Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Senior Tribute 2017

Senior Days hurt. They give us four years of their lives (or fewer, or more, depending on circumstances) and we give them our hearts. And the funny thing is that we keep doing it. It’s insane. It’s illogical. It’s basketball. It’s love.

This year, the Senior Days are not all stacked up against each other like a flurry of punches to the heart. They’re spread out across the coldest, shortest month, pacing out the nostalgia and the bittersweetness- bitter because we’ve reached the end of the journey together, sweet because we’ve watched them grow up and because we know they’re coming out of this with a degree or two.

But I enjoyed writing the senior tributes so much last year, even with the unexpected turn one of them took after Chicago, that I decided that that’s how I’m going to roll with these going forward, instead of inserting them into the game notes. These kids (kids, said the thirty-something about the twenty-somethings) deserve their own place to shine.



Michigan is the most distant of my teams, and I don’t think I’ll ever see one of their Senior Days. But I can’t let a senior tribute go by without a nod to the three-point sharpshooter and floor leader Siera Thompson, or to the defensive leader who wormed her way into my heart on first look, Danielle Williams.

Someday the schedules will align and I’ll get to know these Wolverines I claim loyalty to better. I can only appreciate them from afar for now, and wish them all the best as they take on the world: victors valiant, leaders and best.

***


First up this year on the Senior Day schedule is Seton Hall, and for these seniors I’ve chosen to skip a St. John’s game. If y’all have read the ongoing saga of this rivalry and our place in it, you know what that means. But these three have missed so much and sacrificed so much and hurt so much, that a game is worth it. I promised them I’d be there. I’m keeping that promise.


Kathleen Egan’s not on the roster anymore. But Kat’s still a Pirate. ACLs are the worst, and she fought back through them again and again until she had to leave the fight. Sometimes the hardest fight is the one you choose not to keep taking up.

I remember her fondly for her hustle on the floor. Her team needed her to get stronger, so she built herself into a power forward. She scrapped for rebounds with the best of them, and she stood her ground on defense. I think Seton Hall’s still looking for someone to step into those shoes. They’re not as easy to fill as you might think.


Tara Inman is still on the roster, but she no longer plays. ACLs again, repeated and recurring. Those three letters have derailed more seasons and careers than I care to count. We’ll be seeing them again.

Seton Hall has a lot of fun, exciting guards who work their butts off and around whom no basketball is safe. This is not to take anything away from Quanny, or Kaela, or TT, or anyone else. But I miss watching Tara in that low stance on defense, hands out, watching the ball, ready to pounce.

She grew on me. I wasn’t impressed with her in her first couple of years, but like many a young guard before her, she blossomed. She figured out who she was and what her role was, and once she knew she was a ball-hawk and occasional shooter, she flourished.

There’s no doubt in my mind that she, and Kat, deserve Senior Day honors as much as anyone who still suits up on game day.


We see a lot more of Lubirdia Gordon than we do the other two Seton Hall seniors, and that’s not just because Bird’s the only one of that trio still active. Bird brushes with greatness on a regular basis in the summertime, rebounding for none other than Tina Charles on the Garden floor.

Country roads took her down to Morgantown, and country roads brought her back to the Tri-State. But while you can take the kid out of West Virginia, you can’t take the Mountaineer out of the kid. Bird hits hard and plays hard, like most posts who spend time in Mike Carey’s system.

She’s still a Pirate, though. She knows her role. Jump shooters miss shots. It’s inevitable. Someone’s got to be there to put those misses back. Someone’s got to be the person that everyone overlooks in the scouting report. Bird has been rock solid in the middle this year, holding the paint down for the Pirates on both ends of the floor.

It hasn’t been an easy year for her, in more ways than one, but she’s perservered and thrived. You can’t ask for anything better than that. College is supposed to be about growing up and learning to overcome obstacles, right?

These are my senior Pirates, and I love them, for all they are, and all they have been, and all they should have been.

***


Fordham is one of my more recent adoptions. That being said, it’s not so recent that I haven’t seen this class through all four of their years. We have a more distant relationship, your intrepid blogger and these Rams who play at Rose Hill. But when the time is right and the stars align, we go to the wall together against the best the A-10 dares to send to the Bronx.


We got our first look at Danielle Padovano her freshman year when we were keeping an eye on the former Johnnie Mary Nwachukwu, who had taken her graduate year at Fordham. And what we first noticed was that this tall, rebound-happy, freshman was taking the minutes we had expected to go to the tournament-seasoned grad student.

This Danielle is a matchup problem beyond the arc and fierce on the boards. As she’s gotten older, and as the team has changed around her, she’s become more of a situational player, her minutes fluctuating as the opponent’s style dictates. It takes a special kind of personality to adapt to that and to accept your minutes declining to a part-time role.


We got our first look at Danielle Burns her freshman year when we were keeping an eye on the former Johnnie Mary Nwachukwu, who had taken her graduate year at Fordham. And what we first noticed was that she was a shooter and she wasn’t afraid to shoot.

(As a matter of fact, I do tend to refer to Ms. Burns and Ms. Padovano collectively as the Danielles, or as las Danielle.)

Danielle has really grown into a role as a top-notch scorer for the Rams. Her game is well-rounded, and she's stepped up. It's been a pleasure to see her develop, intermittent as my involvement with Fordham has been. I've said it before, and I'll enjoy saying it again and again: part of the joy and the thrill of college basketball is watching the development of young people and seeing who they become.


Hannah Missry comes pre-equipped with a nickname. When she's raining threes upon the enemy, she becomes "Miss Misery" to them.

Sometimes, a player gets really good at a single thing. There are a lot of bad things to be said about crippling overspecialization. I've said a lot of them about Hannah in the past. And there are times when it's abundantly clear that her priority is getting open for three and sinking it. I've called her out about her defense in the past. To her credit, she's made some strides this year towards diversifying her game. But this isn't the place for that.

This is the place for celebrating three-pointers from all over the court, from any distance, at any time. This is the place and time to talk about Hannah Missry as the game changer she can be when that sweet, sweet three is dropping and she brings it back down the court with her swagger. When she lights it up, she electrifies the entire team and fires up Rose Hill.

Bring it on home, Miss Misery.


These are my senior Rams, and I love them for everything they are, and everything they’ve become.

***


We’ve been on-again, off-again with LIU, our love for city teams sometimes conflicting with the simple exigencies of mundane life. With Coach Oliver on board, and one of my favorite Rutgers alumnae beside her on the bench, we’ve taken the Blackbirds to heart. They are not the best of our teams, but they are certainly the feistiest when they set their hearts to it, and this senior class is one of the biggest reasons why.


Dionne Coe’s only been in Brooklyn for this single season, her graduate transfer season. In a way, a player being a graduate transfer says a lot about her. It says that she’s prioritized her academics. It says that she’s taken advantage of her scholarship to get a degree. It says that she wants more than just a bachelor’s, that she sees the opportunity she’s been given and she’s going to take it.

I’ve said a lot of unkind things about Dionne in the GNoD, and I will defend them. But this isn’t the place for them. Welcome home, Dionne. I’m sorry we didn’t get to know you better and see more of you.


I don’t think any player on this LIU squad personifies the grit they can bring on defense and on loose balls than Brianna Farris. She’s hard-nosed and tough, one of the best defenders we have to offer.

I remember the first time I saw her, back when she was a freshman, in LIU’s Thanksgiving tournament. She scared me a little back then, with that stone game face; even her short black hair seemed to bristle with “don’t f- with me”. She’s grown her hair out, so it doesn’t bristle as much, but the game face is still as tough as it ever was.

She was almost the hero against St. Francis this year. She would have deserved it, of that I have no doubt. Her threes from the corner are streaky, but when she’s on, she’s on. And she always brings the tough, physical defense. I don’t think it’s been easy for her to accept playing fewer minutes this year, but she’s done it, and she’s spearheaded comebacks from that position.


Almost to a fault, Shanovia Dove has been the offensive catalyst for the Blackbirds. It hasn’t mattered whether she started or came off the bench- Novi will get her points and she will force you to respect her. Whether it’s from deep or in the lane, she can score and does so often. Part of Senior Day included the milestone ball from her 1000th point.

She’s tough, too, though she’s more of a determinator than someone who will get in your face. But when she starts, she doesn’t stop until she’s finished. If something’s in her way, she’ll get it out of her way. I don’t know where she’s been, or what she’s gone through, but whatever it is, it’s made her very goal-oriented.

As bad as LIU’s been this year- and let’s face it, we’ve been pretty bad- I don’t even want to think about how bad we’d be without Shanovia this season. I wish her all the best, and I know she, and her classmates, will make their way in the world, whether the world likes it or not.


These are my senior Blackbirds, and I love them for everything they are, and everything that they strive to be.

***


Iona was the team we thought we were going to cut out of our ever-expanding circle. We lost all our connections there, after all, and we didn’t exactly get off on the right foot with the current regime. But we stayed for the players we knew, and then we got attached to the new class coming in, and we rebuilt that relationship. I’d say that Iona is now only behind my Big East teams, and I don’t want to find out how I’d feel if Iona ever played Seton Hall or my most distant Michigan. Iona’s seniors took the long road to New Rochelle, through Milwaukee and Madrid, Philadelphia and Lubbock.


It took the better part of three years, but at long last Karynda DuPree has come into her own, and it is glorious.

The first couple of years we saw her at Iona, she was the most frustrating player on the floor. Here was this center with a fantastic low-post build- a 6’4” solid body that probably half of the post players I’ve ever watched would have killed to have- and she was on the outside chucking threes while the guards and Joy Adams did the rebounding. Long-time readers of the GNoD know exactly how I feel about post players taking perimeter shots- you need to be good at it or you need to stop, and you still need to rebound and do work on the inside.

Sometime in the second half of her junior year, the pieces came together. She’s not perfect, but she stopped taking the threes and started taking the ball inside. She discovered her strength as a center both on offense and defense (though I will say she’s always been a shot-blocker, even when she was being a shrinking violet on offense). Now she’s going up with authority. Now she’s tearing down rebounds. She has blossomed, and it is wonderful to watch.

This version of Karynda has been an absolute joy to watch, and I’m sorry that we didn’t get to see more of this side of her sooner. But I’m still thrilled that we got to see this part of her journey.


Of all my seniors, the only one I’ve ever seen before she was one of my players is Marina Lizarazu. She made an impression when she was a Red Raider and Texas Tech came to Brooklyn for a tournament. I didn’t say it was a good impression- she was a risk-taker, in over her head, with questionable judgment. I don’t know how she would have developed if she had stayed at Texas Tech.

