not hers.)

Some bad calls in this game on both ends of the floor- I thought there was going to be an incident when Damika was called for her second foul on a bad, bad charge call, but in the second half, the scales were balanced with a bad fourth foul charge on Hannah Kimmel. I thought there was a key non-call late in the game when Joy went to the basket, but you can't put an entire game on that.

Defense matters. We can score all we want, but scoring 80 points doesn't matter if your opponent puts up 82. And looking at this team- maybe it's just early in the season, but no one on Iona seems really sure that they can trust each other. It's not reassuring.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15th, 2014: St. John's at Yale

Just the Facts, Ma'am: After a shaky start, St. John's settled down to a season-opening 61-50win at Yale. Danaejah Grant led the way for the Red Storm with 30 points, whiel Aliyyah Handford had 18 points and Amber Thompson added 14 rebounds. Sarah Halejian led Yale with 15 points.

For big performances, bad calls, creepier than usual graveyards, gorgeous architecture, lots of trains, and satisfied exhaustion, join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.

It took four trains and sixty-odd dollars, but here we are at Yale for the first game of the Red Storm's season, as St. John's visits Yale.

Payne Whitney Gymnasium is one of the most beautiful facilities I've ever had the privilege of visiting. It looks like a cathedral. We actually almost passed it because we thought it was the campus chapel, but no, it is just an exquisite piece of architecture... with automatic doors. In old-fashioned style, the aactual place where games occur is the John J. Lee Amphitheater within the building. It has high-back seats that demand proper posture, wooden seats that remind me of my elementary school auditorium. The windows are tall and narrow, like church windows. Most of the seats are elevated away from the court, so if something happens in front of the opposite bench, for example, I won't be able to see if from where I am behind the St. John's bench. This is the facility for basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics, and they have banners for each of those sports, one in each corner. It's been a while since women's basketball was even remotely relevant.

Yale has a pleasantly loud fan base- not necessarily large, but a solid mid-major fan base, and they care about their team. I'll give them that.

It was a slow start for St. John's, but when the game was tied at 17 we cam up with a 10-0 run to create a cushion. It's 31-21 at the half. Danaejah Grant leads the way with 16 points. Part of the challenge has been integrating the young players, and that's led to a fair amount of hesitation both for the frosh and the upperclassmen.

Kyra Dunn, I'm going to need you to pull your shorts down. Honestly. I shouldn't be aware that you have a tattoo that high up on your left leg, because that part of your leg should be covered by your shorts.

"The dead shall be raised"? What is wrong with you, New Haven? Why would you ever think that was an appropriate thing to put on the gate to a cemetery? Who raised the funds for that gate, Alester Crowley? (Yes, I know the real story behind it, because I'm a giant dork and I looked it up on Wikipedia, but these were the thoughts that passed through my head on the walk to the campus.)

So. Johnnies in reserve. They've still got a little adjusting to do. Most of them are freshmen, which is understandable. I like Kyra Dunn's shot-blocking, but if she's going to back off plays and not hold on to the ball and not rebound, we are not going to be friends. I think Coach agreed with my frustrations, since she didn't play at all in the second half. Tonoia Wade went in very briefly and did nothing of note, except that she was either wearing false eyelashes or has spectacular real ones, and I'd be concerned about a player who wore such long ones on the court if they're fake. Crystal Simmons was unremarkable, though I worry a little if her shooting motion today was what her shooting motion is actually like, as opposed to what happens when there's ridiculous amounts of contact being allowed and she pulls up lame. (The two aren't fully connected, and might not be at all. My brain is a little fuzzy.) She went off hobbling, but I think she's going to be okay. Tamesha Alexander was solid at the point, more defensive-minded than offensive-minded. The freshman who impressed me most out of our class was Imani Littleton. She committed some truly spectacular blunders (a pass smacking off her hands, having the ball plucked from her hands on a rebound), but she was great on the boards and looked aggressive offensively, which was a big deal given how tentative the offense was much of the time.

Aaliyah Lewis is growing on me. Now, if she could just grow a little bit, period, she would be fabulous. I don't think I ever noticed before how good her body control is- she was able to prevent herself from moving on catches that might have forced an extra step from other guards. She got bounced around like a pinball trying to run through Yale's screens. Give Tiny Aaliyah a break, would you, universe? Jade Walker already has a propensity to commit bad fouls. We know this; she still thinks defense is played with the hands and the body, not the feet. But she also has an unfortunate tendency to draw calls whenever there's a stoppage, whether she merits them or not. She threw up a lot of bad shots, including one where she had been dancing around in the backcourt as if she were Aliyyah Handford instead of Jade Walker, after which she was summoned to the bench for a teaching moment. She was a big part of the second-half answer to the Yale run, and we needed her to be big, and I think she can be a major player for us if she can stay on the court. Amber Thompson needs to go up strong instead of backing out, and she needs to hit her shots. These are all complaints I've made about her before, and I guess I shouldn't expect her to change from her freshman year in that regard, though I certain can hope she does. That being said, she was great on the boards and altered a lot of shots. Part of why I hope Jade and Imani develop is that it would free up Amber to be more of a defensive presence and we wouldn't have to rely on her for offense. Aliyyah Handford missed some makeable jumpers in the first half, and the Yale defense was all over her, but she seemed to find her stride in the second half. She played the passing lanes aggressively. And then there was Danaejah Grant, who was starting to look pretty tired by the end of the game, if only because she was carrying the team on her back. She went to the basket. She hit jumpers. She capped the scoring with a three, which was good, since I was almost out of room for two-point baskets. I wish she could get her free throws down, but that's the eternal complaint about this team that I love.

Yale rotated their bench pretty frequently, often bringing in two or three players at a time. Jen Berkowitz pulled down some good rebounds. Tamara Simpson drove to the basket nicely, though I thought she traveled on most of her drives. The other bench players were not memorable.

Sarah Halejian has a lot of heart and a nice jumper. She was the star of the show for Yale, both as a scorer and a leader. Meredith Boardman has a brilliant last name for a rebounder, and also showed a little range from the outside. Katie Werner seemed integral to Yale's second half surges, but I might just be crazy at this point. Meghan McIntyre popped a couple of threes in the first half.

The officiating in this game was extremely frustrating. If you're going to call a game in a certain way, that's fine. But call it on both ends. The same call, if it's a charge at one end, should be a charge on the other. If it's a shooting foul on one end, it should be a shooting foul on the other end. It seemed very unbalanced from where I was sitting, and I thought Joe was going to lose his cool at one point- except by the time he had reached that stage, it was too close for him to risk the technical free throws. It was very frustrating.

There's a lot of potential for St. John's, but I think it'll be a rougher year than we expected.


Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14th, 2014: Iona at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The one-two punch of Damika Martinez and Joy Adams was too much for Fordham to handle, as Iona took control early and never looked back in a 72-51 win on the road. Martinez had 27 points, 20 in the first half, to lead all scorers, adding four steals; Adams had 23 points, 12 rebounds, and five steals. Eily Tapio was the only Ram in double figures, leading the team with 19 points.

For maroon, internal rants, brilliant passing, spin moves, getting the gang back together, optimism, pessimism, road conditions, and sardine cans, join your intrepid and urban blogger after the jump.

And we are cleared for takeoff. I repeat, we are cleared for takeoff. The NCAA women's basketball season is underway. Your intrepid blogger is, of course, overdoing it a little bit, because that's how we roll here at Swish Appeal and the Game Notes of Doom. We'll be coming to you in surround sound and Smell-O-Vision from three different facilities in two different states and three different conferences.

First up, and I mean this about as literally as I can mean it without properly checking an NCAA schedule, is Iona at Fordham, at the unspeakable hour of 11:30 on a Friday morning. Fordham will be raising their A-10 conference championship banner, and I will be feeling supremely uncomfortable if no one else shows up for Iona (since Fordham has now introduced iself into the complex mesh of loyalties that is my basketball life).

It's 10:12 and we're crawling through the tunnels somewhere south of Dyckman. I don't think I'm going to make it to Fordham at 10:23 like HopStop claimed I would. Why do you lie to me, Internet? (Because once the A train gets north of Harlem, it crawls instead of speeding. I do not approve!)

Made it to the game. I forgot how beautiful a campus Fordham has. I am clearly not the only one who agrees with this assessment, since someone was filming something there while I was walking by.

Note to self: if you're going to come watch the banner-raising, sit on the opposite side from the banners, rocket scientist. I suspect the effect will be somewhat less impressive from the back.

Iona looks so tiny next to Fordham. Tiny guards, slight guards. Fordham has a lot of bulk to them. I barely know any of these people. It's disconcerting.

