Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 12th, 2016: Villanova at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Clutch three-point shooting spurred Villanova to a 71-59 road win over St. John's. Alex Louin had 18 to lead the Wildcats, with Caroline Coyer adding 17 and Megan Quinn putting in 15. Danaejah Grant led St. John's with 22.

For mild frustration, playing into someone else's hands, defensive lapses, three-shooting, seething with rage, dance, historical facts, and choral performances, join your intrepid and hustling blogger after the jump.

Good evening! We're coming to you from Carnesecca Arena on the grounds of St. John's University, where the Red Storm play host to the Wildcats of Villanova University. It's currently halftime, and the St. John's mixed chorus is performing, which is certainly better than most of the non-dance team halftime entertainment we tend to get.

Today is the Red Storm's celebration of Black History Month, so a lot of black student groups and organizations have put in an appearance. One of them is currently doing a dance performance, which is also way better than most of the non-dance team entertainment we get. (Ah. It looks like all of them will be doing quick performances.)

One thing we noticed about some of the Villanova shooters during shootaround was how far back the shooting hand goes- it was especially noticeable with Alex Louin and Katherine Coyer. With Louin, it looks almost like an old-fashioned set shot. I think they might maybe need to examine shooting film of someone other than Shelly Pennefather (not that Pennefather wasn't an epic shooter, but she was double-jointed {I read a lot, okay?} and that's not realistic for most humans).

Everyone on Villanova shoots threes, except maybe Harry. We could maybe guard the arc a little more? Just a thought?

I try not to throw the word "hate" around lightly. It's a nasty word. It's not just the next level of dislike or distaste or loathing or disdain or any of those other words. It should be reserved for special occasions, for a given value of special. It should only come up when it genuinely affects one's judgment.

God damn, I hate Villanova. I hate the way Harry Perretta yells at everything, and I hate how their fans usually behave like Philadelphia sports fans (though today I didn't see any issues), and I hate the way they strangle the life out of the shot clock, and I hate when possessions become the Watch A Guard Dribble For Twenty Seconds Show, and I hate when they hit shots at the end of the shot clock, and most of all I hate that they usually beat us when they do it. There are very few institutions of higher learning that engage in athletic activity at the Division I level in the NCAA that cause me to shake with rage when I see their athletic teams engaged in such endeavors. Ohio State is one. Villanova is another. So I'm not sure these notes can be as fair and balanced as they should be. But I'll try.

Adrianna Hahn is tiny but fierce. Her shot has that ridiculously high arc you so often see from short players. She needs to work on her defense and positioning, though; at least that's what I gleaned from Perretta yelling at her. Jordan Dillard wanted more calls than she was going to get. Kendall Burton played briefly in the first half, as did Kavunaa Edwards. I was surprised to see so little of Edwards, but they relied so heavily on Caroline Coyer that Coyer was switching guard positions instead of coming out.

This is probably not going to surprise anyone, but I don't like Alex Louin. No, it's not just the four three-pointers. It's not even the ridiculous wind-up. She's very physical- there was one play where her arm was so thoroughly around Danaejah Grant's waist that I thought she'd have to buy her a drink afterwards. She comes off as very oddly sized- almost too bulky for the position she plays, but maybe it's just in comparison to smaller guards around her. Katherine Coyer gets the little things done, and when she's presented with an open lane, she'll certainly take advantage, but tonight was not her night offensively. She's a damn strong defender. Caroline Coyer is annoying and frustrating and really good. She takes ridiculous shots and hits them. She takes threes and hits them. She's a steady hand and a hard worker. She's the kind of player you want on your team and love to loathe if she's not. I got tired of watching her dribble, but maybe we could have fought through screens a little more to not let Villanova run away with the game from beyond the arc.

Megan Quinn sets really tough screens- she freed up Coyer more than a few times. She's convinced she can shoot threes, but I'm not so sure- her form isn't great. Samantha Wilkes went to the basket hard and came up big in the fourth quarter.

We spent entirely too much time watching guards dribble at the top of the key. It's really depressing.

Jade Walker brought offense and rebounding off the bench, but also brought a bit of her tendency to make boneheaded plays on defense. If you're going to get called for a foul, don't let it be a cheap foul. Akina Wellere lost some of her reluctance to shoot, though I don't know if this is the game I would have had her launching threes; I really don't think we should fall into the trap of playing to the other team's style.

Crystal Simmons got the start tonight, which made sense from a match-up perspective. (I think Sandie Udobi was a scratch as well, but we didn't even think about it until around the third quarter.) She brought a lot of defensive intensity, but not much else- she's got to be more assertive on both ends of the floor. Aliyyah Handford started off strong, but by the end of the game, those drives were going wild off the front or the left of the rim. I'm worried about her. She still has that phenomenal slashing ability to cut through defenses like a hot knife through butter or a bat out of hell, but she's been less accurate. Plus she's committing stupid fouls, and we all know how I feel about stupid fouls. Aaliyah Lewis was hot early, and seemed to enjoy having Hahn on her, but got stuck on a lot of bad defensive mismatches because of her size.

Danaejah Grant continues to be solid shooting- she had a few really bad defensive lapses that led to easy baskets for Villanova, though. Can't be having with that. Imani Littleton got caught off her man one too many times- she had to come out for what we like to euphemize as "teaching moments" (which is code for coming out of the game after a dumb mistake to get yelled at). She and Jade both did well recovering broken plays.

We can't fall into the trap of playing the other team's style. We're not a three-shooting team by nature. We shouldn't be a slowdown team, no matter how much of a control-freak Joe likes to be about the offense. And we need to hit our free throws. I found it unconscionable that the team taking threes also ended up with more free throws, but at the same time, 3-9 from the line is inexcusable.

I find it interesting that almost pulling a player's arm out of its socket is a jump ball. I really do expect better from Denise Brooks and Dennis DeMayo. Louin was grabbing and holding all night, with barely half the calls she earned. I am still cranky.

Tomorrow is another day. We've got to come back strong against Georgetown. There's no other option. We need to play like ourselves.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

February 7th, 2016: St. John's at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A second-quarter push propelled St. John's to a more-or-less comfortable 72-64 win at Seton Hall. Aaliyah Lewis had 22 points to lead the Red Storm, with Danaejah Grant adding 20. Tabatha Richardson-Smith led Seton Hall with 18 points, while Lubirdia Gordon notched a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

For awkward seating arrangements, singular signs, SO MUCH AWKWARD, double standards, abusing Simmonses, Brick City Ballers, and big games in small packages, join your intrepid and distracted blogger after the jump.

Hello from Bowl Day in New Jersey! Your intrepid blogger comes to you from historic and hard-wooded Walsh Gymnasium, as we start off Super Bowl Sunday with the Awkward Bowl.

I've already gotten the thumbs-down from Tab and Bird. Look, I was a Johnnie before y'all were Pirates. (Especially you, Miss "I Transferred From West Virginia And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt".) Bad enough y'all stole my husband. You can't have me. Day would kick my ass anyway.

Look, scary trainer dude, it's a little late to start trying to stretch Aaliyah Lewis for some extra height. Should have started that last year.

Eric Thibault in the house, so we know the Mystics are interested in someone- maybe Tab, maybe Liyyah, who knows.

I think we might have picked up a transfer. There's someone unfamiliar in a women's basketball jacket.

Oh, just fantastic, someone's dumped a youth group behind our bench. There's an entire damn arena to sit in, can't you go so sit somewhere else? That's the disadvantage of general admission, though, it's a lot harder to designate visiting seats. But tweens. Why did it have to be tweens? At least that's better than the really little ones, I guess.

I've been informed that the St. John's managers beat the Seton Hall managers by 18. Not that this is a rivalry or anything.

At halftime, St. John's is up 32-28, but I'm worried about the two fouls on Aliyyah and Danaejah. Aaliyah Lewis is having herself a day for the Johnnies- she's already got 12.

I guess Sarah Olson from Monmouth is a better person than I thought from her style of play- she's Monmouth's representative at this student-athlete thing at halftime.

Spotted in the crowd: Nadirah McKenith and Amber Thompson (who looks very different without both her braids and her expression of "Mom, you are the most embarrassing person in the universe, please stop").

So, thanks to both Jersey traffic and this confounded group of tweens parked behind the visiting bench, guess what? RedZone's in the upper deck above the Seton Hall bench! Well planned, y'all. Brilliant. Now no one's happy. There were a lot of words between Tony and Joe before the game, and apparently words between Joe and one of the SHU assistants as well.

(Note: I have to work off the Seton Hall box score, since the St. John's box score has conflated Seton Hall and Sacred Heart, and Tab is suddenly Greek.)

Jordan Agustus played briefly, and her primary role seemed to be causing Joe Tartamella to curse (which he really does more than he ought to, said the woman who once dropped 37 f-bombs in a postgame rant). Jade Walker was very present and very active, but missed a lot of shots she should have hit and passed up a couple she should have taken. She had some huge blocks. I can't say enough about Crystal Simmons's defense off the bench. That was a key, key part of the game- not only did she occupy Tabatha Richardson-Smith, that meant that we didn't have to have Danaejah playing full two-way, and that loosened her up to be an offensive threat. Crystal took a lot of hits, and ended up fouling out, but that was the push we needed to preserve Nae and her fouls. Akina Wellere needs to be less timid with the ball, but that will come with time, one hopes.

Sandra Udobi took a hard hit from Lubirdia Gordon early in the game and went down holding her knee- the one that she's got an injury history with already. She came out of the game after that- came back in near the end of the quarter, but then got caught up in a five-woman pile-up, and it was back to the bench. She recovered enough for the second half, and did some good work boxing out and rebounding. Imani Littleton was frustrating- beautiful when she got good looks at the basket, hair-pulling-out-inducing when she spun out of position on defense and ended up either fouling or causing someone else to have to foul. Biggest play of the game for her might have been deflecting Tab's shot at the end of the first half.