I do know who she is now, and in some ways she’s still the same. She takes risks, she makes mistakes. But her command of the floor has improved dramatically. She’s matured into a true point guard, one who commands the offense and owns the court as soon as she steps on it. She’s a slick passer, a capable facilitator, willing and able to take over the offensive load if and when her team needs her. She’s fearless.

That’s the thing that sticks with me most with Marina- she’s fearless. She drives the lane without fear. She takes the big shot without fear. She’s not afraid of the clock. She makes the clock roll over and beg. That’s huge for a point guard.

I think we’ll be hearing more out of Marina in the next few years. Maybe it’ll be in the W. Maybe it’ll be on the international stage. But something tells me we’re going to be hearing her name again after she graduates.


These are my senior Gaels, and I love them for all that they are, and all the places that have made them.

***


Last, but never, ever least: my Johnnies. This is the team that owns my heart, the team that I will go to the wall for, the team that trumps all other teams, the team I have the deepest connection to. This is the Senior Day that always breaks my heart (even though sometimes it’s because they get the shortest shrift from their school).


I’m sorry we haven’t gotten to see more of Kendyl Nunn, both in minutes and in years. I’d heard so much about her shot that I wanted to see it in action in a St. John’s jersey. I know she’s taken the long way around to get here.

Most of all, I’d have liked to see more of the sheer joy she brings to the floor. She always looks happy to be out there and playing. She scraps for loose balls and takes her opportunities when she gets them. You can’t ask for more than that from a deep reserve, especially the positive attitude. I’m going to miss that smile.


There’s a Big East commercial that runs ad infinitum et ad nauseaum during the digital broadcasts, and it talks about how big isn’t just visible on the court. That’s where the conference uses the image of Aaliyah Lewis. But I think that’s the wrong spot. Because it goes on to talk about how big lives in our attitude, and I can think of no player (except perhaps one) who exemplifies the big-city, big-conference, big-game attitude like Aaliyah does.

We used to have a recurring gag that Aaliyah- slightly-built, 5’5” in media guides and high heels Aaliyah- was everyone’s mother’s favorite player because she was so goshdarn cute. I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore, but if it’s not, she’s picked up more than enough fans to make up the difference. Odds are, she’s going to make a no-look pass, or break someone’s ankles with a wicked crossover, or cut through the paint with a burst of speed like a sports car for two and the foul- one way or another, she’s going to be the first favorite player a new fan has.

Aaliyah came into our program with huge shoes to fill. What’s that? You want to be the point guard after Nadirah McKenith, the one Johnnie to make it in the W? Have fun. She took on the challenge, and the role, and answered the call. She adopted the swagger, internalized the city attitude, and took charge.

She’s a little crazy, and a little reckless, but that’s part of why we love her. She’s our point guard.

And despite her size, she’s going to leave some pretty big shoes to fill.


So you know how I said above that maybe one other player might be more appropriate for the “big lives in our attitude” line? That player would, of course, be Jade Walker.

With Jade, big is very visible on the court, and from all over the court. The Red Storm’s intro video talks about her as a match-up nightmare, and they’re not lying. She has a sweet jumper that she’s not afraid to use from the midrange or from beyond the arc. But when she puts her mind to it, her strength inside is even more impressive. She combines power and finesse on the floor, and when she’s on, no one is stopping her.

She’s developed that jumper and lengthened its range while at St. John’s, but in the last year and change, she’s also improved as a defender. It takes a good amount of maturity- or at least an eye on one’s future- for an offensive powerhouse to develop their defense. She’s still got some ways to go in terms of maturity, but I’m pretty sure most 22-year-olds do. I’m pretty sure I did. She plays with emotion and passion, leaves her heart on her sleeve- and sometimes that costs her. She gets into her own head, and with time she’ll learn to get out of it.

But we love her for her unabashed emotion. When Jade emotes, the whole world knows it. There’s never any doubt she’s giving it her all.

Maybe someday I’ll even find out if she let her teammates have a turn with the trophy, or if trophy is still bae to her. :D


I had written the conclusion to this and then realized I forgot Sandie. That is a terrible oversight. I choose to believe that some subconscious part of my mind refuses to admit that Sandra Udobi is a senior and will be leaving us after this season.

Knee injuries robbed Sandie of her mobility and her playing time. When she was on the floor she was a solid defender and a solid teammate, bringing the occasional elbow jumper or strong post move to diversify her game. But torn ACLs are even crueler to posts than they are to guards. She’s seen the writing on the wall.

But of all my seniors, Sandie is the one I will miss most as a human being. She’s brilliant. I truly believe that she’s going to make a big positive change in the world once she graduates with her degrees in hand. Others will have success in basketball, whether it’s on the court or beside it. I think Sandie dreams bigger; if she makes her mark through basketball, it’s because she’s at the grass-roots level, changing the world by affecting culture. She’s on the macro level.

And how often are you blessed to know someone you’re absolutely certain is going to make the world a better place?


These are my senior Johnnies, and I love them for everything that they are, and everything that they choose to be.

***


These are my 2017 seniors- from New Jersey, and New York, and Tennessee, and Florida, and Wisconsin, and Illinois, and Arizona, and California, and Spain, and Nigeria. I love them despite their flaws; I love them because of their flaws. I love them for all that they’ve done, for all that they should have done, for all that they want to do. I love them for everything they are, and everything they have been, and everything that they will be.

Thank you for one, or two, or four, or five, years. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.

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February 22nd, 2017: St. Peter's at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Marina Lizarazu’s driving lay-up with 3.4 seconds left was the deciding basket in Iona’s 51-50 comeback win over St. Peter’s. Lizarazu finished with 17 points and five assists. The Gaels were led by Alexis Lewis, who had 25 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, to go with 10 rebounds and six steals. St. Peter’s got strong performances from Sajanna Bethea (19 points, nine rebounds) and Zoe Pero (18 points, nine rebounds) in the loss.

For crutches, swag, hashtags, accepting small children, trains (but not planes or automobiles), last-second shots, and just a soupçon of fear, join your intrepid and introspective blogger after the jump.

Today’s not Senior Day for Iona, but it’s still the last home game of the regular season. The day off was already scheduled, so here I am on an uptown 6 train, working my way towards Pelham Bay Park and the 45 bus that will take me to New Rochelle.

Going to games alone is a quieter, but still thrilling experience. There’s not as much pressure to be loud, but at the same time there’s more freedom.

I am not okay with this stop and go on the 6 line. I have a bus to catch, y’all. What is with this holding us for no good reason?

Made the bus. Spent a good part of the afternoon in New Rochelle just chilling and catching Pokemon. The taco grill near Iona is pretty good.

Fun fact: Barnes and Noble gift cards can be used at collegiate bookstores if those bookstores are run through BN College. Fun fact: friends and family who don’t know what to get me get me Barnes and Noble gift cards. Swaaaaaaaaaaaag.

This is not of the good: starting forward Treyanna Clay is on crutches, with her right foot in a boot. Tilasha Okey-Williams is out of the sling she was in last game, but she doesn’t appear to8e active either. St. Peter’s is not good, but one of their star players just happens to be a bruising post, Sajanna Bethea. I’m not real thrilled about this turn of events.

I like Iona’s new warm-up shirts with the #MindOn2 hashtag.

Tilasha, don’t play with your saran wrap.

At halftime, it is 26-23 St. Peter’s, and I am not here for this. There’s a hotshot freshman for St. Peter’s, Zoe Pero, who has 11 for the Peacocks to power them ot this lead. The rebounding has been hot mess for Iona. I am not amused.

I am, however, completely and totally here for Marina Lizarazu hitting game-winning shots. (Yes, she traveled. Yes, she pretty much just pretended she was playing running back. Given how bad these refs were most of the night, I will take it and you will like it.)

Imani Martinez played very briefly near the end of the third quarter, as another big body to throw at Iona. They were not impactful seconds. Samantha Meier brought physicality on the glass. I’m surprised they don’t use her more, but then again, that means fewer minutes for Pero and Bethea, and that might not be good for the Peacocks’ future. Alyssa Velles is very offensive-minded- she’s in the game to chew gum and shoot threes, and I think she just ran out of gum. She tries on defense, but for the most part, she was the offensive side of offense-defense substitutions. Something about the way Janelle Mullen reminds me of a cat- maybe it’s her eyes, maybe it’s the way she holds her hands out. I don’t know. But she’s quick and she sees the angles. If she could finish at the rim, we’d be talking about St. Peter’s breaking their losing streak, and these notes would be much angrier. I’m not sure what year she is, but I know she’s not a senior, so she has time to work on finishing through contact (and without contact- there was no excuse for two of her early misses).

Pat Coyle apparently believes the children are her future, because she started three freshmen, and I don’t know if I’d start Lochner or Tarabocchia over Mullen based on what I saw tonight. Brianna Tarabocchia brings effort on defense, which is a good sign out of a freshman, and she was the one to come out of the scrum with rebounds time and time again. Sammy Lochner was unmemorable. Talah Hughes seemed to caught between positions, unsure whether she should be taking jumpers or going inside. I’ve always thought of her as a forward, but St. Peter’s lists her as a guard. I’m not sure if that’s new, though.

Zoe Pero made one heck of a first impression, scoring inside and out to the free throw line. I don’t know if she’s that good or if she just wasn’t on the scouting report and we left her open. She did a decent enough job of hitting contested shots that I’d like to believe she’s just that good. I mean, this is St. Peter’s, and this is Pat Coyle’s team, which means if she’s good she’s going to get buried on the bench in the very near future. Sajanna Bethea has a nicer midrange jumper than I remembered, and still brings the physicality inside. She can be reckless when she drives- her first two fouls were both offensive, for running over Iona defenders. Getting run over by Sajanna Bethea is probably even less fun than getting run over by your average offensive player.

It’s late in the year to say St. Peter’s is a team in transition, but maybe they’re getting a head start on 2017-18. Pero is promising, and she and Bethea will be a very dangerous frontcourt next year if the Peacocks can get out of their own way. (Which is not guaranteed with a team coached by Pat Coyle. Me? Bitter Liberty fan? Naaaaaawwwwww.)

It’s good to see Philecia Atkins-Gilmore back on the floor, bringing the energy. I admit, she’s even fun to watch on the bench, cheering her teammates on. Phee’s going to be a coach someday, mark my words. Kristin Mahoney was surprisingly solid. I’m wondering if she’s made the quantum leap. She seemed confident running the point when the Gaels were forced to go small. If she’s found her confidence instead of looking like a deer in the headlights, I’m thrilled for her. Tori Lesko brought the hustle, scrapping for loose balls on the floor and disrupting plays. I love her heart, even if I don’t love her pass catching abilities.