This 11:30 start time is really not working for Fordham, unless they're queuing up the annoying little kids outside, to break upon the seats like a tidal wave. I'm not taking bets on that, though. That would be against NCAA policies, rules, and general ethics.

A capella anthem from a campus singing group. I approve.

There was no banner ceremony, and I am sad. (I am also sad that this game is at buttcrack o'clock of the morning because the men have the night session for a game against a D-III school. Really, y'all?)

So. This is the halftime score I expected, except that I thought Fordham would have the 42 points and Iona would have the 24 points. But Iona has Damika Martinez, and Damika Martinez has 20 points, and Iona holds the 42-24 lead. Joy Adams, despite missing chippies in ways that make my head explode, is also solid for the Gaels, with 13 points and five boards.

Okay, DOT, can we talk about the potholes on the Cross Bronx and the service road thereof? Because this thing is rattling like a '70s jalopy and it's very hard to type when one hand is holding the computer on my lap and the other is holding the screen in place.

There were moments in the second half when Fordham looked like the defending A-10 champions that they were, looked like they were going to get back in control, looked like they were going to make this a game, looked like they were going to take advantage of Iona's mistakes and come back. But for the most part, they weren't ready for the fight, and Iona took it right to them.

Please, please, Iona, keep the killer instinct. Maybe this will be the year that I thought was going to be last year.

Kristin Mahoney was the late sub for Damika Martinez, and I liked her willingness to hustle. Philecia Gilmore gave spot inutes in both halves, and while her conditioning needs work, I like her ball instincts. She seems pretty vocal for a freshman, too. Always a good sign. Aaliyah Robinson couldn't get her shot to fall, but made up for it with defense, assists, and rebounding- she was the team's best rebounder on the inside from the bench. This is a bad sign for the tall center who came off the bench, Karynda DuPree. I want to like her. She's got a phenomenal basketball body. But there is no quicker way to make me dislike a player than to have her be diffident, be careless, be soft, be passive, be scared- especially when she's a post, and especially when she's a tall post who can be a gamechanger for her team if she finds some cojones. I can't stand seeing players give up a step or two early on a play, or stand around on the outside like decorative statuary in a garden and jack up bad threes. I feel like I'm being harsh on her, but when your star guard is waving you to come around and set the pick, and you don't move, you're going to end up with me (and Damika) being harsh on you.

I didn't realize until I looked at the roster that Marina Lizarazu had transferred to Iona, and I didn't realize until lineups were announced that she was immediately eligible. She's going to go a long way towards filling the gap that Haley D'Angelo's gradation left in the backcourt. She's not the perfect point guard- she's a little too hesitant, she takes too long to trigger the ball inbounds (I think she got dinged for two five-second calls), and she is way too reliant on her left hand. But she's good at getting the ball to where it needs to be (translation: to Joy and Damika) and she doesn't make too many other mistakes. She came up with some nice buckets to change the pace up from the one-two punch of Damika and Joy. I suspect Cassidee Ranger's position in the starting lineup is not 100% settled yet- she was splitting time with Karynda and Aaliyah. She didn't get a lot of looks, but she took advantage when she did. I'm just not sure there's a spot for her in the rotation, unless someone can convince Karynda she's not the player who should be taking threes. Aurellia Cammock did not impress me this year, but she came on in this game with a lot of heart, a lot of hustle, a lot of offensive rebounding, and an ability to take advantage of opportunities she was handed. Some players can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and today she was one of those players. I'm not sure if she's a full-time starter, either, since she was splitting minutes with Karynda and Aaliyah. (In terms of position, I suppose technically Cassidee was splitting time with Aaliyah and Aurellia was splitting time with Karynda, but the rotation usually started with Aaliyah going in for Aurellia, so.) Joy Adams kills me sometimes when she misses shots that she should be hitting- she had one beautiful fast break that fell apart when she put up a shot more fitting to a hammer thrower), and I don't think I like her handling the ball on the perimeter as much as she does, but she's such a phenomenal athlete and she rebounds so well. And then there was Damika Martinez, who did the things she does so well. She was hitting both her jumpers and her lay-ups, and her gambling on the passing lanes worked well. She needs to be a little more careful with her hands- she got called for a lot of fouls in the second half.

Fordham put a lot of bench players into the game, and that makes me wonder if Stephanie Gaitley was taking it as seriously as she should have. Khadjiah Gibson gave good minutes in garbage time, though one must consider that it was, in fact, garbage time. But I liked how she got to the basket. Asnate Fomina can shoot a little bit, but I'm not fond of her defense- she was a little more physical than I would have liked in a guard. Taryn Durant played big minutes off the bench, running the offense and being very vocal. She actually started the second half for (I think) Tiffany Ruffin. I don't have clear recollections of Aaliyah Jones or either of the Danielles (Burns and Padovano).

I'm not quite sure how to pronounce G'mrice, but I get the feeling that I'm going to have to, because I'm going to be hearing it a lot, because G'mrice Davis is pretty damn good. She has that freshman propensity to commit stupid fouls, but she's got a good body, she's got good ball instincts both on offense and rebounding, and she's got some moves. I like her. Emily Tapio was the star of the game for Fordham, getting inside for baskets and poking away rebounds. She's tough. She's one of those players you love to ittybitty pieces when she's on your team, but that sort of makes you want to punch things when she's playing against your team. Sort of like Plenette Pierson, but to a lesser extent. Samantha Clark filled up space on the inside, and pulled down some decent rebounds, but Iona shut her down pretty well. She was much less of a factor than I was expecting. Alina Gjerkes has a nice shot from the side of the arc. Tiffany Ruffin was solid all around- she brought the kind of experience and leadership that you expect from a graduate student.

Fordham seemed determined to take threes, despite missing one of their best shooters from last season in Hannah Missry. It wasn't doing much for them.

The officiating was uneven, especially in the second half (the worst was the blatant trip that Tapio got away with that led to one of her baskets). To be fair, I think Iona was getting the benefit of many of the procedural calls.

It's okay to sit Damika if you're up 20 with less than ten minutes to go in the second half, Coach. You can bring her back in if you're panicking, but when she got the fourth foul, I would have pulled her for good. (She did sit in the end, but about five minutes after I would have pulled her.)

Play of the day, and one that I attempted to nominate for the Sportscenter Top 10 Joy Adams rifles a hard pass to Aaliyah Robinson, Aaliyah touches it back, Joy goes to the hoop, gets hammered, gets the shot to fall, and gets the foul call. It really got the Iona portion of the crowd going.

I don't know if this play is sustainable for either team. I expect better from Fordham, and I don't know if Iona can keep doing this to their opponents. I hope Iona keeps this up; I hope Fordham doesn't.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8th, 2014: Philadelphia at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Ka-Deidre Simmons and Bra'Shey Ali each dropped a double-double and Seton Hall never trailed in their 86-64 win over D-II Philadelphia. Simmons led all scorers with 20 points, adding 10 assists, eight rebounds, and four steals. Ali had 12 points to go with 14 rebounds. Najah Jacobs had 17 to lead Philadelphia.

For long walks, missed free throws, lopsided foul counts, acting jobs, plush Pirates, new haircuts, and trying to remember where the butt pad went, join your intrepid and exhausted blogger after the jump.

Hello, internet! Did you miss me? You missed me, didn't you? Actually, it's all right if you didn't. But your intrepid blogger, like her or not, is back in action with a preseason tilt at Walsh Gymnasium, as the Seton Hall Pirates host the Philadelphia Rams.

Why are there so many people on this train? It's not even 9:30 on a Saturday morning, and it's standing room only. Go back to sleep! I want to be back in bed, but it's a noon tip, so.

That awkward moment when you wait twenty minutes in the lobby for the nice folks with the ticket table to come out, then realize that there aren't actually tickets for this game since it's a preseason game.

Why would you drive onto the campus of Seton Hall with a Rutgers R stuck to your car? They're magnetic. Take it off when you're in South Orange.

Seton Hall's season ticket shirts are absolutely awesome, and our homies at South Orange Juice need to find a way to hook me up. "If you can't see, stand up!" is the creed I live by as a sports fan, because if I'm standing, there's probably a reason. (It does take on a bit of dark humor when the first guy you see wearing it is in a wheelchair, though.)

I feel like some sort of perverse ninja. No one here seems to know me without my husband around. (Well, except Coach Bozzella, but he pretty much knows everyone. He's that kind of guy, which is how we got into this mess in the first place.)

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 47-32, after allowing a small Philadelphia run to close the half. Monica Schacker leads the Rams with 13 points. Ka-Deidre Simmons leads the Pirates with 12 points.

Philadelphia's coach seems to be a statement kind of guy, between the technical foul and the "I chose Division II shirt" he's wearing.