Aliyyah Handford had some rough puck luck, and I'm starting to wonder if she's got the yips. There are still flashes of the player she was in the first half of the season- the defensive hustle, the steal and score, the seemingly effortless penetration- but she's seeing more defenses and I think she's wearing down. Fortunately, we have a spare Aaliyah. Which is a terrible thing to call Aaliyah Lewis, since she's pretty freakin' awesome on her own merits, but it maks for a pretty easy joke. She had herself a day today- she was able to use her speed against Seton Hall, and her lack of size isn't as much of an issue when she's about eye to eye with Aleesha Powell and has a slim height advantage on Shakena Richardson. She made space for herself, and then when the Pirate defense rotated to cover everyone else, she sneaked into empty spaces. It was remarkable how she got to the basket. Danaejah Grant roared to life in the third quarter, penetrating and scoring. It's funny- I often find myself with a lack of words for what Nae does, even when she's the star of the show. She's simply solid- she scores well, she rebounds well, and she's really picked up her defense.

Claire Lundberg played briefly and situationally. I think the only reason she was in to start the second quarter was because Coach Bozzella was hoping to have a stoppage near the end of the first. Jordan Molyneaux played spot minutes in the first half, and did pretty well offensively- St. John's overlooked her and she got two open looks, though she missed one. Taylor Byrne picked up those bench post minutes in the second half, and she stretched the floor with her range. I like her hustle. Jordan Mosley came on to hassle the ballhandler and generally bring the defense. LaTecia Smith played a fair number of minutes and helped run the Seton Hall pressure defense that got them back in the game in the middle of the third quarter.

I like Lubirdia Gordon a lot better when I'm rooting for her team. She's physical, and sometimes a bit too far. Judging from this game, Seton Hall shouldn't run plays for her- she's not ready for offense to go through her. But she did a great job of picking up offensive boards and repairing broken plays. Tabatha Richardson-Smith had a hard time getting the points she did, closely guarded as she was for most of the game- she needed a lot of help from her bigs' screens to get space. She had to rely more on her ability to create in the paint, which is still pretty incredible. Tiffany Jones has come back down to earth- she's still putting in work on the glass, but she's being more closely guarded on her shot, and I think it's gotten into her head a little bit- she's been committing a lot more offensive fouls, whether they're on illegal screens or other forms of motion.

Aleesha Powell is tiny but fierce. I mean, y'all knew that already, but she showed no fear today. She was crucial on both sides of the floor, and she did her best to pull Seton Hall back into the game in the second quarter. She played Aaliyah Lewis very tough. Shakena Richardson got off to a good start, but then she was involved in the five-player pile-up, and she took the worst of it. Having Imani sit on you is probably not good if you're 5'4". Or anyone, really. And she fell on her hand as well, so she had to come out of the game while the trainer took care of her. She has such an amazing ability to create space for herself with her ballhandling. And you know she doesn't back down from anyone, or anything, even the stanchion. (She ended up halfway wrapped around it at one point, it was pretty spectacular.)

The officials decided to inject themselves into the game in the third quarter, and for much of the fourth. Traveling was a bit difficult for them, and they were having trouble keeping an eye on the sidelines on the Seton Hall side of the floor. So, you know, we'll ignore the shot to the throat, but we'll call the ticky-tack touch foul. (Although, dude in the Astros cap, don't yell at the refs when they're making calls in your team's favor. Just sayin'.)

I like the guy during the shootout contest who assumed he had to try for a halfcourt shot. Never be satisfied, man.

Seton Hall never seemed to answer the emotion that St. John's brought to the game. This has become a pretty big rivalry, at least for the kids from Newark and Piscataway and Maplewood and Staten Island, and the Red Storm rose to the occasion.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

February 5th, 2016: James Madison at Hofstra

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Jazmon Gwathmey had 34 points and 13 rebounds to power James Madison over Hofstra, 71-54. Angela Mickens added 20 for the Dukes. Ashunae Durant led Hofstra with 20 points.

For buses, trains, automobiles, rebounds, transfers, losing track of time, precise dance moves, a lack of pins, and finishing through contact, join your intrepid and sleepy blogger after the jump.

The sun is out. The snow has stopped falling from the sky and is now falling from the trees and pretty much everything else it managed to stick to. This is fantastic building snow, so get out there and make snowmen or have snowball fights before it's all gone. Then again, by the time these notes go up, it'll probably all be gone anyway. Never mind. Carry on. As you were.

Taking the long way around, since the 45 bus I caught laid up short at the Metro-North station. Currently winding my way through the Pelhams, and they're beautiful.

45 to the 42 to the 2 to the Q44 to the N6 to the N72. To the izzo, I suppose. But I'm here. That's what's important. So are several members of JMU's Crown Club, though it looks like their tickets haven't been fully sorted out.

It's a PinkZone game for Hofstra, though because Kilburn-Stevesky is an NC State alumna, they tend to do a lot of PinkZone games. JMU brought their pink tees, which I thought was a nice touch.

The erstwhile Johnnie, Ashley Perez, traveled, but did not dress. She's wearing a very cute dress and tragically mismatched boots. Awww, Ash. :(

Hofstra gave me a scare by closing the campus early- nothing quite like passing a sign flashing "University Closed" at you on the last leg of a four-hour journey.

There's something slightly galling about Hofstra doing a PinkZone game on National Wear Red Day, but that might just be my inherent seething hatred of PinkZone talking.


The difference between the music Hofstra plays when the players are on the floor and what they play when they're not is... marked. A little disturbing, the more I think of it.

I assume they're staging the Girl Scouts, since it's half an hour before tip and there are still a fair number of empty sections.

At halftime, JMU is up one, basically because Angela Mickens and Jazmon Gwathmey are awesome and you are not. Ashunae Durant is leading the way for Hofstra, with a phenomenal ability to finish through contact.

I like the Hofstra experience. The band is good, and they get into the game. There isn't a large student section, but they make noise. The dance team is competent, if boring. It's not the worst arena food I've ever had, but also not the cheapest. The souvenir stand is well stocked. Everyone's really nice.

(I'm also a little in love with hanging banners for presidential debates, and the way they do retired numbers, and the fact that the basketball banners are strictly chronological, not separated by women and men.)

Talent will tell in the end, and JMU did more good things better, especially down the stretch. Also, Jazmon Gwathmey is really good at basketball, but you should know that already.

I'd heard a lot about Savannah Felgemacher from an acquaintance down in the Shenandoah Valley, so I was looking forward to seeing her, but she only played very briefly in the first half, and I never got an impression of her. Destiny Jones threw her weight around down low and on the ball, and got called for a fair number of fouls doing it. Hailee Barron loves her three-pointers, sometimes a little too much- she took that caused me to yell, "You don't have to take it from Charlottesville!" She's more of a scrapper on defense than I expected from everything I read about her. Logan Reynolds gave Angela Mickens some brief relief in both halves, but wasn't much of a factor.

Y'know, I could have sworn I just spent the morning watching a forward who couldn't hit a shot because she kept shooting them off the inside of the rim, but boy howdy can she rebound and hustle after loose balls. In the morning it was Joy Adams; in the evening it was Da'Lishia Griffin. Kayla Cooper-Williams found herself limited early and often by foul trouble, and she seemed to get in her teammates' way a lot when she was trying to rebound. Jazmon Gwathmey was awesome. When did she make three-point shooting such a crucial part of her game? Because she's strong slashing to the basket and making moves in the lane, but in the second half the threes started going down. She's so tough. She's so good. I'd love to see her in the summertime.

Angela Mickens owns the floor when the ball's in her hand. I love her footwork and her swiftness. She was hot early, and she called her own number often, but for good reason- she was getting the pull-up with impunity. Hofstra put stronger defenders on her in the second half, forcing her into more of a distributive role. Tasia Butler got the start, but was pulled early in both halves for Barron.

The passing got a little sloppy in the second half, but JMU generally did more things smarter and better than Hofstra did, and that was enough for them to pull away.

Sandra Dongmo gave some good minutes in the post off the bench. Jakelle King-Gilchrist saw a little bit of time in the first half and contributed a bucket, but not much else. Asia Jackson was tenacious on defense- she was making Angela Mickens's life miserable in the fourth quarter, sometimes to the point of excess (I'm pretty sure that the best way to stop a player from hitting a layup is not to wrap an arm around her waist).

It really feels like Darius Faulk played less time than she did, although that perception might have been skewed by her missing much of the first half with foul trouble. Kelly Loftus was quick to shoot, and not always accurate about it. Krystal Luciano is really fast and makes her decisions very quickly. She seemed fond of the overly deep three.

Anjie White would probably drive me insane if I were a Hofstra fan. There's so much there to like- positioning on rebounds, setting screens, boxing out, all the little things that make a player endearing- but those hands would probably cause me to bruise my forehead with the repeated slaps that would surely occur. She just could not seem to catch a pass cleanly. Ashunae Durant has a phenomenal ability to finish through contact- pretty much all the shots she hit were contested. I don't think it was until the fourth quarter that she hit a shot that didn't come with an accompanying free throw. I really like her- and she's only a sophomore, so there's every chance that she could get even better and well-rounded.

The officiating was mostly even-handed, though I think the game might have ended just in the nick of time- Hofstra was starting to object to this whole losing the game thing, and Jackson and Mickens were starting to get into it a little bit. I don't know if there's history between them or if someone was running her mouth or something, but it was definitely an interesting dynamic. People need to be more careful with their footwork, though. There were a lot of travels uncalled.

I think Hofstra's a year away. I think JMU's going to be okay (though in my biased opinion, they do miss Ashley Perez).


February 5th, 2016: Monmouth at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Strong rebounding outweighed cold shooting, as the Iona Gaels pulled away from Monmouth in the fourth quarter to win 68-56. Joy Adams flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 13 points, 24 rebounds, and eight assists, while Alexis Lewis contributed a game-high 18 points off the bench, all in the second half. Jamiyah Bethune led the Hawks with 16 points.

For bricks, many bus rides, missed shots, lacrosse players, clangs, ill-timed children, hitting the rim, autographs for other people, and bad shooting, join your intrepid and inaccurate blogger after the jump.