Amelia Motz has shoulders that make me need to go to the gym. It’s not that they’re crazy over-built like Loree Moore’s, but the definition is eye-catching. I’d like to see her be more assertive, but that will probably come with time (and perhaps with Lexi not chucking as many shots). Treyanna Clay showed us her heart today- I suspect she had no business playing in this game, and she gave us 33 minutes of defense. She had trouble hanging on to the ball, and she seemed more tentative on offense. All things considered, I don’t care. Get well soon, Trey. Karynda DuPree, for three quarters, regressed back to her sophomoric self. She was missing bunnies and letting them get into her head. She was softer on the glass than she should have been. But in the fourth quarter Karynda was all business. She found her groove on the inside. She rebounded harder. She shut down Janelle Mullen with a tough, tough block late in the game to help seal it.

Alexis Lewis is as capable of shooting us out of a game (like she did in the first half) as she is of shooting us back into it (like she did with three threes in the fourth quarter). What makes the difference for her, and why she’s so critical to have in the game whether she’s hitting or not, is her ferocious rebounding. Lexi doesn’t care whether you have the ball. She’s going to make sure you don’t have it anymore. She taps. She pokes. She deflects. She makes the plays in the air that either she or one of her teammates can finish on the ground. She’s enigmatic sometimes, and frustrating sometimes, and glorious so much of the time. Marina Lizarazu carried the load for most of the game. I think she was frustrated at the contact that wasn’t being called on St. Peter’s. We’re going to miss her when she’s gone, but let’s enjoy her while we have her.

Something that struck me tonight that I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to see from Iona often- their ballhandling on the ground was phenomenal. There were three sequences- one from Tori, one from Lexi, one from Marina- where the Iona player was on the ground and still maintained her dribble. Given how much fun the officials were having with the definition of travels tonight, that was critical to curtailing the turnovers any further.

I didn’t see how Trey went down. I saw her sort of halfway down and not able to get up. She tried to put weight on her legs- you could see them trembling, though. She was walked off to the locker room with support from some of the bench staff. She came back to the bench for the end of the game, but she had the crutches again. Trey :(

Officials. Oy gevalt. All I ask for is consistency. If you call the light touch on Iona, call it on St. Peter’s. If you’re not going to call St. Peter’s for forcing the infraction, don’t call it on us.

Free throws win ball games! Both teams missed more than their fair share.

The kids behind me were annoying to start out with, but once they got into the game, the extra noise ammo was appreciated. And they played a decent biddy game. (Go into the paint, though.)

I think, though I’m not sure, this is the first time I’ve ever heard a pep band attempt to play “Everybody Dance Now (Gonna Make You Sweat)”. If it was, it was surprisingly awesome, or awesomely surprising, one of those.

So in the end, it turned out to be worth the day off, and the sleep that will be short when I get home, and the staggering array of public transit vehicles I have taken today. (Two buses, three trains going up; one bus and two trains going back.) It was a worthy farewell to the Hynes for the season.

See you in the fall, Gaels. Keep fighting the good fight.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20th, 2017: LIU at St. Francis

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Dionne Coe’s back-to-back three-point trips in the fourth quarter sealed a 62-58 win for LIU Brooklyn at St. Francis College. Coe finished with 12 points, 8 in the second half. LIU was led by Shanovia Dove’s 31 points. St. Francis got 20 points from Olivia Levey and 15 from Rachel Iozzia to fuel their offense.

For physical post play, holding, falling down, serving up crow, clutch free throws, awkwardly trying not to meet people’s eyes, and the Marist alumni reunion, join your intrepid and easily amused blogger after the jump.

A three-day weekend is just an opportunity to squeeze in another game. St. Francis hosts LIU in the return match of the Battle of Brooklyn, and your intrepid blogger is settled on the bleachers and ready to fly solo.

I’m thinking that Stylz Sanders and Aja Boyd might need to show Gabrielle Caponegro that drill they do where Stylz bodies up on Aja going ot the rim

I’m also starting to think that Seneca Richards suffers from a case of RBF. She looks substantially less cranky when she’s animated.

It is too nice a day out. It’s cooler than it was yesterday, but it’s still not mid-February weather and I am still not okay with this.

The seat cushions at the SFC press table reflect the different evolutions of the St. Francis terrier, and I’m not sure if it’s intentional or they just didn’t want to keep replacing the cushions. I think it’s the former, because those cushions would be a custom job, and it’s cheaper to do those in bulk.

Last year, when the game at St. Francis was the trophy game, LIU brought the spirit squad. It’s 20 minutes before tip, but it looks like that’s not happening.

It’s a super-fast remix, but I’m amused that SFC is playing “Bombs Over Baghdad”. I’m not entirely sure they realize that’s got a wee tiny bit of political overtones to it.

That may have been the worst anthem I have ever heard. The singer seemed to think she was the lovechild of Mariah Carey and Adele. She sang like she had just learned the words two days ago, wandering up and down the scale like a drunken bum wailing in the middle of the night. I couldn’t keep a straight face, and I wasn’t the only one.

At halftime, SFC is up 29-23 behind three-point shooting in the first quarter and defense at the right times. Shanovia Dove has 10 points to power the Blackbirds.

This is not good basketball. But this is one of my teams and I will ride with them until I drop (or something forces my hand).

And someone needs to tell me what’s up with De’Angelique Waithe, or I may go a little bit psycho. We could use her against Olivia Levey.

*tries not to be a creepy stalker*

*ends up in line behind half the team at Chipotle*

My life, y’all.

That was one heck of a finish. Coach Oliver said I bring good luck because I was sitting behind the bench when we walked into Brooklyn Heights and walked out with a win last year. Given how the SFC-SFU game went, I’m thinking it might be more being bad luck to SFC, but I’m okay with that.

Kat Phipps still needs to pull her shorts out of her you know what, but I like her grace in the clutch, especially for a sophomore. Tori Wagner seemed genuinely surprised that she was being called for a foul for putting a forearm in Aja Boyd’s throat. You can’t do that, y’know. Lorraine Hickman brought good size off the bench but didn’t seem particularly assertive. Someone’s going to have to be that big body when Olivia Levey graduates in the very near future, and I don’t know if any of these young posts are ready. Dana DiRenzo had a basket that I think was off an offensive rebound, but I’m not sure, only because the wi-fi at this Chipotle isn’t great. It’s actually the wi-fi of the bank next door, but I won’t tell if you won’t tell. Etta Andersen is as unmemorable as the average small ponytailed blonde tends to be.

Look, SFC, if you want me to be able to differentiate your players on a regular basis, either recruit something other than blondes or put names on your jerseys.

I do not like Rachel Iozzia. It’s nothing personal and it’s not based on anything negative she did on the court. That is the “I do not like this person” of respect because they have a distressing tendency to do good things against a team that I am rooting for. In this case, it was hit straight-away threes at a shockingly efficient rate, and convert on and-1s. SFC has outside threats, but someone’s going to need to step up big time when she graduates in that very near future. Maria Palarino was a little bit obnoxious and a lot physical. (I may be prejudiced against her because of the PA announcer, though.)

As usual, Alex Delaney managed to find herself in the middle of tripping plays and foul trouble. I have no idea how that just keeps happening around her. [/sarcasm] I would like to respect her hustle and her ability to rebound, but somehow she always seems to end up doing something that makes me want to pull someone’s hair out. Samantha Keltos was unmemorable, and got switched in and out a lot. Olivia Levey was a match-up problem for us because of her build- she was able to power right through both Aja Boyd and Gabrielle Caponegro, who both had the dubious honor of attempting to guard her at various points in the game. If she could finish more consistently at the rim, she’d be an even bigger threat, but as she is, she’s very hard to check without fouling. She played like she knew it was her last home game.

SFC was able to recognize who the hot hands were- the two seniors- and fed them accordingly. Their defense swarmed, but they had trouble rotating, and in the end that was their downfall. Their passing and receiving weren’t crisp, which led to turnovers.

Someday I think we need to organize a field trip to a Sun game. The husband and I will get together, round up Janee and Philecia and Coach Oliver, and go watch a game that we have no emotional investment in. I get the feeling it would either be an absolute blast or we’d end up banned for life, but it would be worth it either way.

Drew Winter played very briefly in the first half, but I don’t think Coach Oliver was happy with her judgment on the floor vis-à-vis shot attempts versus passing. Unsurprisingly in that case, Drew didn’t play in the second half. I like Autumn Ashe defensively, though Coach seems to prefer her offensively. I’m worried about her communication skills, though. There was a sequence where either she or Seneca Richards clearly didn’t know the play- Autumn set the screen, Seneca almost ran into it, gesticulation occurred. There was another sequence on the bench where it didn’t look like Autumn was listening, either, but now we’re getting into eavesdropping territory. (Though is it really eavesdropping if you say it loud enough for the fourth row to hear?) Victoria Powell seems to be on an upswing, penetrating the paint and showing less fear than she had in previous games. Defensively, though, she wasn’t able to keep up, and that meant fouls. And that meant Coach stomping her heel.

I could have sworn Brianna Farris hit the first shot of the game, but she faked it just that well. She brought the defense early on. It’s fun watching her- she’s so intense. Shanovia Dove was the offensive catalyst, as she usually is- she drove fearlessly, to the point of running headlong into a swarm of white jerseys multiple times. I think this was when Coach let out the “shoot for the points, not the foul!” that made me a little warm and fuzzy inside. (It’s one of my favorite rants, if a rant can be said to be a favorite.) Dionne Coe, for all the smack I’ve talked about her this year, was undoubtedly the hero of the game. She hit the three free throws late, then followed up the Terriers’ answer with a three-point answer of her own. She’s not perfect, and she had a lot of pace and tempo issues in this one. But what a finish!

Aja Boyd did not have an easy time of it in this one; Olivia Levey is a big body underneath, and SFC sent multiple players to help just in case. She needs to go up strong and go up hard. She has a world of potential that I want to see her unlock. Gabrielle Caponegro rebounded well, but she’s still too hesitant with the ball. She needs too much time to think about what she’s going to do, and by the time she’s come to a conclusion, there are two defenders swarming her. Combine that with hands of stone, and you have a recipe for disaster. We’re lucky her fumbles didn’t lead to more turnovers. She’s got to work on that.

