Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25th, 2015: St. John's at Villanova

Just the Facts, Ma'am: 24 assists on hot 61% shooting led Villanova to a 81-69 win over St. John's. Caroline Coyer led all scorers with 28 points on 11-18 shooting (6-10 on threes). Danaejah Grant led St. John's with 20 points, while Aliyyah Handford added 19.

For fudge, wet weather, the inability to get around a screen, joy in others' success, teaching moments, batons, changing up the music, and WHY ARE YOU NOT GUARDING CAROLINE COYER, join your intrepid and backwards-facing blogger after the jump.

And here we are again at the Pavilion at Villanova, this time for the Red Storm's visit to Philadelphi.

It's "We Back Pat" day here at Villanova, with the Wildcats wearing "We Back Pat" shirts and special socks from Nike- purple with a neon orange stripe down the back. Ancillary staff are also making attempts to wear purple or purple accessories. "We Back Pat" placards are placed across from the benches to form the phrase.

The road reds are fire and I really really want those socks. Someone find me a qay to buy those socks. I don't care if they're used and washed.

Danaejah Grant has attached braids to her 'hawk. This is going to end in someone getting whiplash, I know it.

Everyone knows Harry Perretta. He's currently perched on our bench chatting with Joe Pellicane. He looks deeply wrong in a long-sleeved t-shirt.

I don't see Kyra Dunn as of yet. Sandie Udobi and Selina Archer don't surprise me, since they're injured, but Kyra could theoretically be useful.

Gospel choir sang the anthem, but not particularly gospel-like.

At halftime we have baton twirlers. I'll give Villanova credit: they don't care what body type you have if you have the talent.

Villanova is up 41-35 at the half behind 14 points, including four threes, from Caroline Coyer. Aliyyah Handford has 10 for St. John's. We need to consider maybe we should guard the arc. Tonoia Wade is having herself a first half.

Tamesha Alexander, being a Philly kid, has a bunch of family here- they're in the row behind us. Some folks from Piscataway are here for Danaejah, too.

Hey, Villanova PA guy, Lauren Hill ain't dead yet. The game at Cintas wasn't even close to her final game.


What do you mean I have to be coherent? I don't want to be coherent, I want to run around and swear at things and possibly hit Jade Walker upside the head with my clipboard. But you expect better of me, and I should hold myself to a higher standard, so I'll ignore the idle games open in my browser and try to be coherent.

Tamesha Alexander- or Sox, which is her nickname and much shorter and more fitting- got some time in the first half and pressured the endless dribbling of Villanova. I'd have liked to see her and the rest of the reserves late in the second half, when the game was out of reach- getting some cheap pop from Sox's Philly people might have helped, and the frosh need all the experience they can get. Tonoia Wade was the designated post reserve today, and she played well. Her jumper isn't pretty, but hey, she hit one of 'em. More importantly, she brought the defense and she crashed the boards hard. She needs to work on her positioning, but that will come with time.

Imani Littleton didn't play, but I think she ended up hearing more from Joe than anyone else on the roster. You wonder if she eventually starts tuning him out because he keeps yelling in her direction. He did turn the volume down in the second half, but still. Kvetching at people who haven't done anything wrong, and who haven't gotten a chance to do anything wrong, is counterproductive.

Jade Walker had some pretty jumpers, but at the same time, she was soft defensively- she came out of the game after giving up a couple of bad plays in a row, Joe was about ready to blow his top, and Tonoia all but catapulted off the bench. Aliyyah Handford's handle was a little sloppier than usual, and she looked like she was running out of gas- you can see where she's trying to conserve energy as she comes up and down the court. She was still somewhat active in the passing lanes, and showed her vertical trying to block Nova threes. Aaliyah Lewis had trouble seeing over taller Villanova defenders, and there was a play in (I think) the second half where St. John's almost got burned- Aliyyah was open on the baseline, but Aaliyah couldn't see her, and the play needed a couple of close passes in the paint before we got a basket out of it. She was our long-range threat, but that's not saying very much, given our overall lack of three-point shooting. (Which in turn is not to denigrate Tiny Aaliyah's threes. She looked good- it's just that we take so few threes and Villanova takes ALL the threes.) Danaejah Grant looked more comfortable than I've seen her in a while with that enormous black brace hugging her shoulder like some sort of Borg thing. She missed a lot of makeable shots, but that feels like the story of my life as a Red Storm fan.

This was the kind of game that made it look like we've fallen a step behind the top teams in the conference, and a step behind of who we once were. There were defensive breakdowns, there were a lot of missed chippies, there were lazy pases and casual ballhandling. Those aren't the mistakes you make if you want to win a conference with the history of the Big East. Those aren't the mistakes you make if you want to get into the NCAA tournament, and certainly if you want to do more than put another year on the banner.

The boxscore says that Samantha Wilkes played, but I have no memory of anything that she did, and Nova's announcer is not good at announcing substitutions. Alex Louin changed things up with her height. I like the way she holds her hands on defense- bladed, like a runner minimizing drag or a judoka about to deliver a chop. Jordan Dillard brought some speed off the bench. Of course, no discussion of the Villanova reserves is complete without Taylor Holeman, the microwave player for their offense, the one player who doesn't seem to shoot threes. She hit soft midrange jumpers and shook every defender we tried to put on her. She's scary good. She should show up in a WNBA training camp, and she should have a good career in Europe if she wants it.

I don't like Katherine Coyer. Hitting Tiny Aaliyah in the face is uncalled for and uncouth. Pick on someone your own size, Katherine. She went off for her points in one fell swoop in the second half- I think it was between the first two media timeouts. Suddenly she was cutting into the lane and hitting easy lay-ups. I don't like Caroline Coyer either, but that's exclusively because she burned us like hydrochloric acid beyond the arc. Different flavor of distaste. She has a pretty stroke, and she gets it off quick enough- not necessarily super quick, but that's where screens help. Taylor Holeman freed her up for one in the first half, either her third or fourth of the game. I don't recall Lauren Burford strongly- she brought some height, then surprised us with three-pointers. Well, surprised the Red Storm players and coaches- no one taking a three on Villanova surprises me unless it's Harry himself. Kavunaa Edwards was the starter who didn't play the starter's minutes- she scored early and was tall, but other than that was not memorable. Then again, I'm writing these notes at seven o'clock on a northbound bus. Emily Leer hit one of those pretty pretty hook shots, and generally caused chaos and consternation among the defense- again, a size mismatch, and those don't end well when your post players don't get out to the arc, because then you're asking tiny guards to defend big forwards, and that doesn't work no matter how fierce the tiny guard is.

Villanova's ball movement, when the ball moved, was very crisp. They used screens well to get the shooters free. But when they built the big lead after a spurt in the second half, then it ground to a screeching, agonizing halt as the Nova offense turned into the Let's Watch Caroline Coyer Dribble The Ball For Twenty Seconds Show. Honestly. If the refs could count, they would have dinged her for five seconds (the closely guarded variety, not the throw-in variety). Their three-point tendencies were less evident in this one, thanks to the work of Holeman and Leer down low, and Katherine Coyer cutting through the defense in the lane.

Officials can't count, film at eleven.

Squee of the day, part one: as mentioned above, Sox had family, friends, and school buddies at the game. When she got ready to check in, naturally they cheered. Tonoia looked back at the sudden sound and smiled in a way that registered as "d'awwwwww".

Squee of the day, part two: The shootout contest had a little girl, whose mission was to hit a lay-up, free throw, and three-pointer in thirty seconds. Lay-up she got on the first try, free throw on the second. The first three missed short, so she did it as a run-up the way an adult takes a halfcourt shot. Missed the next two. One shot left... it bounced around and went in at the buzzer. The crowd went wild... and then one of the refs gave her a fist bump as she came off the court.

So two out of three ain't bad. Would still rather have gotten the win over Villanova for St. John's, but all in all, a good road trip for your intrepid blogger.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

January 24th, 2015: George Washington at La Salle

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 63-38 rebounding edge for George Washington overcame 27.5% shooting in the Colonials' 67-48 win at La Salle. Jonquel Jones led the way for George Washington with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Micahya Owens led La Salle with 12 points.

For ugly, definite articles, delayed reactions, buff and blue, stairs, questionable manners, and so very many missed shots, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Hey, y'all!

So we came down to Philadelphia to watch Seton Hall play Villanova yesterday, and to see St. John's play Villanova tomorrow. Today we needed a change of pace. Something different. Something new and fresh. we went to a La Salle game instead.

Normally you would have gotten a lot more pregame blathering about the place and the pregame happenings. However, La Salle does not allow backpacks in their arena, and the security people they brought in were unusually strict about the matter. They were kinda rude about it, too. Fortunately, the ticket office was able to hold my backpack and its attendant computer. Unfortunately, that means my impressions will be a bit more vague than usual.

(Bonus points for that same security person being the ticket-taker and holding up the line a good five minutes because she went to the concession stand and bought herself nachos.)

Everything seemed a little bootleg for the non-game related portions of the program. The ticket office was really slow to react and was printing tickets on an individual basis. There was no band, and instead there were innumerable repetitions of the fight song, which has an unfortunate similarity to something you might hear on a Saturday morning cartoon. The side boards went wacky and showed distorted ad images, so they were eventually shut down, though I kind of want to know what Citizens Bane would be.

Beautiful video of Philly scenes during the playing of the anthem.

George Washington has a lot of very tall, very skinny players with questionable mechanics. The shooting was... it was awful, no two ways about it. This would probably have been a thirty-point margin if the Colonials could hit the broad side of a barn down low. Because the game was non-competitive for about 35 minutes, we got to see a lot of both teams' reserves, so these are going to be relatively long notes.

I'm not sure why Aaliyah Brown shoved the ballhandler out of bounds late in the second half, but it was pointless. Lauren Chase ignited the offense in the first half with jumpers and a nice and-1 in the lane. Alexis Chandler reminds me of a former Johnnie, Greeba Barlow, around the face. That's where the resemblance ends. Chandler took a lot of shots, some better than others, and always seemed to be looking for her shot, no matter what. Dalacy Anderson gave good minutes in the post. Mia Farmer- a Philly kid we'd heard about on the ride home last night- took corner threes, and the third time was the charm (though that first one should have gone down- it was halfway around). Jada Matthews brought some nice size, but not so much touch. Brianna Cummings had some really good minutes- always active, with some good plays on offense. Kelli Prange was the least awkward of GW's tall, awkward players, but not by much. She made some nice little plays in the middle.