Good morning! It's another snowy day here in the New York metropolitan area, so of course your intrepid blogger is off to a basketball game. Actually, I'm off to two basketball games- the original plan was just to hit the night game at Hofstra, and then I realized that Iona had a morning game against Monmouth.

So here I am at the Hynes, impressed in a perverse way at just how few kids they managed to gt for this event- it looks like only one school. I could have waited for the 10:20 and probably been okay. Thanks to the lovely weather we're having, the J got delayed enough that I missed the 9:20 bus. The things I do for this team.

To the woman in the Dunkin Donuts buying tea for the homeless dude: I'm simultaneously humbled by your generosity and humanity, and irked that you're helping the guy hang out in the place where he hasn't bought anything.

I suspect they're doing autographs after the game for the kiddies, but since I'm not a kiddie and I need to catch the bus with the quickness once the game's over, I think I'll pass.

At halftime, Monmouth is up 32-29, basically because they can shoot just a little bit better than we can. We're missing a lot of shots- some contested, some very much not.

Cassidee Ranger has been coming in for a little bit of teasing from some friends of hers (lacrosse, I think). Cheering seems to be confusing the kids in general. Only kids I've ever seen not make noise when the opponent's shooting free throws. Cass did a remarkable job of restraining her urge to be highly irked at her lacrosse friends.

The educational portion of the program is a very clunky presentation on saving money. This woman doesn't seem familiar with how children work.

Joy seems determined to close the gap between 1441 and 1500 in one fell swoop.

So, things I have learned about Iona: we are not morning people. And we can't shoot for love nor money. Things I have learned about Monmouth: they like to play fast and take a lot of long shots.

Erica Balman came off the bench in short stretches in the second and fourth quarters, bringing size and a little bit of boxing out in the middle. Danica Dragicevic showed some stroke, but nothing else. Dana Carbone brought a little bit of offense in the second quarter, in a quick burst of threes, but I barely even noticed she was in in the second half until she was subbed out. Jasmine Walker seemed to have an interesting combination of size and skill. Jasmine McCall didn't do much of note.

Sarah Olson was hard-nosed and physical. I don't know if the bandage around her left wrist did anything to keep her from shooting, or if she's just not a scorer, but she did most of her work on defense. McKinzee Barker hustled a little but, but was otherwise unmemorable. Jamiyah Bethune went to work in the lane in the third quarter and was very solid overall.

I'm intrigued by Tyese Purvis, who lists as a guard but really seems to be more of a tweener. She's long-limbed and athletic, and she plays well both beyond the arc and in the paint. Christina Mitchell was a big body, but didn’t really look for her shot, and when she did, it was more from the perimeter. She didn't bend her knees very much when she shot, whether it was a jumper or a free throw.

Monmouth subbed fairly often, keeping their rotations brisk. They seemed to prefer a faster pace, even though the shooting numbers don't reflect it. I do wish their bench would be a little quieter- the coaches earned them a bench warning from the refs, because I think one of the assistants was talking too much. There were a couple of really over-the-top protests regarding the shot clock (that both ultimately turned out to be pointless).

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Alexis Lewis is not a morning person. I'm going to say this because she was very quiet in the first half, and then she hit three threes in the third quarter, including one right at the end of the quarter to tie the game, and kept the pressure on through the fourth quarter. She attacked the boards fiercely, too. It's rare to see at the mid-major level, but Lex might just be a true small forward- undersized overall, but not for the MAAC. Treyanna Clay hustled on the boards, especially on the offensive glass late in the game, but was knocking the ball away from her teammates almost as often as she was knocking it away from Monmouth.

No, I don't know why Coach Godsey has completely lost faith in Aurellia Cammock. Can I guess? Yes. Do I want to put that supposition to paper? No.

Joy Adams continues to amaze and frustrate, and usually all on the same play. She had a beautiful wide-open lay-up that she overshot- in general, she was shooting too strong, or too hard, or something that caused her shots to bounce out, but that was the most egregious. But she chased down loose balls like a bloodhound. What impressed me most was her ability to drive and dish to the perimeter shooters. Karynda DuPree seemed entirely too happy to settle for long jumpers today, but later in the game, she started to get more inside and rebound better.

I don't know what was up with Aaliyah Robinson today- maybe she's even less of a morning person than Lex is- but other than her defense, her game was completely off. That makes me sad- Aaliyah is one of my favorites, a topic that will be discussed at length during the inevitable Senior Day megapost. Philecia Gilmore started strong from three and was the most reliable option for bringing the ball up the floor, no matter how often Iona insisted on giving the ball to Joy or Treyanna to bring it up. Marina Lizarazu hit the gas pedal hard, driving the lane without fear and usually without accuracy. She had better luck from beyond the arc, especially in the fourth.

I don't know if Monmouth somehow ran out of gas despite being better-rested, or if Iona's espressos kicked in in the fourth quarter, or what, but all the shots that weren't going in for the first thirty minutes went down in the first six or so minutes of the fourth. Accuracy became a bit more of a problem in the last few minutes, but we came up with the offensive rebounds and milked the clock down.

The refs started out calling the game loosely, but tightened up as it went on. I think they were tired of hearing Palmateer and her assistant. Be careful what you wish for.

We'll win a lot of games rebounding like this. We won't win a lot of games shooting like this, holy mother of God. Someone needs to get Joy a shooting coach. Or something.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 30th, 2016: Fairleigh Dickinson at Long Island

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It was tight throughout, but the Blackbirds of LIU soared in the end to a 65-62 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. Brianna Farris had 20 points to lead LIU. Kelsey Cruz led all scorers with 24 off the bench for FDU, with Erika Livermore adding 18 points and nine boards.

For mysteries revealed, always going the long way home, shaking it like a Polaroid picture, guarding the inbounds, body language, and questionable housekeeping, join your intrepid and exhausted blogger after the jump.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, readers of fluid gender identity and who refuse ageist and sexist categories! Welcome to yet another round of the Game Notes of Doom, coming to you from the campus of Long Island University in Brooklyn, where the Blackbirds will be taking on the Knights of FDU. Out of respect to yoru intrepid blogger's intrepid husband, we will be eschewing use of the "Fairly Ridiculous" moniker for the Knights, even if he's a Devil, not a Knight.

Our flock of Blackbirds still seems to be reduced to six. Lots of people in warm-up suits standing on the sidelines.

Mom, this is why we can't give you nice things. If you can't be bothered to show up for tip, I'm going to stop hooking you up.

LIU doesn't clean the WRAC very often. Ticket stubs still linger from the men's game on the 28th. And this being New York, it has the expected result: I already squished one roach that came crawling out of the woodwork.

This game is a double-header, but we'll see if mom wants to stay for the men's game. I'm not prepared if we do! *panicked expression* (She didn't.)

In honor of the school's past colors and current tertiary color, there are blue streamers and shirts being given to alumni and their Hall of Famers. This is a thing I don't get. If you have a color in your name, I would think you would stick with that color.

The band's anthem was so-so, but they're not exactly constructed for the anthem.

At halftime, LIU is up 34-30, behind 11 first-quarter points from Brianna Farris and 14 points from Jolanna Ford. Erika Livermore has been everything she was cracked up to be for FDU, with 14 points.

So far, my favorite thing has been DeAngelique Waithe's four limbs of inbounding prevention. Early in the game, there was one sequence where she kicked the ball out of bounds three consecutive times, once getting it almost to the midline area. FDU had to change inbounders and sub out the player before they could get the ball in.

I don't think we can keep it up, but it's fun as it is.

Somehow, we did manage to keep it up. I'll be honest. I don't know how. We dug down deep and held the line on defense. It's very easy to come to love a team that builds itself on defense, hustle, and rebounding.

Fairleigh Dickinson has some good talent, but whatever the opposite of clutch is, they were that in the fourth quarter. They got sloppy and tight; I don't think they were ready for the defense.

Peniel M'Bikata played a little bit in the first half, but not in the second. Anastasia Williams committed a foul of questionable utility in the third quarter- I think that might have been one of the borderline calls that had the FDU staff up in arms. I like the way Zeynep Akgun handles herself on defense, but her ball security needs work. She was getting her passes picked off with regularity. Jackie Jackson was tough down low, using her height well and seizing rebounds. Kelsey Cruz got hot in the second half and near the end of the first- she pulled FDU as close the halftime margin was with two quick baskets, and then hit a couple of corner threes. If they had managed to win, she would be the heroine of the game. In appearance, not style, she reminds me of Layshia Clarendon.

I don't think Kiana Brown started off with her head entirely in the game- she was the player who was unable to inbound past DeAngelique, and she also had an early, stupid foul. She settled down a little bit and put up a couple of nice drives in the lane- she had a scoop shot that pretty much defined "better to be lucky than good" with the roll she got. Natalie Zamora got the start, but didn't play much, in favor of Cruz and Akgun. She showed fire in the third quarter, both offensively and on the boards. Madelynn Comly committed fouls at inopportune times for the Knights. I think they were expecting her to be more of a factor offensively.

Amina Markovic sets screens really well, and had a nice lay-up in the second quarter. I finally got to see the myth, the legend, the woman herself- Erika Livermore, darling of the Rebkell fantasy scene and purveyor of fantastic statistics. In the first half, she lived up to the billing, getting her points whenever and wherever she wanted, whether it was in the lane or on outside jumpers. She rebounded nicely as well, anticipating the path of the ball. In the second half, the defense started to remember that she existed, while the FDU offense started to forget. I know it's suicidal to depend heavily on a single player, no matter how good that player is, but if I'm FDU, there's never a possession where Livermore doesn't at least touch the ball. I saw at least one today, and though it ended with Brown getting the roll, that's still not practical. I'm not saying she should shoot every time down the floor, but she should at least receive a pass.

I think the pressure might be getting to Lily Abreu a bit. She looked like she was going to break down in tears a couple of times, though that might just be the way her face is laid out. She canned a three for great joy and justice.

