Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 14th, 2019: Liberty at Dream (at Mohegan Sun)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Atlanta got off to a slow start, but kicked it up a notch in the fourth quarter to come away with the 92-87 preseason win over New York at Mohegan Sun Arena. Nia Coffey had 18 points off the bench to lead four Dream players in double figures. Amanda Zahui B had 20 points in the loss for New York.

For defensive collapses, the occasional dance move, improving in some areas, distractions via shopping, and wondering what the future holds, join your intrepid and delayed blogger after the jump.

The sky is green, the trees are gray... wait, no, got that the wrong way around. It is, once more, game day, and your intrepid blogger is, once more, on a casino bus to watch all the basketball and then fall over. We're currently... uh, somewhere. I think we're in Westchester right now? Since we're not stopping, I'm okay with that.

It's construction season on I-95. May all the gods have mercy upon our collective souls.

I apologize in advance, because these notes are going to have a hard time focusing on the game. Between the amazing history on display during the tag sale and the news that there will be Panini cards this year with original Pinnacle cards as inserts, I'm on a nostalgia kick and the squee is real. Wins and losses don't matter as much, especially in the preseason, when you come home with a unique and meaningful piece of memorabilia.

We definitely looked better in this game than we did against Connecticut, and given that Tina Charles DNP'd the entire second half, I don't think Katie was concerned about the results. Some of the issues I was worried about against Connecticut seemed resolved; others not so much.

Kelly Faris played one sequence; I think she might have been coming in for someone in foul trouble on a quick switch. Megan Huff didn't see time until the second half and made some bad mistakes. Bianca Cuevas-Moore played much of the crunch time in the final minutes, and I was not okay with this. I don't see her making this roster. I really don't see her working out at all.

At least this time Asia Durr was getting shots and taking shots. She was missing them, and they were shots she should be hitting, But the aggression was there that we need to see from her. I wish I could say that of more of the reserves, but here we are. Xu Han looked very tentative, and she was getting her lunch eaten by Imani McGee-Stafford (who is not a good match-up for her, being both nearly as tall and a good bit stronger). Her run was unsuccessful but still needed to be longer because we still need to know what we're getting out of her. At least this time when Tanisha Wright took the stupid floater it was before the shot clock expired and it actually hit the rim. She looked better than she did in the first two games, but I still don't see how she helps us in the long run. Reshanda Gray kept committing fouls, and while I appreciate her physicality, she doesn't know how to tone it down, and if she hasn't learned how to tone it down in however many years she's had to try, it's not going to happen. Avery Warley-Talbert did a lot of good stuff on the offensive glass. She never gave up fighting. And I love what Tiffany Bias showed as the back-up point guard. I don't know if she'll stick on the roster when Bria Hartley comes back at some indeterminate point, but she's proven her bonafides, as far as I'm concerned. She gave good effort on defense and hit corner threes on offense.

Tina Charles did good work on the glass, but didn't play much, and didn't play at all in the second half. Probably the right approach, given that this is the preseason and the points don't matter. We know who Tina is and what she can do. Amanda Zahui B started the game like a firecracker, and her offense was definitely impreoved, but she was still a trainwreck on defense. She rotates slowly and despite her own propensity for taking outside shot seems unaware that other post players like to do that too. Amanda, pls.

Kia Nurse was off her game defensively in this one. I was surprised, given that that's usually one of her strengths. It felt like she was forcing a lot on offense, which is both bad because it's being forced and good because she's out here actually trying to be an offensive factor, which we need out of her. Brittany Boyd was more aggressive as a shooter than I'm used to seeing from her, with mixed results. Rebecca Allen got into early foul trouble, which limited her effectiveness. I questioned some of the calls, but she was a little slow on rotations. I can't say I'm surprised, both because I know that's not her strength and because she played heavy minutes the previous game.

We got out to a way better start than we did in the first game, but we couldn't close. Since we were trying to close with our deep bench, I'm not exactly surprised by this.

At this point, notes on Atlanta (and on Dallas in the other game) are going to be sort of an amalgam of the two games. My brain is all squishy and I really don't care about either of these teams even on a good day.

Meme Jackson probably did not do herself any favors missing the two free throws late in the game that would have iced it a little earlier for the Dream. I don't see her time in Atlanta lasting too much longer. Blake Dietrick didn't play in the first half and then started the second half. She runs a solid point. I think she'll beat out Maite Cazorla, though. She knows the system better and I think she gives them more of what they need. They both got a lot of second-half run, and there's a chance they could both stick, but I think there are too many guards in front of them for Atlanta to keep them both. Tiffany Hayes really needs to skip the drama and stick to the drives. She's so good at what she does that it's insulting for her to resort to histrionics to get her way with the officials.

Whether it's intentional, situational, or otherwise, Imani McGee-Stafford spent two days with an expression of "I don't think I know what's happening, but I don't think I like it" on her face. She says she's gotten stronger, but I don't know if I believe it from what I saw on the floor. She looked like the same slightly tentative player who is inexplicably way too far away from the basket much of the time and doesn't set strong enough screens. Monique Billings did a lot of work in the paint with rebounds and on the perimeter with screens. She set a lot of screens. Her free throw release is a shooter's nightmare, and someone needs to work with her on it as soon as possible. It might have been working for her in college, but it's not so far this year. Nia Coffey played like her hair was on fire in the third quarter, going hard to the basket for buckets and then hitting threes when they were least expected. I was not expecting the third quarter to turn into a duel between Nia Coffey and Avery Warley-Talbert, but these are the kinds of strange things that happen in the preseason. Lynetta Kizer barely played in the first half, if she did at all, and then started the second half. She's tough, but there was something missing in her performance. Unless her only job is to take fouls, her performance did not impress.

I am starting to take a genuine dislike to Alex Bentley, and not the "I respect you, now please stop hitting shots on my team" kind of dislike. It's little things like her constant attempts to disconcert the shooter at the free throw line and big things like the attitude she hauls around with her. Who hurt you, Alex? Her shot was not falling in this game, and I get the feeling that's the way things are going to go for Atlanta sometimes. You rely so heavily on guards and a perimeter game, you're going to get burned as often as you burn someone else. Renee Montgomery certainly brings a lot of energy, both on and off the court, which is a good thing but can also be annoying when she's up off the bench yelling more than the coach is when she's not in the game. I have no idea how Brittney Sykes has this kind of lateral and vertical with her history of knee injuries. Forget DeLisha Milton-Jones's magic cheese, I want what she's having. She had no right beating Amanda on that jump ball.

It always seems like Jessica Breland does more good stuff than shows up in the box score, and I'm at a loss for words to describe it. She just fills in the gaps that are left when Atlanta goes so heavily perimeter/drive oriented and forgets about height and fun stuff like that. That's a lot to put on one player, but she handles it really well, though she handled it less well in this game than in the Dallas game. Marie G├╝lich did well in the middle, though she didn't have the same level of success that she had against Dallas. She missed a lot more easy shots in that game, but overall she really looks like she's found her niche in Atlanta as she had not in Phoenix.

If Atlanta's perimeter game is on, and their driving lanes are clear, they're unstoppable, as they were against Dallas. But if they go cold from the field, and the defense starts to collapse on them inside, and suddenly they don't have an interior presence they can get out of trouble with, then they're vulnerable.

Atlanta has a lot of energy. I imagine it's easy to love them for it. I imagine it's easy to dislike them for it too. I'm somewhere in the middle.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 13th, 2019: Liberty at Sun

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Connecticut controlled most of the way in their 100-66 preseason win over New York. Jonquel Jones had 19 points to lead the Sun. Rebecca Allen came off the bench to lead the Liberty with 18 in the loss.

For road trips, eating dessert first, being Very Tired of the same mistakes over and over again, partisanship, and depth issues, join your intrepid and Very Tired blogger after the jump.

On to the main event, the Sun and the Liberty!

Liberty have dressed Reshanda Gray and Amanda Zahui B. No one else appears to have arrived. Might be able to give a Sun roster check in the second half.

At halftime, it's 51-37 Sun. Believe it or not, we had a second quarter lead. But our second unit can't run with the Sun starters.

Spotted: one #lostmani, if found please return to the Dream team bus.

I am extremely done with former guards for the Lynx and the Storm who wore 30.

Sun fans, please explain to me why you love Rachel Banham so much. I am perplexed.

Officiating so bad in the first half that Tanisha Wright is currently having some animated words with the crew during the break.

I would really like for my team to stop testing my oath to swear as little as possible in the GNoD. Would that be too much to ask? Apparently it is too much to ask. Because we were extremely not good in the second half of this game, and it really feels like most of the issues can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff. And when Connecticut has their foot on your throat, they don't let up. And we rolled over and played dead in response.

So the PA guy messed up the intros and announced #7 Avery Warley-Talbert as the starter instead of #17 Amanda Zahui B. There was an awkward pause, and then Tina, Asia, and Kia went out there. Brittany Boyd was the last starter announced, and she and Amanda looked at each other awkwardly before Boyd went out. Then Amanda shimmied down the aisle to join the rest of the starters. (All things considered, maybe the PA guy had it right after all and Katie was the one running the wrong lineup, but we'll get to that later.)

Bianca Cuevas-Moore didn't get off the bench until the last two minutes. So much for her big game against China. She did have a nice block on Natisha Hiedeman. We also didn't see Talia Caldwell until the end of the game, when Tina Charles subbed out for the last time. (The time when Tina shouldn't even have been in the game, but that's not the point yet.) Talia promptly went on to commit a foul, which seems to be the sum total of her Liberty experience. I'd love to see her chronicle her time as a Liberty player, but I'd like for that time to be shortened. I have no idea why Avery Warley-Talbert played as little as she did, unless it's simply that Avery is an established product. Once she knows the system as well as she's going to, you know what you're getting from her; why waste time confirming it? I like Megan Huff's hustle, but I don't think she has the next level speed or skills. Kelly Faris played briefly, did not look good on defense, and offense isn't her thing. Between all that and the radiator tied to her back whenever she wasn't on the floor, I really don't want to see her make the roster. I'm hard on her for things beyond her control, and I acknowledge that. So if y'all do not believe I'm speaking from a genuine, heartfelt, well-meaning place here, I understand. But, please, Kelly. Retire before you break yourself more than you already have. You'll be an amazing coach. Go get started on that.