Janee Johnson going down on a drive by Bria Young is an early contender for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress of the 2014-15 season. There were a couple of early submissions, though I don't know if preseason games count towards those awards.

I don't know if saying I liked what I saw from Seton Hall would be the right turn of phrase, but I like the potential that I saw there.

Philadelphia sent in a big chunk of their reserves late in the game, so they didn't have much of an opportunity to make an impression. Erin Rafter's shot release was noticeably awkward, though. (Sorry.) Mary Newell played the majority of the bench minutes and was pretty solid down low. She was called upon to do what I thought was a surprising amount of ballhandling for a post player, and she had an equally surprisingly delicate touch with the ball at midcourt, so perhaps the ballhandling shouldn't have been a surprise. She seemed to disconnect from the game in the second half, when the ball was going to her less and the Rams were down big- her facial expressions were those of a young woman who didn't want to be where she was and didn't care who noticed.

Tori Arnao had a nice knack for finding the ball at the basket, and for finding space for herself down low as well. Bria Young reminds me of a smaller-scale Sky Lindsay, as if someone had taken Sky and gently compressed her so that she was a little bit smaller and her face was a little bit less long. She looked like she was often in the right place at the right time to make the play. The box score does not bear out my perception of Monica Schacker's stroke, as she looked like she had an utterly pure stroke and couldn't miss, but there are a lot of misses in that box score. She got open a lot and made Seton Hall regret it. She cooled off a bit in the second half, but I wasn't able to determine if it was because the Pirates improved their defense, if she was tired, or if her teammates were less able to get her the shots she preferred. Najah Jacobs had some very nice baskets on the fast break, including one spin move where even the ardent Seton Hall fans next to me basically said, "all right, you can have that one, we ain't even mad". She's a nice, solid player. Alex Heck took a hit to the face that awakened the wrath of Philadelphia's coach, but I don't remember what else she did on the floor.

I was impressed with Philadelphia. For a D-II school they hung well with a D-I team that's on the rise. I don't think they were going to be able to satisfy their coach's expectations on defense in this one- he seemed pretty intense about it.

Seton Hall put in a lot of players, so this part is going to be pretty thick, just to let you know.

Lubirdia Gordon has a solid build and sets a good screen, but she seems to have small hands for her size, and that worries me. She's still trying to find her place in the defense- she needed a lot of direction. Jordan Molyneaux was impressive in her short minutes, positioning herself well on the defensive end. Jordan Mosley rebounded well for a guard- she found ways to be in the right place at the right time. She needs to work on her shooting touch, though, which is a recurring theme with this team. There are some horrendous shooting motions there. Claire Lundberg has a pretty stroke from the corner, and so far it's clear that her role is to be a three-point specialist. She has height, and they're using her a little bit in the middle, but she still needs a lot of coaching to be more of a three. She also needs to get used to the college line. I think she was still ranging. Tara Inman looks determined to prove herself- she hustled right through a chair and into the bleachers at one point. I like her intensity. Teresa Kucera appears to have misplaced her shot, and I hope she finds it again soon, as that's been her strength for this team. Chizoba Ekedigwe got in and proceeded to pretty much flee contact at the slightest excuse. She was more interested in going inside on offense than on defense, but still backed out when Newell was in the game. She's got to learn to not be afraid of contact, or someone is going to end up tearing their hair out. Kathleen Egan hustled but otherwise left no impression.

I got the sense that Coach was using the bench players not so much because the exigencies of the situation called for them, but to see who they were in game action, what they would do in a game, and how they would react as compared to practice situations. There were a lot of bench minutes.

I love what Janee Johnson brings to this team. She's tough on both ends of the floor and loves to go after the ball. I don't know if she still has the shooting range she thinks she does, but she does create space with that jumper a little bit. Tabatha Richardson-Smith took a lot of threes. I mean a lot of threes. She got on a little run in the second half, but otherwise, her shots were going all over the place. I liked her work on the press. If she's going to play three in this lineup, I'd like to see her get some more rebounds (granted, Bra'Shey and Janee don't leave a lot of them for other forwards, but still). Speaking of Bra'Shey Ali, I think I was sitting behind her family, and I'm glad I was, because she had an awesome game. She was all over the boards, holding on to a lot of the balls that she was tipping out last year, or at least tapping them to teammates instead of opponents, and she was able to finish on a lot of shots close the basket. I do like her rather a lot. Daisha Simmons was hobbled by foul trouble early on, to the point where I was starting to wonder if any of the officials were Alabama alumni. She looked good, and she had fantastic synergy with Ka-Deidre Simmons. I can already imagine the mattress jokes. Ka-Deidre Simmons ran her team well and took over at key intervals. She makes this team go, and I think she knows it. Possibly to their detriment, so do her teammates. Much like sometimes happens with the Liberty, if she's playing well and their shots aren't falling, they expect her to pick them up, and she expects herself to pick them up. If they're going to go far in this conferene, or in the NCAA in general, they need to get over that.

I was disappointed in the officiating in the second half. It's not that there were a lot of blatant no-calls and missed calls, but there were a couple of block/charges that seemed inconsistent, and Jordan Molyneaux got all ball on that second foul. But when the differential is at 10-1, it does tend to cause a fan to raise an eyebrow or two. The total fouls were even in the first half, so I suspect that the Philly coach's T might have played into the officiating in the second half.

Seton Hall has very odd rims. Lots and lots of shots rimming out for both teams.

I think they've switched from Pepsi to Coke. Point in their favor.

That hike to and from South Orange station is a doozy, especially alone.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Seton Hall develops this year. You should be too.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17th, 2014: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty finished their 2014 campaign on a high note, with a 73-61 win over Indiana. Plenette Pierson put in 15 to lead New York. Maggie Lucas led Indiana with 17 points.

For comparisons, farewells, getting the gang together, the Sound of Music, lots of bench minutes, distracting Tamika Catchings, and pictures, join your intrepid and resigned blogger after the jump.

So this is it. This is the end of the line. This is the last game of 2014 for the Liberty, and the last WNBA game of the season for your intrepid blogger (barring a conveniently timed Finals match-up between the Mystics and the Lynx, and even then that might be pricey).

I'm not used to our fate being decided so suddenly and so swiftly. Usually the last game is relevant even if our fate is no longer in our hands. But this is a meaningless game with no relevance to the Liberty and limited relevance to the Fever (someone may have to correct me on that, as I am completely lost when it comes to the tie-break situation at this point). It's going to be hard for anyone to muster up a give-a-darn, even if it's Fan Appreciation Night.

Look, all I want is a complete team set for 2014. Why are Swin and Natasha so hard to get? Why? But no, every game it's the same few people out. :(

I'm going to take a few moments and just let it soak in what Lin Dunn has done for women's basketball. She's a legend, a pioneer, a trail blazer, and a part of the game's history. She's a builder. She's an amazing woman. I know her journey isn't quite done yet, but this is the last time she's coming to New York, and I wish her all the best. I look forward to seeing what she does when she's off the bench- I know she'll keep beating down barriers and improving the game. I'll miss seeing her white pouf on the sidelines, and miss hearing her wit in that inimitable drawl. (I think my favorite was when someone asked her if she was on or going on a diet. "The only carbs I eat are in my beer.") The Liberty gave her recognition and a little send-off, which was nice.

Again, I'm pretty sure that watching this dance routine is illegal in several states and would add me to the registry.

Our regular PA guy bailed. I haz a sad.

The shirts for Fan Appreciation Night are nice, but they only come in large, and I need at least XXL. I haz another sad.

Our poor unlucky wretch. Not only has she had to put up with us all year, but they put her on dunk tank duty for the fanfest. (We love you, Melissa. You put up with us. Good luck on your travels and in your new job!)

Okay, the Bollywood troupe is better, more dressed, and I don't feel horribly perverted staring at them. This is a plus.

So far they do not appear to have opened up the upper deck, despite the fact that there are lots of people here. (And lots of rude people. There's a line, stop shoving past it. And at least one stupid person, who doesn't understand why "everyone's rushing if they're going to different seats", I'm not making this up.)

Whichever genius put the kid in the Catchings jersey and his dad on the baseline by the Liberty bench really needs a talking to. I'm pretty sure their special experience would have been more special by the Fever bench. (And I think it was. Dude sure got comfortable in those seats, though.)

I really wish the team would be able to track down Tari Phillips. Kym has pretty much lost her voice and is trying to make up for it with dramatics. Loud public speaking will wreck a person's voice, and she's done a lot of that for us.

I am not feeling Shanece McKinney's short cut. And I am still not feeling Lynetta Kizer's blue dreadlocks.

Indiana's bench, and Indiana's hustle, is the season for them. There have been very few clean rebounds for the Liberty- there always seems to be a hand or a slap. The end of the half had a very bad call on Plenette Pierson that I really thought should have been on Lynetta Kizer.

