Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23rd, 2015: Marist at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Danaejah Grant 17 points and eight boards, as St. John's pulled away from Marist early, 61-47. Jade Walker added 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Sydney Coffey led the Red Foxes with 16 points, while Tori Jarosz notched a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

For traveling in the dark of the night, blocked shots, illusory Girl Scouts, bringin' the noise, traveling fans, kicked balls, a lack of discipline, and weak contest shooting, join your intrepid and culinary blogger after the jump. (Want some apple pie?)

Good evening, boys and girls! Your intrepid blogger is back in her usual perch at Carnesecca Arena, holding down the fort in Section 2 with Mr. Noisy himself, as St. John's finally comes home to face mMarist.

I don't know whose idea it was to have this game at 7 PM on a Sunday night, but I would like to have words with them. They will not be nice words. I would also like to have words with whoever designated a 7 PM game on a Sunday night as "Girl Scout Day". That's not how this works.

Can I be weirded out by how pale Marist is? Even the non-Caucasian players are on the light side. It's very discomfiting (not to mention you get awkward contrast with unfortunate implications, given that 9 out of 11 Johnnies are various shades of medium to dark brown). (Look, there's no diplomatic way to state this observation without getting into people's self-identification. Would you prefer "one team looks like my mom's coffee and the other is closer to my dad's"?)

Danaejah Grant is running around without her jersey on. It would be somewhat more scandalous if she didn't have a shirt on.

Marist, stop trying to sit behind our bench. Okay, it's just one guy and his daughter, but don't sit behind the opposing bench, it's not polite.

At halftime, St. John's is up 34-24. Aliyyah Handford continues to be all Matrix-y in the paint. Jade Walker's hook shot is falling, and Marist is something like seven-of-a-thousand from the field. The officials are calling procedural things pretty tightly- lots of travels, lots of three-second calls. They did manage to miss a change of possession arrow, which has so far been to the Red Storm's advantage.

It might be Girl Scout Day, but so far the only Girl Scout I've seen here is me. I think they got their promotions crossed up.

That was easier than I was expecting. I was expecting more of a fight from Marist, but this is not the Marist that once terrorized the MAAC and slew Ohio State. I know it's early in the season, and I know Marist has a lot of new faces, but I still expect more disciplined play out of the Red Foxes. They were sloppy even in warm-ups, and the mental lapses continued into the game.

Eileen Van Horn looked to have had a laundry malfunction with her uniform- the white numbers appeared more of a pale pink. Claire Oberdorf had no name on her jersey, the only Marist player to lack it, and we joked about her having to earn it by her play on the court, as if some sort of cruel rite of passage. She was aggressive after the ball. Casey Davidson was last off the bench. Maura Fitzpatrick left no impression other than a dark ponytail.

Kendall Baab came in in relief of Tori Jarosz when Jarosz got into foul trouble. She scored her points fairly late in the game. Morgan Bartner provided some spot minutes as well.

Rebecka Garderyd seemed to be splitting time between point guard and off guard, running the offense when more deliberation was required. Allie Clement started off shooting badly, but finished with a couple of corner threes and one very nice drive down the lane. Sydney Coffey was the big offensive star, but even then, her drives down the lane lacked a certain technical soundness- she threw the ball at the basket with no sense of form.

Lovísa Henningsdottir looked lost on the court- I think she's still adapting to the defense. Tori Jarosz showed flashes of her offensive skill set, but was more effective on defense. She shut down a lot of shots and defended the paint well. Foul trouble put her on the bench for stretches. I think this game might have shown the difference between the MAAC and the Big East, at least in terms of size.

Hey! Freshmen! They do exist! Jordan Agustus and her goggles came in late in the game. She committed a dumb foul, but more than made up for it with a pretty move in the lane. Akina Wellere still needs to get her feet under her, in terms of defensive signals and familiarity with her teammates and system, but I think she's going to adapt quickly and fit in well. Now, if only her outside shot would start falling...

Tamesha Alexander ran point for a while in the second half, unremarkably. I love her feistiness, though. She was going up against way bigger players for rebounds. Crystal Simmons came in for Aliyyah Handford for stretches, and everyone really wanted her to get a basket. I think it might be smarter for her to focus on her defense- I can see her getting more bench minutes that way, filling a role like that instead of trying to add yet more backcourt offense. Jade Walker looked really good scoring in the paint- she's been working on her hook shot, and it shows. She still has the outside jumper, but if she can consistently add down-low scoring, we'll be a more balanced and more dangerous team. (And if she can avoid committing stupid fouls.) She started the second half over Sandra Udobi.