Reshanda Gray played hard on the glass, but she's got to hit those shots and she's got to stop committing those fouls. Again, I'm starting to feel like I'm playing a recording. Tiffany Bias hit corner threes, hit the floor a lot, and was the referees' redheaded stepchild for some reason. I don't understand. Y U NO RISPEK TIFFANY? She was impressively solid in this game. I don't see how she fits on the final roster unless we have a lot of wild variance due to Eurobasket, but she looks like she's put in a lot of work. Xu Han was extremely disappointing in this game- Jonquel Jones outdid her at the "being tall with long arms" thing and Brionna Jones outmuscled her on the regular. She got more and more passive as the game went on, and I swear to Arceus if I see her take one more pointless contested straightaway long jumper I will not be responsible for my actions in the rage blackout afterwards. Tanisha Wright, for some inexplicable reason, was mostly playing at the off guard, which... okay, Katie, you understand that hasn't been T's strongest position since, like, Seattle, right? And she did not look good doing it. Yes, she burned Banham, but Banham burned back at least once, and also, I expect more out of Tanisha Wright than to draw even with Rachel friggin' Banham. I also do not expect a two-game streak of panicking with ten seconds left on the shot clock, forgetting about the existence of her teammates, and throwing up a floater that could best be described as hot trash on a platter. Rebecca Allen was the only real bright spot off the bench, and we know she's inconsistent. If the good Bec shows up for most of the year, then I'll be happy. But I liked that she was assertive on offense, and that she found a niche in the defense.

I am having trouble finding words, concepts, and sentences that are not profane to describe the epic fail that was Amanda Zahui B attempting to defend Jonquel Jones. Or, indeed, doing much of anything. She was late on rotations, she was careless with the ball, and she seemed determined to foul out as quickly as possible. If she keeps playing like this, I am perfectly okay with her joining the Swedish national team for Eurobasket at her earliest convenience. Kia Nurse showed flashes of being the dominant offensive player we know she can be, but they weren't consistent, and she backed off too much on defense. I don't understand why we were forcing the ball to Tina Charles so much. Tina forced terrible shots, especially in the first quarter, but she can't be held responsible for other people choosing to pass into double-teams to get her the ball. She gets stuck. She got loose in the start of the third quarter, much of it off her rebounding, but then she was racking up the fouls. When Katie put her back in down 30 in the fourth quarter and she promptly got her fourth on a cheap reach, I was half-expecting her to decide, "nope" and deliberately foul herself out of the game. It would have been a selfish decision, but one I could have been okay with, because seriously, Katie?

I'm starting to run out of patience with Brittany Boyd. And please bear in mind I wrote those words wearing a Brittany Boyd jersey. I love her, I want her to succeed, and I still believe she can succeed. I just don't know if she will, between her own shortcomings and the utter cluelessness that this franchise is marinating in. (It's so bad I almost called it a program, because it sure ain't professional right now.) I like the hustle plays she makes, but she was getting burned on defense and making bad choices on offense. Do better, Boyd. I'm even more scared of the extreme tentativeness we've seen out of Asia Durr in these first two games. I mean, we brought her in as a scorer, right? This is the thing she's supposed to be good at, right? So why is she not getting the ball? And why does she seem terrified of it when it does eventually come to her? She needs to be looking for her shot more.

We have a supporting cast around Tina for the first time in a while. Can we maybe act like it? Our rotations make no sense and our positioning makes no sense. I have no idea what we're trying to do when we're not force-feeding Tina, and that's a thing I don't think we should be doing. Katie still seems to be in over her head. We can do better.

So, Connecticut. What about you? Part of me was surprised to see so little so late of Emma Cannon, but on the other hand, she's sort of an established product from her time in Phoenix. You know who she is and what you're probably going to get, so the question becomes whether or not she's better than the variables you're bringing in. And looking at this Sun roster, I would have to say no. She's a physical post off the bench, but they get that from Brionna Jones. I was surprised at how little we saw of Kristine Anigwe, though I wonder if we're going to see more of her against Dallas. I think she might have potential, but it's hard to tell. Regan Magarity only played in the fourth quarter, and I was not impressed with what I saw (or the poor kid's bootleg-looking jersey with the name all spaced out). I don't think she's ready for the big time.

I would like to see Natisha Hiedeman make this final roster, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a Big East fan with a not-so-secret soft spot for Marquette's class of '19. She brought a higher gear to the game. It hurt them sometimes, as when she got blocked by Bianca Cuevas-Moore, but I think it fits with the style that Miller wants to play. Layshia Clarendon had a quiet game, but I don't know how much she was being asked to do. I remain spectacularly unimpressed with Rachel Banham. I would absolutely take Hiedeman over her, but again, I recognize I have multiple biases in this situation and may not be the most impartial judge. Bria Holmes has a nice shot.

I see what everyone's been saying about Brionna Jones taking a step forward this year. She leveraged her bulk and her strength really well against our posts, whether it was Xu or even Tina. (This is why I want Tina off the center spot; it's too easy to beat her up there, perfectly legally.) She's finishing plays I don't know if she was finishing last year. Much will be asked of her, and I feel more confident that she'll be able to answer the call than I was looking at her last year. Bridget Carleton showed flashes of good play, but I don't think she's making this roster. She needs a year or two of international polish, whether it's in an overseas league or with her national team. Even then, maybe she won't have the speed for the WNBA game, but we'll see. I like Morgan Tuck, but I get the feeling I would like her better if she weren't a Husky and could thus be evaluated on her own merits instead of the blind loyalty Connecticut fans give her. She's a good, solid rotation player, and she does a lot of good things on the offensive glass, but she gets cheers like she's a superstar, and it annoys me.

(seriously, I have no real problems with UConn as a basketball team and program, I just have had one too many bad experiences with UConn fans)

I have come to the conclusion that it is very easy to love Alyssa Thomas when you're rooting for her and very easy to dislike her when your team is playing against her. I was not happy with her repeated and uncalled holding on Tina Charles. That spin move is a thing of beauty, though. I can't deny that, even on a day when the Sun is not my team. She's a little bit awesome and a little bit terrifying, and I think that's the way she likes it. Somehow we keep forgetting that Shekinna Stricklen shoots threes. (If this were any more specifically meant to call out Amanda, it would be in Swedish.) I get that she's not built like a traditional long-range shooter. She's also been doing this for seven years now. A clue, y'all, please to acquire it. On my Sun days, I'd like to see her be more of an interior force and use that thick build of hers to power through smaller defenders, but I can see how she instead slips bigger defenders on the perimeter. Jonquel Jones took charge both inside and out, getting around the defense to either hit outside jumpers or go up in the lane. She is, as the Internet parlance goes, a problem.

I loved seeing Jasmine Thomas take a few extra seconds at the end of a timeout to talk to the Sun's young guards. That kind of mentoring is important, and I don't know if every veteran is willing or able to provide it. She was merciless and deadly efficient in this game, setting up offense with her defense on steals and breaks. Courtney Williams got loose for elbow jumpers. Don’t' ask me where the assists came from, though. I had a terrible angle on the Sun's offense. We'll be switching to an upper deck sideline view tomorrow, which is now today because I am so tired.

Connecticut's starting five can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league and probably beat most starting fives. But I know from painful experience that that isn't always enough. If Brionna Jones can be consistent, and if they can get solid production from one of the reserve guards, they'll be okay. But if they're only five or six deep, and other teams can go eight or nine deep, those big leads might not be safe, and the afterburners might not be there for them to use.

Officiating was very lackadaisical, and I’m not okay with that, especially in a preseason game. If someone gets hurt because the refs are swallowing their whistles, I am extremely not okay with this. (Also, seriously, guys. AT had Tina in a hammer lock. Exactly what were you expecting Tina to do about that? I may or may not have yelled "ALYSSA STARTED IT!" at that point.)

Love how Sun fans only get into the game when they're up 20. And really, disconcerting the shooter when you're up 30 is ever so classy. We had enough problems without y'all "helping".

I hope we learned from this game. I don't know if I can do more than hope.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 9th, 2019: China at Liberty

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty answered a second-quarter run from the Chinese national team with a third-quarter run of their own in an 89-71 win at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Xu Han and Kia Nurse each had 19 points to lead the Liberty. Li Meng had 15 points to lead the Chinese side.

For free t-shirts, soft goods, defensive lapses, strong stances, DAT TOUCH PASS THO, dubious fashion choices, packing the house, getting the gang back together, and coming home, join your intrepid and joyous blogger after the jump.

You know what today is? That's right. Issa gameday. Sure, it might be a meaningless preseason game, and most of the players we're expecting to be rotation players are unavailable, but it's game day. More importantly, it's a game day in a real arena and essentially a test drive to see if Brooklyn is going to happen next year. It's the New York Liberty versus the Chinese national team. It's WNBA basketball, live and in color. It's a taunting, tantalizing, teasing taste of the life we should lead as fans of professional basketball before we return to That Dump. (Well, most of us return to That Dump. Your intrepid blogger will not be doing the full season there.)

I'm not thrilled with the requirement to check backpacks at Barclays, especially given how long the process is to get them back. Gotta speed that up. Also, cashless concession stands are the devil, should absolutely be illegal, are probably going to cost the team money, lock people out of purchases, and may generally utilize the left-hand egress.