Post-game season subscriber perfect attendance photo op. We are currently dealing with fan-issued awards. Perhaps not the most adept spokeswoman. (Alex is our MIP, Plenette our MVP, so that for star power. New York appreciates hustle and heart more than anything else.)

Which is why it's easy to appreciate Indiana, to be honest. That is a hard-working team, all the way down to position 12. They will fight you. They will scrap with you. They will throw you out of the way if they have to. But they're not going to stop working you. They may occasionally get sloppy, and their reserves are in dire need of a lay-up line or two, but they're never going to give up.

DNP-CDs for Tamika Catchings, Briann January, and Erlana Larkins. Look at all the bothers Lin Dunn gave about this game.

Maggie Lucas is kind of lethal from outside, in case you haven't noticed. We sort o didn't notice for much of the game, and there was a point very late in the fourth quarter where I thought she was going to Reggie Miller Indiana right back into the game. She hit one that was from well outside. She's kind of sneaky as a distributor- I never see her making the pass, but she gets the assists. Sydney Carter is small and fast, though speedy might be a more appropriate word- as a player she's fast, but as a point guard, she spent a lot of time hesitating. (There was one point where she, Clarendon, and Lucas were all on the floor at the same time, which I think technically made Lucas a three. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dance of the Sugarplum IDGAF Fairy!) Krystal Thomas was able to muscle her opponent- usually Shanece McKinney- out of position under the basket easily, and used height to smoosh many attempts at the basket, especially late in the game- only the one on Essence Carson was really emphatic, but they all prevented easy makes. She has to finish at the basket, which you may have noticed as a trend among the Indiana posts. She got decent looks and has to hit them if Indiana is going to make any long-term use of her. Karima Christmas had a nice sideline play to save a possession, but was otherwise quiet- she spent a lot of her time on offense floating around the three-point line. It's a weapon she has, and knowing the Indiana coaching staff, I'm assuming they decided to have her practice that shot this game.

Natasha Howard reminds me of a young Sancho Lyttle or Rebekkah Brunson- at the basket, she's more of a Brunson, further away she's more of a Lyttle. She doesn't yet have the defensive acumen of either of them. But she rebounded on the offensive glass beautifully today. She had a lot of trouble finishing at the basket, but I like the moves she has. Lynetta Kizer was phenomenal on defense, physical and determined never to let anyone she was guarding at the basket. She has the little foul-line/foul-line extended jumper that reminds me of Tamika Whitmore or Ruth Riley, though she's not as automatic with it as Riley was (or at least as Riley was against us). She never stopped woring. Shavonte Zellous was quietly efficient, though she missed some shots she should have hit. I'm not used to her being so willing to give up the ball, but I guess Lin Dunn can teach an old ballhog some new tricks. Layshia Clarendon seemed more hesitant than I would have liked running the offense, and she should have finished a lot of the shots she missed. On the other hand, I should have realized it would be a rough shooting night for her all the way through when her shots in warm-ups consistently fell short. I'm starting to wonder if she either has a low pain tolerance or a very touchy back, because every time I've seen her it looks like she's either caught a cramp or had her back seize up (although to be fair, if Swin Cash got me with one of those bony hips, I'd probably feel back pain too). Marissa Coleman hit her first three, and had plenty of opportunities, but really didn't play a lot, and really didn't have much impact on the game. She seems like the one player who philosophically doesn't fit with this team and their style.

Good Lord, Stephanie White's pants were bright. So was Sylvia Crawley's dress.

Shanece McKinney. Shanece. We were all in your corner coming out of training camp. We thought you got screwed and we were glad to see you back. But you have got to hit a dang lay-up if you want to be a professional basketball player. She got good looks from her teammates and didn't put enough oomph on them, or hesitated long enough for Krystal Thomas to lay the hammer down. Hit your shots, Shanece. Natasha Lacy ran a nice offense- I would have liked to see her call her own number a lot sooner, since she was the last Liberty player to score, and heaven knows that Shanece and Avery weren't helping her assist numbers. She's fast. I like her. Can we keep her? Essence Carson came in for defense, and I honestly don't remember her attempting to do much offensively. Sugar Rodgers looked like she was in preseason mode- that's usually when the team suddenly starts giving up shots under the basket to make quick little passes to other players under the basket. (In that case, it happened to work out.) She started a little slow, but found her groove in the second quarter. Plenette Pierson used all her veteran craftiness to get to the line, and she hit her shots when she got there. She was all up in the paint's business. Alex Montgomery was unmemorable. Last off the bench in the first half, but started the second. This is the logic of the IDGAF Bowl. Chardé Houston has more colors in her hair than I realized. She took a lot of shots, hit some when we needed them, and startled Cappie Pondexter by attempting to pass her the ball. I don't think Cappie expected Chardé to pass. I don't think Cappie has ever expected Chardé to pass.

Tina Charles started the game, played most of the first quarter, then retired permanently to the bench. We didn't expect much more than that from her. Cappie Pondexter played limited minutes, and I don't think any of them were in the fourth quarter. She looked a little out of sync, but that might have been the oddness of the number of reserves getting time- the lineups were not the usual lineups. Anna Cruz kept up the defensive intensity and cut well to the basket. I do like to see her being aggressive offensively! Avery Warley-Talbert, by this point in the season, seems to have been conditioned to believe that if a whistle is being blown while she's on the floor, there's a foul on her- she had quite the WTF face while Swin Cash was being called for a defensive three seconds. Granted, Avery is usually correct that the foul is being called on her, whether she's earned it or not. She had a nice lay-up inside from a Swin pass. Swin Cash was passing well tonight- she had the previously mentioned look to Avery, plus she got Natasha her basket right before the shot clock expired to make sure everyone scored. She also brought some defense and some rebounding. I don't know if she's worth inviting back next season, but she showed quality today.

I expected better from a Denise Brooks crew than fouls that were essentially coin tosses, long discussions where a linesman seemed to be trying to overrule a crew chief, and an inability to count steps. (Also, officiating pet peeve: if the player with the ball runs around a screen so that her defender is scraped against the screen like a bug on a windshield, why is it a foul on the defender? What else is she supposed to do?)

One of the timeouts had an awesome dunk contest- real players on real baskets, instead of the kiddie contests we usually get. Much better. Tamika Catchings kept trying to look past the huddle to get a view.

Props to the guy who hit the three for a grand. It was the only three the Liberty hit all day.

I'll miss the Garden for a few months. I'll miss the Usual Suspects. We're both going to miss our neighbor Dan, who's moving to California. (Good luck in Cali, Dan!) I'll miss slipping on my black jersey and heading down to the rail. (And I never did get Swin and Natasha on the hat.) This is it. Lights are out, Garden is deconstructed, stanchions are down. Season's over in New York. Time to regroup, get healthy, figure out the situation, and possibly learn some crowd management skills.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12th, 2014: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A spirited effort by the Liberty fell short against the Mercury, as Phoenix came away from New York with a 76-64 win. Five Mercury players notched double figures, with Candice Dupree leading the way at 18 points, adding 10 rebounds. Brittney Griner added 14 points and a team-high 11 boards. For New York, Tina Charles notched game-highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds.

For heart, hustle, purple and black and blue, office supplies, pain, hard screens, noses to the grindstone, and dodging bad acts, join your intrepid and clichéd blogger after the jump.

Hello, fellow Swish Appeal type people! (What are we, anyway? Swishers? Appelates? I feel like I've made this joke before, too.) It's gameday at the Garden, and the Liberty have the daunting task of facing down the Phoenix Mercury- oh, and the Mercury need one win to clinch the West and pretty much seal up homecourt all the way through the Finals. No pressure, Libs.

(My expectations and hopes for this game pretty much boil down to "no one get hurt". I'll be euphoric if we win, but I can't bring myself to believe in anything more than not dying.)

I'll be getting to the game early today, as I took the afternoon shift volunteering with Operation Backpack. It's my third year doing it, and it's a worthy cause. (There are several drives across the country- see if your area has one! Won't someone please think of the children?!)

DeWanna Bonner was really happy to see Anna Cruz. I don't know the degree of separation there. She was last off the floor, and for a while I think she lost track of time, because she suddenly ran off the court like a bolt of greased lightning, then stopped to talk to some Mercury fans and returned to normal socializing speed.

Brittney Griner received Skittles. She got a lot of attention at the Mercury end of the court, so she ran off in a hurry through the tunnel. I'm annoyed/regretful, but not mad. She was swarmed. Her sleeve is prettier up close than in pictures, but I think I still like Seimone Augustus's better.