Imani Littleton doesn’t seem to have found her feet yet, though I'm not sure how much is being run for her. She's third option at best, fourth if Jade is in the game. I'd still like to see her be more attentive on defense. Sandra Udobi has lost whatever mobility she had after the knee injuries. If she can get position in the post on offense she's still a lot to handle for the opponent, but she can't move on defense, and that makes me sad.

Aaliyah Lewis appears to be trying to be our three-point threat, with no success so far. I do love watching a point guard grow into her own and become a floor leader. Tiny but fierce! Danaejah Grant had the jumper working. Aliyyah Handford showed off her Matrix moves- she's just so smooth and so flexible. You can't blink when you're looking at her, or you'll miss something. She did get caught gambling on defense a couple of times, flying out for the steal and very much not getting it. That's something she has to be more careful about.

In the third quarter, St. John's broke out a press, and it was very effective. I'd love to see more of that.

We figured it was a bad sign for the officiating when we saw an Enterline, but he actually didn't make any calls we objected to. Angela Lewis was the one making calls that seemed questionable and enforcing three-seconds with an iron fist.

So many kicked balls. I feel like Marist may have forgotten what sport they were playing?

I don't know what this proves for St. John's, or if it proves anything other than the athletic department's inability to understand how clocks work. I don't know what this says about Marist either- it may be too early to tell, or we may be watching the decline of one of the great mid-major dynasties.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 13th, 2015: Bryant at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall started on a 10-0 run and never looked back as they defeated Bryant 93-57. Tabatha Richardson-Smith led the Pirates with 25 points, 20 in the first half. Shakena Richardson added 17. Ivory Bailey led Bryant with 21 points.

For flaws, blowouts, bom-bom-bom, so very much traveling, sweet shooters, and silent communication, join your intrepid and belated blogger after the jump.

Strike up the band, get loose, get your gear out, find your tickets, bang a gong, and let's get it on! Basketball season is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than with a day-night double-header?

First up, it's off to South Orange for a morning tip as the Pirates host Bryant. I'm not really a fan of home grays- not that I don't like the Pirates' uniforms, but I believe in wearing white at home, it's a thing.

Another chapter has begun in our eternal battle against the PATH and the 31 bus; today there were signal problems on the PATH and street closures on the 31 route. They better not mess with us on the way back.

Seton Hall seems to be up for the game, or at least better morning people than the Johnnies have ever been. Tiffany Jones busted some impressive dance moves during shootaround.

I salute you, student of "communications and the arrrrrrrts".

I like Seton Hall's new band shirts. The best way to wear a tie is to have it printed on your shirt in school colors.

We passed several school buses coming out of the parking lot, so it appears that there will be plenty of kids here, but as long as they don't shriek directly in my ear and they don't throw things at me, I'll survive. And since the kids are all in the upper deck while I'm in the lower deck, I'm really okay with this.

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 58-28. Tabatha Richardson-Smith has 20 points for Seton Hall, with Tiffany Jones adding 13 and Aleesha Powell adding a boatload of assists. Ivory Bailey has 15 of the 28 for Bryant- and three fouls.

SHU's been sloppy, but they've been able to get away with it. I'm worried about how Shakena Richardson is integrating into the offense- or not integrating. It looks like she's not reading the signals correctly.

Yes, Tara. I saw you mouthing along the "bom-bom-bom" during "Sweet Caroline".

Good times have, however, seemed better. I will happily take a blowout that was in the 40-point range for stretches of the fourth quarter. I'll take it and I'll like it. But there were a couple of things nagging at me for much of the game. We'll get to that later.

Naomi Ashley did not endear herself to anyone when she almost kicked Tabatha Richardson-Smith in the head late in the game. Accidental or not, that's not a move that makes a lot of friends. Chanel Ramcharran hit a long two that had originally been called a three and then reversed, then took a deeper one as if to say "call this a two, I dare you!" She seemed to get a little shot-happy in the fourth quarter. Dani Anderson is apparently a shooter (or so the defensive calls from the Seton Hall bench would indicate), She made more of an impression getting beaten on defense, though. Haley Connors came in in the first quarter as Bryant's coach made more subs and seemed to be searching for an answer. Kierra Palmer was first off the bench in the first half, but unless I've messed up my second half rotations, she didn't enter in the second until the fourth quarter. (There is a distinct possibility my second half rotations are messed up, though.)