Those are pretty much my only complaints about the venue. We had amazing seats- you probably saw my big stupid face behind the bench at some point, or at least saw my big stupid clipboard. I know someone heard us at some point, because when we let out our best, harmonized, Flava Flav "YEAHHHH BOYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYD" we got a look from Reshanda Gray in her street clothes behind the bench.

I liked Reshanda's dress. I liked the cut of Amanda Zahui B's suit, but I'm not feeling the 19th-century prisoner stripes. Spoon remains a timeless national treasure. For the love of God, Katie, tuck in that blouse if it's juuuuuuust a titch longer than your jacket. Charmin's velour jacket was amazing.

Okay, the Fashion Notes of Doom are done.

I was honestly expecting a little more coherency from the Chinese side. I mean, I'm assuming they've played together before. I could be wrong. We didn't get rosters, so I had to pull everything together off the uniforms and the graphics (and the graphics took their time arriving).

I have belatedly realized that I've rendered the Chinese names in the traditional East Asian order of family name first, then given name. I'm choosing to leave them this way for the members of the Chinese national team, but reversing them for Xu Han while she plays for a Western team in order to keep her consistent with her teammates. If it turns out the WNBA, in its infinite wisdom- stop giggling over there on the other side of that screen- already reversed her names for me, I'll fix it at some point in the indeterminate future.

Both full rosters were announced before the game, and there were a couple of names that the PA guy didn't know what to do with. (He had the most trouble with Li Jiacen and Wang Xuemeng. And Talia Caldwell.) There was an exchange of soft goods. Somehow Brittany Boyd ended up with the ceremonial gift banner, and she looked like she was unsure of what to do with this and why she even got it in the first place. The more experienced international veterans appeared amused.

We saw the very end of the Chinese bench in the fourth quarter, after fouls had claimed Zhang Liting and Li Yuere. Wu Tongtong and Guo Zixuan did not impress. Wang Siyu actually got a couple of minutes in the first half, but I mostly remember her coming in at the end.

Yang Liwei made an impression on first entry into the game, but it was that of an aspiring actress, looking for fouls even as she threw elbows. She calmed down a little bit after some of the fouls started going against her, and her energy focused more successfully on going after loose balls. She picked up steam as the game went on. Zhang Ru made a great defensive play in the second quarter- I think it was an interception off one of our guards, but don't hold me to that. Zhang Liting played a lot of minutes in the high post, but fouled out in the end, and I’m not sure she was as effective as the minutes her coach gave her would have indicated.

Whenever Li Yueru reports to Atlanta, they're going to get a good one. There were moments when I was reminded of Zheng Haixia, but I think that was just how the jersey hung on her. She's strong, and she's got good power in the paint. If she can stay out of foul trouble, she'll be fantastic. Wang Xuemeng got going during the big Chinese run in the second quarter, and seemed to slip our defense at the most inopportune moments; she'd be the one at the basket ready for the pass while everyone else tangled in the scrum for the loose ball. Pan Zhenqi did all right, including a three off an amazing jump pass from Yang. It might have been the best pass of the game in a lot of games, but we'll get to that later.

I don't know what it is, but I like watching Li Meng play. She's got a pretty shot, even if it didn't go down as often as it seemed to in the flow of the game. She just seems fun to watch, like she has a sense of what she's doing on the court that some of her teammates might have lacked. Li Yuan made some good hustle plays going after loose balls, but looking at that box score, I'm not sure I would have defined her as the shooting guard and Li Meng as the point guard. She keyed hard on Brittany Boyd.

China picked up the pace in the second quarter and went hard inside. Our defense wasn't ready for the change, and our offense was a pile of hot garbage in that quarter. They did eventually key on Kia Nurse, but then Xu Han found her footing.

I see on the transaction wire today that Kolby Morgan was already the first cut from camp, and I don't know if I agree with her being the first. I don't think she had a place on the final roster, but at least she's fully functional. I don't think Kolby knew what her role was. She did have the one amazing touch pass to Xu for the amazing touch finish, but that was her one highlight. I know I come down hard on Kelly Faris for things that are out of her control, and if you're expecting me to apologize for it, that's a thing that's not happening. But she played in such obvious pain in this game that I almost wanted to hug her. I think I literally saw her have a back spasm on the court (at least that's the most logical explanation for why she almost went ass over teakettle into the lane during someone else's free throw) and at the end of the game she looked ready to cry. I respect her heart and her knowledge of the game, but it's time for her to go into coaching. Tiffany Bias looked lost and committed fouls she shouldn't have. Bianca Cuevas-Moore made a lot of great hustle plays and brought energy to the floor. I'm just not convinced she can consistently keep that energy pointed in useful directions. Tanisha Wright looked like she was auditioning for the part of Sugar Rodgers. The bad version of Sugar Rodgers. T's supposed to be the veteran showing the youngsters how to play the game; if that game was any indication of how her game has devolved since her year off and her subsequent detour to Minnesota, that's not a good sign. She took terrible shots and dribbled the clock into oblivion, and even her defense was shoddy.

Rebecca Allen, if you're going to take terrible stupid shots, have the courtesy to follow those terrible stupid shots for the rebound, please. You bring shame on our name otherwise. Megan Huff shows promise, but I don't think she can make it over the hump in this training camp. She needs some seasoning, but I can see her being a regular in camp, if not eventually breaking through and making a roster. She's got a good head for the game. On the other hand, I don't see Talia Caldwell making the team. She had a lot of trouble getting into and maintaining proper defensive positioning. (I'm just saying, it's probably a bad sign when a guard who's younger than you are seems to know where your post player butt needs to be on defense better than you do.) A couple of the fouls were terrible calls, and the blonde ref seemed to have it in for her, but overall I think I prefer Talia as a writer than as a rotation player. Avery Warley-Talbert had herself a day on the glass. Good Lord, did she get herself some definition since last we met. Are we allowed to make jokes about having a license to bare arms anymore? I'd have liked to see her finish a little better at the rim, but she's undersized and the primary Chinese posts were not. She is who she is, and she's very good at being who she is. Right now, we need who she is.

It's going to take me some time to get used to Asia Durr, because my brain is wired weird and I keep seeing Alex Montgomery when I look at her. Given that Alex was a defensive specialist and Asia is... extremely an offensive specialist, you can see why this is tripping me up. I see the potential. I see the firepower. I also see the learning curve against defenses that are better than college defenses. If she's got moves, she's going to have to use more of them instead of relying on her talent to power through, because it's not happening. Brittany Boyd ran into some intense Chinese defense, and it felt like she should have finished on more drives (and yet I only see her missing one shot in the box score). When she's on, she's playing the game at a better speed than everyone else. When she's not, it's Jessica Bibby and Sherill Baker all over again, and we can get that from Bianca. But even when her speed betrayed her, her hustle remained- she forced jump balls on players she had no business forcing them with.

We were down pretty bad in the third quarter, and then Kia Nurse decided that that was going to change. She put up 14 in the third quarter alone, and I think most of them were in the same run. Eventually China started sending a triple-team at her, and as a result we lost a little momentum, but until then it was her game and everyone else was just along for the ride. She was tough, and she was fearless, and she was determined, and she played like she wanted to prove she belonged on the posters next to Tina. Tina Charles did the Tina Charles things she always does. The husband noticed that her windup has gotten more pronounced, although maybe it was just this game. She got called for some dubious offensive fouls, as one does, and objected to them, as one does. She and Xu are going to have to get used to each other on the glass in order for them to rebound better as a team. Right now they seem to be filling each other's space. But I love what we're going to get from Xu Han. She's so raw, and she needs to strengthen up a little, but there's so much potential. Just the ability to find her in the airspace so few players can even reach will do wonders for our offense, and when she and the guards get to know each other better, woo-ee will this be fun. She moves with much more grace than you'd expect from someone her size. So many tall women don't seem to know what to do with their height, but she seems at least aware of it, if not necessarily comfortable with it. I'm sure she'll have growing pains. But I also feel confident that she'll grow through them.

It's training camp, so there's some disorganization to expect. We might have a better handle on it at Mohegan (and your intrepid blogger will be there to see it). I don't know if Katie knows what she has to work with yet. I don't even know if Katie has determined what she's going to do with what she has.

We got free t-shirts! Free t-shirts are best t-shirts! Except for the ones you somehow manage to catch because holy blessed Arceus I caught a t-shirt! (sorry adorable tourist lady, but it's an XL so I'm keeping it) BANNER DAY. (I like the design on the shirts they gave us, too.)

For whatever reason, the refs were just not calling lane violations in this game. It took pretty much every player involved falling into the paint to finally get one, and they just threw up their hands and called a double violation for a jump ball. The lack of numbers on the front of the WNBA jerseys is definitely throwing the refs off; there was a foul initially called on #33 Talia Caldwell that was actually on #3 Tiffany Bias (and was a terrible call, but I'm partisan), and one ref gave up on calling the Liberty players by number when speaking to the scorer's table.

Timeless Torches need a little more synchronization to incorporate the newcomers into the routine, but again, preseason.

The crowd really got going in the second half. It sounded like a real Liberty game for the first time in ages. We did notice that there were no "Let's go Liberty" chants, which might have been in keeping with the international friendly element. Then again, we had "DE-FENSE!" sound clips, so.

Xu bowed to both sides of the floor when she came off. I thought that was sweet.

There are definitely things the crew needs to work on, and I suspect it's going to be a very disjointed season as personnel drop in and out depending on international commitments, but I like the promise of our young players. I just want to see more out of our veterans, especially if that's the whole reason we brought them in.

(No, I didn't like the Tanisha Wright signing, thanks for asking.)

A brief respite, a rummage through the wardrobe, and it'll be time to hit Mohegan for all the games!

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

half-assed leftover notes (CConn-LIU/Awkward Bowl)

So yeah. There were games. I went to them. I started writing notes, even. And then I got distracted, and I found I didn't care enough to finish them. The teams deserve better, but *shrug* it was a long season and somewhere along the line I was wishing it would end.