I was looking forward to seeing Jonquel Jones- I'd heard a lot about her, and as a Johnnie I'm familiar with the talents of Clemson transfers. But I was very disappointed. Her shot was a hot mess. She rebounded well, but you've got to hit the chippies down low and you've got to hang on to the ball. GW ran a lot of alley-oops early for her and Caira Washington, and none of them were successful. Washington looked like she was still trying to find her feet. She needs to muscle up. She was getting moved around very easily, and La Salle didn't have that much more size. Hannah Schaible didn't look to score, though I think her teammates wanted her to score when they had stretched the lead out and it was time to distribute the points. Shannon Cranshaw was tough from three- she's got a pretty stroke, which is more than I can say for most Colonials today. Chakecia Miller ran the offense well and seemed just comfortable enough calling her own number to balance the duties of the offense well.

So many easy shots. So many missed shots. Ugh.

Oh, La Salle. The passing was horrible. The ball security was virtually non-existent. When the shots missed, they were ugly. They never gave up on plays, but that's the most I can say about them as a group.

Amy Griffin's skill set intrigues me. She has the build of a forward, but she handles like a guard. She's a little reckless, and a little careless, but she's only a freshman. If she gets coaching, she might be special for La Salle. They brought a lot of size off the bench with Indigo Dickens and Ashanti Freeland, neither of whom played a lot, but who both crashed the paint. Jordan Williams handled the ball near the end of the game. Ebony Wells was, I think, physical, but we're getting to the time of night when my memory for mid-rotation bench players starts to fail me.

Micahya Owens was high usage, especially in the first half. She made a lot of defensive plays, disrupting the dribble and playing the passing lanes. Alicia Cropper came up with threes in the second half, as well as some tough plays. Jasmine Alston handled herself like a point guard who runs a good offense. I like her demeanor. Lisa Mintzer, the token local girl, blocked a lot of shots when GW thought they had a size advantage. They did not shoot very intelligently. Siobhan Beslow was the player of the day on the poster, but she seemed irrelevant today.

When La Salle was able to get a shot off, they got decent shots. But they really didn't have a lot of good ball movement and were sloppy with the ball.

Officiating was inconsistent, and it got to the point where you could tell the refs just wanted to get home. I am also not sure which ref she was, but there was referee who needed to visit my favorite corsetorium- by the end of the game, she had, er, lost some of her structural support.

GW has a really loud staff. Everyone seemed to be yelling. (They're also the only team I've heard use something other than the standard "DE-FENSE!" chant- they call and and respond "D UP!"

Worth the trip... but George Washington isn't quite back yet.


Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd, 2015: Seton Hall at Villanova

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Villanova could never quite overcome a strong start by Seton Hall, and the Pirates claimed a 59-56 victory at the Pavilion. Daisha Simmons led the way with 19 points and 13 rebounds, getting help on the scoreboard from Ka-Deidre Simmons (15) and Tabatha Richardson-Smith (11) and on the backboard from Janee Johnson (12 rebounds). Villanova put four in doubles in the loss, led by 15 points from Emily Leer.

For digging the long ball, road tripping with favorite allies, decorating Moooose, parenthetical asides, ride mooching, rocking out, placards, and purple hair, join your intrepid and traveling blogger after the jump.

Hey, everybody!

Your intrepid blogger has decided she doesn't like working Fridays, so we've decided to swing down to Philly for the NY metro teams' road trip to Villanova. Seton Hall is first up, on this cold-but-hey-it-could-be-worse Friday. As I tap these words out on my trusty laptop Jocelyn, we're sitting outside the Pavilion two hours before tip (we, ah, slightly miscalculated how far across campus we were going, and the bookstore's on the other side of campus, so we can't even kill time and buy tchochkes there).

(Also, Jocelyn isn't particularly trusty, but I love her anyway.)

(Ironically, we're staying right off Drexel's campus and among Penn's academic buildings, but neither of those teams is home on Saturday. But we did stop by Drexel's bookstore and buy a souvenir for Moooose.)

The Villanova men are passing us by on their way to a team expedition to a Sixers game. No, I don't know what they did to spark Jay Wright's ire either, but that's just cruel and unusual punishment there.

We mistook Nova's bus for the SHU bus, but I think the Pirates are coming now. Woo! Go Seton Hall! I should probably put gloves on. Poor Jocelyn is frozen. Literally- I think part of her screen got damaged from the cold.

Villanova's band rocks hockey jerseys, which is pretty awesome. I'm pretty sure one of them is also a Queenie. And 55 is a number high on my list. (5 is my favorite number and Vickie Johnson is one of my all-time favorites.)

The Pavilion is a fascinating blend of the old and the new- shiny video boards across from hard wooden bleachers, a slick track-cam sliding past the peculiar contours of the building's roof, retro-styled banners honoring players recent and not so recent. Not sure what to think about all the Wildcat women shown with the t-shirt jerseys, as I'm pretty sure that they weren't wearing the t-shirts in 2003.

Many of the usual suspects have come up from Jersey for this one, and there are rumors of buses yet to come. Serious business, yo.

Child in UNC shirt, you are ridiculously lost. I guess the shade of blue is right.

Good Lord. The Nova player in this ad has eyes that are Villanova blue. Either they need to lay off the filters or that is taking team colors TOO FAR.

Wonderful acappella anthem. I do love a good vocal group.

You may have noticed there were no halftime notes, and that's because your intrepid blogger needed refreshments after screaming her head off in the first half. I never thought I would see the day where Seton Hall had fans energized enough to organize a bus down to Villanova. I never thought I'd hear a group chanting and cheering and clapping the way the Seton Hall travel crew did. I never dreamed that the second time I saw a team's cheer and dance squads follow them on the road and cheer from the stands would be for Seton Hall. But Seton Hall sent a bus, and that bus had cheer and dance, and they had their signs and pom-poms, and we couldn't NOT get loud. It was exhausting and exhilarating and glorious. It's also a little harder to focus on individual performances, especially for the opponent, when you're screaming your head off like a crazy person, but I'll do what I can.

The bench didn't necessarily play a lot, and they didn't necessarily rack up the numbers, but they did their jobs and shone in brief spurts. Lubirdia Gordon saw time in the first half and had a couple of nice baskets down low. Jordan Mosley had a nifty steal and a couple of strong boards. Kathleen Egan provided a little defense down low, but when Villanova gets low, they get very rough, so she was outmassed. Tiffany Jones played the bulk of the center minutes for her more polished offensive game- she was a bit awkward defensively, and only a pass foul kept her in the game. But she came up with big shots and big boards.

I swear Daisha Simmons gets taller every time I see her. She drove the lane without fear and occasionally without sense, throwing up shots at the slightest hint of contact, whether getting the call was a realistic expectation or not. She tore it up on the boards, both at the rim and reading outside. Tabatha Richardson-Smith got hot early, then cooled down (the looooooooong three attempt that went wild was, IMO, the beginning of the end). Chizoba Ekedigwe contributed defensively, though she was a bit reluctant to come out to the arc (which you cannot be against Villanova). Janee Johnson killed it on the boards today. I'd like to see her take fewer long shots, but if they go down, I won't protest too much. Ka-Deidre Simmons took over in the latter portion of the game. She was solid throughout, but when it got tight and Villanova looked like they were ready to do that thing where they win the tight game because that's how Harry Perretta rolls, Didi decided that wasn't happening. She and Daisha made the hustle plays. She got hit in the head and kicked in the stomach on two different plays (only one of which was called a foul) and still made the right play at the right time.

There were a couple of stretches, at the end of the first half and in the middle of the second half, where it seemed like the Pirates were content to play at Villanova's pace, stalling the ball and taking jumpers. Can't let that happen.

Villanova's rotations seemed inconsistent from half to half, but I'm not sure if that's a Villanova thing, or a me not noticing thing, or a Perretta changing things up thing. I liked what I saw out of Samantha Wilkes, both on the boards and on the pretty pass to Taylor Holeman for the soft finger roll. I have a block down for Jordan Dillard, but I think I accidentally credited her with one of Katherine Coyer's plays, so I got nothing for her, or for Brandi Teague. Alex Louin is tall for a guard, and needs to pick on people her own size. Taylor Holeman brought the offense, but she always has; she makes sure that the pace doesn't fall off when the bench comes into the game. She had a stronger midrange than long-range game this time around, with some odd hitches in her shot.

Katherine Coyer crushed a big block in the first half on a corner three. Killed it. She's longer than her sister. Caroline Coyer did a little bit of everything, and thus was not easily remembered for any one thing. She hit a lot of threes. That was annoying. Kavunaa Edwards was hot very early, but we remembered to close on her eventually. We were not so clever with Emily Leer. She hit threes, she established space down low, and I wish to do unprintable things with her beautiful hook shot. (I have a thing for hook shots. Not the players who take them, per se, but the shots themselves.) Her foul trouble was helpful for us. I do not remember Lauren Burford doing anything of note.

Villanova had really nice ball movement, and they can shoot- but some of them look like they were taught to shoot the exact same way Shelley Pennefather shot the ball... except that Pennefather was double-jointed in her wrists. Doesn't quite work as well. You see some very strange exaggerated motion in their shots.

I expected nothing good out of an officiating crew that included both Maj Forsberg and Joseph Vaszily, and I was right. There were a lot of ticky-tack calls for the home team, but what really got me was when Ka-Deidre Simmons was hit in the head with no call. I was disappointed and distressed. Don't ignore headshots!

We managed to wangle a ride back to our hotel from Aleesha Powell's family (Aleesha must wonder why her dad likes the crazy people who can't shut up). So we were hanging out a little after the game. Jordan Mosley's family was there (which did neatly explain why someone was hanging out at a Nova game in Temple gear; my understanding is that that is frowned upon in that establishment). Tab still doesn't seem to like me, but y'know what? I was a Johnnie long before Tab was a Pirate, and I'll be a Johnnie long after she graduates. I like Seton Hall, and I love what they're building there, but my team is my team.

Villanova band is very solid. I prefer DePaul's arrangement of "All of the Lights", but Nova sells the song better, and they bring in the cymbals to end each phrase, in a wonderfully dramatic fashion. It took a while for the Nova crowd to get started, but I think we shamed them into it.

Their cheer team pulled off what was essentially a non-ice version of the Death Spiral, only with two female cheerleaders per dude cheerleader, and it was amazing. SHU cheer was professionally impressed.

That was an emotionally satisfying experience, and not just because we won. Being part of something bigger is always special.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18th, 2015: Marquette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford dropped 14 of her game-high 25 points in the second half to fuel a late run by the Red Storm and a 67-52 win for St. John's over Marquette. Danaejah Grant added 15 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Arlesia Morse's 17 led the Golden Eagles.