I understand a staff’s frustration when the team doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. But it seems a little either petty or counterproductive to express that frustration even when the thing that wasn’t supposed to happen works out.

Officiating was… not of the good. I don’t think Coach Oliver likes Rachelle Jones very much, and I think the feeling might be mutual. Jones seemed to be blowing the whistle on LIU more than her compatriots, and less on SFC. When Brianna Farris gets knocked down with no call, and then gets called for the foul for the audacity to be knocked over, we’re going to get annoyed. If you make the call, the coach won’t yell at you.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying: most schools I go to, the basketball team is majority-minority and the dance team is all white girls with long straight hair.

I don’t think there were many of us cheering for LIU, but we did our best to get loud.

That was a really fun, really solid win. Something to build on- but then again, half of those points are graduating at the end of the year.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19th, 2017: Fairfield at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Iona finished strong behind solid performances from their seniors and a sophomore’s star turn, claiming the Senior Day win over Fairfield, 65-55. Alexis Lewis led all scorers with 21 in the win, with Karynda DuPree (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Marina Lizarazu (12 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds) shining on their day. Casey Smith led Fairfield with 18 points in the loss.

For tears, translations, framed jerseys, slick passing, putting the dance back in dance team, wardrobe commentary, and the long way around, join your intrepid and achey blogger after the jump.

These were supposed to be the GNoD for Fordham’s Senior Day against Dayton. But it turns out Iona’s Senior Day celebrations are being done at their next to last home game, because it was easier to get Marina Lizarazu’s family in from Spain for today instead of for Wednesday. And to be frank, I’d rather watch Iona than Fordham. (And to be even more frank, Coach Godsey reached out to us first to let us know.) So we’ll be passing through the Bronx instead of stopping there.

Sure, now that we’re going to our more far-flung outposts, the MTA decides to do work on the J train and throw our travel plans into shambles. Sure. I mean, the J train does need work, and it’s nice to see them finally taking care of the brown lines, but the timing probably could have been better.

Welp. We were running short on time anyway, and the 6 train stopping and starting like a bad webcast has ensured that we’re not going to make the bus to Iona. It’ll be cab time, which I didn’t want to do, but these are the things we do for our teams, and I probably should have left the house earlier anyway. Moral of the story: trains are stupid. I’m amused that we keep ending up with the same cab driver. (Roosevelt is an uncommon enough first name that it sticks in the mind.)

Iona has the pale pink BHA shirts, but the Iona College motto of “Fight The Good Fight” actually works in this context.

This is going to be a double-header with the men, so it’s being taken fairly seriously. The student section has been taped off, and I suspect they’re enforcing ticket locations in the chairback seating.

I don’t recognize any of the people around us. I hope they understand that we’re behind the Iona bench. This seems to be a recurring theme with fans from Connecticut schools- they insist on sitting in the section where their team is warming up, even though people who know the game should know that you warm up at the basket you’re going to use in that half, and that’s almost always the basket in front of the opposing bench.

We have spotted flowers and framed jerseys.

The awkward part of sharing facilities is when you come up the stairs and smack into the middle of a baseball team meeting.

O HAI DERE. Look, I can totally window-shop, okay? And a very cute young man just sat in the row in front of me. There’s a non-zero possibility he’s Marina Lizarazu’s brother, though, and I don’t want to get that involved with my teams.

Heh. Cheerleader dancing just a little bit to the background music. She’s the only one.

Senior Day punched me in the heart with feelings, as one would expect. Iona followed the tradition set by Coach Godsey’s predecessor and presented flowers to the three Fairfield seniors. The two senior players got their NCAA tournament jerseys as their framed jerseys, which I thought was a really nice touch. (The really cute guy is definitely Marina’s brother. Her younger brother. Which means he is entirely too young for me. But he is cute.)

At halftime, it’s 27-24 Iona, behind a 10/10 double-double from Karynda DuPree and 11 points (including three threes) from Alexis Lewis. Fairfield’s offense seems really disorganized- when they get ball movement, they get buckets, but too often they seem to be trying to go one-on-one, which is not smart against Iona’s defense. Our defense as a team isn’t great, but we have good individual defenders, and the upperclassmen know how to provide help at the right times.

There are two guys behind us who seem to be behind the wrong bench. My dude, you are not supposed to cheer for the opposing team behind the home bench. It is rude.

What a finishing kick by the Gaels! I thought Fairfield had us dead to rights after that third-quarter run, but I think the buzzer-beating bucket by Amelia Motz was a momentum swinger and a game changer. The Gaels finished strong and made the right plays at the right time (though is there a wrong time to make the right play?)

(Just to show how tired and fried I am, I almost typed Sacred Heart in the last paragraph, before remembering that, no, that was yesterday’s Senior Day.)

Coach Frager seemed to be experimenting more with his bench in the first half, as if he were trying to see who could contribute and who couldn’t on this given day. So we saw Macey Hollenshead at guard and Nicole Bus at forward very briefly. Neither made a huge impact; the only reason I even noticed Hollenshead was the foul she committed during her second-quarter run.

Sam Kramer had a cheering section in the section across from the visiting bench; they had “GO SAM” placards that they raised whenever she came into the game. Since she was being used as the offensive half of what seemed to be an offense-defense switch with Casey Foley, the placards went up fairly often. She hit a three off a tough screen from Kristine Miller (I thought the screen was borderline- she didn’t move, but her form was all knees and elbows and very loose). Miller either had more trust from her coach, or he didn’t care if she got in foul trouble as much as he did about Kelsey Carey- when Carey picked up two fouls in the first quarter, it was off to the bench with her, but when Miller picked up two first quarter fouls, she stayed in and ended up picking up her third in the second. She’s tough.

Casey Foley was aggressive on defense. Iona telegraphed their passes too much around her, and her quick hands made us pay. Do not pass the ball to players who don’t play for your team. I should really remember more about Kendra Landy, since she played almost the entire game. I think she was another defensively aggressive guard who got all up on Iona’s ill-advised passes.

Casey Smith had herself quite the fourth quarter. She has a really nice array of turnaround moves and hook shots, and if she could hit any of them consistently she would proably be at a higher level than the MAAC. The moves are beautiful, but the execution was inconsistent. I was impressed with her, and the way she imposed her will on the Iona defense. Samantha Cooper cleaned up on the glass and hit from outside. We didn’t match up with her well. The puck luck was not with Kelsey Carey today; she had several shots spin in and out, including some that took strange bounces.

Fairfield came out in the second half much more focused on defense- their hands were more active early in the third quarter. But I don’t think they were able to sustain that energy, and Iona was able to withstand the surge.

Tori Lesko isn’t going to have as much of an impact on the box score as she did on the game. I’m starting to dig that that she’s hard to measure. But she scrapped for loose balls, and she has a passing flair that even our guards can’t match. Tori loves the lookaways and the spin-o-ramas, and there are going to be a lot of days when that makes me want to throw things, and there are going to be a lot of days where that gets the crowd on its feet. Kristin Mahoney was the sub for Marina Lizarazu’s exiting ovation, and she got free throws out of it. Ashley Martin got some brief run in the first half, and almost managed to screw up a fast break, except that she had a teammate back to help.

As Tori’s hit the rookie wall, Amelia Motz has risen. She had two big shots to beat the buzzer, one at the end of the third and one in the fourth at the end of the shot clock. She brought a lot of energy and hustle to the floor. She had a great defensive stand in the first half where she single-handedly turned away a Fairfield 3-on-1 fastbreak. Alexis Lewis brought the fire from outside. Strangely enough, she seems to shoot better from the basket opposite the visiting bench than she does the one in front of the home bench. So she’ll have a great first half but maybe cool down in the second half. She’s just so fun to watch. Everyone should get to see one of her good games. Marina Lizarazu wasn’t hitting early, but she hit big shots late, and she brought the flash with her passing. I think she was tight early because her family was there.

Karynda DuPree owned the boards early on. She got softer on defense as the game wore on- there was a sequence where she backed off on defense and ended up forcing Treyanna Clay into a situation where she had to foul. I’d like to see her finish more consistently, but at this point there’s only so much I can ask for. Karynda’s a senior in her last year of eligibility; there’s only so much more I can ask of her. I can ask for more out of Treyanna, though, since she’s a sophomore and she seems to have regressed from last year. She has to finish at the rim, and someone needs to work with her on defensive positioning. She was frustrating this game, and it’s not the first time I’ve thought that of her this season.

I really love these kids. I think they have the potential to do great things, though maybe not this year, and even when they’re not doing great things they’re a blast to watch.

It was good to hear the band getting into the game. This team deserves that kind of support.

Officiating was nothing to write home about, which I guess is a plus.

Shoutout to one of my favorite DOBOs and the blue dress she was rocking.

I know I’ll see this team again, but that doesn’t make the emotional impact of the day hurt any less. They just matter so much, you know?

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February 18th, 2017: Sacred Heart at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Sacred Heart used long-range shooting and clutch defense in the fourth quarter to erase a seven-point deficit and come away with a 51-41 win to spoil LIU’s Senior Day. Hannah Kimmel had 15 points to lead three Pioneers in double figures. Shanovia Dove had 18 points in the losing effort for the Blackbirds, with Aja Boyd adding 10 points and 13 rebounds.

For seniors doing all the things, collages, small children, signs, balloons, the efficient use of personnel, and absolutely no sense of urgency, join your intrepid and transiting blogger after the jump.

It's entirely too gorgeous a day for mid-February in New York City. I'll take it, but at the same time I'll worry about it as the harbinger of climate change that it surely is. In either case, it's almost too nice a day to spend inside. But I did say almost, and it's game day, and it's Senior Day in Brooklyn. The Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn are hosting their last home game of the year, taking on the Pioneers of Sacred Heart.

We didn't realize until this morning that it was a double-header with the men, and frankly, I was not leaving the house for a noon tip for a game I don't really care about. We got in early enough to catch the very exciting end of the men's win over Sacred Heart. I'd be hoping that some of the magic could rub off on the women, but since about 80% of the crowd has left, I'm not taking any bets on that. It looks like it was Senior Day for the men, too, judging from the large framed photo collage of Iverson Fleming that one older couple (presumably Mr. Fleming's parents) carried out with them.

Making your injured players useful: Paris Jones and Mackenzie Freeman were deputized to put into position the silver number balloons for the three seniors.

Looks like Stylz Sanders will be wearing a mask for this game- she's got it tilted up on her forehead, but I would think she'll be wearing it for the game itself.

The victorious dudes have emerged from the locker room. Bring your mojo! We need all the help we can get.