The time of getting punched right in the heart continues at LIU, as the Blackbirds see off their lone senior player, Destoni Willock, against the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State.

I try really hard not to judge people's names. I understand different cultures have different naming traditions. I understand that you don't necessarily pick your own name, except when you do. I understand that people don't always think through the sound of a name, and that people have different opinions on what sounds euphonious. But if your daughter's name sounds like the stage name of a ghetto-themed dominatrix, I'm going to judge you. I'm going to pity your kid and assume she learned to fight dirty at a very young age, and I'm going to judge you as hard as I can. (And I thought the kid with the surname Forker was going to have it the hardest... and then I kept reading.)

I take pride in LIU-Brooklyn's colors, and I'm bummed about the prospect of losing them in the merger, but it's very hard to look festive with black balloons. The white stars work better, and I love the hand-drawn Canadian flag in the endcourt.

So many people in street clothes, but I don't see Destoni anywhere, either among the active or the inactive. A mystery!

Aaaaaand Destoni's wearing a sweatsuit, so much for her pulling the Superwoman act.

Sir, this is an NEC game, why are you wearing Delaware gear? It's time for another round of "they don't even go here!"

Coach Del Preore maintains the Bozzella-tree tradition of honoring the opposing seniors... which seemed to take Central Connecticut's quartet of seniors by surprise, as they didn't expect a delivery of roses. I'm pretty sure Kiana Patterson attempted to reenact the Bachelorette with one of her teammates with the rose. Dance team seniors also got flowers, a slightly more elaborate bouquet. I... sort of see where Des gets some of her spaciness from, since her mom was desperately trying to get on her snazzy duds before the presentation and the photo.

(a little part of me wanted the band to play "O Canada", but I realize it might not be part of their repertoire)

At halftime, it's 40-29 Central Connecticut, which belies the fact that we had a lead in the second quarter. Kiana Patterson has nine to lead the Blue Devils' attack. Jeydah Johnson and Tia Montagne each have seven to lead the Blackbirds.

"got me lifted, feeling so gifted, sugar, how you get so fly?" oh man I have not heard this song in forever and I am in my ten-years-ago feelings now.

Is it law that every Connecticut mid-major have a player who can be referred to as "soulless ginger"? At least Jen Fay has the talent to back up her goonery.

Postgame now, at LIU's reception for their senior. Not sure about the layout, but hey, I get to see parts of the building I've never seen before and got shots of my perfect Honchrow in the rafters. (Yes, I have a side project that is now going to require me to go up to Marist at some point. Well, either that or Leicester, but Poughkeepsie is just a little bit closer.)

Hugging. Again with the hugging. I'm starting to think this is just an NEC thing. Destoni seems to have a really good attitude towards her truncated senior year.

We found the tables, which means doom will proceed as scheduled. Ryan Weise and her family are over at the next table and are trying to watch the men's game. (Which, yeah, that's a tough choice: roll with the WBB crew or watch MOAR HOOPZ.) There aren't really that many tables, so I'm not sure how this is going to work if many more people arrive. It's still classier than St. John's. The answer, by the way, was that it was a fairly ad hoc event and while I appreciate the free food I would have loved to hear from Coach Del Preore about her senior.

Good Lord, Seneca Richards looks different without the bags under her eyes. I think she might have finally paid off her sleep debt from the last two years.

Central Connecticut looks like they've shoved all in this year with their seniors. They have a tough, talented backcourt, albeit a small one. I mean, that's the story of life in the NEC. You win in the years you have seniors, unless your underclassmen are particularly exceptional.

Bruna Vila Artigues played a few minutes in the first half, attempted a throwdown, and generally acted like an idiot on defense. After the second foul, she was pulled from the game, and we never saw her again. Danielle Delano came in just briefly enough for me to somehow mistake a 3 for a 1. Carly Reynolds saw heavy run in the last few minutes of the game. I don't know if Berube was out of gas, or if CCSU's coach decided to gamble a little bit with a good but not great lead, but it worked out okay for them. Reynolds didn't do much, but she's a big body, and that helped frustrate and shut down Brandy Thomas for just long enough for Berube to get her breath back and finish the game.

There are a couple of reasons I will vocally express my distaste for a player. In some cases, I do not care for that woman out of profound respect because she is scoring a great many points on us. In other cases, I do not care for that woman because she's playing like a goon. Given my references to soulless gingers above, you can guess which of these applies to Tiffany Slicklein. I've never seen a player so eager and willing to throw elbows as soon as she entered the game.

***

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and of course our non-binary readers of all ages! (The GNoD, of course, welcome all readers. I know there aren't that many of you, so why would I discriminate against any of you?) We come to you on indeterminate tape delay from Carnesecca Arena, where the GNoD will conclude the regular season with Round 2 of the Awkward Bowl as St. John's hosts Seton Hall.

I guess Seton Hall is a lot looser when they don't have as much left to play for, because it looked like Desiree Elmore, Selena Philoxy, and Shadeen Samuels were having an impromptu dance-off.

We're definitely getting color guard for this game. (ROTC had their seats behind us.)

Ooooh, somebody's getting Tiffany's for Senior Day. I don't know who, because there are only two bags and we have three seniors, but I was raised to recognize that color from a mile away.

Someone's family is here with shirts on. I can't make out who the picture is of, but I suspect the generic answer is "someone who will be a little bit embarrassed and a little bit sheepish but also a little bit emotionally affected".

It will never not be weird recognizing the team on the other bench as a team that I love and adore as well.

Oooh. There is an intense conversation going on with Joe and Tony. I mean, okay, any conversation Tony is in is going to be intense, but someone has some serious feelings about something and Tony looks disappointed in someone. I'm disappointed in them too, whoever they are, Tony!

Don't blink, it's ceremony time! Okay, we're giving framed jerseys to the managers, that's a nice touch and not one I remember from before. Of course, they're mismatched enough that might be a way of getting rid of leftover promos...

Shadeen Samuels is a goddamn walking cheat code. It's 41-38 Seton Hall at halftime, and she has 21 of the 41. Desiree Elmore has 13 in support off the bench, and I think you're starting to see our problem here. Qadashah Hoppie, technically off the bench because it's Senior Day and Joe occasionally demonstrates signs of getting it, has 11 to lead St. John's. Seton Hall has nothing to lose and they're playing like it.

Lost Marquette fan is lost.

There is a crew from Floral Park in the next section over, and I am one more play from yelling "GO BACK TO NASSAU", which finally happened in the fourth quarter sometime after I lost my temper at St. John's crumpling under pressure and choking away yet another late-game lead, because LOLIDK.

I'm so tired of losing games late. I'm so tired of it. Except for the Marquette game, we have had the endgame poise of a flock of headless chickens, and I don't know how to fix it, and I don't know how to survive it without some kind of cardiac episode. I love this team, but they're trying to kill me.

I mean, I love Seton Hall, too, just not on days when they play St. John's. We've covered this already. Against anyone else I would have been thrilled about the heart they showed, but at Carnesecca, I'm more concerned about the collapse of the home team.

Whitney Howell played a few scattered minutes, mostly to allow Seton Hall to reset the Konami code on Shadeen Samuels. (There was a sequence in the fourth quarter when it was a two-possession game and she was set to come in, and the ref almost overlooked the sub; I was pretty sure they were trying to save Tony from himself at that point.) She looks like she's regressed from the small progress she made in the non-conference season, and she definitely looked like she was in over her head. Kaela Hilaire stepped her game up in the fourth quarter. Seton Hall turned up the defense and threw the press, and that's when KK is in her glory. With most players, their offense fuels their defense- they're feeling good after a couple of makes, they start playing with more energy. With KK, it seems like her defense fuels her offense- when she makes a stop, her confidence spikes and she drives better. She was a huge part of Seton Hall's fourth-quarter run, which, given what the Pirates weren't getting from their starting guards, was important. I've been hard on KK most of the year, because I feel like she could be so much better than she's been for most of the season, and she showed out here. Okay, maybe she really is from Queens. ;) Desiree Elmore turned on the offense basically whenever Tony had to fix the GameShark on Shadeen. It's funny- physically they're not that similar, but they play such similar games on the floor offensively. She had some beautiful shots and the two-man game with her and Shadeen is flat-out terrifying when they're clicking.

Victoria Cardaci remembered that three-point shooting is a thing she's nominally known for, but she played scared and she didn't play a lot. With Des being such an explosive scorer off the bench in this game, more than usual, she wasn't really needed, although I imagine Coach Bozzella would like her to be somewhat less scared of everything just on general principles. The lasting memory of Inja Butina is of her second half collapse. She just lost her head and her guts in the second half, and that allowed St. John's to take control of the third quarter. She played like she had run out of reasons to care about the season, and maybe in a season like this I might too if I were playing thousands of miles from home. But you can't let it show on the floor. Nicole Jimenez is ridiculous on the glass for her size, and she hit a huge three from deep to keep the Pirates in it. Coach Bozzella's fondness for small guards is going to bite him somewhere painful someday, but against a team as short-handed and not exactly size-reliant as St. John's, today was not that day.

Selena Philoxy had trouble hitting the chippies, which I think frustrated her (let us not mince words here; it is not exactly difficult to determine how 'Lena is feeling on the floor). She channeled that frustration into pulling down physical rebounds and defending the rim. She was extremely, extremely tough. Seton Hall might have been doing better with a smaller front line, but that had less to do with her and more to do with Shadeen Samuels's ascension to divinity. Y'all probably think I'm exaggerating, but it felt like an event when she actually missed a shot. She went into the paint and hit runners. She stepped outside and hit threes at the shot clock buzzer. She pulled up and the shots went in. And when she wasn't shooting, she was making the perfect pass to a teammate, or swooping into the passing lanes for steals, or pulling down rebounds. I don't think it's fair that Shadeen got to use god mode when everyone else was playing on normal difficulty.