For lovely weather, the only time you will ever see Aliyyah Handford hesitate, moves like Jagger, kicks like fire, and supporters' scarves, join your intrepid and rejuvenated blogger after the jump.

Hello, boys and girls! Lovely weather for a basketball game today, isn't it? Or, at least, lovely weather to be inside where the rain isn't. St. John's is looking to rebound from that collapse in OT against DePaul, as the other half of the Great Lakes travel pod comes to town in the form of the Golden Eagles of Marquette.

At least Marquette has gotten ride of the fruit salad on their uniforms. That white/yellow/light blue/dark blue checkerboard effect wasn't working for them.

We'll see if the Queen Mother puts in an appearance. We gave her my husband's ticket, but she tends to bail on me when there's bad weather.

Tonoia Wade's sneakers today are shiny, iridescent like the surface of a soap bubble. Very cool.

I know we're all supposed to make like we didn't see it, but Aliyyah Handford tripped over her own feet on the way back to the locker room. Oh, dear. This is going to be one of those days, isn't it?

O HAI DERE BRI. Briana Brown is on the court, dressed all fancy-like and talking to a couple of the ancillary staff. If we're bringing her in as a graduate assistant, this is a good plan and the team should feel good for doing it. If they're just letting her shoot around on the court, then that's fun too, but she usually comes to games in sweats, so if she's dressed all fancy, there's a reason. Still got that three-point shot, too.

You know, I don't think this "official beer" thing is going to work out well. Could be wrong. Often am.

Anthem singer was technically competent, but sounded unfortunately like Fran Drescher doing a Michael Jackson impersonation.

Apparently Amber Thompson moved to Philadelphia over the weekend. She was announced as being from Philly today. Don't think that went over well with her family.

30-28 St. John's at half, and a little tighter than it needed to be. Joe's gone too far the other way on trusting the freshmen, running out three of them and Kyra Dunn to go with Aliyyah Handford late in the game.

Danaejah, arguing with refs doesn't work. Stoppit.

The Queen Mother has arrived. Our long national nightmare is over.

I think Briana is actually apprenticing as timekeeper or radio person or something. She's got a headset. Whatever. Briana Brown being involved with St. John's basketball again can only be good.

Some second half we had! It was nice to see the reserves getting some time there.

Marquette actually ran pretty deep into their bench most of the game, but that might have had more to do with the foul trouble that pretty much all the posts were in. Lauren Tibbs wasn't afrai to throw her weight around- she made a couple of tough plays near the basket in a row in the second half, but also kind of casually shoved players around. McKayla Yentz had a fantastic read on an offensive rebound... which, unfortunately for Marquette, led to the charge. (And that, at least, was a good call. There were a few dicey ones throughout.) Hannah Grim saw time near the end of the halves, but was unmemorable. Cristina Bigica came in later than I was expecting and was mostly taking threes. The band enjoyed getting on her case. I don't know why. Shantelle Valentine played a very physical game down low. You can check people up in Canada, eh, but not in basketball.

Arlesia Morse was hitting threes and had an offensive surge in the second half- I think she was trying to do the senior leadership thing. Chelsie Butler was very physical- it's hard to believe she didn't realize she elbowed Jade Walker right in the... er, upper chest. She threw the elbows around freely. Tia Elbert might be small, but she's fast. She was very disruptive on defense. Kenisha Bell, physically, reminds me of Aliyyah Handford- not as athletic, but since 99.9% of the human race isn't as athletic as Aliyyah Handford, that's the opposite of a backhanded compliment. She's got a nice jumper and good size- she'll be a nice piece for them. Apiew Ojulu was limited by fouls, but showed her rebounding ability along the baseline, using long arms to disrupt the ball.

Marquette isn't necessarily a bad team per se, but they don't seem to do anything particularly well. That may well come with time. At some point, they'll probably learn not to drive directly into a shot blocker.

Imani Littleton needs to pay more attention on the court. If she keeps her head in the game, maybe she'll be in the game a little more. Tamesha Alexander looked good running the offense in the second half. She looks much more confident than she did in the beginning of the year. Tonoia Wade was really active on the glass and more assertive on offense. Speaking of players who have blossomed as the year has gone on... Tonoia looks like she's found herself. Early for it, and I love it. Kyra Dunn played briefly, which excited a couple of people in front of us, and attempted to rebound. Sox Alexander needs to realize that Kyra doesn't have the hands for the alley-oop pass, though. Crystal Simmons subbed for Danaejah Grant and looked okay, though she needs a little more court awareness, and possibly a translator (no, I don't know how good her day-to-day conversational English is, but she didn't seem to be hearing the bench instructions correctly).

Aaliyah Lewis has such phenomenal body control. I swear she has those Neo-in-the-Matrix moves sometimes. Jade Walker had the jumper going early, plus a nifty lay-in down low, but got caught looking at her shot a bit in the second half. And, of course, if there's an opportunity to call Jade for a foul, a foul will be called on Jade. Amber Thompson held her ground down low. She attracted Marquette shooters like moths to an open flame, and when they came she swatted them. They got some good boxouts on her, but not all the time, because one does not stop Amber Thompson, one merely slows her down. Danaejah Grant was relatively quiet,for her- heated up in the second half, enough to get some of the defensive pressure off Aliyyah. And of course, Aliyyah Handford just continues to be awesome. Her jumper was working (and I swear, by senior year she's going to have a three-pointer), she cut through the lane like a hot knife through butter, she flashed out on defense for steals, she threw quick passes... right now, my biggest problem with Aliyyah is that I'm running out of words.

The best part, of course, is that barring wildly unforeseen circumstances, we get another year of Aliyyah and Danaejah.

I did not know until I looked at the box score that we had Linda Miles as a ref! I don't remember her Rutgers days, but I remember that she was a Scarlet Knight, and then she was a wrestler, and now she's a ref, and she's not a bad ref. She seems to be taking in a lot from the senior refs she works with. I like that kind of attention from a ref. As a whole, the crew did a pretty good job today- honestly, I think we got the better of the calls on infractions.

Dads and Daughters day at Carnesecca, so all the timeout activities were father-daughter duos. I was disappointed in the shooting form on the shooting challenge.

I thought Joe went to the bench too early, but I was proven wrong. It's nice to see the freshmen getting some run and proving that they can play a little on the D-I level. Heaven knows we're going to need them.


Friday, January 16, 2015

January 16th, 2015: DePaul at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: DePaul rode strong three-point shooting and big shots in overtime to knock out St. John's 84-75. Brittany Hrynko had 25 to lead five Blue Demons in double figures. Aliyyah Handford had 25 and Danaejah Grant 23 for the Red Storm.

For one good shot, not defending the three-point line, elbows to the knee, covers, boss anthem singers, toomanypeoplecannotbreathe, and rescheduling, join your intrepid and misanthropic blogger after the jump.

Good morning, everyone! Yes, morning. No, I don't like it either. But it's Field Trip Day in Jamaica, Queens, and that means an 11:30 tip and thousands of kids for the Red Storm's matchup with DePaul.

Honestly, would it have killed the Big East to reverse the order for DePaul and Marquette visiting St. John's and Seton Hall? Kids on a field trip don't care who the opponent is, and you could have gotten a lot more walk-ups for DePaul on a Sunday.

Fortunately, unlike last year's field trip debacle, we were able to complain loudly enough to the back office folks, and got seats saved over in our usual neck of the woods. (If you did not read about last year's field trip debacle: sitting directly behind the band is not conducive to a happy fun time experience. Forcing alumnae and men's players behind the band is not happy fun time for anyone after the game.)

So far they're loading the upper deck first. I think the local schools are waiting for the traffic to clear before they come in.

Okay, kids, please don't play with the light switches on the ads. Light switches are not toys.

I'm not sure how long the sign board with the flashing lights will last, but I like the enthusiasm.

And DePaul is probably wondering "what in the world have we gotten ourselves into now?" I think it's a good sign that Brittany Hrynko's hair is relatively tame today. Big hair Hrynko is usually best Hrynko.

Kimberly Spruill is doing a nice job dodging the little kids out for exercise during the educational portion of our program.

Selina Archer is walking around in a boot, which makes me sad. Again, this is not going to do much in the long run, but I feel bad for her.

Props to the school group that made their kids dress in red.

Yes, Aliyyah, we're here. We're always here. Well, at least I am. Except for that one time against Wagner.

I'm starting to understand Stephen Burt's analogy of ten thousand out-of-tune piccolos to describe school groups.

I think they're debuting new third jerseys today. Danaejah Grant is wearing unusual gray shorts with sharp red and white stripes down the sides. Very snappy. I like 'em better than the blue jerseys. (The tight fit is not a good look for Jade Walker, though.)

At halftime DePaul is up one, 37-36, on the strength of six threes and some mistakes by St. John's.

This MC is my new best friend for chiding the kids for not making enough noise to disconcert DePaul in the first half. Make the screaming piccolos work for you!

I love my team, but this game made it very clear that they are not the elite program they were with Da'Shena and Shenneika and Nadirah. Too many mistakes, too much hesitation, and above it all, the clear recognition that Danaejah and Aliyyah are the only two players that this team trusts to perform in the crunch- which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That is to take nothing away from DePaul. Doug Bruno is one of the best in the game, and has been for a very long time. DePaul made far fewer mistakes and capitalized well on the ones they forced. DePaul executed with crisp ball movement and very little hesitation. They hit the shots when it counted. That's what you do when you're a champion.

Mart'e Grays played briefly in the first half, and was not relevant to the overall flow of the game. Brooke Schulte has really great hands- she was active defensively, poking out balls and making moves. Megan Podkowa was a mismatch all day, using her height on the inside to pull down boards (and especially tear boards away from careless Johnnies), and then going outside and hitting threes, since her defenders were reluctant to head out beyond the arc.

In case you had not noticed, DePaul likes to have unlikely people take threes. On top of everything else that makes them good.

Centrese McGee has slimmed down and changed her hair, but her rebounding is still reminiscent of Jamelle Elliott (not that I ever saw Elliott play, but I've seen her on the sidelines and read of her legend in the UConn days). Brandi Harvey-Carr is a load down low, and she pulled down a couple of nice boards- not just that, but she boxed out very well, allowing Schulte and McGee to get the boards. Chanise Jenkins came up with the threes, but was a little too active on defense for DePaul's liking- she fouled out on a block/charge in the second half, and took her sweet time settling back down on the bench. (This may actually have worked in DePaul's favor, as it allowed for the mismatch with Schulte.) Jessica January put the cherry on top when she hit a wild lay-up under the basket late in overtime; it was one of those shots where you know deep in your heart it has just sealed the game. She's solid- made a really nice defensive play in the first half to break up a sure basket. Brittany Hrynko's skill is apparently not directly proportionate to the size of her hair, as she was hitting threes from the general vicinity of Moorestown, driving the lane at will, and generally being very good at basketball.