There is a lot of purple and radioactive orange in the building tonight, most of it Taurasi and Griner themed (as opposed to general Phoenix stuff). It distresses me, but on the other hand, you have to expect it. Griner is a cultural phenomenon, not just an interesting opponent.

There appears to be a lonesome scout in the upper deck.. Either that, or someone really got screwed by the ticket office.

Do not adjust your Liberty bench. We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.

You didn't get a halftime report because I had a tape dispenser to deliver to my mother and an Anna Cruz jersey to get 30% off on in the team store. I skipped the dance routine. I do not feel like anything of value was lost in my life. Unfortunately, I had to sit through the pregame Simon Says game, with that annoying host.

That went better than I was expecting. Phoenix is much more talented than we are, but we came at them consistently through most of the game, except for a brief patch at the end of the second quarter. We needed that intensity, and we needed to remember that there are four quarters in a game as we hit the stretch run. I'll take it.

Tiffany Bias is adorable and clearly has decent cojones, if she's going to walk into Phoenix and take that 23. She came in at the very end of the game, along with Ewelina Kobryn. Kobryn was a little handsy, but honestly, it was, like, the last two minutes, I don't think anyone actually and truly gave a bother. Anete Jakobsone-Zogota was a late insert in both halves, as a spot-up shooter and a defender of questionable skill. Phoenix hid her on Essence Carson whenever possible. Mistie Bass did Mistie Bass things- physical defense, tough screens to free up her teammates (occasionally illegal ones), and boxing out. Mistie Bass is, to me, the quintessential intangibles post- she will make you better and you will like it, though it will not be pretty. Shay Murphy brought the defense (Murphy's latest law: if there is a mid-air collision between two bench players, the foul will be on the player who appears least likely to have initiated the contact). Love her work. Erin Phillips seems to have gained back her speed, along with her shot when she was left open repeatedly beyond the arc. She was tenacious on defense, though perhaps sometimes to her detriment- she did get away with at least one trip.

DeWanna Bonner is really tall and skinny and kind of long-armed. For once, she wasn't launching ill-advised threes, and she seemed to be everywhere on defense. As a basketball fan, it's nice to see her using her height. Diana Taurasi seemed to have a chip on her shoulder for most of the game, starting with her deliberate lingering on the logo during Maddie's pre-game routine (yes, try that again, Diana, Maddie will step on you) and through her demeanor on the floor throughout the game. She didn't seem in control of herself for much of the game, with bad passes and bad decisions. She still had the long ball working with no hesitation and no fear. Penny Talor had a lot of shots altered by Liberty defenders or changed by the rim, but she sure is pretty out there. I love the way she moves. She sets their break off well. Candice Dupree is so smooth. No fuss, no muss, just efficient and smooth both in the paint and just outside it. And no one notices her because there are so many other players to notice. Brittney Griner is ridiculously tall and even skinnier in person. I love her little hook shot. She dunked in warmups, but not in game play- though she did almost put up some basket interference with her fingers in the net on Alex Montgomery's three. She is not very good at down. Up, she's good at, but down appears to be more of a challenge. Up allows her to influence shots even without touching them.

So many weapons. It's not fair.

Shanece McKinney saw second half minutes, presumably to save Plenette Pierson and continue the physical defense on Griner. She was somewhat less successful than Avery Warley-Talbert. Chardé Houston was inserted a couple of times in hope that she would provide some offense. She didn't. On the plus side, she seems to have corralled all the braids that she bought, as opposed to having one try to escape. We actually got to see a lot of Essence Carson tonight, both because the options around her were not of great use and because she looked like a fair amount of the rust had flaked off. She could still be relied upon for the Plinko shot (you know the one, that shot that goes so high that it bounces off the top of the backboard and rattles around the supports before falling through), but her defense was back and she was hitting some jumpers. Nice to see her back. Sugar Rodgers is still in regression to Georgetown mode- firing up so-so shots and playing so-so defense. She had a nice little hustle play gong for a loose ball. Plenette seemed more offensive-minded than defensive-minded for this game, floating around the outside and throwing up jumpers. She gave some toughness inside, but overall seemed to be marking off time to the end of the game. Alex Montgomery played some defense and hit a big three, along with a lay-up along the baseline that she almost traveled on.

Tina Charles, oh my goodness. She just had her way with Griner in the first quarter. It was a fine example of a savvy veteran using her size, strength, and knowledge against a younger player with a height advantage. She moved around those long arms and got the job done. Avery Warley-Talbert defended Griner well, making her uncomfortable in space and forcing her to change her moves constantly. The shot she hit was off the offensive rebound, on a nice play. Swin Cash was up and down all night, from hard-nosed hustle to plays that harked back to the "Crackhead" days in Detroit. I don't know if I like her as a starter here. I would have liked more of Anna Cruz in the fourth quarter, since I think she could have contributed more offense than Sugar and kept the play moving faster than Essence could (I love Essence, but when she's running point, she flashes back to Stringer's system, and then I want to gouge my eyes out as the universe grinds to a halt). I understand the logic, but I don't agree with it. Cappie Pondexter came up with midrange jumpers for most of the night. She looked partially like her old self. I missed that.

The intensity was there for New York, which was a blessed change from the last couple of hot messes that the Garden has seen. We faded a bit near the end of the first half, and I think that clinched the game for Phoenix, but the Mercury didn't look quite as juggernaut-esque as they have most of the year.

Auriemma was in the house, two seats over from Sue Wicks (fortunately, Sue's time at Rutgers predates the RU-UConn rivalry, so there was no bloodshed).

I cannot even with the officials, and we're lucky no one got hurt in that regard. (Both sides, to be fair.) Lots of holding and grabbing by both teams in the first half, lots of holding and grabbing and ticky-tack calls in the second.

Survive and advance. Survive and advance. That's all there is to it.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10th, 2014: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tamika Catchings poured in 29 points to lead Indiana in a wire-to-wire 90-74 win at New York. Erlana Larkins added 14 points and six rebounds for the Fever. New York got 18 points from Cappie Pondexter, and 17 points and six assists from Tina Charles.

For frustration, incomplete sets, wanting to smash things, the big black scary paint, and harassing opposing fans, join your intrepid blogger after the jump, though she's going to go play Heretic now to get this game out of her head.

Good afternoon, loyal and disloyal readers! We're coming to you from a warm summer afternoon safe in the air conditioned confines of Madison Square Garden, as the Liberty finally get to host the Indiana Fever.

Getting Swin and Natasha on the cap continues to be a challenge. All I want is a team set. :(

Several families here from Penn State, presumably because of Maggie Lucas. She stopped for pictures and autographs for them- she stopped for everyone, but she came out and around behind the benches for them. (That is not to say she was showing preference- they were the only ones who tried.)

Layshia Clarendon seems to have mastered the art of the 'oh crap I'm late but I'll do pics and signatures as fast as I can anyway' run. I do like her.

To the fans in the Briann January shirts: I am so sorry about that guy. He's autistic, and not as high-functioning as he used to be.

I think they overbooked entertainment for the last few games- they've had "God Bless America" performances and more dance groups than you can shake a stick at. I have not been impressed by most of them.

At halftime, it's only because Anna Cruz hit a buzzer beater that we've cut it under 20, at 51-32. The entire team has decided that taking long two-point jumpers is the most brilliant idea in the universe. (There was actually a point during one of the timeouts that either Bill or Katie wrote in huge letters on the clipboard "BRAIN!")

Well, at least we pretended to care in the second half. I guess that's better than not even bothering to pretend to care. I love my team, but they're very frustrating sometimes, especially when we're stupid, and we spend so much time being stupid. Indiana played tough defense in the lane, that's true, but we reacted to that defense as if it were on fire.

Krystal Thomas got time early in the fourth quarter, and early on it looked like she was going for the record for fastest DQ in league history. She didn't play much. Sydney Carter saw the floor late in the third quarter, with an encore appearance in the fourth. She's fast, and smoother than I remembered, and she showed more interest in going to the basket in six and a half minutes than most of the Liberty showed all game. Layshia Clarendon played briefly in the first half, but either she twisted her ankle or something flared up in her calf, because she hobbled off the floor and was never seen again (and that golden 'hawk does stick up from the crowd). Lynetta Kizer is an adult and allowed to make whatever bad decisions she wants to, but that particular shade of bluish green looks like her hair has mold in it. She was unremarkable- a little bit of toughness, a little bit of shooting. Karima Christmas was tough defensively, and seems to have extended her shooting range a little bit, since she was comfortably going for threes in this one. I think her bigger impact was defensive, though. Maggie Lucas can shoot. We kept leaving her open. This was a bad idea. She also did a nice job passing out when she didn't have shots. Natasha Howard's athleticism impressed me- she showed why she was a first round pick, and that she can be the kind of inside-outside threat that Tamika Catchings is (not that she is Tamika Catchings in level yet, but stylistically).