It’s a little confusing, but the clock on the center-hung scoreboard is counting down to about quarter to three. So Senior Day festivities are definitely before the game.

Fans from the state of Connecticut travel fairly well, and the Sacred Heart contingent is no exception. I think we might end up being outnumbered by the time the game tips off, which is not okay.

NEC basketball at its finest: the table for the Senior Day presentations was the table that the summer camp literature was on when we came in.

As befits an acolyte of Tony Bozzella, LIU opens Senior Day ceremonies by acknowledging the opposing seniors, though LIU doesn’t have flowers for the Pioneers. They do, however, get the opportunity to give flowers to the senior members of the dance team before the game.

It’s kind of hard to keep a straight face at the listed accolades of a player who’s only been here for one year.

Okay, cool, the photo collages are the same for the women as they are for the men. I mean, font and everything, not just equivalent. Though now I’m wondering if they’re in stead of framed jerseys...

I kind of feel either bad or confused for Shanovia Dove, who has a cousin with her but not her parents (Dionne Coe and Brianna Farris both have their parents with them). D’awww, Brianna’s dad has one of those “Most people never get the chance to meet their favorite athlete; I raised mine” shirts.

Heh. Someone tried to start a noise war with the LIU band. You can’t win a noise war with the LIU band. The only people who win those are the people who make hearing aids.

At halftime, LIU is up 27-18. Aja Boyd and Shanovia Dove have both been solid for the Blackbirds, and Brianna Farris has brought the energy. For Sacred Heart, their seniors have done all the scoring. They seem rather more reliant on the three than today’s shooting indicates that they should be.

There’s someone sitting in the endcourt nearest the opposing bench who looks an awful lot like one of last year’s seniors, Shanice “so what I sprained my ankle, y’all need me” Vaughn.

The kids sitting near us have been pretty cool, but I’m worried that they’ve moved over to set up camp right next to the Sacred Heart contingent. They’ve brought the noise, and it seems like that might not be a good idea near the opposing fans.

There’s a hook from my college years that seems to be making a comeback as part of a remix, and I am totally okay with this. Sugar, how you get so fly, indeed. I expect this to be a new Cheesy Musical Hook for Sugar Rodgers this summer.

Still getting used to this new computer and this new version of Word. Not sure how I feel yet. I think this computer is slower than Jocelyn, my Envy, but I’m only asking this one to be a mobile typewriter that can access the Internet. (Jocelyn’s casing is falling apart, her hinges are so-so, and if I touch her without properly grounding myself I electrocute her.)

Well, that was a thing that happened, and it’s a thing I very much do not approve of. Saying that LIU fell apart in the fourth quarter might be an exaggeration, but they definitely showed that they’d been to the Herman Edwards school of clock management. There was no sense of urgency late in the game; it’s as if they not only ran out of gas, but ran out of give-a-damn in the last five minutes.

Sacred Heart didn’t go very deep on their bench. Erin Storck didn’t exactly make a great impression when she compounded a missed free throw with a foul on the rebound. She brought decent physicality off the bench from the guard spot. Tykera Carter is very fast, and she is not a good player to make bad passes around. Unfortunately for LIU, they showed a tendency to pass a little further ahead of where the recipient was going to be, and Carter read those passes for fast break opportunities.

Katherine Haines was a big body down low. While she absorbed a lot of fouls, she also made life more and more difficult for Aja Boyd as the game went on, and she was good at setting screens. The fans across from us got very excited when Shelby Hickey scored her one basket, so I guess that’s not a thing that happens very often?

Adaysha Williams didn’t seem afraid to pull the trigger from deep, and did not get the rolls on the rim inside. Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. I think the fans across the aisle from us were Kelcey Castro’s family, or at least knew her and/or her family well enough to cheer loud and long for her. She hit a couple of big threes in the fourth quarter to put SHU in front. Hannah Kimmel is dangerous from all over the floor, and she creates an interesting match-up with her size.

Sacred Heart’s zone really did a number on LIU. That, combined with the doubles on Aja Boyd and Shanovia Dove at appropriate times, shut down any semblance of offense that LIU could muster. They forced LIU to think too much and fed into their tendency to slow the game up.

Seneca Richards is not good at defense. She got into foul trouble quickly and seemed very grouchy about the calls. She came in at the end to provide a distance threat, but she didn’t seem to be seeking her shot, nor did her teammates look to get her the ball. That rather defeats the purpose of a three-point specialist, I would think. Autumn Ashe shows promise as a defensive post, but you can't run the exact same plays to her that you would to Aja Boyd for the simple reason that she's not Aja, and she's not as tall as Aja and she doesn't catch passes the same way. Victoria Powell moved the offense slightly faster than Dionne Coe did, but got in her own teammates' way as much as she did her opponents.

Dionne. We need to have a talk about the bit where you launch threes from the general direction of Gravesend. And we need to have a talk about these stretches where you dribble the ball on the perimeter for six or seven seconds at a time, especially when it's a two or three possession game and time is running out. I don't know if she doesn't have passing vision or she has no faith in her teammates, but she holds the ball for way too long and it kills anything that looks like momentum. Shanovia Dove got fired up on offense, but for much of the game, it looked like her teammates weren't even thinking about taking shots for themselves, instead force-feeding her or Aja. Brianna Farris started the game with great energy on both ends of the floor, and I love everything she did in the first quarter, but she wasn't able to sustain that kind of intensity through the whole game.

Aja Boyd showed great moves on the inside, and if/when she can finish consistently at the rim and from the weak side, she'll be an unstoppable powerhouse. As it was, too ofen she got phenomenal position inside and then took a bad shot. Her rebounding was fantastic. I feel like she has the potential to be something truly special for LIU if she can keep developing. Gabrielle Caponegro has talent, and shows it in flashes on the glass, but she's still scared, and she still holds the ball way too long, allowing the defense to bottle her up and promptly freaking out when they accept that invitation. I'm sure a lot of this will come with time, but I'm worried about what happens if it doesn't.

The lack of urgency at the end of the game really killed me. You have to understand that you can't just be passing the ball around the perimeter and take twenty seconds to get into your offense when you're down two or three possessions in the final two minutes. You have to do something different from what you usually do, and LIU kept doing what they always do. That’s not going to work when time is short. Even Coach Oliver seemed to be urging them to speed it up, though without her usual acidic sarcasm. (Which is good. Acidic sarcasm should be saved for the stands and for those moments behind closed doors. You never let outsiders see anything that might be division.)

Officiating was the usual mess of what is this I don’t even. I do think they did a good job managing the game at the end (as compared to the Sacred Heart fans who were baying for a travel while they were up 10 with less than a full possession to go). And calling the technical on Sacred Heart’s coach had the effect of calming both coaches down somewhat.

I somehow suspect LIU won’t be sorry to see the end of this season- but there’s promise for the future, if Coach Oliver can get through to this class and instill confidence in them. Someone’s going to have to show the ability to score with Shanovia graduating. Everyone’s going to have to step their game up.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12th, 2017: Villanova at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Villanova led from start to finish in an 87-52 dismantling of Seton Hall. Jordan Dillard spearheaded a strong Wildcat bench with 15 points, one of six Villanova players in double figures. Lubirdia Gordon of Seton Hall led all scorers with 18 points.

For the bad old days, a lack of effort, free food, the ridiculous to the sublime, shame, dismay, embarrassment, and sore knees, join your intrepid and disgusted blogger after the jump.


These are not the Game Notes of Doom you would have been led to expect from the Big East schedule. Someone else will have to chronicle Georgetown’s visit to St. John’s. I promised Seton Hall I’d be at Senior Day, and even after realizing the games conflicted… well, I promised. It’s Senior Day.

The weather is impressively lousy out there, a horrid combination of sleet and freezing rain that’s slippery and gross. Doesn’t seem to have depressed turnout, except for those annoying Nova fans who were at the game on Friday.

Yes, ma’am, I know it’s Senior Day. We have season tickets. You don’t think I know this? Even if I hadn’t known it coming in, the signs on the wall would have been a hint.

Oh, here we go. Here come the feelings. We’re about to get started. As always, they start off with flowers for the visiting seniors, who seem nonplussed by this sort of thing.

How many coaches grab the mic for their senior managers? How cool is that?

Nice touch for Kaity Healy to be the one carrying Kat Egan’s flowers- they were both Iona commits who chose Seton Hall after Tony moved on.

D’awwww. Lubirdia Gordon doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself. Like, she genuinely doesn’t seem to believe she’s as good as her statistics say she is.

Shoutout to band, cheer, and dance, who will get their senior honoring during timeouts. Apparently the Big East has a rule about how long pregame ceremonies can be? That explains why Tony sounded so rushed when he was speaking about his seniors, too. His speeches are usually longer.

There’s somebody behind the scorer’s table who looks a lot like Aleesha Powell. It’d be cool if Leesh decided to get into the game that way.

Wow, that is some suit that guy is wearing. Seton Hall printed all over. Think Don Cherry meets NCAA.

Y’all. Y’all bring a group in less than five minutes before tipoff, you are not thinking terribly far ahead.

Okay, Seton Hall, we need to have a talk. And it needs to be a long talk. Because I did not hike my ass out the door at 10:30, take the J out to the PATH, wait through the train delays, and haul myself on board the 31 bus to watch you puke all over Senior Day. It’s 48-22 Villanova at halftime. The only player on the floor who seems to have come to play is Bird Gordon, who is like, “This is my Senior Day and none of you are bleeping ruining it for me.”

I don’t know what happened with Shadeen Samuels, but she’s behind the bench in a gray hoodie, looming like the Ghost of Christmas Future. Deja Winters has a shoulder problem and is not dressed. (Is very not dressed. She’s wearing a t-shirt so you can see how her shoulder is taped up.) I don’t know why JaQuan Jackson and Kaela Hilaire haven’t played. All I know is that Seton Hall is serving up hot trash on a platter, and I did not make my way through three different transit authorities to accept hot trash on a platter when I could be at St. John’s.

Oooh. That kid in the biddy game just hit a sweet elbow jumper. I think it’s the first one I’ve seen all day.

There’s no defense. There’s barely any offense. No one in the history of the state of New Jersey has been able to drive with as little traffic as Villanova has seen.

You. Little girl in the Villanova shirt. What are you doing behind the SHU bench? Go away and stop it.

I’m dead-red serious, I think we’re one incident away from burning our bridges at Seton Hall. Too much nonsense has been going on here. Shenanigans, even.