I love DePaul's ball movement, and their ability to get each other open. Not that it was always the screen or the shift- sometimes it didn't occur to St. John's that just because a player was tall, she wasn't going to live down low.

Tamesha Alexander, who was really digging the music pregame, played briefly in the first half to give Aaliyah Lewis a little bit of rest. I would have liked to see more of her- she didn't seem flapped by the DePaul defense, or by the crowd, and Aaliyah was having some trouble seeing over taller Blue Demons. Tonoia Wade was a defensive substitution for Jade Walker, and she was very active- her positioning has improved since earlier in the year, and she wasn't afraid to mix it up down low. I love her ferocity and I hope we see more of her.

Amber Thompson rebounded, but didn't do much offensively. Defensively, however, she's a beast and I love watching her beast. Jade Walker hit her jumpers, but was lax on the boards and on defense, hence why we saw so much of Tonoia Wade. I hate the way Danaejah Grant bails on defense so often, but I love her jumper. She carried so much of the offensive load for us. When she decides she's going, there are few powers on this earth that can stop her. Aaliyah Lewis was calm when it came to hitting shots late in the clock, and she had nice chemistry with Aliyyah Handford on the break, but she took a couple of hits without getting a call, and I think that got into her head a little bit late in the game. She looked like she was looking for calls. Aliyyah Handford just makes your jaw drop sometimes. She's got speed and she's got strength and she's got vertical and she's got a jumper and she's just amazing and I am out of coherency when it comes to her, except to delight in the fact that we get her for another year.

Let me put this in perspective for some of y'all who are more into the powerhouse teams: Aliyyah Handford pulled off Notre Dame's "Jewel-ie-oop" play in overtime. (Granted, it was our only basket in the OT. But what a basket.)

Officiating did not make or break the game. I thought Aaliyah Lewis got the worst of it, but it is what it is.

The problem with encouraging children to scream their brains out during timeouts: it's hard for players to hear the coaches on both sides. Jade and Amber had to go over the play coming out of timeout, and Tonoia looked like she'd been hit between the eyes with a hammer.

The place was packed for the first half. Literally standing room only. Thank all the gods that we were able to work something out with ops at St. John's to have our seats reserved, or we would never have gotten a seat, and these GNoD would have either never existed or have been so profane that they would never see the light of Swish Appeal. Groups left starting at halftime, and I salute those who were able to stay through the OT. Love the groups that wore red, especially the ones in the center court sections between the benches- they were really into it!

The hook to "Empire State of Mind" becomes curiously poignant when sung by thousands of children.

We keep doing the same thing over and over again. The Big East is a double round robin. You don't think Doug Bruno will be ready when we visit Chicagoland? You don't think Flanery has tape of this game for the rematch at Carnesecca? Someone other than Aliyyah and Danaejah has to emerge as a legitimate option, or everyone's just going to let them score and make sure no one else bothers to even try.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 11th, 2015: St. Peter's at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona started strong and never trailed in a 77-43 thrashing of St. Peter's. Damika Martinez had 14 points to lead the Gaels, joined in double figures by Aaliyah Robinson and Marina Lizarazu with 13 and Karynda DuPree with 12. Sajanna Bethea and Talah Hughes each had 12 to lead St. Peter's.

For give and go, superheroines, hard bleachers, Gaels running the world, cruising on a Sunday afternoon, a lack of rebounding, and ALL the winning, join your intrepid and pained blogger after the jump.

For a change of pace, we're coming to you in stereophonic sound from the Hynes Athletic Center on the campus of Iona College, where the Gaels play host to the Peahens Peacocks of St. Peter's University, which used to be biologically accurate, which makes me sad. Then again, they brought in coaches who are good at burning things to the ground, so I'm okay with them doing other things that make me angry.

Damika Martinez has approximately a roll of bandage wrapped around her. I understand why- it's not easy to pretty much carry a team all by yourself. (She and Aliyyah Handford might want to start a support group.)

I think I'm starting to like Katy Perry. What's wrong with me?

I didn't think there were this many St. Peter's fans when we were at St. Peter's. Honestly. Do fans just materialize on the road? Do they not go to home games? This is a general question about WBB fans.

At halftime, as one might have expected, Iona is all up in the Peacocks' business, leading 39-14. Damika Martinez has eight to lead the way, but it's been a pretty balanced scoring effort. This is, to be frank, expected from a St. Peter's squad that has won a total of one game by a total of one point.

Iona needed a game like this, where they could just cut loose, make things happen, and take some questionable shots without fear of a comeback. Sometimes you just need a jabronie.

It might be a little dishonest of you to have the Mirage Diner in your featurette on communications when you forced them out to build a dorm, Iona College.

That "Welcome To New York" song by Taylor Swift is really annoying, and she is not ambassador of any kind of New York I represent. I just thought I'd throw that out there.

So, St. Peter's. Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly because this is Pat Coyle we're talking about here, most of their best players came off the bench. Hala Mostafa found her shot, awkward and fundamentally unsound as it is, late in the game- it never looked good, except when it was nothing but net. Her height was disruptive on defense. Teresa Corchado was called upon to run point and was unspectacular. She seemed hesitant on offense. Antonia Smith drove down the lane and threw up wild shots. Sometimes they even went in. I really like Talah Hughes, which, since this is Pat Coyle's team we're talking about, means that either she'll run away screaming, get catastrophically injured (which I shouldn't joke about, I read about Janee Thompson), or never develop an iota more. But in all seriousness, I like her touch around the basket, I like the way she moves on defense, and I like how she hits the boards. Neechelle Ingram came in to make space in the lane, pull down rebounds, and chew bubblegum, and apparently she was all out of bubblegum. She throws her body around without fear.

I have no honest idea why some of these Peacocks started, but this is Pat Coyle we're talking about. Alyssa Velles got looks from outside and missed most of them badly, but at least her performance at Seton Hall allows me to understand why she might be starting. Rebecca Sparks looked good very early on, but didn't play much in the second half. I think she was running the point, but honestly, I don't know if St. Peter's was even sure what they were doing. I can't even remember Samantha Meier other than being kind of tall and generally not useful. Bridget Whitfield played a little bit of defense. Sajanna Bethea bodied up to get free throws, and despite a slightly unorthodox motion, she hit them. She made sure that if a rebound came her way, she was going to get it.

The Peacocks did a good job taking advantage of Iona's bailing out on rebounds. When they went to Hughes, good things generally happened. But there was a lot of ugly and a lot of bad, bad shots. But I think we've established this is not a good team, nor do they have a staff that will make them better players.

Kristin Mahoney still has that deer-in-the-headlights look whenever she's on the floor, but I'm starting to wonder if that's her default game face and I'm just misinterpreting her facial expression. She went hard on the floor for a couple of loose balls, and we were all thrilled when she finally hit her shot after a couple of looks. Philecia Gilmore has all the confidence Kristin doesn't, and enough extra that I wish she could bottle it and give it to Kristin. She has that point guard mentality of "my team, my offense, I run this", but she seemed a little quick to call her own number. Cassidee Ranger set screens and hit threes, as is her wont. Sometimes her teammates forgot to use the screens, no matter how well she set them. Aurellia Cammock brought the rebounding, but misjudged her timing often. She's only a sophomore, she'll figure that out.

For once, Damika Martinez did not have to be the whole show on offense, and that's good, because she was overshooting pretty much everything she threw up. She made a lot of extra passes that she didn't necessarily have to make, passing up easy shots to get her teammates involved. I mean, I shouldn't complain about the desire, but at the same time, I want to see Damika hit 2467. Joy Adams had at least three of her shots bounce off the inside of the rim and out, so I'll give her a pass on percentage. I do love the way she occasionally goes all Matrix in the lane. Marina Lizarazu brought out the fancy passes today, whipping the ball behind her back twice to teammates for lay-ups. She was hitting her lay-ups early, too, with both hands, but became more of a distributor later. Karynda DuPree, for once, did not instill in me the urge to thwap her with my clipboard. She was actually hitting those threes that she insists on taking, and she was getting on the boards (even if she maintains the reprehensible habit of bringing the ball down to guard level), and she blocked shots. I'd like to see her take more shots that are not threes, in addition to fewer shots that are threes, but if she's hitting them, I guess I can't complain. Aaliyah Robinson did a little bit of everything- well, actually, she did a lot bit of everything. When she's playing well, she plays tall- she stretches for rebounds against bigger posts to get a hand on them, she gets her hands in the passing lanes, she elevates. She cleared boards, she hit threes, she ran breaks- Aaliyah is fun to watch when she's playing well.

The one thing that bothered me, and los Martinez in front of me, was the consistent lack of rebounding from Iona. St. Peter's actually out-rebounded us in the end, and that might have been because they had more shots to rebound than we did, but also because we backed off everything. It's very frustrating. 10-20 from three is also not sustainable, and I hope they're not expecting it to be.

There's no reason to complain about the officiating, so I won't. I think there were some game management calls made, but Iona has a tendency to get in their own way, and also, 34-point game.

You knew it was going to be bad for St. Peter's when Pat Coyle called two timeouts before the first media timeout. And then she called one late, as if searching for a 37-point play.

The best kind of give-and-take: on one break, Marina Lizarazu flips the behind the back pass to Aaliyah Robinson for the lay-up. Next possession, Aaliyah pushes the break and slips the pass to Marina for the lay-up.

LOL of the day: Damika fires a three from the corner straight and true- and wedges it between the rim and the backboard. Joy leaps up, twines the fingers of one hand into the net, and punches out the ball with the other. At which point our posse starts in, "Spider-Joy, Spider-Joy, does whatever a player can..."

So that was fun. Today was a good day.


Friday, January 9, 2015

January 9th, 2015: Butler at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Butler handed St. John's their first loss in conference, 55-50. Ijeoma Uchendu led the Bulldogs with 15 points, while Loryn Goodwin flirted with a double-double at 11 points and nine rebounds. The Red Storm's Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 27 points, but no other Johnnie scored more than eight.

For pain, suffering, rage, elaborate workarounds, one good shot, incoherency, and sore throats, join your intrepid and dizzy blogger after the jump.

Good evening! Bit of a late tip here at Carnesecca Arena, as St. John's plays a TV game against the Bulldogs of Butler. Your intrepid blogger is injured but dressed for the game (slipped on the subway stairs coming up this morning and now my knee looks like part of my thigh).