Shanice Vaughan still has a tendency to think she has to do everything herself when the game is in the balance and a clutch shot is called for. But she did a really great job of getting the ball to her posts on the break, and found shooters on the outside. She plays more with her heart than her head. Sometimes that's good, and I think there'll be at least one game where she carries them through on pure emotion. Stylz Sanders did her best to live up to her name, adding ridiculous degress of difficulty to her drives through the lane and throwing up wild shots. I rarely encourage players to prioritize jumpers over driving, but she might be better off that way. Brianna Farris was the key to the game on both ends of the floor. She got hot in the first quarter to start the Blackbirds off right, then set the tone on defense- she had a fantastic interception early on on a disruption that Shanice helped with, but her defense was more critical in the second half, when she was switched to Livermore and bodied her out of her comfort zone.

As long as the refs don't call three seconds, Jolanna Ford will have herself a day. She spends a lot of time in the paint, and that extra power dribble will come back to bite her against more defensively-oriented teams, but she was strong today. She took off in the second quarter, but got in foul trouble in the third- my heart was in my throat after the fourth foul, since we're down to six players and as adorably 'are you old enough to buy this video game' young as Lily looks, I'm not ready to put that much of a burden on her. Watching DeAngelique Waithe guard the inbounder is worth the price of admission- she's super active and keeps both her arms and legs moving. She drew a five-second call from FDU, and it was glorious. I love how she rebounds, and that she never gives up on a play. Her offense was solid today as well, which is always a nice bonus. I think I have a favorite now.

Honestly, my biggest problem with LIU is... well, it's not nice to say things about the friend of a friend, especially one who provides a ticket hook-up. You don't risk the gravy train, right? But I'm going to be honest, because that's what I do here: if I were a recruit considering LIU, and I saw Stephanie Oliver on the sidelines, with body language indicating that she hates everyone and everything involved with the current game and would rather be doing anything else... I wouldn't be considering LIU anymore. I would be considering somewhere else where I wouldn't have to face four years of public sarcasm and constant nitpicking with precious little support to balance them. Maybe she's different behind closed doors. I don't know, but I can only judge what I can see.

I love LIU's step team, I really do. I don't have enough rhythm to keep up with them, but they definitely know how to bring the noise.

I'm not comfortable being conflicted by a tertiary team. Let's just leave it at that.


January 24th, 2016: Marquette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's came back against Marquette in the second half behind a spirited press and hot three-point shooting, but it wasn't enough, as the Johnnies fell 78-73. Durand Johnson of St. John's led all scorers with 20 points off the bench, with Federico Mussini adding 19. Duane Wilson led Marquette with 17 points, while Henry Ellenson added 16 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks.

For delays, resounding blocks, rim protection, strategic choices, fans sitting on their goddamn hands, bright colors, rude comments, and general strange thoughts, join your intrepid and slow blogger after the jump.

Since they're letting us stay, we figured we'd take in the men's game while we were at it. I always forget how much bigger men's basketball players are than women. Of course, Marquette might just look bigger because they're wearing such bright yellow shirts.

We'll see how loud it is appropriate for us to be; we're across from the opposing bench, after all, and there's a sextet of Marquette students in front of us, two of them wearing various flavors of retro Dwayne Wade jerseys.

Marquette, please don't break the clock. We don't have that many of them. (No, seriously, the Marquette men were doing their slam dunk line, and then suddenly the clock started spewing gibberish.)

Why is there a dude in a Syracuse shirt here? This isn't an ACC game!

At half, Marquette is up 31-23. St. John's has a lot of fight and a lot of heart, but we're hooked on three-pointers like a junkie on smack and we can't finish at the rim.

I want one of those basketball beanbag chairs. Finishing the game of musical chairs with a slam dunk? Boss.

I think we might have traumatized Akina a little bit. Most of the team is sitting by us, though Sandie has decided that her seat in section 10 is her seat, benches be damned, and Aaliyah seems to have found someone in section 11 (she's also wearing bright yellow, so maybe she's just practicing her camouflage). The upperclassmen have mostly left, leaving us with the freshmen and the sophomores. I think Jordan might have napped during halftime.

The dude in the Syracuse shirt doubled down- he had a Syracuse shirt under his shirt. How even are you still alive, dude?

The guys have a lot of potential, but they have got to work on their fundamentals. The ballhandling was awful, and too many shots right at the rim were missed. That can be coached. At least, I think that can be coached.

I find Marquette's blend of athletic guards and slabs of Midwestern beef interesting. They couldn't handle pressure well at all, and I'm sorry we didn't exploit that earlier.

Sacar Anim had a nice break in the first half, but didn't play much later in the game. Traci Carter attempted to play defense and was not strong at it. Matt Heldt made space in the middle- that was a theme with the bigs for Marquette, setting picks and boxing out. Wally Ellenson's primary job seemed to be confusing the daylights out of me (I didn't run up a custom score sheet for this, so I got lucky in both teams having names on their jerseys, but I was still 'what the hell, didn't Ellenson just come out of the game, wait, there are TWO of them, oh come on). Sandy Cohen III drove the lane hard and got rewarded for it often.

Duane Wilson reminded me a lot of Danaejah Grant- a solid shooter with driving ability who could rebound a little. He had a pretty good running mate in Haanif Cheatham, whose body control going to the basket reminded me very much of Aliyyah Handford. Luke Fischer was popular with the Marquette contingent in front of us- every time he made a good play, they would let out a "LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!" Henry Ellenson was throwing up some really weird shots at the rim- I think he was trying to get around the shot-blockers- but he protected his own rim like a boss. No one was getting around him, no one was getting rebounds from him. Jajuan Johnson got most of his points off jumpers in the paint, though he was at the receiving end of a lot of shot-blocking pain.

Christian Jones had one monster putback that got the crowd going, but otherwise couldn't hit. Granted, he was shooting over taller defenders pretty much all of the time- dude's built, but for a post, I get the feeling he's not that tall. Durand Johnson heated up late in the second half from beyond the arc and really got the fans involved. I'm given to understand that this was an unusually good game for Malik Ellison, but I like his aggression on defense.

Felix Balamou got the start, but he didn't play much. I don't know if it's because his starting is a formality, or if he didn't fit Mullin's plan of "shoot threes and pray", or if something else is at play. I like his hair, though. Very noticeable. Federico Mussini is so tiny! The Marquette contingent in front of us was teasing him all night for his lack of height and width of frame. (I... may have shouted back that only insecure guys make fun of a guy's size, but I will neither confirm nor deny those assertions... but they stopped talking about his height after that.) He needs to work on his ballhandling- crossing one's self over is not a recommended course of action- but I like his speed and his shot. I seem to remember Ron Mvouika taking shots that did not seem to be in the game plan, but at this point it's Thursday and I might just be imagining things.

Amar Alibegovic was another popular target for the Marquette crew. Look, dude is never going to make a GQ cover, but calling him ugly just seems uncalled for. I like his toughness and his willingness to fight for his shot, but he's got to hit them. Kassoum Yakwe has great timing on blocks, but I don't know if he's worked on timing anything else. He seems more inclined towards the flashy Mutombo-style blocks than the smooshes that end up in the defense's hands. I think if he put a little more effort into his defense at the rim, and a little less into making his blocks as forceful as possible, he could be really tough down low. Plus he's got to finish. I know this is a thing with St. John's posts, but come on.

I think I understand why Mullin didn't go to the press immediately- they're short on players, and it is an energy-draining system. But it worked, and it works really well. What I liked was that everyone seemed to contribute to it, even the big men, which I'm not used to seeing from a pressing, trapping defense. (Well, except for Sue Wicks, but that was a long time ago in another land, or at least another island.)

Live by the three, die by the three. It's exciting and heady when they go in, but frustrating when they don't go down and the other team's off to the races on the break from the long rebound. I feel like we might better served teaching the big men some moves in the lane, but that's a long-term solution.

Refs are refs, refs gonna ref. The one really bad call I can remember was in the Red Storm's favor, a foul on Marquette that should have been a travel on St. John's.

We all know Lavin left the cupboard bare. We know there were an astounding number of academic issues to clean up in his wake. We know there are injuries and sundry other absences. It's still kinda rough watching them be so raw.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

January 24th, 2016: Xavier at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Jade Walker came off the bench with 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Red Storm surged in front of Xavier, 57-41. Danaejah Grant flirted with a double-double, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. Briana Glover led the Musketeers with eight points.

For bad shooting, good shooting, the unleashing of Super Jade, amusing the bench, and soda, join your intrepid and cleansed blogger after the jump.

Well, if we went to LIU in the teeth of the storm, don't you think we'd go to St. John's in its aftermath? We're at Carnesecca Arena now. Half an hour before tip, there are six people in the stands, including us. A fair number of band members have also joined us.

To the woman shoveling out the platform with her own shovel: you're awesome and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Likewise, to the man nobly attempting to shovel out a path to the bus stop through the plow-raised walls: bless you.

Two of the Xavier managers just finished a little shooting contest. They showed some pretty impressive range.

I predict great confusion for seating arrangements; the benches are set up differently for men's games and women's games. The women's home bench is the men's road bench, and vice versa.

At half, St. John's is up 35-17. As we all expected, one of our Jersey girls is the star of the show- of course, it's Jade Walker, with 12 points, a passel of rebounds, and a monster block. I don't know if she's been mainlining Wheaties or what, but I like this Jade.

Xavier has a lot of good pieces, but I'm not sure how well they fit together. I think they might need one more year to get that solid sophomore class some experience and make them the center of attention instead of the seniors.

The starter/reserve split is going to be a little confusing- okay, a lot confusing. Xavier swapped out three starters at halftime. I'm not sure whether that was to get back to the normal starters, or if that was a response to the way the game started out, or if Brian Neal has to start the upperclassmen for reasons but would prefer to roll with the sophomores.

Marquia Turner showed a lot of moxie, but she couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Martha Thompson showed some flashes of offense very late in the game. Jada Byrd drove the lane hard, but was easily distracted at the line. Someone's got to get that double-pump out of her motion- it makes it too easy to throw her off. (Or don't. Whatever makes you happy.) Kayla Davis (no, not that one) played briefly in the first half, but I don't think she got any second half minutes. She was unremarkable.