(You may be able to determine from this that Bryant plays a lot of guards.)

Maureen Leahy was the sole post player off the bench for the Bulldogs, a tall center who rebounded well and at least got good shots at the basket (even if she only hit one of them).

I was expecting a lot more out of Breanna Rucker, from everything I've read about Bryant, but Seton Hall put the clamps on her. She didn't have a field goal until the fourth quarter, and never seemed to get comfortable on the floor. I was, however, very impressed with Ivory Bailey. She knows how to get buckets, and how ot take advantage of smaller defenders (the Pirates kept running Shakena Richardson at her, and, well, Shakena is smaller than pretty much everybody). She's got great moves. She's a little over-aggressive, but I think that can be harnessed in time, and they've got a coach who I think is good enough to do that. But as many accolades as Rucker has and Bailey will have, I feel like so much of Bryant's success this year will hinge on Tiersa Winder. And you're going to look at that 2-14 shooting and conclude that your intrepid blogger has gone and lost her mind. But it felt like she was the orchestrator of things- offense, momentum plays, hustle plays. If this game was any indication of how Bryant usually plays, she's their leader.

Morgan Olander hit the boards well on the defensive end and caused a little defensive mayhem in the middle. Alex Klein left no real impression despite starting.

So many reserves! Play ALL the reserves! (Except the ones who are redshirting.)

Tara Inman does not dribble as well as she thinks she does. I'd really like to see her stop trying to do the fancy stuff. I like her defense and her hustle. Jordan Mosley got a bit shot-happy late in the game- we were rooting for Seton Hall to get everyone on the scoreboard, and Jordan kept taking shots. I expect more ball thought and more sense out of a senior, even one who doesn't play a lot, but she was committing dumb fouls and not working the ball. On the flip side, LaTecia Smith's clock management skills still need work- Coach had to remind her to back the ball out when the game clock (not the shot clock) was under 30. Martha Kuderer played a little scared, but I don't think I can blame her- she's the last player off the bench, after all.

Jordan Molyneaux laid the blocks down and disrupted Bryant's offense in the middle. Claire Lundberg shoots threes, and I'd like to see her learn to do more than that if she's going to give Tab any sort of consistent relief. Taylor Byrne still has a lot to learn, but I like the way she boxes out. The three is not, or at least not yet, her shot. But with both her and LaTecia, I can see the potential to learn.

Thing #1 that worries me, though I think and hope that it's temporary: Shakena Richardson really does not seem to know the signals, either on offense or defense. She's a talented player, fun to watch- she shook and baked a Bryant defender so hard I thought less of the basketball terminology than of the hockey term "filthy dangle". I definitely wouldn't give her the ball in the midst of a triple-team that includes post players, though. She drives like crazy (you can insert a New Jersey joke in here if you want). Aleesha Powell is so quick, and she plays such fierce defense- sometimes to her detriment, when she picks up quick fouls. By midseason, I expect her passing to be much sharper. Leesh just does everything, and does it well. If she were just a little bigger and a little stronger...

Thing #2 that worries me, and I have more reservations about it being long-lasting: Lubirdia Gordon, for the second game in a row, couldn't hit water falling out of a boat. I think two of her shots were so far off, went so far over the basket, that the official scorer didn't even count them as shots. She's always had small hands for a post, and that's always worried me, but she seems to have regressed. She's not being aggressive, and she's not hitting easy shots in the lane. Tiffany Jones just does her thing, quiet and consistent. She does a little bit of everything. Tabatha Richardson-Smith started off red-hot- for a fair amount of the first half, she was either leading or tied with Bryant all by her lonesome. I think it got to her head a little bit after she hit a ridiculously long three, because then she started taking higher degree of difficulty shots that weren't necessarily within the flow of the offense. Coach did not seem to be amused. I love Tab, and people are going to take this the wrong way if I say it, but sometimes she doesn't seem to take the game seriously enough, and sometimes she seems to take her importance to the stat sheet more seriously than she should. She has WNBA skills and a WNBA-ready build, but I don't know yet if she has the right attitude to be a complementary part in a system.

The officiating reflected part of the problem with the quarter system: in a blowout, there's a psychological difference between 10 minutes of second-half garbage time and an entire 10-minute period of garbage time. There were ticky-tack calls in the third and then essentially a fourth quarter of no calls, even when there were wrestling moves on the hardwood. I think we're going to see some very sloppy fourth quarters this season across the NCAA.