I don't know why Selina Archer didn't start out stretching with the rest of the team, but in the long run, I'm not expecting this to be a key factor.

Kyra. Kyra Dunn. Worry about your damn lip gloss or Chapstick or whatever it is after the game. Okay, we're still forty minutes before, but still. You gotta take it onto the court?

There's a player for Butler rocking yellow and blue tips to her dreadlocks, and she is working them.

Kevin, our band director, appears to have bogarted my husband.

I have asked my Diet Coke twice why it doesn't have rum in it. This is not a good omen. We're down 26-19 at half to Butler and can't hit the broad side of a barn. Aliyyah Handford has 8, but no one else is contributing consistently. We're not rebounding. We're skimping on defense.

#22 in this biddy game is throwing some tough screens.

It's very difficult to be a two-player team when one of your two players is not playing well. It is even difficult to be a two-player team when that same player is double-teched out of the game with lightning speed. I do not know what Danaejah Grant said or did, but I find it hard to believe that she twice said something so heinous that she had to be T'd up in the time it took Maj Forsberg to blow her whistle. There were no warnings. There were only technicals, and Danaejah was ejected from the building. Big Brother frowns upon obscene language in this space, so my true feelings regarding this turn of events must be relegated to Twitter, which in turn is not fit for the underage and the faint of heart.

Indeed, many of my sentiments as regards this sporting event can only be properly expressed in the sort of language better suited to the coarsest of dockworkers, else our readers of delicate sensibilities be rendered insensible. I regret that this unfortunate turn of events will undoubtedly color my perception of the proceedings, and beg the understanding of our gentle readers.

Lexus Murry was the player with the awesome dreadlocks mentioned above. Her one shot was a pretty little jumper that, in conjunction with her hair, reminded me of Seton Hall's Tabatha Richardson-Smith. Andriana Moore is a big girl who isn't afraid to throw her weight around. She finished well around the basket and had a nice rapport with Ijeoma Uchendu. If you're expecting more reports on the bench for Butler, that's all there is, there isn't any more.

I am trying to remember where I remember Loryn Goodwin from, because I don't think I've seen North Texas in person, but I know her name. She picked up a lot of boards- she's taller than she looks, which sounds strange but makes sense in context. It's not even that she plays bigger, it's that you look at her and realize she has height. Ijeoma Uchendu reminds me of a slightly compressed Natasha Howard- same hairstyle, same sort of build, only not quite as long in the limbs and a little stockier around the torso. I like the way she plays, and her passing vision was really good. Sydney Buck started, but didn't play very much- Murry was in when the chips were down. Belle Obert showed soft touch at the basket and from beyond the arc, and made a couple of key blocks down low. She was one of the few players for either team who was consistent from the free throw line. I feel like I should remember Blaire Langlois more, but other than missing the two free throws on Danaejah's second technical, I don't remember her.

Butler crashed the boards well, which is saying something with our rebounders. They have some good pieces, and when they gel, they'll play spoiler up and down the conference. Coaching is solid, too- they defended the last St. John's possessions very well.

I'm pretty sure Kyra Dunn is the reason for this strand of graying hair right over here *points at right temple*. At her height, there is no excuse for her not to be some kind of defensive presence and not to have her hands up. No excuse. She plays low, she plays scared, and she plays like she's never seen a basketball before in her life. And she needs to pull her shorts down. Crystal Simmons was called upon for big minutes in the enforced absence of Danaejah Grant, and she looked like a freshman who hasn't played extended minutes on the NCAA level. She got good looks, but they steadfastly refused to go down. On defense, she made one or two good plays, but didn't seem comfortable.

And meanwhile, everyone else on the bench sat. Joe, if you're not going to trust them in your time of need, why did you bother offering them a scholarship?

Danaejah Grant looked off her game even before Maj Forsberg decided she needed to leave- double-clutching on her shots, bailing out on defense- but I'll chalk that up to the shoulder. She sure looked like she was finding her groove until the technicals happened. (Poor Nae then tried to sit on the bench and blend in with her teammates, but no such luck. She had to leave the premises.) Aaliyah Lewis made some questionable passes, but overall ran a good game. She tried to step up on offense after Danaejah left, but that's not her forte. Jade Walker showed off her outside game. She got a little sloppy on defense- there were teaching moments in the first half, and teaching moments are not happy fun time for anyone. Amber Thompson had trouble hanging on to the ball, but as always, made plays on the boards. I might have tried going inside to her more on offense after Danaejah was removed from the game, but I am not Joe Tartamella. Aliyyah Handford did her damnedest to win the game single-handedly, and because she is Aliyyah and we are not worthy, she almost did it. Jumpers, lay-ups, steals, assists, she did it all. It broke my heart to see how emotionally beaten down she looked at the end of the game. I wanted to give her a hug.

Ball movement needed work. There were times when it was crisp, but too many times when everyone was waiting for someone else to do something.

I still do not understand how Butler got both a good field goal and a two-shot foul on the same play. From everything I know about officiating, it should either have been a foul on the floor, no field goal, or a field goal and an and-1. Butler should not have been allowed to get five points on the possession, and y'all can do the math. And then there was the review after Jade hit what was blatantly a long 2 to put St. John's within 39-38. The refs originally called it a 3 to tie the game at 39. They went to the screen... and put Butler back on top by one, as they should have been... by giving Uchendu an extra point to make the score 40-39. It got reversed properly, but really. And that's setting aside the technicals on Danaejah, which I have harped upon. I will not bore you further with my opinions regarding that matter, as I believe my retreat into ornate, Victorian-esque prose indicates the level of distress the officiating has put me in.

We got a T-shirt! And it was an XL! We might be able to wear it!

Props to the Sigma Chi Beta frat boy who just missed the free throw for the t-shirt, missed the three for the prize pack... and nailed the halfcourt shot for the iPad.

Dance team is awesome this year. Sorry, Butler, no matter how early you break your timeout, you can't join us.

I am too tired and too frustrated to sum up this game in a pithy manner.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 7th, 2015: Michigan at Rutgers

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Rutgers withstood a big second half surge from Michigan to put away a 81-68 win. Betnijah Laney had 20 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals to lead the Scarlet Knights; Tyler Scaife also scored 20. Cyesha Goree of Michigan led all scorers with 23 points, while Shannon Smith added 15 points and nine assists.

For bitter cold, detours, loving your team with a two by four, a lack of legroom, the building of a ref feud, and coaches confused by fun, join your intrepid and frozen blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow travelers! We're coming to you on tape-delay and via circuitous methods from the RAC in New Jersey, as the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (the State University of New Jersey) host the Wolverines of Michigan.

Your intrepid blogger is here via North Brooklyn, industrial Maspeth, and Highland Park. There have been many detours. And yet I'm here.

I don't know if I entirely like the revamped RAC. I don't like the compression of the banners. (Instead of separate banners for each NCAA appearance/S16/E8/conference title, each type of appearance has a banner. At least the Final Four banners, AIAW title, and WNIT championship banner each have their own space. They also compressed the WBHOF banners into one, and Eddie Jordan has a banner with a list of accomplishments as long as, but not as storied as, C. Vivian Stringer's.) It looks too much like they're trying not to look like a historical powerhouse in WBB.

The new scoreboards and stat boards are nice, though. The sound system's improved, too. So strange to look up at those Big Ten teams in the rafters, though. SO WRONG.

I like Kevin's arrangement of the anthem at St. John's better than the RU arrangement. They rock "Zoot Suit Riot".

At halftime, Rutgers is all over Michigan, 42-25. Betnijah Laney has 13 points and what feels like more than 4 rebounds. Michigan is rattled, and badly. Rutgers is playing the passing lanes really well, and they're making all the plays on the glass.

I'm pretty sure the refs are actually watching Tulsa-UConn. Lots of missed calls on both ends of the floor, and the calls that have been made have been weaksauce.

Whatever else RU has, they have the most talented ball kids. One of the older girls has range clear out to the three-point line.

Might not agree with Rutgers on much anymore, but the band booed Penn State during the Big Ten ad, and I am all in favor booing Penn State in all the things, except maybe sometimes when they play Ohio State, because me and Ohio State, we got history even before I went blue.

Lots of Michigan people here, and not just families and friends. There's a smattering of maize and blue throughout the RAC. They were depressingly quiet through most of the game, though.

All the work they did on the RAC and they couldn't adjust the leg room?

Much like the flow of Rutgers-North Carolina, there were big runs- but Michigan does not have the talent of North Carolina, and Rutgers was able to push the lead out late with some key baskets and stifling defense.

There's a fair amount of potential in the freshmen on that Michigan bench. I like the hustle, and the size, on Jillian Dunston- needs to work on her positioning, but she's solid on the boards. Katelynn Flaherty has a lightning-quick release, but a quick release doesn't mean much if you can't hit the shot, and her shots did not look good tonight. She looked like a lost little freshman on defense, tentative on both ends of the floor. Terra Stapleton brought size and a reckless touch. She got burned badly on defense, though it wasn't completely her fault- the entire play seemed to freeze. Madison Ristovski provided a somewhat surer hand on offense off the bench.

I'm pretty sure Kim Barnes Arico spent most of the game alternately thinking good things and thinking terrible things of Shannon Smith. I know I alternated between cheering for her sharp drives and all-out hustle, and swearing inside my head at her questionable passes, stupid fouls, and bad shots. She and Cyesha Goree had a fantastic connection going on all night. She was careless with the ball, which is not of the good when you're playing lead guard. Danielle Williams made some nifty defensive plays. Siera Thompson got hot quick in the first half to get Michigan into thinking they could get back into the game, and I side-eyed her second foul in the first half (the always tricksy block/charge). Nicole Elmblad was very quiet. Go up strong with the ball, Nicole! I think she was a marked woman by the Rutgers defense, and she played like it. Cyesha Goree got burned a few times on defense- as fast as she was, Rutgers was faster, and a lot of posts are bigger than she is- but she put in work around the basket on the offense, going strong to the hoop and finishing, or picking off boards when she or her teammates couldn't finish.

Michigan was horribly, horribly sloppy. Too many lazy passes. Too many lazy turnovers. Granted, that tends to happen when you run into the teeth of a Stringer defense, but Rutgers didn't even have to break out the press for most of the game. The turnovers were coming in the halfcourt and coming at the basket.