Imani Partlow is a big girl. She was tough to deal with, but needs to work on her shooting fundamentals. I like the way she sets screens for her teammates and gives them space to work, though. Anniina Äijänen really impressed me- I like her combination of length and stroke. Oh, wow, that came out wrong. She has a pretty jumper and good range on that jumper, but is also willing to get close to the basket. I felt like I should have been expecting more from Leah Schafer, but she was very quiet.

Jenna Crittendon always seemed to foul nastily when she fouled- nto necessarily hard or blatant, but with a little too much force, or with a swift jab. I remembered her being more of an outside shooter, but she really wasn't a threat from out there. Raeshaun Gaffney was a non-factor- the only play I really remember her making was a stupid foul- I think that was the foul that Crystal drew, but I don't have access to the play-by-play. Aliyah Zantt showed signs of life in the third quarter, but it wasn't enough to pull Xavier back into the game.

I like Briana Glover's moves around the basket, but either her teammates weren't looking for her or she wsn't making herself a target- I feel like she wasn't as involved in the offense as she could have been. That might have had something to do with Imani Littleton as well. Maddison Blackwell got the start, but she was pulled fairly quickly and saw very limited time. She's tall; that's about all I remember about her.

Tamesha Alexander looked more confident running the point today, though it helped that this time she got to work with some of the starters in the first half, instead of just being tossed in the deep end with the rest of the reserves. I like her moxie, but sometimes it's not practical to have her on someone like Leah Schafer. Crystal Simmons brought the defense, and got a mild hit to the head for it, but her hesitance on offense returned. Be strong, Crystal! Be tough! We know you are! Akina Wellere was launching from outside- it was her responsibility to dodge shot clock violations late in the game, taking threes at the end of the clock on back-to-back possessions. She might wear Keylantra Langley's number, but she hasn't yet picked up Key's knack for making the shot clock roll over and beg.

Jordan Agustus needs to realize that this isn't high school anymore. She's not head and shoulders above her opponents. She's got talent, and she's got the tools to be a great player, but she has to learn to work within the framework of the team. She looked too much like she was going one-on-one, like she thought she could take whoever she wanted one-on-one. Jade Walker had herself a day. This was the "flat-out match-up nightmare" that the pregame video touts her as. This was a 6-1 forward with a big body going hard in the paint, then stepping outside for that feathery jumper. This was the Jade I've been hoping to see on a regular basis. Super Saiyan mode may have had some drawbacks, though; she spent much of the second half with a pad on her left leg.

I think Aliyyah Handford was hurting all day. She was talking to the trainer early, and spent a lot of extra time stretching. Her shot just wasn't falling- she drove hard, but she couldn't get the rolls. I've always been worried about the amount of contact that she takes, and this game showed why. Danaejah Grant was solid- not great, but she hit from deep when we needed her. Aaliyah Lewis got things set up well, though there really weren't a lot of chances for assists in this game- lots of passes that were followed by power dribbles that were followed by baskets. We've got to go up more.

Sandra Udobi had the first basket of each half for St. John's, but was otherwise a non-factor. I think the knee might have been bothering her, but I can't swear to it. I don't think she had a lot of mobility. Imani Littleton wasn't as coordinated offensively as she was in that wonderful Butler game, but she made some good plays and was solid on defense.

Plays of the game all came from Jade Walker. She had the shots to beat the buzzer to end the first and second quarters- one a power move, one a jumper. She had a monster block on Jada Byrd near the end of the second quarter that ultimately led to the last basket of the half. She had a beautiful thread-the-needle pass along the baseline to set up Imani for a basket. Jade was seriously awesome today, and now she's set the bar high for herself.

Officiating was interesting- I thought there were a couple of sketchy no-calls, but the strangest thing seemed to be giving the foul to a player I thought was not the player who committed the foul. It happened twice, once in a situation where it could have hurt the Johnnies badly, as the foul went on Liyyah instead of (I think) Akina.

I wish more people could have seen that game. Well, no. I wish more people had seen that game. I wish all the people who wandered in to watch the men play Marquette had come and watched Jade be awesome.

It gets harder from here on out. It's off to the Great Lakes, and then the Awkward Bowl at South Orange (with Tabatha Richardson-Smith chasing 1804, no less). But we're Johnnies. We're the Storm. It's time to prove we're scarier than a blizzard named after a boy band.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

January 23rd. 2016: St. Francis NY at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A strong third quarter was key as St. Francis of Brooklyn wore down LIU-Brooklyn, 71-51. Leah Fechko led all scorers with 21 points, with Olivia Levey adding 14. Stylz Sanders led LIU with 14.

For accusations, so much snow, missed lay-ups, sloppy ballhandling, people shoveling snow at 1 in the morning, attempts at lyrical writing, and reluctant criticism, join your intrepid and in dire need of moisturizer blogger after the jump.
Neither rain now snow nor yadda yadda yadda shall keep this blogger from her appointed rounds. Jonas is blowing fine powder out there in a mist of snow, but we're toasty warm at LIU for the Battle of Brooklyn. It's a double-header, but I'm not sure whether we're staying for the men's game or not. It's going to depend on how much snow is piled up out there.

Another year, another roster that's almost all white for St. Francis. For a team that claims Brooklyn as their home, they look as much like the borough as I look like a Ninja Turtle. I know there's a lot to unpack from the difference between the view of a mostly-black roster and of a mostly-white roster, but I was up until 1:30 this morning writing last night's notes, so maybe we'll save that kind of intersectional analysis for the rematch at St. Francis.

For LIU games, we perch in the endcourt by the Blackbirds' bench. It's an interesting place to sit. It's a different view. I think I prefer the sideline to the baseline, but traditions must be upheld.

The snow's really coming down now, or maybe it's just the wind blowing it around. It's hard to tell. It looks almost like smoke wafting by. It's much prettier from inside than when you're walking through it and having it sting your face.

Maybe going to this game was a mistake, but it's a mistake I'd make again. I see the potential in LIU, and I want to show them love. It sounds arrogant even as I type it, but I might just see more potential in them than Stephanie Oliver does.

I really don't like St. Francis. It's not just the color thing, though that observation may have predisposed me to look negatively on their play. I don't like the way they play. I don't like the way Levey throws her weight around and then tries to play the victim. I don't like the elbows and the holds. I don't like running plays for your leading scorers when you're up 20 on a team that literally has five available bodies; for that matter, I don't like your leading scorers still being on the floor in the last two minutes of a game that you're up 20 in and playing against literally five available players. I don't like that you're still running offense with nine seconds to go in the game. I don't like seeing a team celebrate going up 23 on a hobbled opponent the way they would if they had just hit UConn with a buzzer-beater.

The Terriers used a lot of reserves for short spurts. Tori Wagner had a short stint in the second half and used her height effectively. Cassidy Derda exploited openings in the Blackbirds' defense to get easy shots under the basket. Rachel Iozzia got the second half start (I think) and played decently. Blair Arthur and her high-arcing shot provided good offensive spark off the bench. Becky Pund provided relief at the point near the end of both halves. I honestly don't remember much about Taylor Watson.

Olivia Levey throws her weight around down low. Normally I'm a fan of this from post players, but I don't like players who throw elbows and hip checks, and then try to act like they're the victim. I'd like her strength a lot better that way. Alex Delaney got her points fairly early, hitting beyond the arc. Kat Phipps was in enough foul trouble in the first half, including one dumb foul late in the second quarter, that she didn't start the second half. She had a vicious block on Stylz Sanders early on. Maria Palarino was able to take advantage of the backdoor plays later in the game, when LIU was worn out. Leah Fechko started the game with two rapid threes, then started taking advantage of the backdoor and moving in more.

I liked the Terriers' ball movement- they did an excellent job of drawing in the defense, then either whipping it over to an open three-point shooter or having someone open in the lane for an uncontested lay-up.

Lily Abreu was the bench today for the Blackbirds, mostly relieving Brianna Farris when it was time for Brianna to either get a rest or be at the receiving end of a teaching moment from Coach Oliver. She's not ready for primetime.

I'm not a big proponent of Brianna Farris shooting threes early in the shot clock. I know, shooters gotta shoot; I know, someone has to be an outside threat, and she was the closest thing we had. But we fell very quickly into playing St. Francis's game, at their pace, and while we were able to fight back, I think that took too much out of us. I love her hands on defense, though. She found her shooting rhythm in the second half, but I'm still not comfortable with her shooting so much. Shanice Vaughan is a trooper- she took a hard hit in the third quarter and came up hobbling. She still took the free throws, but came out of the game immediately and went to the locker room. She's emotional, maybe too much, but I think that reflects an awareness of what's going on on the floor.

Stylz Sanders drove the lane hard and took a lot of contact. She got called for the charge once, but got the defensive foul far more often. Jolanna Ford needs to work on her handle and her ability to catch passes. DeAngelique Waithe might very well be my new favorite- I love to watch her rebound, and her hustle on defense. She was still chasing loose balls in the last minute of the game. If she had offense, she'd be a terror. But she's only a sophomore. She'll learn. You can't teach hustle.

Games like these, when you only have six players available, and one of them is a walk-on... and then you lose one of the starters and have to push everyone without a break... these are the games when you find out what you're made of. What your team has. And the Blackbirds have pride. Maybe it was just because it was a rivalry game and they felt they had something to prove. I'd like to think that it was pride in themselves, not their opponent.

Given the number of fouls on St. Francis, it would be wrong of me to comment on the officiating, but it seemed to get a little uneven at the end of the game. Game management calls in rivalry games are interesting.

The thing that actually worries me most about LIU is on the bench, and I don't mean the long line of injured players. It's one thing to be sarcastic and harsh if you're a fan, or an assistant. It's another if you're the head coach. I know Stephanie Oliver comes from a very emotional coaching tree, but some things are not appropriate to be said on the bench during the game. If you want to be sarcastic at a player, do it during practice.