I don't know how good a warm-up that really was for the schedule ahead. The level of competition ramps up fast. But it's good to see them do well- and to see their flaws laid out so we know how to handle them.


Friday, November 13, 2015

November 13th, 2015: Iona at Stony Brook

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Stony Brook overcame early turnover issues to come away with a 58-53 home win against Iona. Kori Bayne-Walker led the Seawolves with 14 points; Stony Brook also got 13 points from Christa Scognamiglio and 12 points and 10 boards from Brittany Snow. Iona's Marina Lizarazu led all scorers with 21 points.

For fumbles, missed opportunities, fantastic bands, so very many trains, souvenirs, shiny things, new favorites, and wind, join your intrepid and anachronic blogger after the jump.

We are never going to Stony Brook again.

That's nothing against the town, or the school, or the facilities. We haven't even made it there yet. LIRR is ridiculously expensive and I refuse to pay those prices ever again.

That being said, the food is good (we went to a place called The Bench, right after the Iona team meal, and got to say hi to their bus) and the facility still has that new arena smell from the heavy internal renovations. It's a bit confusing to get around, and I'm not a fan of putting suites that low in the building. But it's really nice otherwise.

No, Iona, don't do this to me, why is Aaliyah Robinson not dressed, please let A-Rob be okay, please. NOT MY FAVORITE DAMNIT

Of course Stony Brook's band knows Billy Joel. It's like we're out on the Island or something.

What is with Stony Brook's penchant for fearsome and/or terrifying names? You've had a Sabre, you have Bayne-Walker (which phonetically sounds like an awesome horror series) and now you have a Skaro. If she starts screaming "EXTERMINATE" we all run.

I think Stony Brook's band has too many Yankee fans in it. They're doing roll call in time with the test of the graphics system. It fits better in the college system, but as a Mets fan, I'm obligated to mock Yankee things.

Kiddy anthem. I've heard worse kids.

At halftime, Stony Brook is up 29-23, and if neither team hits 58 I'm declaring them both losers and giving Bryant the win, because this has just been bad basketball. Stony Brook is turning the ball over like crazy, while Iona is turning the ball over and making absolutely no sense. I don't understand Iona's offense. I don't understand Iona's rotations. I don't understand why Iona is trying to turn an athletic rebounder who's at her best scoring off boards and down low into a small forward and having her shoot from the outside when she shoots. I don't understand anything.

But I really like Stony Brook's band. What they do with the student section is what we're trying to do in section 2 at St. John's- bring the noise, get good call and response going.

That game got fun for a while, but in the end, Iona couldn't buy a basket and Stony Brook could seal the deal with free throws and defense. The pedant in me thinks it might have been easier for them to buy a basket if they sent the right people to the store, but I recognize my biases and attempt to either work around them or acknowledge them so that others may recognize and take them into account.

Iida Ahvenainen came out shooting, but didn't come out hitting. She was first off the bench in the first half, but didn't play in the second half. I understand why. Philecia Gilmore is doing her best to become my new favorite, though not for her play on the court. She's passionate, she's intense, she's loud, and she has presence beyond her years on the bench. She didn't have a great game on the court, but on the bench she reminds me of Erin Thorn, and I can already see her as a coach in the future. (Yes, I'm thinking specifically of the years Erin suffered through Pat Coyle.)

I really like Ashley Murray's hustle. She sacrifices her body on defense to draw charges, and she's not afraid to bang. I think I'd like to see her be more of an offensive option, but then again, I don't know what the offensive options are, so. Aurellia Cammock got a couple of big boards in the second half, but she's got to hold on to the ball, she's got to be more careful with her body, and she's got to finish plays.

Alexis Lewis certainly isn't afraid to shoot. I'm sure there will be days when I think this is a good thing. This was not one of those nights. I like her intensity and her passion, but I don't know if she's ready to start yet. Marina Lizarazu set the nets on fire in the first half; in the second half, she seemed to fall back into old habits of endless dribbling left and stalling the offense. Stop being afraid of action! Good things happen when there is action!