(I really do love watching Shadeen play, and she is one of my most favorite Pirates. I just don't like when it's St. John's she ends up being awesome against.)

Seton Hall is glorious and frustrating at the same time. This team shouldn't be nearly as reliant on Shadeen as they are, and being as reliant on Shadeen as they were shouldn't work as well as it did. This is not sustainable. Someone in the starting lineup is going to have to step up other than her.

Kadaja Bailey was not ready for this game. I think she has the potential to be very similar to Shadeen, but she didn't look ready to deal with the Hall's pressure defense, and she wasn't able to step up her game. You've got to be able to do that in a rivalry game like this. It might not be quite as nasty as it once was, and I've always gotten the sense that St. John's doesn't take this rivalry as seriously as a rivalry as Seton Hall does, but it still matters. Kayla Charles brought size and toughness off the bench in the paint. She took advantage of Seton Hall's lack of height to go up for boards and to lay down blocks. She's come into her own here at the end of the season, and I hope she can carry this energy, this awareness of her size and strength, into her next two years at St. John's. That all being said, I would also like to be able to stop calling her You're-Not-Getting-The-Call-Kayla; at some point she's going to have to understand that this is just the way the officials are, that life is not fair, and that she does occasionally commit fouls. It happens. Qadashah Hoppie was a huge part of why we had the lead in the first place. She had one of the hot shooting games from the outside that I think we've been expecting her to provide rather more frequently than is realistic. When we were on our run, she was most of the reason why; whenever Seton Hall threatened in that stretch, she had the answer. Again, that's the kind of game I'd like to see Q build on for the next couple of years. I hope she understands that she's going to have to be the go-to player offensively next year, because while Alisha Kebbe can be that player for stretches, it's probably a bad idea for her to have to be, not if it takes away from her defense.

Speaking of our defensive ace, who drew the unenviable task of guarding the unguardable... no, Alisha Kebbe on Shadeen Samuels did not go well. Either she got beat or the rotations got crossed up and someone else got beat. In either case, if Shadeen got the ball, she was either scoring or she was making the perfect pass to someone who had gotten in the perfect position because the defense had rotated disadvantageously for St. John's. She did what she could on offense to make up for it, but this was not her day, to put it nicely. Akina Wellere got going on the break, which was nice to see. She was jumping the passing lanes to get steals and easy buckets. The petty part of me wants to ask where this has been all season, but that's petty and I recognize that that's petty. She had a heck of a game, and I shouldn't take away from that. Curteeona Brelove spent a lot of time in foul trouble, which wasn't exactly helpful, but on the other hand, Kayla was having herself a pretty good game and had earned her minutes.


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Friday, March 1, 2019

February 24th, 2019: UMass at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fordham started off strong and held on tight in a 76-64 win over UMass. Bre Cavanaugh led all scorers with 27 points, with Kaitlyn Downey and Mary Goulding each adding 15. UMass got 44 of their 64 points off the bench, with Destiney Philoxy exploding for 26 and Hailey Leidel lighting it up beyond the arc with 18 (including five threes).

For little sisters, smol seniors, a punch right in the feels, jukebox heroines with stars in their eyes, Murphys' Law, and unexpected connections, join your intrepid and ever-so-briefly caught-up blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon! Your intrepid blogger is steadily working through her backlog (backblog?) of games, and taking the opportunity to catch up a little bit here at Fordham, as the Rams take on the Minutewomen of UMass on Senior Day.

I have to say, I like this new thing of Senior Day being the last weekend home game of the season, not the last game period. It allows more people to see and honor these young ladies for everything they've given to their programs. I do wonder if it feels a little weird when you know for certain that it's not your last home game, but on the other hand, if you're used to making the WNIT, you're already pretty sure you have more home games to come.

I'm looking for familiar faces in the stands, because one of my favorite Pirates, Selena Philoxy, has a little sister, and said sister plays for UMass.

Not gonna lie, as a Red Storm fan first and foremost, I'm always a little confused when other teams are playing "Thunderstruck". I understand that it's a very traditional sports jam, but at the same time, are any of y'all a Storm? I did not think so.

There were many Rebeccas on the pass list today, but either someone mistook me for an Australian or autocarrot struck again. No harm, no foul, and the folks working the table today did everything right.

Bre is no longer blonde, and this is just a tiny bit confusing. Her floof is just a little bit harder to see now.

I'm trying to get a closer look at the Senior Day t-shirts (a Fordham tradition unlike many others) and will report back on the design once I can see it.

Oh my God I love Coach Gaitley's suit.

Oh noes it is time for the Feels. I love that they're starting out with the scout squad. That is so cool. And the team is really, really enthusiastic about the MPPs and the managers. Say, why did it get so dusty in here all of a sudden? Why are these ninja cutting so many onions?! Who keeps punching me in the heart?

Fordham's band is playing "Car Wash" and I am extremely pleasantly confused. Maybe Bec did wander into the building today and this is their way of greeting her.

Really cool timeout ceremony honoring the '78-'79 squad, who basically wrote the Fordham record books (and a good number of these ladies are still quite spry). I love when schools connect with their history.

At halftime, it is 46-28 Fordham on all the three-pointers. No, seriously, I think we have eight. Ralene Kwiatkowski is getting her runs in and we might run out of t-shirts. UMass gets physical when they get frustrated, and they are extremely frustrated right now. Bre Cavanaugh has 14 points and four boards to lead Fordham, while Destiney Philoxy has 11 points off the bench to lead UMass.

I'm starting to wonder if UMass's coach just doesn't believe in starting freshmen, or if Philoxy and Nelson are just having uncharacteristically good games. They've been the only consistent positives for the Minutewomen today.

Postgaming now, with what appears to be an ungodly number of Murphys. There's a pub hidden in the basement of Fordham, and we are taking it over. There appears to be finger food, including the smallest sliders I've ever seen in my life. The projector is set up for the Senior Day presentation- the real one, not the time-shortened one. The team is arriving. Hi, Coach!

That got rather closer than I wanted it to be, to be honest. I would have liked for Alexa Giuliano to have more of an opportunity to play and make a positive impact on the box score, but it is what it is. UMass is a wild team, and when they're on, they're extremely pesky. But their offense was streaky, and when it wasn't working, they were frustrated, leading to physical play and fouls. They've got potential with their freshmen, but I don't know if these hot-headed players and this hot-headed coach are a good combination for each other. They seem like the kind of volatile mix that will either lead to all the conference titles or someone getting punched in the locker room and half the team transferring.

Kendell, why are you wearing a USAB t-shirt? You're a Kiwi! You're from New Zealand! You literally don't even go there!

I do like that Coach Gaitley's letting the seniors each have their say in this and they're all getting to say a few words themselves. Trying to hide behind Lauren Holden is not an effective plan if you're Mary Goulding, though. There's about seven inches of why that doesn't work.

OH MY GOD BABY MARY I AM DED FROM SQUEE no seriously the video tributes from the players' families are fantastic and also I get to hear lots and lots of Kiwi accents, so that's awesome. There are lots of high-pitched squeeing noises coming from the direction of the team at the baby pictures.

*snorfle* Kaitlyn comparing the three seniors to being like her moms, and I'm pretty sure her mother just did a spectacular double-take at that. I don't think everyone's realized that Coach Gaitley is going to make everyone talk.

So that Philoxy kid is pretty good. I'm not just saying that because I like her sister, either. Destiney Philoxy did her best to make sure she didn't lose this game, and she didn't care if her teammates came with her or not. She drives the lane like the A train- fast, no stops. And if she could bring that quick release free throw home for the summer and share it with Selena, that would be great. She's loud and she's communicative on the floor and she has no patience for anyone's nonsense. I can see that chafing with the upperclassmen. Jessica Nelson is extremely physical, and if she becomes more assertive offensively she could be very good for them. Until then she's mostly a goon who needs a better sports bra.

I started to take a profound dislike to Hailey Leidel in the second half when she kept hitting threes on us. It's a polite sort of dislike, leavened with respect and more than a little frustration. She picked up loose change off the glass in some of the scrums. She stepped up in the second half. Paige McCormick saw some time in the first half and put up a jumper. She was not particularly successful, so I'm not surprised she didn't play in the second half.

Anil Soysal is tall, but she's not ready. She's extremely not ready. She was on a short leash whenever she got a foul, and with the physicality that Nelson brought to the floor, her services were far less required. She started the game, but she didn't start the second half, and I'm not sure she even played in the second half. She also doesn't look 6-5 to me, but I recognize that my perceptions of height might be skewed from watching so much basketball. Yes, I'm saying objects in mirror may be taller than they appear. Genesis Rivera got off to a good early start, but picked up three fouls in the first half and was thence consigned to the bench to start the second half. She did not have much of a game.

Near the end of the first half, there was a scrum for a loose ball, one that turned rather into a football play. I'm pretty sure that you're not supposed to tackle people in basketball, though I could be wrong. It's been known to happen on occasion. In any case, Bre Hampton-Bey got herself an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, Lauren Holden got herself two free throws, and UMass put themselves in more of a hole than they needed to be in right near the end of the half. Between that and her not-good shooting, I'm not surprised her minutes got cut in the second half. If she played, she didn't play much (our PA guy sort of took the second half off in terms of announcing substitutions, and only the helpful fact that UMass has names on their jerseys reminded me that people were coming in and out of the game). Vashnie Perry started to find her distance stroke in the second half, but it was too late by then. Jessica George had a pretty decent defensive game, all things considered; she was part of the hard-charging double that the Minutewomen so often threw at Bre Cavanaugh. She spent a lot of energy on that end of the floor, and it showed- not necessarily in a good way. UMass threw up more than their fair share of airballs, and I think she had at least one of them, if not more.