I do hope some of the injuries have cleared up by next week, though...


January 22nd, 2016: Butler at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A strong defensive effort in the first half fueled St. John's on their way to a 68-41 win over Butler. Aliyyah Handford had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Red Storm, while Imani Littleton had 14 points and nine boards. Brittany Ward and Taylor Buford each had 11 to pace the Bulldogs.

For color confusion, snow, frats, not using one's head properly, making Liyyah smile, disturbing reserves, and the need for sleep, join your intrepid and mildly insane blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow travelers! A Storm is coming, and I don't mean Jonas. St. John's hosts Butler tonight, and so far I think the Bulldogs wish they were out in the wind and ice. It's 29-8 at the half. Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant each have 8 points for St. John's.

I would at some point like the announcers to acknowledge the Division I hip-hop dance champions. That would be cool. They do amazing things and should be appreciated for them.

Halftime featured Greek basketball (the frat kind, not the Hellenic kind). It wasn't bad.

In defiance of all logic, today was supposed to be a "blueout". Yes, let's embrace the color that all but one of our conference foes wear. We're the Red Storm, not the Blue Storm. Red is our color. Why do we keep moving away from it?

I'm a little worried about next year, but we're looking okay for this year. We got to see a lot of the young'uns, and see what they have to offer. We got to see Butler's young'uns, too, and while they're definitely not ready for the big time, there's plenty of potential there.

Emmy Schrabel came off the bench near the end of the game and immediately attempted to get tangled up with Tamesha Alexander, which is not a good plan. You don't tangle with the Philly kid. Nicole Orr brought good size and defensive positioning- she always seemed to be in someone's way. I really like Taylor Buford and her defensive intensity. She jumped the passing lanes well and finished on the break.

I remember Alexa Bailey committing fouls, but that's about it. Sydney Buck was small but pesky, all up in the ballhandler's business. Blaire Langlois hit one really deep three, and spent a lot of her time out on the perimeter, taking threes that usually didn't go in. Some missed far more badly than others. Brittany Ward threw her weight around on the boards. She needs a better sports bra. Other than that wardrobe malfunction, she was pretty solid. Belle Obert started the game off well, but one early foul seemed to knock her off her game. Orr and Buford were both more effective off the bench, and when Butler switched to a smaller, more pressuring lineup, she was left behind.

There's potential on Butler, but they're too young right now, and too raw. They make a lot of mistakes on offense, taking bad shots and not boxing out on the offensive glass. Their pressure defense is fantastic, though, and I love the way Buford and Orr play the passing lanes.

Tamesha Alexander wasn't ready for the pressure. The difference in speed between her and Aaliyah Lewis was abundantly clear tonight; she almost seemed to be waiting for the double-team to come and make her life miserable. She's got to deal with the pressure better. Crystal Simmons played briefly, but her defense was not as strong as I'm used to. She was touching more and getting less accomplished with the fouls she was committing. Akina Wellere came on a bit stronger in the fourth quarter, but she, like her cohorts off the bench, was very weak in the passing game.

Jade Walker brought the offense, but not the defense or the rebounding. Her effort in the second half, when we had the 30-point lead, was lacking, and Joe definitely noticed it when he had to put the starters back in. Jordan Agustus tried to do too much- I think she saw this game as an opportunity to be the star like she was in high school, and loked more for her offense than for the team's plan.

I love to watch Aliyyah Handford start a break and finish it. She's so quick, and she's so fluid, and why do I have to lose her in two months? Her long jumper was also working today. And her rebounding! There was one play where she was so high up I thought she was Imani for a second. Danaejah Grant brought the outside shot and made herself an option for beleaguered ballhandlers. Aaliyah Lewis demonstrated that speed kills- she lured Butler into double-teaming her, then raced down the court with all of them behind her and lots of open teammates in front of her.

Sandra Udobi did her best, but her mobility wasn't there today. She kept her head and kept the young'uns grounded in the second half, but she had shots at the basket that she should have made. Imani Littleton was brilliant today; for the first time, I really saw why she was so highly rated coming out of high school. She had good moves at the basket, she rebounded well, she defended well- more importantly, she seemed to have a good head for the game. She recognized the plays she was able to make, and the ones that she wasn't able to make. She needs to work on her hands, catching passes and hanging on to rebounds, but that's something I think can be worked on.

The passing under the basket was great- at least for the starters. Lots of people looking to make the extra pass. It didn't go as well with five reserves on the floor- those passes were not as crisp, and the effort wasn't there. I don't think Joe really wanted to bring Aliyyah, Danaejah, and Aaliyah back in the game, but th bench was not playing well.

We were worried about officiating, because we had an Enterline, but it wasn't too embarrassing. There were a couple of bad over-the-back calls on players who had the audacity to be taller than the player boxing them out, but there was one for either side. You could tell when they were making game management calls in the second half.

I'm worried about next year, but Liyyah gonna Liyyah and Nae gonna Nae (no, I don't know if she nae naes), and this game should have given Imani a lot of confidence.


Monday, January 18, 2016

January 17th, 2016: St. Joseph's at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fordham jumped out to a big lead and held on for a 47-40 win against St. Joseph's. Danielle Burns had 13 points to lead all scorers, while Samantha Clark and G'mrice Davis each had 12 rebounds for Fordham. Ciara Andrews, Amanda Fioravanti, and Chelsea Woods each had 8 to lead St. Joseph's.

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! We're at historic Rose Hill Gymnasium today, as the Rams of Fordham host the undying Hawks of St. Joseph's. If you hear loud noises coming from behind the Fordham bench, that would be us. We're here and we're ready to cheer.

Place is filling up pretty nicely. I think they called in all their youth group and CYO chips to make the place look good.

The Hawk is here. I think the suit's starting to wear a little bit.

At halftime, Fordham is up 32-19, after turning a 20-2 lead into a close game. G'mrice Davis and Danielle Burns each have 10 points for the Rams, with Davis adding eight boards. Fordham got up big and then got sloppy, and St. Joseph's was willing to take advantage.

That was not a great game to watch. Neither of these teams is very good, nor is either of them very organized. Neither style meshes well with the new rules. If this weren't a rivalry game, it would have had no place being televised.

The Hawks basically went two deep on their bench. Michala Clay and Sarah Veilleux played briefly in the first half, but when it came down to crunch time, the two reserves they went with were forward Amanda Fioravanti and guard Chelsea Woods. Fioravanti was solid all around, especially strong in the paint. She plays the angles well. Woods came up with baskets at the rim and drove the lane well.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is super fast, and uses that speed well on defense. She made life miserable for Lauren Holden bringing the ball up, including picking up a really nifty steal in the third quarter when Holden was sure she had a break. If her puck luck had been better, St. Joe's might have had a chance. She had a lot of shots rim out or otherwise juuuuuuuust miss. Man, I like her defense, though. Alyssa Monaghan came on stronger in the second half, although perhaps feistier might be a better word; she showed a lot more of the scrappiness you usually see out of smaller players at higher levels. Ciara Andrews was quiet for most of the game, but came up with baskets very late- there was one I thought they were reviewing to see if it was a three.

Adashia Franklyn (which I'm pretty sure is not actually pronounced Asia) showed flashes of solid physical play, but she got into a little bit of foul trouble. I think the first, very early, foul, took her out of the game mentally. G'mrice Davis certainly didn't help. Sarah Fairbanks hit physically improbable shots, getting in the general vicinity of the lane and using the glass. She missed quite a few of those shots as well, and when she missed, they were ugly. I like her toughness.

Fordham really didn't dig deep into their bench. It didn't help that Asnate Fomina, the starting point guard, didn't play, and thus the sparkplug off the bench had to be the starter. Alexia Douglas stepped into the role of backup point guard, and she did tolerably well at it, at least as well as her fellow freshman. She looked a little lost, but I'm not surprised. I don't know what Danielle Padovano was supposed to bring off the bench, but whatever it was, she wasn't doing it. She showed no hustle, no effort, nothing but an ill-advised three-point attempt.

Lauren Holden is nice as a spark off the bench, but she's not ready for primetime yet. She looked lost, especially against the bigger and faster Fitzpatrick, and had a lot of trouble setting up the offense. She made poor decisions with the ball, whether it was jacking up a three after three of her teammates had hit one, or passing the ball directly to Fitzpatrick cutting into the passing lane. Hannah Missry was hot in the second quarter from three, and when she's feeling her three-pointer, she's more confident from the rest of the floor- she had a nice drive that she followed on the miss. In the second half, her shooting cooled off, and late in the game she and G'mrice Davis both crashed into the courtside seats (with some help from St. Joe's). She looked a little woozy when she got up, but she stayed in the game after the timeout. That worried me.

Danielle Burns was hot early, both beyond the arc and in the lane. I like her versatility. I don't like her tendency to shoot for the foul instead of attempting to hit the shot. G'mrice Davis was strong in the paint, especially in the early going. She's really good, and she's really stifled in this system. It doesn't play to her strengths. Samantha Clark came up with boards throughout most of the game (though she and her teammates had trouble hanging on to rebounds as the game progressed) and hit her free throws late. I know she's got range, and I know much of Fordham's offense is predicated on the long ball, but I do like her better when she's posting up. The way she moves her feet and makes herself a target, I'm always surprised that we don't see more post offense from her.

Things I do not understand: why does Fordham persist on inbounding into the backcourt? Some team that pressures even more than St. Joe's does will take advantage of that and do terrible things to the Fordham offense. Things even more terrible than the Fordham offense does to itself, I mean. Also, why does no one move without the ball? The little Xs and Os are not permanent locations!

I think the game may have left these two coaches behind a bit. It's hard to win if you only have four players scoring. It's harder to win if you can't hit the broad side of a barn.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 10th, 2016: Canisius at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona started strong and never looked back in their 79-56 win over Canisius. Alexis Lewis led all scorers with 17 off the bench, adding seven rebounds. Joy Adams added another double-double to her career total with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sarah Cooley led Canisius with 15 points on five three-pointers, as well as eight rebounds.