Briann January knows how to fall- I swear she slapped the mat after one play. She wasn't called upon for a lot, but she ran the offense and did her job. Shavonte Zellous didn't really get shot-happy until the third quarter, and even then, she seemed to have found a comfortable place in the flow of the offense, taking good shots instead of firing away randomly. Marissa Coleman was given open looks and took a plethora of them, both good ones and ones that were a bit longer than expected. Erlana Larkins moves with unexpected fluidity for a woman of her solid build. She took over offensively in the second half, including one on a pretty feed by Briann January. I know she wouldn't have developed into this kind of player in New York, but I still resent that a New York castoff has become such a solid contributor elsewhere. Tamika Catchings remains Tamika Catchings, film at 11: she can score from the outside, she can score from the inside, she can get you on the glass, she'll defend you 'til her last breath, and she can occasionally play as if she is unaware of the presence of other human beings. Putting Avery Warley-Talbert on her to start may not have been the brightest thing Bill Laimbeer has ever done in his life.

Indiana played tough and got the job done inside, so that New York was flat out terrified of the concept of going into the paint. Meanwhile they were going to the basket at will.

Natasha Lacy came in at the very end of the game, and at least she could hit her free throws on the clear path foul. Hitting free throws is a bit of an issue for this squad, especially ones without players lined up along the lane. Essence Carson still looks like she needs to get the rust off- I was surprised she played at all, given that she was talking to Laura Ramus and holding her knee before the game, and that she was sitting on the floor with her legs stretched out for much of the second half. Oh, hey, it's Shanece McKinney. She did not play the most relevant 122 seconds in the history of basketball. Chardé Houston actually got the second half start ahead of Alex Montgomery, and brought a little offensive punch. Not a lot, but a little. At least she occasionally dared to set foot in the scary paint place. Sugar Rodgers, in one swell foop, reverted back to her Georgetown style of play. She got some offense going in the second half, but she did not seem efficient and she did not seem smart. Plenette Pierson was physical and seemed to enjoy taking jumpers just a little outside her range. I feel like we got lucky on some of her foul calls. Swin Cash at least hit jumpers, but overall, I don't think she should have been taking them. I also think Bill had too much faith in her defense.

I don't know when exactly Alex Montgomery suffered her recto-cranial inversion, though I suspect it was after the halfcourt shot, but she really needs to seek treatment for it. She's taking bad jumpers and her defense has deteriorated. Since her defense is her calling card, this is a bit of a problem. Avery Warley-Talbert was tasked with the impossible duty of guarding Tamika Catchings, and was abused outside by her. It was not pretty. Anna Cruz did not play much of the second half, as Bill looked for more dynamic offense, and Anna seemed scared to shoot for much of the game. Cappie Pondexter started off hot, but I think she may have had to carry too much of the load. You can't expect her to score, and distribute, and defend on top of everything else. Not with the condition she's in. Not at this time of the season. Tina Charles relied too much on shots outside the paint- solid, but not MVP solid. Passing out for stupid jumpers is a nice way to pad assists, but it doesn't help the main problem of the offense settling for those jumpers.

Yes, I've looked at the box score. Yes, I've looked at the stats. But for most of this game, the Liberty were terrified of going to the basket, and even when they did score in the paint, it was on questionable jumpers. There was way too much backing out. Go the basket. Good things happen when you take lay-ups.

The officials called a lot of ticky-tack stuff, then let the wrestling matches go. I'm not impressed.

At this point, my goal for the Phoenix game is "don't get hurt and don't look like a D-III team".


Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8th, 2014: Connecticut at new York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty came away from a game full of missed shots with a 71-66 win over the Connecticut Sun. Tina Charles had 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead New York, while Avery Warley-Talbert had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Katie Douglas led all scorers with 26 points, with Alex Bentley chipping in 14.

For clanks, auld acquaintance not forgot, clunks, Californian hair dye, clonks, the world's most annoying cotton candy vendor, clinks, conflation of cultures, and missed shots, join your intrepid and blurry blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone! Actually, as I type these words, it's afternoon. Your intrepid blogger took today as a half-day and is currently on a Manhattan-bound F train coming up through Brooklyn, sitting across from one of the Lil Torches and her mom. Couldn't quite take the long way around that I wanted to, since HopStop wouldn't give me a route through Brooklyn to the Staten Island Ferry, but it is what it is. We're coming down the backstretch now, and every game in this utterly ridiculous Eastern Conference counts. Not to mention, we kind of have this thing with the Connecticut Sun.

Finishing off my hat has gotten tough to the point of ridiculousness. At this point, my best bet for getting Natasha is going to be begging her wife for a favor.

Adorable meter broken. Avery Warley-Talbert came out with cupcakes for her family. Not realizing at first that they were her family, I assumed they had a super-double-plus awesome ticket plan (because there's only one way to one-up seatside service) and made an ass out of myself. (Also, Mr. Talbert is quite attractive. Well done, Avery. Hey, when all you can see is the outside of the book, you can at least pay compliments to the cover.)

Renee Montgomery was so happy to see Ashley Walker in the stands she heaved herself up on the railing to say hi, and needed Ebony Hoffman to catch her on the way down. No joke. (Also, I'm assuming one of the team's favorite electives at Cal has to do with the proper application of hair dye. The body of evidence: Layshia Clarendon's golden 'hawk, Gennifer Brandon's Sailor Berkeley pink braids, Ashley Walker's dark purple hair {which is more the shade Stefanie Dolson should have gone with, IMO}).

We have a drum team. I approve. The guy drumming upside down was pretty impressive.

Okay, hands up anyone who got a very weird mental imge when they announced "DJ Lobo" on the mix?

Well, that's a first half I would like to scrub from the inside of my eyelids. New York is up 33-25, but that's mostly because Connecticut spent most of the second quarter being able to hit water by falling out of a boat. New York decided that the substantial lead thus built up provided a wonderful opportunity to practice taking their really bad jumpers. We're rebounding well, though that might just be because both teams are providing plenty of opportunities.

It's Noche Latina at the Garden, nominally to exploit honor Anna Cruz. On one hand, a celebration of Spanish-speaking cultures is a good way to get folks in the door. On the other hand, celebrating a Spanish player with South American and Caribbean culture is sort of like celebrating English Heritage Night with hockey, kangaroos, and Bermuda shorts. Nothing that is related to the actual country of Spain where Anna hails from has been involved tonight.

They showed a little message for Bill Laimbeer and his wife's 35th wedding anniversary. I have never seen that man turn so red in my life. We're talking Houston Comets road jersey red here. (And yes, I did have a sample to work from- there's a woman in a Cynthia Cooper jersey here.)

That game was all kinds of hot mess, and everyone involved should just try to pretend it didn't happen and move on. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Oh, all right, fine.

Kelly Faris was inserted in the first half as Anne Donovan desperately sought something that would work. She scrapped, but was irrelevant. Ebony Hoffman got some decent run, and though she wasn't effective statistically, she used her frame well and forced Tina Charles to put in more effort defending her on the outside. Definitely an upgrade on Kelley Cain. Danielle McCray hit a three, at which point I was sure all hope was lost for the Liberty. We pulled through somehow. I like her hairstyle- very reminiscent of Le'Coe Willingham. Renee Montgomery seemed to speed up the Sun's offense, which didn't necessarily seem to jive with what Donovan wanted to do. She did NOT want to come out of the game after her second foul. Kelsey Griffin was tough on the inside- got the scoring going in the first quarter for the Sun, and set things up with screens and rebounds in the second half. I still don't like the way she plays, though I probably would if she were in New York. She's just that kind of player. You can call her dirty- it's not always accurate, but she spends the kind of time around that line that you usually see from much more veteran players. Her battles with Plenette Pierson are pretty intense.

Katie Douglas either hit her shots tonight or missed them badly. There was no in between. Either they were sweet and through the net with much grinding of teeth in our section, or they glanced off the side of the rim or only hit glass. And she was hitting a lot of those shots. She pretty much decided that she was going to take over the third quarter. It helped the Sun's cause that she had a relatively immobile defender on her. She was solid on defense, too, including one crushing block on a bad decision by Sugar Rodgers. Much of the offense in the first quarter seemed to be running through Kelsey Bone. I'm not sure if that was a plan by Donovan to try and get Tina Charles into foul trouble, but it was not terribly effective. She missed a lot of chippies. She pulled down rebounds decently and filled up space in the middle on defense, but was not an offensive threat. Alyssa Thomas started using her athleticism more in the second half, going strong to the basket, and Connecticut might very well have won that game if she could shoot more effectively with her off hand. She had a couple of opportunities that she couldn't take proper advantage of. She did help galvanize Connecticut in the second half. Kayla Pedersen is not Chiney Ogwumike, despite the same alma mater, but she was ferocious on the glass. She went after rebounds with a single-minded intensity that was kind of scary- she had a really nice one that she flat-out stole away from the Libs that led to a Douglas three-pointer. Alex Bentley came up with pretty much all the field goals in the second quarter, with midrange jumpers and cuts to the hoop. She had a nice steal in the first quarter- I think it was off Anna Cruz, but don't quote me on that.