Brief minutes in both halves for Christa Evans, spelling Rachel Hollivay when she was done spelling Ariel Butts. She didn't do much, but she made her big body useful. Cynthia Hernandez got a little run in the first half. I think she shot a three. Shrita Parker made some bad plays on defense, but beat the shot clock buzzer twice. I developed a bit of a distaste for her after the second one, but I tend not to like players who hit buzzer-beaters on me. Respect, yes. Like, not necessarily. Rachel Hollivay played less than I expected- I'm not sure if the whole bench thing is an ongoing thing, or a thing wherein Coach Stringer does not approve of a thing, or if she has a thing about posts. She's a bruiser down there, but deceptively fast on her feet for her size, and you do not want to be in her way.

Kahleah Copper spends a lot of time looking at her shot. Her shot is not that pretty that she should stand there admiring it. I thought she would have had more rebounds than she ended up with. Tyler Scaife is absolutely remarkable. She's got all the tools- the jumper, the drive, the wicked crossover, the vision, the maturity (she was quick to give Parker a pep talk after a defensive play that didn't go as the Scarlet Knights planned). She's got grit, and she's got flash. I don't love watching Betnijah Laney rebound the way I love watching Amber Thompson or Bra'Shey Ali rebound, but she's interesting to watch, especially when she's preparing to rebound a free throw- she gets down real low like a runner, and then bursts upward. She's got a bit of a mean streak- I don't think the elbow to Shannon Smith's face was intentional, but it was blatant- and nice touch around the basket and from the midrange. Her build reminds me a little of Monique Currie. Syessence Davis was a catalyst on both ends of the floor. Getting her in foul trouble helped for Michigan (and she dodged a major bullet after her fourth foul- Stringer didn't have the sub up in time, so she was still in with four; Michigan tried to draw the foul from her, but she read the play and made the defensive switch, which eventually gave Rutgers time to bring in Parker). Ariel Butts played briefly but hard in the post. That's a lot of woman down low, and she's not afraid to bump players out of her way.

Rutgers jumped the passing lanes beautifully, and they were all over every loose ball. Michigan made plenty of mistakes by themselves, but Rutgers forced them to think, and to hesitate, and to then act without thinking.

The refereeing was... interesting. It was at least consistent, which is the bare minimum expectation I have trained myself for, but it was flat out bad. And it was bad on both sides. Shannon Smith should have fouled out even before the fourth that was called on her. Lots and lots of contact with no calls, but ticky-tack hand-checks were called. It took a full review and KBA about to flip her lid at the ref for the elbow by Betnijah Laney that laid out Shannon Smith to be called.

It was good to see the gang again, and good to see what KBA's doing at Michigan. They still need some polishing, but I'm pretty sure they'll take lessons from this game into the next one.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 4th, 2015: Immaculata at Queens (Maggie Dixon Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: 28 points from Madison Rowland powered Queens College to a 76-60 win over Immaculata in the opening game of the Maggie Dixon Classic. Rowland added 11 rebounds and six steals. MacKenzie Rowland and Imani Davidson each had 13 for the Knights. Sara Smith led Immaculata with 15 points; the Mighty Macs got 14 bench points from Reilly Larkin and 13 points from Adriana Sciascia.

For nuns, school pride, the awesomeness of history, snazzy passes, bad logistics, and it being entirely too early for this sort of thing, join your intrepid and intrigued blogger after the jump.

Good morning, loyal readers! We're coming to you in Surround Sound from the World's Most Famous Arena, as the Maggie Dixon Classic tips off with a historic rematch of Immaculata and Queens College. Queens leads 25-24 at the half. Immaculata scored first in the second, but Queens answered with six quick points.

Halftime featured a ceremony honoring the players in the original game, most of whom were from Queens. (I assume the Immaculata alumnae were occupied.) Donna Orender looks a lot happier without the stress of being WNBA president. Gail Marquis is rocking the QC colors.

There will never be anything not awesome about dancing nuns in college sweatshirts.

Crowning moment of awesome team pride: Queens College had a little video with Gail Marquis starting the "GO QC!" chant. Cut to real life... where she's leading the QC student section in the continuation.

Good anthem from one of the Queens College cheerleaders.

Scrappy defense from both teams. Queens has more talent, but is more prone to dumb mistakes.

Immaculata fought back in the second half, but every time they made a run, Queens made a longer run.

Emily Bell brought the second half pain as a substitute for Brittany Merkle. Reilly Larkin showed a knack for getting to the line and came up with a couple of big threes when Immaculata was making their runs. Samantha Bonvetti and Jacquelyn McClellan were late entrants, when the game was well past decided. Meghan Gallagher was somewhat more of a factor in the first half than the second, due to some Immaculata foul trouble, but wasn't much of a scorer. I get the feeling I should remember more about Lindsay Cras, but while she played a lot she wasn't much of a factor.

Brittany Merkle set a lot of good picks, but also committed a lot of fouls. I thought Immaculata took too many risks with her in the second half, and she did eventually foul out. I would have been a lot more cautious with her. Alison Zimny mixed it up a little inside and showed a little touch on the outside. Mackie Fitzgerald was tough- pulled down a big board in the first half and started getting more aggressive near the end of the game. Sara Smith took over for the Mighty Macs in the second half, hitting jumpers and driving the lane. Adriana Sciascia impressed early with her shot, but faded later in the game.

Immaculata had a lot of shooters, and a lot of players who were willing to take the deep shot, but for me, the most impressive thing about them was the hustle and all of their willingness and desire to go for a ball on the floor.

Joya McFarland saved her best for the second half, when she dropped two slick dimes pretty much back to back, one to Amber Harrison, one to Kristin Korzevinski. Elisabeth Gully was last off the bench, and her teammates looked like they would have gone nuts if she had gotten the basket, but they were pretty happy when she hit the second free throw. Amber Harrison brought a little offensive punch off the bench, including what might have been the highlight reel shot of the game, a little spinner off a lookaway from McFarland. Joya McFarland is not to be confused with Janeen McFarlane, who gave good minutes on the inside. Raychel Shannon kept a lot of plays alive. Melissa Fumano came in near the end and made no measurable impact.

Madison Rowland is really impressive. She's got good size and she uses it well. Her fundamentals are a little shaky, and I hope the coaching staff works on that with her. But as she is right now, she's already making an impact. She had a big block in the first half, along with an especially strong putback. MacKenzie Rowland was strong in the first half, especially on the inside. Imani Davidson came up with some nice shots, but was clumsy with the ball. Kristin Korzevinski started getting lay-ups in the second half- there was a stretch in the second half where Queens suddenly flashed phenomenal ball movement, with crisp passes leading to easy shots on the inside. It didn't last, but it was beautiful while it did. Taylor Miller made some plays in the second half.

Queens made a lot more stupid mistakes- but they were able to force turnovers from a less skilled Immaculata squad, and used their greater height to their advantage.

I expected nothing from the officiating, and was not disappointed.

Lots of people there for both teams, and I loved it. There's something subconsciously dissonant about nuns wearing college sweatshirts with their coifs, but it's a good kind of dissonance. (After the second game, I saw some of them being taken on a tour of the Garden. Strangely adorable.)


January 4th, 2015: UConn at St. John's (Maggie Dixon Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: UConn led all the way in their 70-54 win over St. John's at the Maggie Dixon Classic. Morgan Tuck had 23 points to lead all scorers, 17 of those coming in the second half. Breanna Stewart added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Moriah Jefferson had 16 points and six assists. Aliyyah Handford led St. John's with 20 points.

For distance, defense, bad shots, lots of rebounds, pride, crunching numbers, and misplacing people, join your intrepid and drained blogger after the jump.

And here's the big match, UConn and St. John's.

We're currently in the intermission, where Maggie Dixon (may she rest in peace, at least until she sees a bad call from the heavens and lets the refs know) is being honored. Five thousand seems like a chintzy donation, though. Five thousand from each school seems more reasonable.

There are a lot of empty seats around us, but that's because of the genius idea to have the reception about Immaculata and Queens start at halftime of the first game and run into the first quarter of the second game.

My team! Why are you so far away, my team! *reaches out from the nineteenth row*

There are people behind me with a selfie stick. I am ashamed of humanity. Oh, God, I think they're recording a Vine.

Some genius did not tell the band where they were supposed to be, and some other genius sold those seats to fans, so now our band is out of position and I think they're a bit irked. Especially since the regular band section is utterly empty. Someone dropped the ball badly.

Look, guys. I get that I've technically been abandoned on the UConn side of halfcourt. But if you're wearing UConn gear, and you come over here to talk about the Liberty, I don't want to talk to you. I'm a St. John's fan, and I'm here to support St. John's, not to talk about the lack of news for the Liberty.

Why did Kym Hampton have to sing "God Bless America"? Did ESPN tell MSG they needed to fill a few extra minutes before tip?

At halftime, UConn is up 38-31 on St. John's, and I am not disappointed. We're taking some really bad shots and showing questionable shot awareness, but we're coming up with good defensive plays in the paint. Danaejah Grant has taken over scoring duties for St. John's with 13, after Aliyyah Handford started off hot. Moriah Jefferson is on fire with 14 points, both from long range and from navigating the paint like a boss.

The people behind us have turned out to be funny and knowledgeable, so I'll take it.

Lady in the pink UConn shirt, stop turning around and judging me. It's not my fault the Liberty season subscriber section is on the UConn side of halfcourt.

Here's the thing when you're playing UConn and you're not, like Stanford or South Carolina or a super double-plus elite team: you're not measuring yourself as much against the scoreboard as you are the schedule. Losing by 16 is always disappointing. But that's less than DePaul. Less than UCLA. Less than Duke. Less than Notre Dame. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis looked bad. Aliyyah Handford looked good. The defense was sharp. UConn barely made 70. You take these moral victories.

UConn got very little from their bench, which surprised me. Saniya Chong's shot looked bad, and I'm pretty sure bad things happen to you at UConn if you go 0-2 from the line. Kiah Stokes was solid defensively and cleared the glass (she boxes out really well), but a non-factor on offense. Gabby Williams played briefly in the second half, but she did nothing memorable. Geno cleared the bench in the last minute or two, bringing on Courtney Ekmark, Briana Pulido, and Tierney Lawlor. (I will take this too as a moral victory.)