UMass has potential. If they don't strangle each other first, and if Soysal can learn how to use her height instead of just trying to reach over people's heads and thus fouling them, they could be something in a couple of years. They could be a homewrecker in the A-10 tourney if their shooters get hot at the same time that their defense turns up. I know you can say that about a lot of teams, and that that is in fact the recipe to be a homewrecker, but they seem to have the pieces to have that potential.

So we got to see all the guards at the end of the game. All of them, pretty much, except for Chloe Chaffin and Edona Thaqi, who I'm pretty sure aren't even supposed to be playing this season (though they have). It was nice. Cat Polisano got some free throw opportunities, which is nice for her. I think that was Lauren Murphy's family starting the chant for her to come into the game, which might have been nice if they hadn't been starting it up before our last senior came into the game. Guys. On Senior Day, maybe wait for all the seniors to come in or go out as appropriate to their role before you start hooting and hollering for your sophomore to come into the game. I don't think a foul was the only way Alexa Giuliano wanted to be in the box score on her Senior Day, but at least she didn't end up a billionaire. Look, collectively, we had five players total five minutes, two free throws, one shot (missed), and one rebound. Even I can't come up with enough words to make that sound good.

Megan Jonassen looked a little more passive than usual in this one, which probably explains why she didn't play that much. It also didn't help her case that UMass didn't have a lot of size and didn't look to go inside that much- most of their run in the second half was fueled by threes. Even Zara Jillings didn't get a lot of time on the floor. This game was, more than even Fordham's ridiculous usual and maybe even more than necessary, decided by the starters. In some ways, that's appropriate, but in other ways, it would have been nice to let Lauren and Mary enjoy their victory from the bench for a little more than eighty seconds, and nice to see Alexa get some real run.

Bre Cavanaugh played like her hair was on fire. I mean, it obviously wasn't, because Bre's hair is very tall and everyone would have immediately noticed if it were on fire. But there was a sense of urgency, a popping energy, an extra spring in her step, that made her even more of a force of nature than usual. Whenever UMass started making it close, she was like "nope" and hit another three or hit another shot in the lane. You really do expect to see the cape streaming behind her when she comes off the court. I kind of got the sense we were getting a little bit of a preview of next year, with Kendell Heremaia running point duties for a good chunk of the game. I'm not sure how I feel about this, although I recognize it's inevitable because Lauren Holden does have to graduate at some point. Kenny runs a little bit of a slower, more methodical game, with less of a tendency to go it alone, but also with less assurance, than Lauren does. I think her offseason development will be very interesting. It took a while for Lauren to get on the board, but we all went nuts when she did. I think she hit the shot in the lane first before hitting the three, but I don't have my notes with me to double-check the order of events. She was mostly in control of herself during the game, though the Senior Day stuff before and after the game really got her.

Mary Goulding was in her glory in this game. There were a lot of loose balls and a lot of scrums, and she was in the thick of most of them. She had a huge second quarter where she was hitting big shots, pulling down boards, and making defensive stops- she had a really nifty steal. She stepped up for us. Kaitlyn Downey got off to a hot start with a soft touch (look, you have gotten through this entire season without that pun, were you expecting that to last?) and never really stopped. We have long since established that I am not a fan of her being so enamored of the three-point shot, but I guess I can be okay with it when it's going down and she's getting good looks when the guards penetrate. That drive and dish game with ball movement was really working for Fordham. I think we might be in good hands next year, as long as we have someone coming in to develop on the bench while Megan and Kaitlyn step up in the rotation.

When we were moving the ball and getting open looks, we did well. We had a little more trouble when the double came flying at Bre like a bat out of hell. If you have Meat Loaf stuck in your head, you're welcome.

I think the refs let the physicality get a little out of control, even after Hampton-Bey got called for the unsportsmanlike conduct foul. But, hey, it worked out okay for us. I could have done without UMass's coach whinging for a travel call down 15 or thereabouts in the final minute. You gotta know when to fold 'em, man.

Whoever released the onion-chopping ninja this month needs to cut it out. I can't deal with this.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

February 17th, 2019: Marquette at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Marquette took advantage of a short-handed Seton Hall squad on Senior Day to get back on track with a resounding 109-63 win. Natisha Hiedeman exploded for 34 points to lead the Golden Eagles, while Danielle King added 20 points and 12 assists. Desiree Elmore had 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Hall.

For smol seniors, angry seniors, bringing a sophomore to a senior fight, celebrating seniors, and generally lots of things involving seniors, join your intrepid and unprepared blogger after the jump.

Someday I will get a game's worth of notes finished before having to move on to the next one, but today is not that day, beause today is Senior Day at Seton Hall and I have been ambushed by Feels Right To The Heart.

There are a lot of things I like about Tony Bozzella, but one of the best is the tradition he carried over from Iona (and possibly points prior, but my acquaintance with Tony started in New Rochelle) of honoring all the seniors on Senior Day. Not just players, not just managers. Everyone. So before the acknowledgement of the senior managers and the four senior Pirates, there were red roses for the six Marquette seniors, and during a timeout there were roses for the seniors in cheer, dance, and band. That is a classy touch that not enough places do, in my not so humble opinion.

At some point in the near future there will be an outpouring of feelings about Tori and Kaity and Inja and Coley, but they deserve more space than this. But I want to talk about Marquette's seniors, too, because in this amazing class I see parallels to the program-defining classes at St. John's and Seton Hall. What Allazia Blockton, Sandra Dahling, Erika Davenport, Natisha Hiedeman, Danielle King, and Amani Wilborn have done at Marquette to build that program is nothing short of astonishing, and it's been a pleasure and a privilege to watch them do so. The Big East is better when everyone is better, and while I of course want to see my Johnnies and my Pirates paste them whenever possible, I also want to see the rise of programs that care about women's basketball, that turn the corner from "well, we have to" to "yes, we want to". Build on this, Marquette. Take this opportunity with both hands and don't let it fall apart. Xavier did that. Xavier had an Elite Eight team once upon a time, and now they're the conference doormat. Don't do that.

So, yeah, it's 49-26 Marquette at halftime, and Natisha Hiedeman has expressed her opinion of both her performance against St. John's and her resultant benching with 14 points and some defensive picks that are pretty impressive for a non-football school. Seton Hall is attempting two offenses, the "force it to Shadeen" offense (which is not nearly as effective when the role of Shadeen Samuels is being played by Desiree Elmore for this performance) and the "AAAAHHH they're all taller than we are, better chuck threes!" offense, and y'all know my feelings on living by the three.

I've never had someone check my tickets at Seton Hall; as far as I know it's general admission? Worked out okay, since our season tickets do happen to be in our preferred section by the band. All the cool kids hang out with the band, don't you know?

Welp. That was a thing that happened. I can't say I'm terribly surprised, since Shadeen was out injured and Marquette had something to prove, but it felt like it was being rubbed in by the fourth quarter. I get it. Marquette is really good and we brought underclassmen to a senior fight. But at some point, you can stop letting the player with all the points jack threes. Your intrepid blogger is currently ensconced in the Chancellor's Suite in the basement of one of the on-campus buildings, which means I have no data connection, which means I am an intrepid and absolutely cut-off-from-the-universe blogger because Seton Hall is the one place I don't have the wi-fi password. I'm pretty sure Kena Richardson's family just joined our table, which, hi Kena! We were at the draft that year! Yep. And we now share the bond of being mildly embarrassed by Tony shouting us out unexpectedly in a speech.

Sandra Dahling got off the bench with about five minutes left in the game, and the best shot she had spun out of the basket; you could see how deflated Marquette's bench was when it fell out of the basket. I didn't realize she was a point guard, for some reason. Chloe Marotta got good looks in the basket in the fourth quarter, especially off of offensive rebounds. She's raw, and she has to work on her hands and feet, but she's promising as a freshman. Lauren Van Kleunen still looks like she's trying to figure out what she should be doing on the floor. She's tall, but she doesn't seem to have found a position, and that's in the tweener sense, not in the versatility sense.

I actually really liked what I saw out of Altia Anderson defensively. She needs a lot of work on her offense- she's all knees and elbows and angles- but she knows how to get her hands up and make trouble in the paint, and with all the offensive firepower Marquette has this year, maybe that's all they needed from her. She's going to need to develop more next year for them, though. Allazia Blockton still doesn't look right. She got off some shots in the fourth quarter, but overall she doesn't look right. Her confidence is missing. Her explosiveness is missing. This is a shadow of the Allazia Blockton who terrorized the Big East for three years.

Natisha Hiedeman did not start the game, presumably in response to getting schooled by the STJ defense, and proceeded to torch the everloving hell out of Seton Hall's tiny guards. She got her starting spot back for the second half and continued on her torrid pace. I swear, she was giving us trouble not just because of her height, but because of her hair. We're so short I think we were having trouble seeing over the 'fro. She seemed determined to prove her mastery over every sport in this game- she obviously proved how good she was at basketball, but she also had some mean interceptions (and Marquette doesn't even sponsor football!), set a ball out of bounds, and had two straight kicked balls. We get it, Natisha, you're good at sportsball.

So we've established that Erika Davenport is really good in the paint, right? She wasn't hitting as many of the putbacks as she did on Friday, but she was still killing us on the glass. She works around size really well, which neutralized Selena Philoxy's usual advantages, and our straight-up height was not up to the challenge of facing her. Isabelle Spingola got the start in Hiedeman's place. She shoots three-pointers really well and fairly quickly, but that seems to be her only high-level skill.

Amani Wilborn's defense and physicality are the cornerstones of her game, and her defense was especially on display in this one. She was everywhere where we were, and that was one of the many problems we had in this game. It felt like she was doing a better job of getting to the line than the box score indicates. Selena Lott had a really solid game on both ends of the floor- she had a ruthless block on Inja Butina and got buckets in transition. She's going to be really crucial for the rebuild next year for Marquette.

Marquette looked like they were out to prove they were still who they were, and I think they took it to extremes. I don't think I would have had Hiedeman jacking threes in the fourth. I would have gone to Dahling earlier. That kind of thing.