Chardé Houston, one thin blonde braid dangling from her bun like the pull-cord to a ceiling light, proved that the only shot she's ever seen and disliked is the one that someone else is taking. She had some pretty bad ones out there, egregious even by the standards of this bad-shot-happy game. Essence Carson got some first-half run, threw up a horrendous shot, played minimal defense, and proved why she has not been getting playing time for most of the season. I love Essence, but this season has not been her finest collection of moments. Swin Cash had a nice play near the end of the game to help salvage a loose ball, but was otherwise not impressive- when she fouled Douglas on the three near the end of the game, I'm pretty sure there was an epidemic of gray hair in the stands. Sugar Rodgers demonstrated a lack of shot selection that I haven't seen from her since the Georgetown days. She came up with big shots, but she also took some spectacularly dumb ones. She has perfected the soccer knee-slide of triumph. Plenette Pierson got away with an elbow- it didn't make contact, but it was pretty vicious- and did a lot of falling and slipping.

I think Cappie Pondexter's Achilles issue flared up again. She did not have any lift on her shot, nor could she keep pace with Douglas on defense. Connecticut used Pedersen and Bone well to get Douglas space, but Cappie got caught on those screens like... well, a moth on a screen door. She didn't play much of the second half, but came in to hit a couple of those legendary fadeaway midrange jumpers right when we needed the offensive boost. Anna Cruz was strangely reticent to shoot for much of the third quarter, penetrating and then dishing to places where there were no players to catch the ball, or if there were, they were Connecticut players. She got over it a bit more in the fourth quarter. Avery Warley-Talbert did nothing flashy, but fought hard for every rebound and went hard to the basket. It was one of her better games this year. She's a bit of a liability defensively, but I love her hustle and her work. Every team needs a player with that kind of mindset. Alex Montgomery demonstrated all the shot selection of a concussed lemur- bad jumpers, badly off line. Go to the hole, Alexandria. Go towards the basket. It's nice there. Defensiely, she was solid. Still would like to see her make that more of a focus. Tina Charles started off hot, then cooled down, with some unfortunate misses. I'd like to see her rebound a little harder, but she got the job done on a night when no one seemed familiar with the concept of throwing the round thing towards the other round thing.

You may have noticed I have harped on the bad shots taken and missed in this game. There were a lot of ugly shots, and a lot of ugly misses on shots that shouldn't have been missed. I swear, I think I would have done something drastic if the Libs had missed one more free throw. My eyes.

The officiating veered in terms of bias. I don't get it either.

We won, I'm relieved, can we never talk about this game again?


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 29th, 2014: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It took buzzer-beaters, overtime, and getting back a lead as high as 15 points, but the New York Liberty pulled off an 80-76 win against the Washington Mystics. Tina Charles had 23 points and 12 rebounds, 19 and 7 of those in the first half. Kia Vaughn led Washington with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.

For pinkness, transiting, drop passes, Valentines, purple mountain majesties, and staying up past your bedtime, join your intrepid and insomniac blogger after the jump.

So it's already one of those nights, one of those crazy old nights, and I've barely crossed the county line, let alone gotten to the Garden, let alone seen the game start. One bus was early, the other one late, and I can think of better things to do with twenty minutes than wait for a bus in the industrial armpit of Queens. My computer's being a brat. I'm running late and highly disapprove of the entire situation.

Once your intrepid blogger successfully drags you through the perils of the MTA, we'll be coming to you in surround sound from Mystics-Liberty at Madison Square Garden. It took over an hour, though it didn't help that security was being obnoxious. (Dude. You have a wand. Wand me and we'll move on.)

BHA night at the Garden, with free towels and lots of pink. The black and pink is not completely horrid.

So, yeah, Alex Montgomery hit her first shot of the game as a running shot from beyond halfcourt that was nothing but net. That just happened. That is a thing that has happened in real life. Go home, Washington. I SAID GO HOME, NOT FORCE OVERTIME WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

"America the Beautiful" was all right until she blipped on "purple mountain's majesty", and then it was stylistic hell from there. Anthem was all right- a bit more operatic than I like.

I'm not a fan of the Valentine's Day look. The pink was so dark that there were a couple of early miscues where people on the court mistook one team for the other. They got over it. (Also, Chardé got busted for rolling her shorts so much that the white lining showed glaringly against the pink.)

I think Kara Lawson was being saved as a late-game secret weapon. It kind of worked a little. She spent a fair amount of the third or fourth quarter with a large pad on her back. And then she was making with the big shots. All her points were in the second half, and most of those in the fourth quarter. She got a bit physical, too, and I love when she tries to play innocent after delivering a hit that would please the Baltimore Ravens. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt brought some defense, but she seems to think she's a jump shooter. Tianna Hawkins played briefly in the first half as part of the line change near the end of the first quarter, but showed me nothing. Judging from the lack of minutes in the second half for her, I suspect Mike Thibault agreed. Stefanie Dolson and her cheerful purple hair got much more of that time in the second half and overtime, both at center with Meesseman and at power forward with Vaughn. She's good at getting little things done on the floor, and she deked out Tina Charles with a couple of over-the-shoulder moves. She stretched the Liberty defense and while she seemed a little in over her head at times, she was solid for them.

Bria Hartley has such a fast first step. She's not necessarily fast, but she's quick, and I think that's the first time I saw the stark difference between being fast and being quick. She seemed to start off slowly, but got into a better rhythm as the game went on. Monique Currie had the jumper going a little bit, but also had the temper going a little bit. She said one of the magic words to Jeff Smith, and the T came in a hurry. Kia Vaughn had her way with Avery Warley-Talbert, but came up with a bit more trouble on those rare occasions when Tina Charles was the one defending her. She scored in flurries. Emma Meesseman was a non-factor in the first half, but started the third quarter red hot, cutting along the baseline to get easy shots. She moves real pretty. There's so much potential there, and I hope that she keeps coming back to the US so we can watch her develop it. I just love to watch her work. Ivory Latta didn't impress, but she kept her team steady.

Going to the double-big, and going with Dolson in the second half, and increasing the defensive intensity, really helped Washington turn the corner in the second half.

Oh my goodness, Sugar Rodgers. She just took over in the overtime period. It wasn't just offense, either. She was intense on defense, forcing two jump balls in the final Mystics possession. There as a point near the end of regulation where she was put in for Plenette Pierson on defense, as part of a small lineup, and we thought it was a bad plan. She promptly stole the ball. She's really developed this year, and I think I like her now. I think. She induces lots of both "OH MY GOD SUGAR YES!" and "OH MY GOD TA'SHAUNA NO!" Natasha Lacy provided a quick lift whenever she was in the game, driving hard to the basket. Chardé Houston (tonight rocking a mostly shaved head with long braids sprinkled with blue and blonde) brought some of the offense and did at least try on defense. She failed miserably, but she did try. Swin Cash was ineffective. Decent defensively, but on the other hand, she didn't play much down the stretch, when a more defensive-minded player might have been desired. She made some bad decisions with the ball (I think she was the one who inbounded after the Sugar steal, at which point Washington stole the ball back). Plenette Pierson brought toughness, that odd dolphin-kick jumper, some questionable fouls, and defense.

Tina Charles was a beast in the first half. I don't want to call her unstoppable, because as many points as she scored, she took a lot of shots and missed a lot of shots. But she found her groove and tore it up in the first half. In the second half, she faced much tougher defense and started taking some spectacularly dumb shots. Tina, you are not Kareem, you have not perfected the hook. You are not Katie Douglas, so lay off the modified finger roll. Avery Warley-Talbert fought so very hard, though the numbers are a wee bit skewed- she got five o-boards on one possession (where at least two fouls should have been called, grar). She was called upon for a lot of defensive assignments that were over her head, but she did well for what she could do. Alex Montgomery hit that fantastic halfcourt shot, but that was all she hit, and in the second half, she took some really, really bad shots, as if she thought hitting a halfcourt heave automatically gave her range to take and hit any off balance shot she felt like taking. She got pulled after a bunch of those, and Bill pulled her back a couple of times. Cappie Pondexter looked limited by her Achilles for much of the game, though she scored a flurry in the third quarter. She read long rebounds well and led the break. Anna Cruz found her groove again, whether it was with threes (I could have done without the attempt in Hammon-land, though). Or with hard hustling after loose balls, the final game-saving play being the biggest one of those. She recognized that we needed her to do the scoring, so she became more assertive.