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No such thing as rest for the weary. As the saying goes, basketball never stops. On this gray, damp, late-dawning Sunday, we're off to Iona for their game against Canisius. The cold's a bit better, perhaps helped by downing leftover Thai curry for breakfast (my sinuses have never been so clear).

I think the dude across from us on the train is trying too hard to be Jack Sparrow. The look doesn't have quite the same panache with a messenger bag and black Converse.

Despite the best efforts of dispatch on the Lexington Avenue lines, we made the bus. It helped that the bus driver was next to us at the Dunkin' Donuts and was able to tell us the correct departure time for the bus.

There's a dark-haired girl I don't recognize in sweats and a tee amongst the Gaels. I don't think that's Cas, and I think I'd be embarrassed if she was and I didn't figure it out. I'm not sure if she's part of the training staff or if she's a transfer.

I'm having fun running numbers for my senior hotshots in the Big East while everyone warms up. Too many teams, cannot cope. (The Awkward Bowl might end up being even more awkward if Aliyyah is anywhere near breaking 1950.)

At halftime, Iona is up 37-20 on Canisius. Aaliyah Robinson has a trio of first-quarter treys for her nine points; Alexis Lewis also has nine, off the bench.

One of the Canisius players barreled out of bounds and took an Iona cheerleader through the emergency exit with her. "I'm okay!" the cheerleader reported.

There is a child in front of me playing with dinosaurs. At least he's stopped throwing them. His mother seems somewhat frustrated at his behavior. If nothing else, losing one of the dinosaurs seems to have cured him of the throwing bit, though I'm afraid a tantrum will be forthcoming.

Iona let their foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter a bit, but I'm okay with that. If we're going with our deepest reserves against the Canisius starters, there's going to be a difference in talent and a difference in intensity, and I accept that. Everyone got to play, which is something I like to see.

Amanda Schiefen showed a nice little bit of offense in her brief fourth-quarter minutes. Jasmine Mungo seemed very active on defense. The Griffin that intrigued me most off the bench was Sara Hinriksdottir, a very red-headed freshman (we may have been making Viking jokes in the stands, I will neither confirm nor deny this rumor) who wasn't afraid to go to the basket, but also had a very pretty outside stroke. It might just have been because of her size, and the size of her bright red heap of curls, but she was easy to spot, that's for sure. I really like her potential.

Maria Welch brought size at the guard position- she had a monster block on Joy Adams (and Joy might be a little undersized for a post, but she doesn't usually get roofed). I don't know if this is usual for her on offense, but she's another interesting player. Zhane Irby came in late in the game. She didn't leave an impression. Jasmine Miskovic needs to learn when to back off- if you're down 20 in the waning seconds, let the ballhandler bring the ball up and let the game end. She was a bit rough.

It's rare to see a true three in a conference as small as the MAAC, but Sarah Cooley might just be one. She set up for open threes and hit them with rhythm, but she also did well on the glass. Crystal Porter started off strong, with six of the Golden Griffins' first eight points, but she got into foul trouble and never really got back into rhythm.

Tiahana Mills ran point, as far as I could tell, but the starting guards really didn't play a lot. The game got out of hand early. Lauren D'Hont brought nice size at the guard position. Margret Halfdanardottir left no major impression.

I'll say this: for a team that shot as badly as Canisius did, and for a team that lost as badly as they did, they have a lot of promising pieces for the future. If they can hit the weight room and work on their shooting, they can be very dangerous next year. I think it's been brought home to everyone that Marist is not what they used to be- the MAAC is as wide open as it's ever been. Mystique and Aura have gone off-duty.

So many reserves! Yay!

Poor Aurellia Cammock. As soon as she makes one mistake, she gets pulled from the game and planted on the bench. Did she drive too deep? Yes, but for heaven's sake, you can put her out on the floor in the final two minutes of a 25-point game, it's okay, she can't screw it up that badly. Ashley Murray was strong down low- a little wild, but that's okay. I like her. Iida Ahvenainen needs to hit the weight room or something- there's no excuse for her shots to be falling as short as they are. She's not ready yet- she needs more seasoning and more conditioning, but it's as good to know that as it is to know what she can do, if that tortured excuse for a sentence makes any sense to you. Casey Wortley had two easy looks at the basket that she didn't put enough oomph on, but I liked her moxie on the glass. I'm glad to see her play- she spent all last year injured. Treyanna Clay is still pretty raw (you may insert your pottery-related puns here) but she showed her potential late in the game with some strong moves to the basket. She needs time, but she can be a star.

Alexis Lewis did one of my favorite things, which was get even instead of getting mad. Jasmine Mungo got her hard in the face, enough that the refs went to the monitor to see whether it could be considered a flagrant. It wasn't. And then Lex went out and hit a three-pointer on the resulting possession. And then she hit another one. Her first one, before either of those, came with panache, at the shot clock buzzer, off the glass. She's got ups, and toughness. Kristin Mahoney ran point for the fourth quarter. She's found a little more assertiveness than she used to have, but she still relies too heavily on the same quasi-spin move to her left to give herself time to think.

Karynda DuPree is starting to grow on me. This might have been one of her quieter games statistically, but except for a couple of stand-and-stares on rebounds, she didn't do any of the things that make me swear at her. More importantly, the rebounds she got were strong, and her hands were up on defense. She didn't chuck any stupid threes from the top of the key, a shot I know she would have taken last year. She's been vocal in the huddle, but she was moreso today. I kind of wish she could have had this epiphany last year, but I'll take it when I can get it. Joy Adams needs to stop missing chippies at the basket, but the plays she did make were phenomenally athletic, and she was rebounding well. She had a really nice pass to Karynda down low for a bucket.

Marina Lizarazu was kind of like a ninja today- I barely even noticed her, but there she was, racking up the assists. She helped out on the pressure defense, too. You go girl, and ¡feliz cumpleaños! Aaliyah Robinson started the game on fire from beyond the arc, and cooled off later- but by then, we didn't need her to be as much of an offensive option. Philecia Gilmore made the big threes later in the game and brought a lot of toughness to the floor. I really like her, and her leadership on the bench. She sounds so quiet off the floor, but she's very vocal in the huddle and gets her teammates fired up.

Officials were making a lot of game management calls in the second half, ticky-tack touch fouls that had been ignored in the first half, but with a margin like that, I'm not completely certain I blame them. Nothing really egregious I can point to to be angry about, and a couple of borderline calls that Terry Zeh and Canisius had good reason to object to.

I really like some of the pyramid-type, climb-on-each-other stunts the cheer squad is doing. Take risks! Do flips! Be awesome!

Nice shooting job by the kid who won the ticket four-pack, but I get the feeling he wouldn't have needed to run right up to the buzzer if he had remembered the rules.

Ashley Murray, you were an adorable baby, but I'm not completely certain you wanted the entire world to know it.

Dinner at the Study Hall was delicious (and not just because my Johnnies ensured I didn't have to pay for it) (if you didn't read yesterday's notes, my husband and I staked today's dinner on the results of St. John's and Seton Hall). We had a nice chat with the bartender/manager, who did his graduate work at Iona and checked out games. It's not quite the Blackboard (oh, those sinful blackout fries) but it's good stuff.

Here's a thing I don't get: if this were an eatery in South Orange, it would have a Seton Hall poster on the wall and a Pirate decal on the window. If this were an eatery on Union Turnpike, there'd be a St. John's poster in the window. But I didn't see any Iona posters up. You'd think that a place three blocks from campus would be one of the first places you'd reach out to. Think locally!

But that's an institutional issue. That's, perhaps, not a GNoD issue. The GNoD cares about the game, and that Iona played well, and that I still don't understand what Billi Godsey has against Aurellia Cammock.


January 9th, 2016: Seton Hall at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's and Seton Hall both had big runs, but in the end, it was the Red Storm who came up with the 71-69 win. Danaejah Grant notched a double-double for St. John's, with 29 points and 13 rebounds, while Aliyyah Handford added 17 before fouling out. Tabatha Richardson-Smith of Seton Hall led all scorers with 34; the Pirates also got double figures from Shakena Richardson (15) and Lubirdia Gordon (10).

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Today is one of the days I look forward to and dread at the same time. Today is the Awkward Bowl, aka St. John's versus Seton Hall. This is the St. John's home game, so I'm making every attempt to be at full voice, while my other half is behind the Seton Hall bench in blue.

The advantage of the J train running late and us not getting in until 20 minutes before tip is that I've managed to avoid the Tabatha Richardson-Smith I Am Disappointed In Your Life Choices staredown. (Then again, given that Tab didn't start, I don't think I'm the only one whose life choices have disappointed people.)

I would love to know what Tony was talking about with first Joe, then Kathy Meehan. He seemed irked about something.

The first quarter was close. St. John's ended on a big run to go into halftime with a 14-point lead. I like this, and not just because I like when St. John's wins things- if this keeps up, he has to buy me dinner tomorrow after the Iona game.

This was pretty much the kind of game I expected it to be, although I didn't expect the closeness to be a result of runs- I never thought either team would put up a long bad stretch. We're talking about two teams, both alike in dignity, who know each other very well. This is a bragging rights game. This is the one a coach can take into a local recruit's living room. It's the kind of game where the fans travel and even some of the ancillary personnel travel (I think I saw a couple of Seton Hall dance people in the stands). Everyone involved knows everyone else; there are hellos in the stands between the red and the blue. We're not the only ones with divided loyalties, and this isn't even as bad as it used to be.

I'm not completely certain why Tony went to Martha Kuderer in the first half. Her defense is pretty good for a freshman, but her decision-making on the offensive end was not quick enough. She wasn't ready for this, and I think it affected the Pirates in the first half. LaTecia Smith got a few quick minutes in the first half, but was ineffective. There are only so many tiny guards you can play at one, and her inexperience on the defensive end didn't help her.

Claire Lundberg's scant seconds came at the end of the first quarter, when she was inserted as an emergency shooter and not utilized. Jordan Molyneaux played a few minutes and amazingly was not called for a foul (sorry, Jordan, but it's who you are, it's what you do). Taylor Byrne stood strong defensively.