Well, that could have been better. I’m sure there’s some way it could have been worse, but other than catastrophic injury and other flukes of nature, I can’t think of anything. I can’t remember the last time I saw a team give up so emphatically and so disastrously as Seton Hall did in this game. I know they’re capable of better. I know they can be better. I have no idea what happened, and I’m kind of terrified at the idea of what it could have been.

If Seton Hall hadn’t given Villanova Senior Day flowers, I would have been a lot angrier that Karlie Crispin was jacking threes when Villanova was up 30 in the waning minutes. But she’s a senior deep on the bench, and as tiny as she is she might even be/have been a walk-on, so I think I can make myself okay with this. Besides, it’s not like we played like a team to be respected. Nicolette Juliano also came in late, and I think she took a shot, but I’m not sure. Bridget Herlihy got extended fourth quarter run and played physical inside- a little too physical at times.

Mary Gedaka showed some nice moves in the paint. I’m a sucker for a girl with a hook shot, what can I say? Eventually she’ll slow down enough to fit Villanova’s system better; right now she still has the youthful freshman energy that keeps her going just a little too fast for Harry’s liking. She had a good deflection to shut down an ill-advised fast break attempt by Claire Lundberg in the fourth quarter. Kelly Jekot has a good stroke. I think I would like her if I were a Nova fan.

Jannah Tucker brought smooth moves and a quick three-point shot off the bench. She uses her length well and gets around quickly on the court. Jordan Dillard is the oddball among Villanova’s three-point shooters, the player who goes for midrange shots and paint plays (though the Wildcats were cutting inside a lot more than usual). She had herself a very good game.

This was Samantha Wilkes’s day to shine. She got off to a hot start, with eight in the first quarter. Seton Hall lost her on defense, and she took advantage. She kept setting those hard screens, too, including one that set up Adrianna Hahn for a trey. (The people around us thought it was a moving screen, but I thought Wilkes didn’t move until Kaity ran into her.) Megan Quinn showed her unexplained outside stroke late in the game, and outside shooting from the big girls was something that the Pirates just couldn’t handle. She laid a most painful block on Kaity Healy early on.

Grace Stant was quiet until near the end of the game, when she got a basket on a fast break. Her teammates were really happy for her. Alex Louin’s shot is very weird-looking; the way she winds it up, I wonder if Harry dragged out old film of Pennefather for her to study. (There’s no polite way to ask, “Are you double-jointed or something?” to a complete stranger.) She’s physical when she wants to be, but I think she likes to shoot more than she likes taking it inside. Adrianna Hahn is really tough. I like what I see out of her (well, you know, except for the part where it happens against my teams). If she were a couple of inches taller, I think she’d be a serious W prospect. Quiet game for her, but she commands the floor even when she’snot scoring.

Villanova is good at taking what the defense gives them. Today they were getting driving lanes, and they took advantage of them. They got a lot of really good looks. Once I get my hands on a box score, I want to see what their shooting percentages were, especially first/second half splits. I think it’ll be very edifying.

Jayla Jones-Pack has an enormous wrap around her left hand and wrist, and it’s really affecting her play. There were sequences where she had the ball, but couldn’t get a good grip on it, and fumbled, or couldn’t put up the shot. She’s hurt, and I think it’s worse than she wants to let on, but her team needs her. Without Shadeen, and with Deja hurt, and with Jordan Molyneaux so hurt she can’t dress, we have no post depth. We had a JaQuan Jackson sighting in the second half, and while she started quick, hitting her first two shots, I think she had too much pent-up energy to expend- she was consistently missing hard off the rim. When her shot started missing, her engagement was gone, and I think that was the death knell for Seton Hall’s chances of mounting a comeback. LaTecia Smith came off the bench in the first half and started the second half, and there seemed to be a little more cohesion when she was in the game. I think she needs to work on her clock awareness, but she’s not the only one.

Yes, Kaity, I’m looking at you. You’re supposed to be the heady floor general, right? You’re the one who was recommended by Haley D’Angelo, Tony’s quintessential faciliator from Iona, right? And you’re the one who doesn’t know time and score? Really? A player shouldn’t be able to play all forty and leave as light an impression as Kaity Healy did in this game. It shouldn’t be physically possible, and yet Kaity did nothing worth writing about. On the other hand, at least she tried to do something, even if it was miss shots or get assists. I’m looking at the box score now, and Martha Kuderer started the game and ended with the ultimate non-impact line- straight zeroes to give her seven billion. Martha’s style dovetails perfectly with Villanova’s- she should have been able to do something out there, but all she did was look scared on the floor and confused off it.

I’d really like for Claire Lundberg to figure out her offense. If she’s going to be a spot-up situational shooter in the mold of Sidney Spencer, fine. Then she needs to do a better job of getting open, and her teammates need to set her some screens. If Tony’s going to play her at the four, then she’s going to have to learn to hit shots on the inside, and she’s going to have to be a lot tougher. Right now, she’s betwixt and between, not even a true tweener. I can like the shots she hits, but they’ve been few and far between, overshadowed by the opportunities she gives away with her hesitancy inside the arc. Skyler Snider isn’t ready for the kind of minutes she got in this game- too many of her shots fell short, and she was noticeably flagging as the game wore on. I like her toughness and her heart, and I think she’ll be a great defender by the end of her college career. But she needs to be seasoned, and she needs to be a little better conditioned. (Next year, I’d love to see her versus Imani Littleton of St. John’s- I think there’s a lot they can learn from each other, intentionally or otherwise.)

The only Pirate who really seemed ready to play, really had her head in the game, really recognized the significance of the day, and left her heart on the floor, was the one senior player on the squad. Lubirdia Gordon had herself a day down low for the Pirates. She rebounded fiercely and defended reasonably well. Her teammates left her out to dry too many times, expecting her to take care of the paint by herself like she was Brittney Griner and Yolanda Griffith rolled into one. She’s a solid defender, but we don’t expect miracles here.

I can’t express enough my disgust and dismay at how little effort everyone, except Bird and to a lesser extent Skyler, showed out there. It’s Senior Day. Doesn’t that mean something to you? Instead, they went out there and laid down and died. Wide open lanes were available that should ne8 r have been available. Villanova got offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Careless, cavalier, indifferent- those are never words I should associate with Seton Hall, and those are never words that should be applied to a team’s effort and intensity on the day when they honor their seniors. It smacks of disrespect and it reeks of shenanigans.

We are currently at the post-game senior banquet, where there are delicious sandwiches and wandering players. At least Bird has a sense of humor about the ballgirl jokes. And Shadeen still seems to be welcome at the team’s table. Tony is a surprisingly good sport about the St. John’s thing.

(Okay, important life lesson learned. Do not attempt to ruffle JaQuan’s hair. Someone just did, and she looked up with quite the WTF expression.)

Tony, dear, it is customary to have the blessing given before you let everyone dig into the food. Can it still be blessed after it’s been eaten? (Also, I feel like Shadeen and I might have accidentally shared a moment of “what is this I don’t even” during the blessing.)

Tony is really, really salty about the Big East rules about pregame ceremonies. Now he’s getting to give the full speeches he had planned, and it sounds much more Tony-esque. Talking about Tara’s toughness, and Kat’s previous commitment to Iona (so, uh, Tony, did you just admit to getting a player to change her commitment to follow you), and Bird’s ability to connect to people. Awww, Deja.

They weren’t kidding about the speaker not being loud. I can barely hear the sound on the video and I’m pretty much right next to it. Background music probably could have been quieter; you can barely hear the people talking about the seniors, which is a shame, because that’s the whole point of the video. Everyone talking about Bird as the mother figure on the team, and it’s kind of adorable and a little bit weird at the same time (and also, given her nickname, replete with strange mental images).

I love how much they’re treating the senior manager the exact same way they’re treating the senior players. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one does Senior Day like one of Tony’s teams does. I just wish the effort on the court had been a match for it. These seniors deserved better.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 10th, 2017: Villanova at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Villanova started strong behind Adrianna Hahn and hit their free throws late to beat St. John's, 66-56. Adrianna Hahn had 17 points, 11 in the first quarter alone, and eight rebounds to lead Villanova. Akina Wellere had 16 points for St. John's, while Maya Singleton made the most of her first start with 13 points and 20 rebounds.

For injury reports, traveling in good company, a veritable flock of ducks, hitting shots, missing shots, and taking too much time for routine tasks, join your intrepid and hypocritical blogger after the jump.

Good evening! It’s game day at Carnesecca Arena, as the Red Storm of St. John’s host the Wildcats of Villanova.

It’s BHA night, which means my team is wearing pink and black uniforms with all the accoutrements, right down to pink shoelaces for those who have a non-pink sneaker preference. Villlanova has the pink accessories- headbands, sneakers, and Play for Kay socks with the inverted ribbon. T-shirts in a truly horrifying pink somewhere between pastel and salmon are being given away. I managed to avoid them. This is St. John’s. On Fridays we wear red.

There’s also a silent auction, but I do not think Shamachya Duncan or Kyra Dunn’s jersey would fit me. I’m not terribly certain about Mallory Jones’s, either, and I already have the white/pink from that year.

Oh, dear. Just got a dose of bad news, hot off the presses- Imani Littleton is done for the season with a torn knee ligament (I’m hearing MCL) suffered during the DePaul game (which means she played on it during the Marquette game, and if I talked trash about you during that game, Imani, I am SO SORRY right now, you have no idea). And Sandie Udobi is still bespectacled and wearing sweatpants, so I don’t think she’s active. Oh, dear Lord. St. Vincent, pray for us. St. John, pray for us. Somebody, pray for Jordan Agustus to have the same kind of revelation that Akina Wellere had last year.

D’awww. For as much as Da’Shena Stevens can register on the Summitt Scale, her smile is so sweet.

Ugh. Stupid pink jerseys mean that Nova is wearing home white on our court. THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Why do Villanova fans always seem to have such trouble figuring out where their bench is? It’s over there. *points*

Imaniiiiiii on crutches noooooo :( :( :( I haz a big sad, though Sandie at least has her laughing.

Welp. At halftime, Villanova is up 42-29. Adrianna Hahn had 11 points in the first 7 minutes of the game, and she’s at 14 right now. Maya Singleton has 10 points and 10 rebounds for St. John’s.

As much as this is the BHA game, this is also the Black History month celebration, so halftime has featured a performance of the black national anthem (or is that capitalized as Black National Anthem? Or does it have a title? I should check that when I have internet) and special dance performances by black dance groups. First quarter break also featured a celebration of a former Johnnie, Rita Haywood, to fit with the theme of the month.