I have to be careful what I type here, because I'm still sitting in the banquet (oh my GOD TONY I'M GOING TO KILL YOU) and if the wrong person reads over my shoulder you're never going to get GNoD ever again, and there are, like, five drafts on my hard drive. But, uh. Kimi Evans sort of looked like she forgot how to shoot lay-ups out there, just flinging the ball at the basket. And she was tentative on the glass, which is unacceptable at her size. She did well boxing out, but we needed more from her and we got nothing. Whitney Howell got some minutes in the second half (apropos of nothing, I'm not feeling the new haircut) and hit a nice bucket in the lane. I'd like to see her be more aggressive, but she's a freshman. She'll learn. I think. I hope. Selena Philoxy didn't start, since we had all the smol seniors starting, but she played heavy minutes in the paint. She missed what seemed to be a lot of easy looks in the lane, but Marquette was swarming and she was under pressure.

(The tribute video is currently experiencing technical difficulties. So I'm going to leave you with this one-liner from Tony: "We don't measure success by height. Thankfully.")

Kaela Hilaire, I can't even and I am this close to ceding you back to Nassau County. KK has not played well falling behind all the seniors in the rotation, and we need her to step up her game, especially for next year when all those seniors have graduated (super graduated in some cases, I mean, jeez, Kaity, I needed five years just to get most of the way through a BA and you got the advanced degree?). I would dearly like for her to stop committing stupid fouls and start making some of those incredible drives I know she's capable of. Danielle Robinson had a pretty solid game, all things considered. She missed her shots on the inside, but she was one of the few Seton Hall players actually willing to drive the lane, which was refreshing. I like her potential. She needs a lot of work, but I think having to play more with the injuries at the end of the season has helped her develop faster than she would have otherwise this year. She's seeing minutes that aren't necessarily meaningful, but are still live-action and are against serious opponents.

Victoria Cardaci looks scared out there. I don't know if she wasn't ready to start, or if she couldn't deal with Marquette's size (such as it is) or what, but I'm trying to remember if she even got as far as the lane on most of the Pirates' offensive possessions. She made a couple of good defensive plays on the baseline, I'll give her that, but she did not look like she was able to rise to the occasion in this game. Nicole Jimenez was jacking threes, which is her strength, but it seemed like a lot of them were quick, ill-thought-out shots. I'd have to look at the quarter splits, but it feels like she threw up a lot of shots late in the game when we were just desperate for something that looked sort of like offense, and hurried threes were the best thing we could think of. And no, that is not a good thing. Kaity Healy had a nice defensive play in the first quarter and hit a couple of threes, but overall she looked really hesitant.

Desiree Elmore really looked like she was forcing it in the first half, and I'm still not a fan of the offensive style where you just force it in to one player and hope she gets hot at some point. The shots started falling in the second half,but by then we were too far down. I get that we didn't exactly have a lot of options with Shadeen Samuels out with her shoulder injury, but the plan was not working and it's not a good plan. I'm not going after her effort, don't get me wrong- she had the game we needed her to have to even stay competitive. I'm going after the game plan. Inja Butina had a better game than I thought, now looking at the box score. I guess I was just so down on our effort the rest of the night that I overlooked what she did. It did seem like she was forcing shots that she doesn't normally take or were into the teeth of Marquette's defense.

Do I think going with the four seniors as the starting lineup put us in a hole to start the game? Yes. Our seniors are all guards and most of them are very small, which left us with an imbalanced lineup. Would I have been just as upset if we had gone with our more traditional starting lineup and run Lena out there at the start of the game? No, I would have been more upset, because there are things you do on Senior Day, and one of those is give your seniors the start. Now, do I think he ran with Tori a little too long at the outset? Yeah, probably. But you do the right thing by those who have given so much to the game.

Honestly, we probably got away with more fouls than Marquette did. I'm not about to go off on the refs in a game where the margin was so ridiculous I have to do math to figure it out.

This was a perfect storm of disaster in the making. Seton Hall was short-handed, and short. Marquette had an axe to grind and a thirst to prove themselves on national television. We fell into our worst habits and Marquette took advantage. There's no shame in losing to one of the best teams in the conference and the country. But the way we did it was not the Pirate way.

But I'll say this for Walsh: the crowd never gave up, and I'm not just talking about myself and the husband. We weren't always the ones starting the chants. We weren't always the loudest people. That's what I love about Seton Hall fans. That crowd is never quiet.

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February 16th, 2019: LIU at St. Francis NY

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A competitive first half turned into a rout in the second half, as St. Francis of Brooklyn took down their local rivals from LIU 87-64. Jade Johnson exploded for 31 points, while Amy O'Neill added a triple-double with 16 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. Brandy Thomas had 14 points and eight rebounds to lead the Blackbirds in the loss.

For milestones, scoring oddities, the walking and limping wounded, taking the elevator, going the long way home, and just general head-shaking, join your intrepid and very tired blogger after the jump.


Even if the Game Notes of Doom stop sometimes, basketball doesn't, and your intrepid blogger is juggling three different windows of notes on a C train to Metrotech, on my way to the Battle of Brooklyn at St. Francis. I think the trophy game was technically the first game of the series, the one in January I couldn't get to, but they're all battles to me.

Our LIU crew came through with swag. The husband is currently wearing the troll hair.

Either Coach Cimino is jealous of Tia Montagne's eyelashes, or the coaches both have opinions on whether she should be wearing them. There's a lot of respect between Coach Cimino and Coach Del Preore, which makes this rivalry a lot easier to live with than Awkward Bowl.

We're down 44-36 at halftime, and honestly, this is better than I was expecting.

For some reason, I find it incredibly funny that St. Francis piled into an elevator to get to their locker room. Meanwhile, poor Destoni Willock has to wait for them to go and the elevator to come back, because she's on crutches and definitely can't take the stairs.

Jade Johnson is absolutely killing us. She's already got 20 points, including her 1000th. Brandy Thomas, once she stopped shooting three-pointers and started powering inside, got going and has 12 to lead the Blackbirds.

I guess the dance performance at halftime is pretty good, but I have to write all the doom and Community Day starts in 12 minutes, so I haven't been paying that much attention.

Well, this was honestly what I was expecting, in the end. We're not that good and we're extremely short-handed. We gave it as much as we could, but we didn't have that much to give.

Daisha Davis has one move in the paint, and if she's able to power the ball in, she's set. Otherwise, she's lost. I'd like to see her develop more than one move, and learn to stop bringing the ball down where all the short people can get to it. The power dribble only works if there aren't three defenders around you all hounding the ball. Autumn Ashe brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm on defense, and she had a nice hustle play on the baseline, but her offense needs a lot of work. Ryan Weise was called upon for a lot of minutes, both because her three-point shot was going down and because of the injury scare with Tiya Misir in the first half. I'd like to see her be a little less scared to take the midrange shot- she looked like she was passing off midrange and free-throw line shots that she could have gotten off without getting stuffed. She's young. Maybe she'll get over it.

Ella Vaatanen looked like she was devoutly wishing she weren't 6-1, because there were expectations being put on her that I don't think she can handle. She's the only height we have that Coach Del Preore feels like she can rely on, and she seems like she has no idea what to do with this responsibility and this size. I'd be sympathetic, but I also would like her to do the things Coach is asking her to do. I would greatly appreciate if Brandy Thomas never took a perimeter shot again, because her strength is so clearly at the basket that it's a waste of her time for her to be launching threes or long twos. Not only is it a shot she's more likely to miss, but then there's also no one to rebound the missed shot. So it's a two-for-one disaster scene. I love the work she does in the lane, and I'd love to see her do more of it.

Tiya Misir gave us all a scare when she went down hard with the ankle injury in the first half. It looked really bad, but then she got up and was able to put a little weight on it, and then she came back into the game. I'm glad she was okay, because I think her family was sitting next to us, and that's just not something you want people to have to see, you know? She seems like a really nice kid, if a bit tentative on the floor. But being tentative is pretty much the story of LIU's life. Tia Montagne seems to have found a little more confidence running the offense, but there are still times when she's backing off shots she needs to take and slowing down the offense too much. I think she's one of the few players who seems able to respond to Coach Del Preore's style. Jeydah Johnson started the game red hot, but slowed down as St. Francis adjusted their defense and she started taking worse shots.

It just seems like there's so much more we could be doing and should be doing, and we're too scared to- as if we freak out as soon as we see a defense of any sort. That's not a good sign, and I don't know if these are the right players to deal with that, or if this is the right coach to help these players deal with that fear.

Coach Cimino used her deep bench at the ends of quarters a lot, to pick up cheap fouls and give her main rotation players some extra rest. It got ridiculous at one point when she had four players enter in three successive waves. I mean, really, that was some delay of game worthy stuff there. Kate Bauhof committed a lot of stupid fouls, but I'm not sure how much of that was actually in her job description, in terms of using up team fouls at the end of the first quarter. She's enthusiastic, but I can see why her minutes have gone down as the season's gone on. I'm more surprised that some of the upperclassmen have been relegated to mop-up duty, which is pretty much my collective comment on Dana DiRenzo, Mia Ehling, and Lorraine Hickman. I know these aren't Coach Cim's players, but you work with what you have, right?

I'm glad she's using Samantha Keltos a little more- I think she's got good potential around the rim. She's decently tough. Abby Anderson doesn't show quite the same potential, to me, but she's also younger and maybe has to develop more. Ebony Horton was a hot mess on offense, but her defense was really solid- she made life miserable for our ballhandlers. But her night was done after she committed a boneheaded mistake that you usually only hear about in blooper reels, and I'm so sorry that this had to happen.