Kia Nurse looks pretty composed for a freshman. I think she might have gotten a little rattled in the second half, with sloppy passing and fewer good shots. Moriah Jefferson was on fire in the first half, as referenced above- she was driving the lane with the speed and deftness of a test course driver navigating obstacles, and when she wasn't going to the basket, she was hitting threes. Our perimeter defense tightened up a little bit, and she became more of a distributor. Morgan Tuck picked up the slack. When my team, or a team that I like, is not playing UConn, I love to watch Morgan Tuck work. She goes over that other shoulder beautifully. She doesn't take a lot of threes, but she has a knack for hitting them when she does. She uses her body really well. I seriously love to watch her play. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis may have played her way out of the #1. She's a shooter, and when she's on, she's so good that you can overlook her flaws. But when she's off, you suddenly remember that she's a tweener on size, and doesn't defend well, and doesn't really rebound for her size unless her shot is going. You can't take a player like that as the top player in the draft. Breanna Stewart proceeded to remind everyone that she is tall, and not just a shooter, and not just a scorer. She worked well on the inside on both ends of the floor, defending the basket like Dikembe Mutombo in that Geico commercial. (Seriously. I think she had three blocks in the first two minutes of the second half. Penetrate, block. Penetrate, block. Penetrate, block. What's a learning curve?) The people behind us were praying pretty loudly that she goes to the Liberty in 2016, and I think I'd be okay with that. Well, except for either epic failing the 2015 season or for whatever trade we would have to conclude to get her.

One of the things that actually makes watching UConn games enjoyable is watching Geno make adjustments when things aren't working, because it's usually pretty obvious when he makes a change. But if anything, his team got sloppier and less attentive as the game went on. Maybe that was just fatigue, or disinterest, but usually they get that knocked out of them.

We actually got to see a little of Tamesha Alexander running the point, and I think she's the kind of PG who could grow on me. She's not much of a shooter, but she's good at causing havoc on defense, and she's a good distributor. Imani Littleton spelled Jade Walker whenever Jade, er, needed a teaching moment- she's got to hit her shots, but I think (and hope, and pray) that that will come with time. Crystal Simmons saw time in the first half to spell the dynamic duo, but she's got to hit her free throws, and she can't be afraid to shoot. All the athleticism in the world isn't worth a bucket of warm spit if you can't score. Joe threw up the white flag with about a minute and a half to go, putting in Kyra Dunn, Selina Archer, and Kimberly Spruill. I think the bench would have exploded, in a good way, if Kimberly had taken the three instead of passing off to Crystal.

Jade. Oh, Jade Walker. Bless your heart, because someone has to right now. Not that I don't love when she hits the little midrange jumper, but she was really off her game today. She got pulled a lot for short periods of time during which she got lectured. She was out of position a lot and let herself get pushed around down low. Amber Thompson started slow, but hit the boards harder in the second half. Tuck and Stokes did a good job of sealing her off. Aaliyah Lewis got her feet under her as the game went on, and I hope she was watching a lot of Moriah Jefferson's moves- that's the kind of player she needs to emulate if she wants to be successful. She was jacking a lot of threes, but given our lack of three-shooting, that's something we're going to see a lot of. Aliyyah Handford was hot early and hot late, making plays and getting some pretty boss rebounds. Took a lot of shots, but that's what she has to do for us. Danaejah Grant got good looks at the basket, and I think I might have liked seeing her do more from the perimeter and less in the paint, but I think she's hurting. Her stamina seems to have decreased, and she's backing off a lot of plays on defense. That worries me. But her shoulder worries me more.

Officiating was a non-factor, albeit one of dubious competence. But it was consistent. That's about all I've come to expect.

UConn's band is good. They only brought dance, not cheer, so we didn't get to see a lot of their best tricks; conversely, we only brought cheer, not dance, so we didn't get to show off some of our fancy moves.

I didn't expect to win. But I think we put together a respectable showing against one of the best teams in the country. I think we rattled them a little bit. I walked out of there with my head held high, and the St. John's on my chest clear and bright. I love my team.


Friday, January 2, 2015

January 2nd, 2015: Seton Hall at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's took a big lead in the first half, lost it, then held their ground in the second half to claim a 59-50 win over Seton Hall. Danaejah Grant had 17 points to lead all scorers, while Amber Thompson had 12 points and 20 rebounds, in the process breaking the St. John's career record for rebounds. Tabatha Richardson-Smith had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Seton Hall.

For 30% Simmons content, feelings of purple, auld acquaintance ne'er forgot, impassioned rivalries, splutting with the enemy, and so very much defense, join your intrepid and awkward blogger after the jump.

Welcome to the first of two games annually your intrepid blogger refers to as The Awkward Bowl! Round one has Seton Hall visiting St. John's, and your intrepid blogger sitting with her mother. My darlin', your dashing reporter on occasion, is over on the Seton Hall side, and now you know why I call it The Awkward Bowl.

This feels SO WRONG OH MY GOD. My team is over there, but my team is over there, and Tony is on the St. John's bench (and that would have solved everything) and my husband is over there and this just is not right and Tabatha Richardson-Smith is probably going to kill me at the next game.

The giant yellow print on the screen seems to indicate that the telestrator is working properly. They should probably clear it before gametime, though.

At halftime, St. John's is up 31-26, but Seton Hall is making a late push by speeding up the game and pressing on defense to take advantage of the Red Storm's freshmen. Danaejah Grant has 10 points for St. John's, beating the buzzer twice. Janee Johnson has eight for the Hall.

Seton Hall has a huge fan contingent here. They're cheering and chanting. They have signs. I think some of their dance team, the Sapphires, are here in civilian clothes. Fortunately, we brought reinforcements too.

We need to stop giving the ball to Janee Johnson. She doesn't play for us! We gave Seton Hall the ball a lot. I know the New Jersey ties run deep, but we kept giving the ball to people named Simmons who were not Crystal.

One team cracked under the pressure. It wasn't the team I was expecting. One phenomenal backcourt got into foul trouble and was never quite the same. It wasn't the backcourt I was expecting.

Tara Inman was in for her ability to press on the ball, and she was solid there, but she blew two lay-ups with bad, bad fundamentals. Tiffany Jones had some nice moves on the inside, but was hampered by foul trouble, since if there's an opportunity to call a foul on Tiffany Jones, a foul will be called on Tiffany Jones. Chizoba Ekedigwe came in in the second half for rebounding and defense, and I was surprised that she didn't play more to try and counteract the Red Storm's tendency to drive the ball (plus Amber Thompson's tendency to rebound all the things). Jordan Mosley spelled the Simmonses in the backcourt and was off on her shot- to be fair, a lot of the shots she took were under time pressure, as SHU was trying to get off threes to cut the lead.

I think Coach Bozzella outsmarted himself with his bench. SHU has a depth advantage on SJU, but they really didn't go into it.

Daisha Simmons looks taller in her road uniform, though that might also be because she tended to leave her jersey untucked. She committed a lot of travels, but also hit a lot of jumpers, especially in the first half. She lost her head in the second half on a clash with Amber, and drew a technical that booted her from the game as her fifth foul. That, in turn, threw Ka-Deidre Simmons off her game down the stretch, and that was part of the difference in this game. She was hitting her shots early, but fumbling and making mistakes late. Bra'Shey Ali came up with some great boards and one big block, but was out of position more often than I expected her to be, and got addicted to outside jumpers. Shey, you are an awesome rebounder and a beast on the inside- why are you taking a three? Tabatha Richardson-Smith was the force on the boards that I expected Shey to be, and she got on a bit of a hot streak in the second half, but down the stretch we put Aliyyah Handford on her to get up in her face, and that did the trick. (Also, Tab: pick on someone your own size, don't be putting a forearm into Aaliyah Lewis's throat.) Janee Johnson had a really good game, rebounding, defending, and hitting her long shots. She was more defensive than offensive in the second half, and she had fewer touches.

Kyra Dunn played briefly in the first half and tapped over a couple of rebounds- she's not credited with them, but without her we don't get two boards. Crystal Simmons (to the best of my knowledge, not related to any other Simmons in this game) is terrified to shoot, and that makes her a liability. On the other hand, she's very athletic and played solid defense when we needed her. Tonoia Wade saw time as a defensive specialist, and she provided good hustle.

Much was asked of Aaliyah Lewis today, and she delivered. She defended much bigger players- she pulled down a nice board right in front of Tab- she ran the offense, she got to the line. She did demonstrate an unfortunate tendency to throw the ball to Seton Hall, but that was a common problem. I do wish we'd stop running her into the ground. Amber Thompson rebounds all the things, but you already knew that. She's now the all-time leading rebounder in Red Storm history, and that's with, like, fifteen games to go. Jade Walker was hot early, hitting outside jumpers, but I think she got a little tight later in the game. Danaejah Grant rebounds well, and we needed all of her offense, but I do wish she'd stop being so lackadaisical on defense. She was late closing on Daisha Simmons twice. Aliyyah Handford started hot, got into foul trouble, cooled down a little, then came up big at the end of the game. When she blocked Tab, I knew the game was over.

Defense wins ball games. Seton Hall had chances, but St. John's stepped up the defense and took the ball away, especially in the last few minutes, when the Pirates were down their Simmonses. St. John's never really stopped making mistakes, but they were able to force Seton Hall into more and worse ones.

I admit to spending much of the second half distracted, though. Shenneika Smith, she who hit one of the biggest shots in Red Storm history against UConn yea all these many years ago, was at the game... with Brittany Webb, a former Pirate who is, er, extremely loyal to her team despite having been kicked off it. And they were both very, very into the game. Shenneika almost fell off the bleachers at one point. I think it was right after Amber got the technical.

Unfortunately, the game turned into a ref show in the second half. There were dicey offensive foul calls on both sides, and I don't even know what happened in the incident with Amber and Daisha, or why they got technicals. The end of the first half was the first sign that the ref show was starting, with such heavy contact not called on both sides that I thought the coaches were going to have to fight to see who was going to fight the refs.

I think Seton Hall adjusted better in the third quarter, for lack of a better term, but we stood our ground defensively in the fourth quarter and forced a lot of bad passes and bad shots. Going to a slightly smaller, slightly quicker lineup with Tonoia Wade for Jade Walker might have helped.

I don't know if I'm looking forward to the rematch, though...


Sunday, December 28, 2014

December 28th, 2014: Georgia at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tabatha Richardson-Smith poured in 17 of her 25 points in the second half, and Seton Hall answered a second half Georgia run with their own surge to defeat the Bulldogs 70-51. Richardson-Smith led four Pirates in double figures. Ka-Deidre Simmons had 17 points, 15 in the first half, to go with six steals; Tiffany Jones and Daisha Simmons each had 10, with Simmons adding six assists. Tiaria Griffin led Georgia with 16 points, while Krista Donald notched 13 boards.

For thrills, chills, live wires, wild thangs, and pride, join your intrepid and sassy blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, everyone! We're coming to you from our post-holiday food coma at Walsh Gymnasium, where Seton Hall faces the Bulldogs of Georgia. This is the big one, kids. Time to prove that we are who we think we are.

There are a few Georgia fans across the court from us, but not many. We'll see how that develops at game time, though, since it's half an hour before tip.