I just wish we hadn't decided to slow-play the second half. We might not have needed overtime if there was less hesitation in the third and fourth quarters. Yes, Washington swarmed more heavily on defense and forced players out of their comfort zones, but there was way too much passing up of open shots and too much winding down the clock.

This was the same officiating crew as there was in Connecticut on Sunday, and by golly they were tired from the long trip, because they just didn't feel like calling much of anything. There was a lot of physical play, some of it dangerous (Natasha got lucky on the trip that wasn't called) and some of it ridiculous. That favors New York (we are Bad Girls, after all) but I still don’t like it.

Skipped the BHA auction. Feel no guilt. The options were not impressive.

Spoon is rocking the 'hawk. She was coaching Alex from the baseline while Alex was on the bench. I think she works for us now.

If that dunker named Ariel was actually A'riel Hampton, I am going to side-eye the Garden forever and three days. Do not use your employees' children in contests.

This was the kind of game we might have lost in June. This was the kind of game that showed why the black jersey mindset means something. Now it's time to hit the road and try not to panic.


Monday, July 28, 2014

July 27th, 2014: Minnesota at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Minnesota Lynx rode solid defense and spurts of athletic offense to a 76-65 win over the homestanding Connecticut Sun. Maya Moore led four Lynx in double figures with 17, while Rebekkah Brunson came up with 10 rebounds. Kelsey Bone led the short-handed Sun with 15 points, adding nine rebounds.

For missed chippies, Kelsey Griffin's adorable sundress, two kinds of football, bad travel plans, unnecessary scarves, dueling fundraisers, and possible sleep-deprived babbling, join your intrepid and non-rhythmic blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone! Your intrepid blogger has safely returned from what will likely be her last basketball-related sojourn to Mohegan Sun Arena, where the Minnesota Lynx did pretty much what the Minnesota Lynx do, and the Connecticut Sun did pretty much what they've been doing most of the season.

Lots of people waiting for comp tickets when we got there. Big, big crowd. Lots of Husky fans around- Maya Moore got more pop from the crowd than pretty much any Sun player, even Douglas or Montgomery.

Dueling fundraisers: tonight was BHA, so the Sun had their auction going on, but there was a card sale at the next table over for the American Heart Association. Cards I haven't seen in years- didn't buy anything, since everything cheap I already had and the things I didn't have were a little too pricey for me.

We all know the real reason why I wanted to get to this game, and why I went through my voluminous collection of throwbacks until I found the bright green Kristin Folkl jersey in the box, and why I dug through another pile to come up with my St. John's scarf, and why my husband got kitted up the way he usually does for a Red Storm game. Our Girls Syndrome is insidious, but our case only really flares up once a year or so. We've only got one to claim, after all. So we counted heads as the Lynx came out and only came up with eleven... g'wan and guess who was missing. Go on and guess. Yep. So I flagged down Jim Petersen to see what had happened and make sure the interns just didn't skip a transaction while they were feeding the hamsters that run .com. Turns out the Lynx only booked space for eleven players, and they felt they needed Asia Taylor more than they needed Nadirah McKenith. Dear Minnesota Lynx: Nadirah is an adult, you probably could have trusted her to fly from Minneapolis to Connecticut by herself without getting lost or causing any international incidents. She does sort of know the area.

Yes, even hours later, I'm a wee bit cranky that we've managed to slingshot back to the 1970s in terms of being able to afford to bring the entire team on a road trip. And Taylor was a DNP-CD. Damnit, Nadirah could have sat there just as efficiently as Taylor.

Is Devereaux Peters supposed to be a rover in the Lynx defense, or has she just been inspired by DeWanna Bonner? She seemed to go wherever the ball went, no matter how bad an idea it was for her to try and guard Katie Douglas, thus leaving the inside open for Connecticut's posts (though they did tend to miss the shots they got from these opportunities). And then in the second half, when she got more extended minutes, it was as if the officials suddenly realized she was there and started calling fouls on her like mad. Not to say that she hadn't earned them, but they came in a flurry. Tricia Liston got her time in the first half- played decent defense, though I think she tried to run a rollout play on offense, and the recurring theme of this game is that people kept forgetting that it wasn't football. Damiris Dantas looked like she was in over her head- Chiney Ogwumike had her way with her. The coaching staff seemed to be working pretty heavily with her, and she had a very short leash, coming out pretty much every time she made a mistake or committed a foul. Monica Wright looks to have gotten her confidence back, which might be the last piece the Lynx need to make a deep run- they have four phenomenal starters and a center who complements them, but there's a lot of drop-off once you get to the reserves. If Wright can be a sparkplug at both guard slots, that bolsters them in ways I don't think I have to tell the average GNoD reader. Tan White brought a little bit of offense at opportune times, choosing her spots way more carefully than usual. Sort of refreshing.

Janel McCarville seemed somewhat out of sorts on the floor- missing passes, missing boards, floating around the perimeter on offense instead of going strong to the basket. Then again, she got glass on a three, so clearly she should have been playing the slots instead of me. (And maybe she did.) Lindsay Whalen is very tough, and occasionally does think she's playing hockey, and she makes the engine go for the Lynx. She picks her spots, and she is rarely dislodged. Rebekkah Brunson rebounded all the things. No, really. All the things. I can't believe I was forgetting how athletic she is, or how... savage has such unfortunate connotations... vicious, maybe? Tenacious. How tenacious she is on the boards. She really is Baby Yo. (And if you missed out on Mama Yo... well. Yolanda Griffith as a player was one tough mother-shut-yo-mouth.) She took a lot of off-balance shots and perhaps shots that were too quick off the boards. Seimone Augustus doesn't seem to be back to full speed, but watching a half-speed Seimone Augustus is still like watching a fine sports car in motion. Maya Moore showed more of her defensive toughness and willingness to be physical (ow, Renee Montgomery) than her offensive skill set, though she did some of the impossible- I will never know how she managed that tip-in.

(Speaking of things I will never understand the mystery of, Quick Change was the halftime show. I could see over and into some of the hoops, and I still have no idea how she changes dresses so fast, and the glitter trick is astonishing. If you ever have the chance to see them, do not take your eyes off them.)

Kelly Faris got some defensive minutes against the Lynx bench. Didn't look bad, and I will give props to any guard who's willing to body Rebekkah Brunson. Ebony Hoffman fired away from outside, unsuccessfully, but at least got good rebounds. She's infinitely more useful than Kelley Cain. (Kelley is sweet, but not terribly mobile.) Kayla Pedersen got most of the minutes that would go to Griffin, and she was about what we expected- screened hard, but mostly ineffective. Renee Montgomery gave the appearance of making the Sun offense do things, but my perception might be colored by her two quick threes in the fourth quarter, which was also when she hit her free throws. (Seven assists? Yeah, okay. If you say so.)

Somewhere, there is a parallel universe where women have been permitted to play all the professional sports, and in that universe there is a women's NFL, and in that women's NFL, Alyssa Thomas is a highly regarded wide receiver who people compare Larry Fitzgerald to. She does not quite catch all the things like Larry Fitzgerald does (seriously, the Arizona Cardinals come off pretty much as "Larry Fitzgerald catches things"... anyway.) but she ran some beautiful routes trying to get open. I didn't think she missed as many shots as the box score said, but it's possible that her athleticism blinded me, or that I thought she hit some of the good looks that she missed. Both teams missed a lot of good looks. Chiney Ogwumike found a lot of space to move around underneath, and took advantage of it. She was relentless on the boards, too. Not quite as search-and-destroy as Brunson, but willing to go toe-to-toe with her. Alex Bentley missed lots of shots. I think she's officially regressed past the mean. Katie Douglas felt like she was getting hot later in the game (which just sounds wrong)- if the game were played in sixths or eighths instead of quarters, she might have been able to pull Connecticut back into it.the game. Keley Bone missed entirely too many shots close to the basket (I may or may not have belted out "THAT'S WHY WE TRADED YOU!" after the second or third one). She needs to get more consistent on those shots.

Connecticut really has no idea who anyone on their team is, and I'm not sure there's any way to solve that, given that we're almost into August here.

It got very physical out there, and I'm disappointed in the officials in allowing that to happen. On the flip side, Montgomery should be grateful they missed her flops, because there was some serious yellow card for simulation going on there. Too much tripping and grabbing for my comfort.

The scary part is that Minnesota looked pretty bad... and still pretty much controlled the final three quarters of the game. When everyone's back on their groove? If the expected occurs, the Western Conference Finals will be epic.