We're going to have a segue between the starters and the reserves here, because we all know Tabatha Richardson-Smith is really the starter, even though she did something that caused her to be benched until the first stoppage. She took the game personally and had herself a day. She was at her strongest inside against the smaller Red Storm defenders, driving the lane and hitting pretty little finger rolls. She hit a couple of ridiculously deep threes, too, because she's Tab and that's what she does. But at the same time, whenever it seemed like Seton Hall just needed one more basket to break the game open and go on the big run that would surely give them the game... she missed it. That makes it sound like I'm blaming the player who shot better than 50% from the field and put up 34 points, and that would be stupid (and possibly suicidal, I have to go to Walsh next month). Jordan Mosley, who got the start, didn't go back into the game until the final minutes, to basically be a fresh body to soak up the fouls.

Shakena Richardson seems to have more of a chip on her shoulder when I'm not rooting for her. She's really stubborn. I wasn't happy with her after the shot she took at Danaejah early in the game. She's got a pretty pull-up, and uses her ability to change direction quickly to get enough space to put that jumper up. She was tough on defense, too. Seeing her next to Aleesha Powell highlighted the difference between P5-speed decision-making and MAAC-speed decision-making. Aleesha was quick as lightning on defense, dueling with Aaliyah Lewis (it's nice when Aaliyah has someone in her own size range to deal with), but on offense she hesitated a moment too long when the defense came at her. She didn't have the looks she was used to getting, and I think it got into her head a little bit.

Lubirdia Gordon slipped behind the St. John's defense and took advantage of her teammates' passes- there was one play where Tab found her with no one within a foot of her. She converted. She didn't always play the smartest defense, though. Tiffany Jones never got into her groove, which I think was critical. She's a mis-match for most teams, but she didn't get as much of a chance to set up outside as she usually does- Imani really drove her nuts. She got on the glass well, though. She won a lot of loose ball battles when Red Storm players couldn't keep their hands on the ball.

I think the Pirates might have let the importance of this game get into their heads a little bit. They thrive on emotion and passion, and when things aren't going as well for them, they tend to slip up.

Crystal Simmons brought a lot of defensive intensity. She spent a lot of time on Tab, and I think she rattled Tab a little bit. Her offense still needs work, though. Jade Walker should pick on people her own size- her first three fouls were all drawn on Seton Hall's tiny guards. She brought good offense, but bad decision-making. Akina Wellere gave some decent but non-memorable minutes in relief of Aliyyah.

Imani Littleton seemed to have found her feet in this game. She made some good defensive plays on the boards and out on the perimeter against Tiffany. I'd love to see her develop some confidence from this game, because she really looked like she had found her groove. We couldn't get a lot of minutes from Sandra Udobi, but they were solid minutes- she held her ground down low and pulled down her fair share of rebounds.

Aaliyah Lewis had her hands full between Aleesha and Shakena, but there was ice water in her veins down the stretch when she hit the free throws. I love her tenacity and her ability to stick to her defensive assignment. Danaejah Grant took over the game in the fourth quarter, getting down low and coming up with big shots. Aliyyah Handford was hot early, but then her new bad habit cropped up of getting into foul trouble. Either teams are adjusting to her speed and her bad habits, or she's not paying attention to the way games are being called. It doesn't help that there's always at least one really bad call against her per game, but she needs to learn to adjust or she's going to be spending too much time on the bench in crunch situations. We need her.

Plays of the game were the back-to-back behind the back feeds between Aliyyah and Danaejah; I think after the second one (Nae o-board, flip to Liyyah, behind the back to Nae) I might have yelled, "Oh, now y'all are just showing off!"

As usual, there were multiple highly questionable calls on both sides- I disagreed with the third foul on Aliyyah and the fourth foul on Shakena. It's way too easy for officials to make themselves the deciding factor in a game. Drives me nuts.

We knew this was going to be a dogfight. We know each other too well. And I'm not looking forward to the return trip. But hey! I get dinner after the Iona game!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January 5th, 2016: Marquette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: in a game close throughout, St. John's prevailed in overtime over Marquette, 81-77. Danaejah Grant led the Red Storm with 27 points, 16 in the first half; Aliyyah Handford had 15 points, and Aaliyah Lewis had 11, nine in overtime. Allazia Blockton led Marquette with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists; the Golden Eagles also got double-digit points from Amani Wilborn (17) and Natisha Hiedeman (14).

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Another day, another eighty-seven cents, another game on the slate. Tonight, the second partner in the Great Lakes duo, Marquette, comes to visit the Johnnies.

I really thought trying to warm up dinner had blown my chance at making the bus, but there was another one right behind it. Hopefully, I didn't blow any of my team's luck on it- we might need it for one of Nae's shots off the glass, or to get Liyyah a call (sometimes that takes a lot of luck).

At halftime, St. John's is up 39-27, after a slow start that saw Marquette leading by as much as six. Danaejah Grant has continued her hot play from the fourth quarter against DePaul, leading the way with 14 points. Allazia Blockton leads Marquette with eight.

This iteration of the dance team costumes looks kinda Christmas-y.

They gave out flags. They made us take one. I like our flag better. It's signed.

Guys from the men's team are in front of us. It kind of ruins some of my better lines.

We really should not be going to overtime with a Marquette team that's so terrifyingly, ridiculously, young. But the pieces around our superstars are too used to the superstar security blanket and don't have confidence in themselves to shoot. The Big East is not such a mid-major that you can win with just two players.

Marquette essentially went six deep for most of the game. Olivia Moskari went in in the first half, and Sandra Dahling briefly in the second; neither had any major impact on the game. Erika Davenport fought hard on the glass, taking advantage of her teammates boxing out to come up with offensive boards. She positions herself well on the floor.

McKayla Yentz took a lot of threes. They weren't always good threes, and she had a habit of taking them deeper than might have been necessary from the position of the defense. She set screens for her teammates well. Shantelle Valentine moved around and made space on the inside, but I don't know if she was looking to score and rebound so much as she was facilitating things for her teammates. I feel like they could be doing more with her.

I really like Allazia Blockton. She drives hard to the basket, and she's not afraid to get on the glass. Her passes were being picked, but that's a thing we do and should do more often, so that's not really a knock on her. She's really athletic. I was also impressed by Amani Wilborn- she wasn't necessarily glamorous, but she shoots well behind the line and she makes good defensive plays. Natisha Hiedeman played well down the stretch- it's sort of a backhanded compliment if I start grumbling about a player, so if she heard me muttering, "goddamn Swedish Clarendon-wannabe", I hope she wasn't offended. (But really, if you have short, curly, dark hair that you bleach the top of, and you wear #5, and your team wears gold with navy accents, I'm going to make Clarendon references at you until the cows come home.) She's streaky, but promising.

Marquette played like a young team, but they also played like a talented team. They need to lay off the cross-court passes. But on another night, if the rims were kinder and the refs were better, this might have been their night.

Tamesha Alexander came in in the first half when Aaliyah Lewis picked up her second foul. This is not a recording. She made some dumb passes, but picked up a nice jumper. Crystal Simmons needs to stop hesitating so much on offense, but I absolutely love what she brings on defense. So much energy, so much movement, so much work! Akina Wellere came up with some baskets late, but she's another one who needs to shoot more. Maybe not much more, but she's our three-point specialist by default, she needs to take them.

Jordan Agustus saw brief minutes in both halves. She never really got her feet under her, so it's hard to say what effect she had on the game. Jade Walker had the jumper working a little, and one good putback at the rim, but she missed too many shots down low, and at least two of them were on offensive rebounds. She also has to understand that one of the constants of the universe is that if there's a situation where she can be called for a foul, she'll be called for a foul. Get used to it, play smarter, and hit harder; if you're going to get fouled, make it worth your time.

I'm really not sure what to say about our forwards at this point. I love Sandra Udobi as a person, but she was never the same after the knee injury. Tonight, she was taking too many long jumpers with no one there to rebound. Just how much are you trying to pile on Danaejah's shoulders? If I were more statistically inclined, I'd chart Sandie's stats against the weather and see just how much the cold is getting to her knee. Imani Littleton came up with some strong baskets underneath. Maybe she's starting to get into her groove. That would be cool.

Aaliyah Lewis was the heroine of overtime, after a rough start to the game. Her shots never seemed to get much air, but they got up just enough to go over the rim and through the net. That might be a metaphor, or possibly some other form of poetic description for the player your intrepid blogger calls Tiny Aaliyah. She's so adorably feisty. Aliyyah Handford was the target of everyone's defense tonight, and the rim was not kind to her. She still found ways to get her points, especially as Danaejah heated up and some of the heat came off her. But she's getting a little wild on defense, a little over-aggressive. She knows she has to do too much, and she's been fouling more. We don't need more of that from her. She's got to play smarter, not harder, cliché as it is. Danaejah Grant started the game like a house on fire.. She was rebounding well, too. I love to watch her and Liyyah rebound.

Way too many risky cross-court passes. Way too much losing track of where the ball was. (Looking at you, Imani. Y tú también, Crystal.) Too many stupid fouls. (Jade. Aliyyah.)

The stupid foul problem was exacerbated by stupid foul-calling, and stupid non-foul-calling. Officiating was inconsistent all night. Dropping the shoulder only seemed to be an offensive foul at one end of the floor. I'm not sure how Marquette got a timeout granted after six seconds of attempting to inbound. I'm not sure how we didn't get an advance on a timeout under two minutes left in the fourth. To be fair, I'm also not sure how Crystal didn't get called for fouling Hiedeman on the three, or how that ball went to St. John's, on Marquette's next-to-last possession. All I ask for is consistency, and to not miss really blatant calls that could change the game.

It is customary to have a ball when participating in a dress and dribble contest. I don't mean in the "weeeeee, fun!" sense, but in the basketball sense.

This was the kind of night where we actually bought ducks, because it seemed necessary to throw things.

The Awkward Bowl against Seton Hall is up next on Saturday. It's going to be interesting.