And they’re taking down the net in front of the St. John’s bench again. Second game they’ve had to do this. I am confused.

Guys. Y’all. Harry Perretta has been coaching Villanova for literally longer than y’all have been alive, except for some of the coaches. He’s been doing the same damn thing for pretty much that whole time. Y’all know this. You don’t leave anyone open for three, even the center.

This dude in front of me thinks he’s got dance moves. Think someone should tell him STJ only takes on champions?

I am surrounded by college students and not hating it. It’s an odd experience.

That could have gone better. Granted, it could have gone a lot worse, but I feel like Villanova left the door open repeatedly at the end of the game, and we looked at it and said, "Well, yep, that's a door right there, sure is," and proceeded to walk repeatedly into the doorframe.

Everyone on Villanova shoots threes. This includes Megan Quinn, who is listed as a center and doesn't have a terribly pretty shot. But guess what? If you leave her open, she'll hit it. That's what she does. Mary Gedaka appears to be the heir apparent to Samantha Wilkes in the role of "person who sets the most screens". Grace Stant played in the second half and seemed to be in a little over her head- careless mistakes, and missed free throws; the latter stood out more because Nova was so consistent from the line. Kelly Jekot brought a little offensive flash off the bench, though she had a couple of moments where she looked like a freshman who was still learning the ropes.

I shouldn't have to break out "Guard the goddamn midget!" before the end of the first quarter, but Adrianna Hahn brings that out in people. "Midget" is a big of an overstatement; she's short, but she's solidly built. She uses screens and the occasional dribble to give herself the space she needs to shoot, and she likes to launch them from the general vicinity of Delaware. She's fast, and she's smart, and she doesn't get fooled, and I don't like her when she plays against my teams. Alex Louin is a stark contrast to her, taller and bigger and way more physical (she was arm-barring all night, we were not amused). But like most Villanova players, she loves her some three-pointers. I don't know why she was the player we were fouling at the end, but if that was the Red Storm's game plan, it was not a good plan. Jordan Dillard started each half off with a drive, but was mostly quiet otherwise.

As good as Hahn is, and as perimeter-oriented as Villanova's offense is, the most important player in it might be Samantha Wilkes. She's not going to be a primary offensive option, though she can score if the defense forgets about her. But the solid screens she set were the key to the Wildcats' hot shooting. I'd love to see an advanced stat that counts screens similarly to assists; I think a lot of underappreciated posts would get some recognition that way. I'm not sure what I was expecting from Jannah Tucker, but three-point shooting was not it. I think I thought she had more experience at Tennessee. She moves very smoothly.

Villanova is so frustrating because they don't care whether you slow them down. They're also frustrating because they're difficult to defend, because they move well, because they force defenses into uncomfortable situations where rim protectors are pulled out to the arc and post players are defending the ballhandler.

Jordan Agustus is not ready for prime time. This is a problem because she's literally the only forward we have left on the bench, unless Sandie gets some magic cheese on her knee or something. She doesn't seem to know where she fits in either the offense or the defense, and she's not ready for the ball when it comes to her. She's got to play closer to the basket instead of putting up ugly jumpers. Andrayah Adams wasn't ready for Villanova's defense; the confident stroke she showed in Milwaukee did not make the trip back to New York. She's improving on defense, but right now, we need her points. Crystal Simmons stuck close on defense, but she was too hesitant to shoot and awkward when she did (which is sort of a catch-22 that can only be broken by her fixing her damn shot). I really need someone to get comfortable bringing the ball up. We don't have that many games left of Aaliyah Lewis.

Look at you, Miss Maya! Maya Singleton got the start for Imani Littleton, and she came to play. It felt like every rebound in the first half was hers, and she was fighting for every single one of them. (I looked at the box score. Maya, by herself, had more than a quarter of all the rebounds in the game, by both teams.) She was rock solid, but she can't do it alone, and she can't go the whole game without some extended rest. Jade Walker spent a lot of time admiring shots that didn't go in. I like Jade's jumper, but I like when Jade rebounds her jumper too, and I thought she spent much of the early going trying too hard to be a Villanova player instead of using her strength. She stepped up inside in the fourth quarter, and that was part of what fueled the run that got us back into the game. She has such a wonderful blend of strength and finesse; I just find myself so often wishing she could manage the ratio a little bit better.

Aaliyah Lewis learned a hard lesson today, and I hope it sticks with her. Sometimes, all the fancy ballhandling in the world isn't enough to shake a defender. She tried to cross up Adrianna Hahn at least twice, and Hahn stuck with her. She tried to step up offensively, but she can't score and facilitate at the same time. Her clock awareness in the fourth quarter was sorely lacking. Really, it was the entire team's lack of urgency that irked me, but the senior point guard who's usually better than that will come in for the harshest criticism in that regard. Akina Wellere had some really solid moments driving the lane, and I like that she's adding/reintroducing that to her game instead of relying so heavily on her three-point shot, but she still seems tentative out there, and when she gets tentative, she hesitates to do the needful, whether it's shooting or fouling when Coach is screaming for the foul to be given. I love Alisha Kebbe's toughness- it seemed like either she or Maya chased down every loose ball. Her long-range jumper needs to be more consistent, but I have faith that will come with time and confidence and more familiarity with the home rims.

Y'all. If y'all are down nine with two minutes to go, and y'all shoot three pointers like y'all were in the six-on-six era, y'all do not have time to pass the ball around for fifteen seconds and drive for two. I know this and Joe knows this. You have to know time and score and manage the clock accordingly.

We got stuck with Brian Enterline. There were, unsurprisingly, plenty of missed holding calls. And I think we got the benefit of the doubt on an over and back call.

You're not going to stop a team like Nova if you let them hit shots. And you're not going to win if you can't hit shots throughout the game. We didn't do that. We fought back, and I love them for that, but Villanova is too good at what they do, and Harry is too good a coach, for us to dig a hole like this.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 6th, 2017: St. Francis at St. Francis

Just the Facts, Ma'am: After a slow start, the Red Flash of St. Francis University found their three-point shooting groove and put away the Terriers of St. Francis College, 75-59. Katie Reese, with six treys among her 19 points, led five Red Flash players in double figures. Maria Palarino led the Terriers with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

For so very many threes, careful phrasing, alliances, and brevity, join your intrepid and snowed in blogger after the jump.

Weeknight games are not unusual for your intrepid blogger, but they aren’t usually at teams she loathes. But St. Francis of Pennsylvania is one of the schools we follow somewhat more loosely than our core six, and we can’t see them at LIU because LIU is one of our core six, and we can’t see them at Wagner because I am tired of climbing that ridiculous hill. Therefore, if we want to go see the high scoring Red Flash, we have to do it at St. Francis College. (I refuse to refer to them as St. Francis of Brooklyn. They don’t represent Brooklyn.)

It’s already been a heck of a day. I realized I forgot to give my mom back her keys yesterday (no, I don’t want to talk about the Super Bowl, thanks for asking); fortunately, mom lives fairly close to both my job and St. Francis. The transfers were tighter than football pants, though. I’m all sweaty and I didn’t get a chance to bring dinner.

I don’t applaud recorded anthems. Or recorded anything, unless there’s a performer pretending they’re singing it.

The Red Flash got off to a slow start, but the three-point shooting came on big in the second quarter to power them to a 39-31 halftime lead over the Terriers. Katie Reese is channeling her inner Katie Smith with 15 points on five threes.

Jessica Kovatch is that masked woman, but the mask doesn’t seem to be working for her. She looks super uncomfortable in it.

That awkward moment when the gym is so small, and you’re so close, and you’re so loud, that when you yell at the ref about a detail in the rules, the coach turns around and asks you the same question about the rules.

There’s a halftime free throw shooting contest going on, and the kid in the UConn sweatshirt had the worst performance. There’s a joke in here, but I’m too tired to find it. You do it.

I apologize in advance for any oddity about the notes. I’ve had to borrow my husband’s computer for game notes, since the hinge on Jocelyn is no longer working. I’m saving my notes on the most awesome flash drive (no pun intended).

Lost Michigan fan is lost, but I think she’s aligned with us, so I’m cool with this.

I get the feeling that being a full-time Red Flash fan is a fabulous and frustrating experience, one laden with the highest of highs and the lowest of “WHY DID YOU DO THAT STOP DOING THAT” moments, and the ratio of those moments is the difference in the game.

(Side note and somewhat shameless plug: we’re taking a late dinner at Hill Country’s lower-end chicken joint, and that is some good chicken, with some nicely complex biscuits and crispy fries. Brooklyn is definitely winning the post-game eats war.)

Coach Haigh got to put his deep reserves in at the end of the game, so we got to applaud for Jillian Scott and Sam Marino (seriously, she looks like she needs ID to see a PG-13 movie). Taylor Allison got spot minutes, but she impressed me more on the bench than on the floor. That’s not an insult or to say anything about how she played- that’s more a commentary on how sharp she was in supporting her team even when she wasn’t playing. She was the one who reminded everyone about the ten-second possibility (this is the play where we and Coach Haigh both wondered about the application of the ten-second backcourt violation) and she was encouraging and helping her teammates on the bench. That’s the sign of a leader.

Jill Falvey was scrappy out there, but not much of a threat offensively, which made her somewhat of an anomaly among the fire-at-will shooters the Red Flash sent out there. Courtney Zezza brought the thunder down low, with plenty of blocks inside. She had a rough start to the game, being the victim of that inbounds play where the inbounder throws it off the defender's back and gets an easy lay-up, but she recovered defensively. I'm not sure I like her as an offensive threat, but it's fun to watch her blast opponents' shots out of the air. Ace Harrison turned it up in the fourth quarter, laying the boom down on a shot and slashing through the lane. She was big, both in the important sense and in the physical sense.

I understand that Jessica Kovatch is rocking the mask, and that since this is college, it is a generic mask with quite a lot of padding shoved into it, not one that's designed to fit her face. I understand that her vision is compromised. But her shot was way off today. So was her passing. She seemed surprised when rebounds came into her general vicinity. And let's not talk about her defense, because there's nothing there to talk about. So I came in hearing the hype and came out provisionally not believing the hype. Fortunately, the Red Flash have a lot of shooters, and her teammates stepped up around her. Maya Wynn, which is probably one of the best names going in women's basketball right now, was shooting from the general vicinity of Altoona and hitting them, and she disrupted a lot of passes. Samiah Bethel was also very active on defense, bringing the energy and keeping the energy up.