You see, a keen-eyed reader of the box score will notice that LIU has 64 points, yet LIU players only scored 62 points. And that would be because Tia Montagne missed a free throw, every Blackbird was on the other side of the court, and Ebony Horton proceeded to secure the rebound and put it back up, as you do. Except, I must remind you, Ebony Horton plays for St. Francis of Brooklyn, not LIU-Brooklyn. Thus, this is an own goal. And since there were no nearby LIU players to credit for it, it goes down as a "team" basket in the play-by-play. Horton was officially 0-3 from the field. No LIU player got an extra field goal. No one gets to add it to their tally. I don't think I've ever seen a player get subbed out so fast.

Dominique Ward killed us inside. She's got guard skills, but her length against our distinct lack of it made her a match-up nightmare. She had a few monster blocks, especially one on Brandy Thomas in the third quarter that I think killed our momentum. She plays with something less than a chip on her shoulder and something that isn't quite swagger, but lies somewhere on that spectrum- a confidence that in turn saps the confidence of her opponents. Ally Lassen really appears to be blossoming under Coach Cimino, or maybe it's just how she plays against us. She goes to the paint and she looks confident doing it. She killed us on the offensive glass, and that's where I'm going to get annoyed at our tall people for not stepping up and doing their jobs.

I don't usually have reason to pull out the "I'm starting to take a profound dislike to that woman" line in the first half, but Jade Johnson was pretty much single-handedly kicking our arses. Her pull-up game was a thing of beauty, her threes were falling, and we either couldn't or wouldn't stop her. If this was the game plan, it was a terrible game plan. The game plan where you allow one player to score and stop everyone else only works when you actually stop everyone else. Amy O'Neill has pretty much one move- drive the lane, penetrate so deep she's practically out of bounds, and throw up a wild one-handed shot. But she knows how to hit it with style, and she knows how to draw contact really well on those drives. Okay, she has two moves- option two is to pass once she drives deep. And she hounded our ballhandlers on the sideline and forced us into a lot of turnovers. Don't ask me how she got all those rebounds, though. The only thing I can think of is we were just letting a lot of balls go. Maria Palarino had a solid game, but for whatever reason, the way the PA guy does her name makes me think of '90s advertising. I don't get it, it doesn't make sense, but you didn't come to the Game Notes of Doom for dry analysis and posts that made sense, did you?

Pregame ceremony for Maria Palarino's 1000th point, and then Jade Johnson hit hers in the first half. I'd like to be happy for them, but this just feels like overkill somehow.

Not to say that the refs were bad or anything, but as we headed back towards the train station, I heard someone on the phone behind us talking about how the refs weren't making calls on penetration... and then I recognized the braids and the #5 backpack of Tia Montagne. Yes, as it turns out, the team does walk to and from St. Francis when the Battle is on.

I thought St. Francis had more than five people on their dance team, but it's been a long time.

We may not have won the game, but we took their money! One of the LIU fans won the 50/50 raffle and claimed the money off the dance group that had performed at halftime. I believe this might be a definite moral victory, or possibly an immoral victory, depending on what you believe about money being the root of all evil.

I don't know how much I can even say about LIU at this point. The team's short-handed and missing a lot of experience, and has a coach that doesn't do well with young players who need instruction in the fundamentals. I didn't exactly have high expectations for them in the first place, but this season has gone from bad to worse to lost in a hurry. With St. Francis, I can at least look forward to the old coach's players being gone so I can cheer for Coach Cimino with a clear conscience.

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February 15th, 2019: Marquette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's used a strong second half to overcome a 14-point Marquette lead in an 81-74 win at Carnesecca Arena. Tiana England led four Johnnies in double figures with 20, adding six assists. Erika Davenport had 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead Marquette in the loss.

For defensive stalwarts, unsung heroes, pink jerseys, and slowly but steadily catching up to real time, join your intrepid and squeeful blogger after the jump.

We'll see how this whole GNoD thing goes tonight. I'm two games behind and I feel like pounded crap.

The jerseys are very pink. I think we may have reused last year's and just gotten new ones for the newcomers; the three new jerseys have a glow around the numbers that the returners' don't. I think they managed to correct the spelling of Brelove, though.

We seem to have an official anthem singer now. I'm okay with this, because he's good.

It's 40-32 Marquette at half, and it could honestly be a lot worse. They're killing us on the boards, but they've had at least two possessions with multiple o-boards that have come up empty. We're stopping the big threats, the preseason POY and the likely POY, but Erika Davenport has 12 points and Amani Wilborn has 11 points.

Okay, not for nothing, but if we keep playing like this in the pink jerseys, I will turn my hatred of them into a campaign to become the Pink Storm. Remember, it's only crazy if it doesn't work, and right now it's appearing to work. Seriously. I can't remember the last time the question "Should we act like we've been there before or should we consider attempting to storm the court?" popped into my brain.

Marquette is good, don't get me wrong. But they didn't look the same without Allazia Blockton being her old self Without her explosiveness and offensive versatility, they lose a big weapon, and they lose a lot of their depth. And her shot looked rusty. She got into good position for offensive rebounds, but even then she couldn't put them back. She was terrifyingly hesitant, and that led to strips and steals from the Red Storm defense. Lauren Van Kleunen barely played and her main contribution was a very long jumper that seemed ill-advised. Isabelle Spingola provided stability and a three-point shot, but she wasn't as much of a weapon as I was expecting against our defense (we're usually pretty vulnerable to the three).

Sometimes Danielle King gets the rolls, and sometimes she doesn't. In the first half, she did; in the second half she didn't. On such things can upsets be built. She's quick, and she's fast, and she's hellaciously determined (there was a sequence where she smacked the ball right out of a substantially taller player's hands like a flying comet). But I think we took her out of her game, and that does a lot to undermine Marquette. Natisha Hiedeman was a non-factor, which might have been the biggest factor for us. We shut her down. The fact that she got off only four shots says a lot to me about our defense. I admire her awareness of time and foul count, and the sacrifice she knew she had to make when she committed her fifth foul. Amani Wilborn put the offense on her shoulders in the backcourt, drawing a ton of free throws on penetration. She got herself into a little foul trouble in the second half, and that always seems to get into her head a little bit. Once there's a call on her that she thinks is a bad call, she starts acting out.

Erika Davenport is so good at getting around bigger players. She just stretches and stretches like she's made of taffy until she's at the basket. She did a number on Curteeona Brelove offensively, and switching defenders on her was part of how we won this game. She's so good close to the basket. If more of her putbacks had gone in instead of spinning out, Marquette might have been able to parlay that rebounding advantage into a win. Selena Lott has a lot of potential, no pun intended. She uses her length well on defense- she opened the fourth quarter with a bucket, a steal, and another bucket, and she rocked Alisha Kebbe on a block. It's definitely going to be a rebuilding year next year for Marquette, but she's a good piece to have during the process. I like her versatility a great deal.

When Marquette could get out and run their offense, they were in control. But when we were able to slow them down, or take them by surprise in transition, they were out of the game. I don't think they were expecting this kind of a fight from us (which is kind of silly, because we've always had trouble with each other) and when Moochy hit the go-ahead shot they didn't know how to counterpunch.

Speaking of which, if you're only going to hit one shot in a game, the go-ahead shot that gives your team a lead it doesn't relinquish is just about the perfect shot. The husband argues that Jasmine Sina being the player to hit that shot gave it even more of a psychological impact for the team. I don't know if I agree, but it definitely showed that she was equal to the moment (which is good, because her first attempt in the first half was…not good). Kadaja Bailey continues to regress. I don't think she realizes that her handle is not yet good enough on the collegiate level. She has to work on it if she's going to use it on this level, because otherwise she's going to get stripped and she's going to commit a lot of unforced turnovers. Kayla Charles had herself a day defensively. She's always had the potential, but so much of the time she takes herself out of the game mentally. Not tonight. She took Davenport out of the game when she was on her, using her height and her length to her advantage- at least two of her three blocks were on Davenport. But more importantly, she was hustling after loose balls, racking up floor burns like crazy. One sequence where she rolled out a steal and got it to Tiana for the fast break lay-up comes to mind (if only because Tiana tried to give her one right back and she blew the bunny in the lane). She pulled down big boards and gave us incredible defense, and I can't credit her enough for the work she did.

(And for that matter, I have to give credit to Joe for sticking with her. I don't give him a lot of compliments, but he saw how the match-ups worked out and didn't just ride his starters. This is unusual for him and I want to encourage it.)

Curteeona Brelove had a nifty defensive play in the third quarter that got her a bucket, but it was a rough night for her overall. She got her buckets, but she had a lot of trouble defensively with Erika Davenport, and racked up a lot of fouls. Also, I realize she does have some perimeter game, but I really would like for her to stop jacking threes. She's at her best for us when she's throwing her weight around inside. Alisha Kebbe was a monster on defense- her work on Natisha Hiedeman was probably the biggest reason we won this game. She contributed on the other end of the floor, too, but her defense was the reason she was the woman of the match.

Tiana England had a heck of a game. She's come on strong here at the end of the season, finding the gaps to make the good pass and hitting her shots inside and out (mostly inside- if that floater's going, she's absolutely unstoppable). She's just looked so good. She's occasionally done it in an understated fashion, and then you look up and she's got monster numbers. She doesn't control the game as overtly as many of our point guards in the past have, but I'm starting to believe she might get to that point now, when I wasn't sure before. I think Akina Wellere is also starting to get more comfortable with her role, which might not be the best timing given that the season is almost over, but at least she's starting to figure out how she fits into this mess of a lineup we have. (Okay, mess is too strong of a word, but there are a lot of players being forced to play to their weaknesses instead of their strengths, and their flaws become more evident in this way.) I'm still not comfortable with Qadashah Hoppie's shot selection.

We won this game on our defense. We hit big shots, but our defense put us in a position to hit those shots. This is the team that went toe-to-toe with UConn, not the team that got spanked by Butler. This was this team at its best. I am insanely, stupidly proud of them. This win could put the team on the right track and somehow sneak us into the WNIT.

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