Newark is very depressing. Lots of gates down, for-rent and for-sale signs abounding. It forces an examination of white privilege when traveling. Probably a little too heavy for game notes.

I think Aleesha Powell is taking advantage of her inactive status to look as much like a pirate as she can. The broad headband and the hoop earrings remind me a little of the old Hampton women's logo. (One of the few female-specific references I appreciated.)

Val Ackerman in the house! Come on, Pirates, get it done!

Andy Landers's hair is even shinier up close.

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 33-25. Ka-Deidre Simmons has 15 points, because Didi is a constant and a balm on wounded spirits. Daisha Simmons is, like, 0 for a billion. I love watching Bra'Shey Ali rebound. It's been intense and physical here. Seton Hall has to finish their shots. They've been getting a lot of looks right at the basket.

Georgia made a run to start the second half, and fatalist that I am, my reaction was okay, here we go, here's where Georgia proves why they've been relevant for decades and we prove why we're a joke. And then Tabatha Richardson-Smith popped open a can of you-know-what, and the Pirate ship was duly righted.

Georgia didn't necessarily go deep into their bench, but they got very good minutes when they did. Pachis Roberts was very efficient in her time, hitting midrange jumpers and most of her free throws (the one she missed had a really weird hitch in it). She was tough on defense, too, so you can imagine that we were relieved when she fouled out. Erika Ford was a late-in-the-half offensive specialist who fired up a lot of jumpers that either just missed or missed badly. No in-between. Mackenzie Engram showed promise, using her size decently well for a freshman and taking advantage of height mismatches. Haley Clark's judgment was not particularly sound. Halle Washington was a body inside, but not much more.

Shacobia Barbee got into early foul trouble, and I think that and the Seton Hall defense really took her out of her rhythm. The Pirates threw a couple of different defensive looks at her, going quicker in the first half and bigger in the second half. Tiaria Griffin got more looks because of this, and was able to take advantage. She took a lot of shots, both early and late, including a three-plus-1 (though I think she missed the free throw). I was actually most impressed with Merritt Hempe, who rebounded well, making a lot of plays on the inside and using her body to create space. She made some great defensive moves, too, including at least one resounding block. Krista Donald picked up a lot of rebounds on the inside, taking advantage of her teammates' height advantage to pick up tips and taps. Marjorie Butler ran th epoint, but there didn't seem to be a lot of organization to the Bulldogs' offense.

I think Georgia expected to have more of a size and speed advantage than they did. And they showed some of it in the early going of both halves, going hard after the ball and forcing turnovers. But they had no discipline and couldn't stay with Seton Hall on offense.

This was my first time seeing Tiffany Jones, and I was very impressed. She moves well and has both inside and outside game. Her offense was a big part of the push Seton Hall made in the second half. Chizoba Ekedigwe, other than the foul on Griffin's three-pointer, played solid defense, sealing well on the inside. Jordan Mosley spelled pretty much everyone in the backcourt. She was better in the second half than the first- she missed some makeable lay-ups in the first half. Lubirdia Gordon gave good minutes in the post- she had a couple of bad fumbles, but also came up with big boards and stole one right away from Georgia. Gotta hit your free throws, though. Kathleen Egan came in for some defensive minutes late in the first half; she might list as a guard/forward, but on defense she's a pure four and a tough one. Tara Inman and Teresa Kucera were both subs at the end of the game, when the outcome had pretty much been decided (though Tara, bless her heart, almost got us a tech for too many players on the court, mistiming her entrance- she was coming in for Daisha Simmons, who was on the free throw line).

Ka-Deidre Simmons is really the pulse of this team. She's steady and she's usually pretty calm. She took over the offense in the first half, driving the lane and getting fouled. In the second half, Georgia was able to force her into some bad shots, but that was when her teammates were able to step up around her. There's something reassuring about her having the ball in her hand; she makes good decisions and good things happen around her. Daisha Simmons started off shooting really, really badly, getting easy looks and missing them short; we were starting to wonder if her Alabama days were getting to her, convincing her that there was no way of beating Georgia. But she shook it off in the second half- once her first jumper went down, she seemed more confident and focused on the court. Bra'Shey Ali rebounds all the things and I love watching her rebound all the things. I don't like when she does cockamamie things like take threes, though. Janee Johnson's minutes were more limited than usual- this was not a good match-up for her. But she pulled down a couple of big rebounds at the end of the game when her team needed her. Tabatha Richardson-Smith is a firestarter, only you don't know when her fuse is going to go off. It went off early in the second half, and from there Georgia was doomed. She's kind of a "no, no, no, YES!" player- she'll shoot it from halfway across New Jersey if you give her a moment, and then it'll go down. And once she starts hitting her shot, then everything falls into place for her- she roves more quickly on defense, she rebounds harder, she moves more confidently.

It would have been easy for Seton Hall to fold the tents after Georgia took the lead back in the second half, and maybe a year or two ago they would have. But they regrouped and then some, tightening up on defense and forcing bad shots.

Officiating was uneven. You could almost tell when the whistles were going to start and stop on each team based on the number of fouls each team had, not by the actual flow of play.

The crowd was fantastic. There was a little student section, and the band was into it, and our usual band of merry miscreants made plenty of noise.

I'm trying to think of the last time I was this proud of a team, and it might well have been the day Shenneika Smith hit a corner three at Gampel. This is a big win for Seton Hall, and a big win for the Big East.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21st, 2014: Indiana State at St. John's (Chartwells Holiday Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's erased a seven-point halftime deficit, but Indiana State held on in double overtime, 73-67. Jasmine Grier led the Sycamores with 21 points off the bench, adding six rebounds. Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 27 points.

For mistakes, disasters, bad passes, uncouth behavior, stomping the bleachers, a lack of focus, and the shaking of heads, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

And here we are at the championship game, with Indiana State wearing the home whites against St. John's in their navy.

I hate our insistence on emphasizing blue uniforms, by the way. We are the Red Storm, not the Navy Blue Storm, so why do we keep trying to switch to blue uniforms?

At halftime, Indiana State is up 31-24, and we can't rebound for love nor money. The only saving grace is that we had three starters on the bench for most of the first half with two fouls, and I'm pretty sure that having Amber Thompson, Jade Walker, and Danaejah Grant available again will be useful. The reserves managed to keep it close, which is more than I expected playing most of the freshmen together.

Ugh. This was a great game until it turned into a ref show. We made stupid mistakes, and Indiana State made some great plays, but the officials made sure that the game went to overtime, made sure that the game went to double overtime, and in general inserted themselves into the game at any given opportunity in a way that would inconvenience a team making a run. I did not pay to watch Brandon Enterline, Norma Jones, and Rachelle Jones.

One of the Indiana State fans thought it would be a good idea to sit directly behind the center court bleachers that host 6th Man when the student section deigns to show up, and is home to the combined forces of Amber and Aliyyah's families in other times. She also believed it would be a good idea to attempt to disconcert Amber at the free throw line from this position. This is not a good idea. Her constant stamping on the bleachers from said position inspired the band to mock her. I'm all in favor of supporting your team, but sitting on the home side of center court and being rude to home fans is not on.

Indiana State went deep, though not as deep as they did yesterday, and that helped them in the end- they had players like Rhagen Smith who were ready and able to step up when Chelsea Small and Racheal Mahan fouled out. She didn't put up big numbers, but she was in the right place at the right time playing defense or boxing out. Jasmine Grier was smooth on both ends of the floor. I like her shot. I don't know if I like her mouth- she seemed to be doing a lot of chirping, and it seems uncouth to be chirping to a reserve freshman when you're a senior. Joyea Marshall did a good job of getting to the line, especially in the latter part of the first half and the overtime. She used her height well. Cierra Ceazer brought the offense and a little bit of rebounding. Alexis Newbolt had some critical plays at the end of the game, and sealed the deal for the Sycamores.

Foul trouble, attentive defense, and a lack of shot selection kept Chelsea Small off the scoreboard for most of the game. That was the one thing we did right. Racheal Mahan was all over the floor- pulling down rebounds, coming up with big shots on the inside, that sort of thing. Natasha Zurek didn't score until late in regulation, but ran the offense with a steady hand. I really feel like I should remember more about Stephanie Wittman, but I thought the guard play off the bench was more impressive than the guard play from the starters.

Coach did something that I thought was smart at the time, but he didn't follow through with it. He watched the second half of the SMU-Indiana State game, and saw that SMU made the second half comeback, so near the end of the first half, with the foul trouble for the starters, he gave the bench heavy minutes. Tonoia Wade gave good defensive effort, but she's got to hold on to those rebounds. Kyra Dunn pulled down one good rebound and was otherwise a source of boundless frustration for her inability to hold on to the ball. Selina Archer's minutes were brief and unremarkable. Tamesha Alexander was actually the first sub in, early in the first half for Aaliyah Lewis's only rest. Crystal Simmons got extended run in the second half as a sub for Aliyyah Handford, and while she looked uncomfortable out there, she didn't look completely out of place.

Poor Aaliyah Lewis is going to break one of these days. She's so tiny, especially in basketball terms, and she gets run into the ground. I think it got to her, and it's going to keep getting to her. Jade Walker, of course, got called for fouls at every opportunity and neer got a good call in her favor. She had a nice second half with jumpers from the short corners, and good boards. Danaejah Grant was good offensively, and she rebounded well, as she usually does, but she was a couple of steps slow on defense, and that killed us when it came to Grier- she was on Grier and Grier used her length to get over her, and Danejah couldn't or wouldn't counter with athleticism. Amber Thompson rebounded strong, but I'd like to see her be more assertive offensively. Defense is her calling card, her bread and butter, and her cliché storm, but she needs to be a complete player. I'm exceedingly grateful that we have Aliyyah Handford. I don't know where we'd be or what we'd do without her. She drove the lane, she hit jumpers- she was a little off her game on defense, though. I miss seeing her play the passing lanes as beautifully as she did at the beginning of the season.

Stupid mistakes. So many stupid mistakes. Stupid fouls. Bad, bad passes. Hurried shots. We didn't think.

And then the ref show started. I'm pretty sure that the little half-circle at the back of the lane isn't just decorative, but this crew seemed to ignore positioning when calling charges. They were addicted to jump balls- there were something like ten jump balls called in this one. For all the travels the Joneses were calling yesterday, there was a distinct lack of them today. Competence would be nice, but at this point, I'm really just hoping for consistency.

I would like to say that Indiana State won this game, that we didn't lose it, that it wasn't given to anyone... but I'm honestly too petty and irked to do that. Indiana State is a good solid team, and a throwback to what Missouri Valley basketball should be, but we should still have beaten them, and I'm worried about conference play more than I was before.