Katie Reese's shot left the building at halftime, but made a quick, triumphant return in the fourth quarter, to the point where my scorecard indicated she was going to need to share the wealth. Strangely, the moments I remember of Halee Adams were not good ones- dubious shots, the one sequence where she didn't seem to know where she was supposed to be on defense- but she hit threes late when Reese and Kovatch faltered slightly. Her teammates did a great job setting her up- Kovatch and Harrison each had flashy passes to hit her for threes.

It's not the most complicated offense to explain- everyone cuts, everyone passes, and the person with the best three-point shot takes it. Like Villanova, there are one or two players whose specialty is not the three, just to keep the defense honest, and to penetrate for the kickout. Unlike Villanova, the offense moves at a pace not comparable to glaciers. The pressing defense was fantastic to watch- getting two consecutive ten-second calls will fire up any team.

This is not a shameless plug, because regular readers of the GNoD know that coaching one of my teams, providing me with tickets, or sending t-shirts does nothing to keep me from saying how I feel about a coach. (See: "why does Coach Tartamella yell at people who aren't playing?", "why doesn't Coach Bozzella switch to decaf?", "is it at all possible for Coach Oliver to turn off the sarcasm?", and other such questions.) But I like watching Coach Haigh work with his team- he has a knack for teaching, and for keeping his cool.

I'm really starting to wonder if John Thurston has a rotation, or has any idea who his players are, or where he's going and why he's in this handbasket. Every game he seems to be trying something different. This makes it even more difficult to write about the Terriers. You're expecting me to differentiate among nine white girls with ponytails who have no names on their jerseys, are playing wildly inconsistent minutes, and are being shuttled in and out.

At least Meg Crupi wears braids. It makes her easier to spot among the ponytails when she hits threes or goes inside for rebounds. I understand why Thurston's cooled on Olivia Levey- her conditioning isn't where it should be. She's a load in the paint, and she plays physical, but I don't know how long she can sustain it, and she doesn't really finish on the other end. Samantha Keltos did a nice job cleaning up in the paint on some of the Terriers' misses, and probably should have gotten more minutes than she did.

I'm really not exaggerating. I had a lot of trouble telling apart Mia Ehling and Etta Andersen- similar builds, single-digit numbers, scattered minutes, and the PA announcer's tendency to not announce when either of them came into the game. They were there, and they were in motion, but it's hard to place what impact either of them had on the game. Tori Wagner got in really, really briefly at the end of the first (I think) half. Dana DiRenzo got in briefly in the second half after being DNP in the first half, which I thought was strange because I was used to seeing her get more playing time.

Rachel Iozzia's three-point shot annoys me, but that is because I root for teams that she plays against, so I don't like when she does things. She has pretty good range. Kat Phipps looks to have gotten a little heavier since the Battle of Brooklyn (or I didn't get a good angle; either way, probably not my business). She drove well in the lane.

Alex Delaney did not get up to the shenanigans in this game that she did against LIU, for which I was grateful. She was good at setting screens. Maria Palarino was a favorite of the PA announcer (about whom more later), and used her height to create mismatches inside and on the perimeter. Lorraine Hickman did a good job on the boards- she was a pleasant surprise, since I hadn't seen much of her before.

I really don't know what to say about St. Francis College. They seemed disorganized- their defense looked good for stretches, but they weren't able to adjust when the Red Flash started hitting their shots. The offense looked like they were trying to run similar things to the Red Flash, but with less success (but slightly more paint play).

Other than the play where Maya Wynn got knocked down with no call, then got called for the foul for being on the floor, and the ten-seconds that should have been, the officiating was up to the usual standard for NEC WBB.

Announcer dude, please go back to the '90s. I say this as someone who does her earnest best to imitate the MSG announcer, so you know it has to be pretty egregious. This dude was annoying, and totally gnarly about it. He had the vocal mannerisms of a particularly obnoxious surfer bro, which is kind of strange for a program in the heart of Brooklyn. We're not even near Rockaway Beach, dude.

Not much of a crowd. They got into it a little bit early on, but as the Red Flash poured on the threes, they fell out of it.

It's a confusing layout, but the cafeteria's nice.

I'm not allowed to adopt any more teams. Six is enough. Six is more than enough, and I don't need any more teams that share conferences with someone who got there first. But if I could, I would totally adopt the Red Flash.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

January 29th, 2017: Xavier at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm's second-half comeback fell short in Xavier's 82-77 win over St. John's. Shamorie Ponds had a game-high 23 points for the Red Storm in the losing effort. Trevon Bluett's 21 points and 10 rebounds led Xavier.

For confusion, seat squatting, dramatic refs, shoutouts, potential, and going through the looking glass, join your intrepid and mildly confused blogger after the jump.

And now for the spear counterpart to our first game.

I always forget how much bigger men's basketball is than women's basketball. There are so many more people on the court, and they're so much bigger than the women.

That was fast. Maya and the inactives are already out of the locker room.

I am perfectly okay with the men practicing without jerseys. Hellooooooo shoulders.

That is not how you use your head, Xavier manager.

This is a double-header. If you can show up an hour before the men's tip, you can show up for the first game of the doubleheader. Walking up to me and asking "what did the girls do?" Not going to endear you to me. Especially in a Redmen cap.

One of the dudes for Xavier is warming up in a vest. It zips in the front and everything.

At halftime, Xavier is up 32-25. It hasn't exactly been a sterling display of basketball. Edmond Sumner is the big scorer for the Musketeers today, with eight points at the half.

There was a little ceremony to honor the women's Big East title during one of the media timeouts. We squeed and cheered.

Halftime of this one honors the honor roll athletes, which is awesome. Congrats on that 4.0, Sandie! I see you out there getting ready to change the world. (A cynical part of me wonders if they did it during men's basketball because there were no MBB players to be honored.) For the love of God, someone give this man a pronunciation guide. (Wow, Moss is a volleyball badass and an honor roll student? Awesome.)

Well, that took rather longer than I was expecting. And it was rather closer than I was expecting. Can I just say that men's college basketball needs to join the rest of us in the quarter system as soon as possible, kplzthxbai.

I wasn't expecting Xavier to be the team that kept up with this weekend's theme of committing unnecessary shooting fouls. I wasn't expecting them to come so unglued. They have some great pieces, but if they're a ranked team, and if this game was anything close to characteristic of them, I don't want to hear about weakness in the women's rankings.

Shoutout to the women's basketball alumnae in the row behind us. We play for the ones who came before us and the ones who will come after us. (Or cheer, in my case.)

Quentin Goodin stepped up when Edmond Sumner went out with an injury. He shut the door with free throws and put away any chance of St. John's finishing the comeback. Sean O'Mara had family in the audience (his grandma had a sweatshirt and everything) and rewarded them with defense and a dunk. RaShid Gaston was tough as nails inside, boxing out and getting boards. He was a crucial piece for Xavier. Kaiser Gates did good work on the glass in the second half, but he and O'Mara both showed bad judgment in the fouls that they took.

J.P. Macura lists as a guard, but played much more like a forward, unafraid to get physical in the paint (or anywhere, really). Dude is tough. Tyrique Jones didn't play a lot, despite the start- Gaston was giving them a lot of good minutes. He made a couple of plays down the stretch, though.

Should I have heard of Edmond Sumner before? Pardon my MCBB ignorance, but the one or two times I've caught Xavier on TV, his was not the name that was being mentioned often. But he was brilliant until he left with the ankle injury, and I hope he's going to be okay. He penetrated the lane with ease and dished really well. Trevon Bluiett, despite the unfortunate last name, came up with big threes late in the game (I want to say fourth quarter, but the men's game doesn't have quarters). Malcolm Bernard came up with a lot of big rebounds late in the game; when Xavier missed, he was there to clean up on the offensive glass. Good speed.

Darien Williams came on strong for the Red Storm in the second half, making plays on both ends of the floor, but down the stretch he didn't execute. I don't understand why Tariq Owens, with four fouls, was out on the ballhandler when an intentional foul was called for. He had some monster, monster blocks out there (surprised he didn't get warned for taunting after the second in a house-rocking sequence). He's a strange-looking dude, gawky and maybe not yet completely sure how he got so tall. His teammates don't seem to trust him on offense yet. Richard Freudenberg wears Mullin's 20, and wears Mullin's flattop, but he doesn't seem to be ready for primetime yet. He needs to work on his shot, and on his confidence in his shot. Federico Mussini was inconsistent- glorious when the long shots went down, frustrating when he went 1-on-3 on the break. Judgment is the key here.

Coach really doesn't have much faith in Kassoum Yakwe- as soon as Yakwe got the fourth foul very early in the second half, he was on the bench, and stayed there even as the other forwards racked up fouls. I mean, I kind of get it- they were incredibly stupid fouls- but I'm not sure that's how I would have approached it. He's a great shot-blocker, but he can't block shots from the bench.

Four-guard sets always throw off my game notes. Harder to split up that way. Shamorie Ponds really has that finger roll with the extra oomph down. It's beautiful. There's a lot of potential there, but I don't know if he's ready to be the star of the show. I really enjoy watching him slash through the lane. Bashir Ahmed stepped up with big threes. I wasn't as impressed with Marcus LoVett as I though I should have been- he seemed very often to be overshadowed by his teammates. I think he and Ponds need another year together to be the superstar backcourt that I've already been hearing them touted as. On the flip side, I can't put my finger on a lot of Malik Ellison's plays, but he caught my eye. Sometimes a player has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

We have to play smarter. We have to be sharper. The potential is there. I think Chris Mullin can do a lot to build this program as a recruiter and as a marketer. He's a great GM. But he's not a coach. He needs a strategist as his good right hand man, someone to run the X's and O's. I don't know enough about the men's college scene to know who's out there for him to partner up with, but he needs someone.

I say I'll never complain about women's basketball officiating again, but you all know that's a lie. But these refs were not good. I'm also not used to that much theatrical behavior from refs- every gesture seemed bigger than life, like they were enjoying being on the big stage.

To the gentleman at the other end of the row below us: your indecisiveness concerns me. You say at multiple points that Coach Mullin should not be working the officials, and yet you yourself scream at the officials. Which is the more correct course of action?

Crowd was about the same size as a Liberty game, but honestly, Lib fans get more into it. Even when St. John's was on a run, the noise didn't really ratchet up. Now, granted, they couldn't use the organ or other Garden sound effects. It was still a little disappointing. (That being said, can we add the rolls of thunder to the crappy version of "Thunderstruck" we use at Carnesecca?)

I'm not sure what to think of either of these teams. I'm kinda glad the sojourn into the strange land is over, though. I don't know if I like it there.

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