Treyanna Clay intrigues me. You can see how raw she is, but you can see that there's potential there. I don't know if she's ready for the big time yet, but I like her fearlessness. She's got good instincts- she just needs to hone them. Karynda DuPree is right back to that style of play that makes me want to tear my hair out: she stands and stares at rebounds, she's careless with the ball, she's taking deep threes at angles she's not good from. She'll have moments, especially on the defensive glass, where she looks aggressive and plays with the strength of that solid frame. And then she goes back to half-speed. Joy Adams seems to be wedged into a three-hole that her style of play doesn't suit. She's a phenomenal athlete who's best running the break and close to the basket off rebounds. Why she's being set up for threes is utterly beyond me, and I think it's affecting her game both physically and mentally (though her catching ability has never been great, she's being called upon for more dribbling than usual, and her handle is not that great). She missed a couple of shots late that she should have had.

I realized what the Joy-at-the-three experiment reminds me of: when Bill Laimbeer tried to convert Toni Young from 4 to 3. Joy's a little bit smarter than Toni, and definitely has a better work ethic, but it's still trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole.

Kim Hanlon came up with some big plays at the end of the game, icing the deal at the line and making the big steal. She seems like a solid, heady player. Davion Wingate came in for an offensive boost, with mixed results. She's got some moves. Alyssa Coiro coordinated the defense when she was in, and seemed to be a leader on the floor.

A lot of people at Stony Brook and in the America East are going to be annoyed with this team, because they're going to have to spell Ogechi Anyagaligbo a lot, because she's very, very good. She had a big swat to help seal the game for Stony Brook late, and she's got good moves in the lane. I really like her and her potential. Brittany Snow played well down low. She was phenomenal on the offensive boards, with some help from her teammates keeping balls alive.

Jerell Matthews got the start, but didn’t play a lot (I think this is part of why I lost track of the rotations a little in this game). She was mostly out on the perimeter. Kori Bayne-Walker moves deceptively gracefully for a woman of her very broad build. Sometimes it works for her; sometimes it definitely doesn't. On a night when the officials are calling block/charge pell-mell, it doesn't work. Christa Scognamiglio hit a couple of big buckets late in the first half, after the first time Iona took a lead behind Marina. She's got nice touch.

Stony Brook's announcer seems to relish long, complex last names, much as Mike W. does for the Liberty and the Knicks. I love it.

The officials got kind of inconsistent about block/charge in this one- in the first half, everything was a charge, but in the second half, everything became a block. I think this crew might have been confused about the presence of both the men's and the women's circles on the court. I think the rules committee should look at that.

Stony Brook does postgame autographs after every game, and since our train didn't leave for another forty minutes, it seemed like a good use of our time to get on line. They were all really nice, but someone needs to talk to administration about getting better and/or more markers. Poor Anyagaligbo got stuck with one that was drying out.

All in all, my biggest problem with Stony Brook is the same problem I had with the Prudential Center: it's a beautiful arena, with great atmosphere, all the necessary amenities, transit nearby, good food in the area, a team that can be fun to watch... but it's just too far away to be realistic for me.

The problems I have with Iona, however, run deeper.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 7th, 2015: Philadelphia at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A slow start for both teams developed into a 71-47 Seton Hall win over Philadelphia University in the Pirates' first game of the year. Tiffany Jones led Seton Hall with 16 points and eight rebounds. Rachel Day had 12 points for the Rams.

For failure to communicate, disallowed shots, sore muscles, missed connections, and superficial analysis, join your intrepid and diverted blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon! It's that time of year again- college basketball has returned. Sure, it's only the preseason, and it's not a D-I opponent, but it's good to be back where everyone knows your name (or at least your husband's nickname). The trusty laptop and I are once more ensconced in our familiar place in section 4, behind the Seton Hall bench on the hard wood bleachers of Walsh Gymnasium. This time, I brought a cushion. I learn eventually.

The trip is always long, but PATH made it an extra twenty minutes longer. We left home a little before 10:30 to get to Seton Hall at 1:20. Insanity.

Going through Newark is always depressing. The lines of demarcation between the carefully tended neighborhoods and the ones less cared for are sharp and clear; you go half a block, maybe a little more, past the Prudential Center on Market Street, and you've gone from artisanal pizza to swathes of empty storefronts. Get off at Dover Street on the 31, and in two blocks you go from plexiglass barricades in the stores to the graceful houses of South Orange Village. Even University Heights, so shiny and new, comes off as sterile, or possibly sterilized, a place where people perform the activities of daily living without actually living.

I don't know if I could live in poverty, with the constant presence of wealth hovering so close and yet so far, without falling into rage and the urge to destroy something.

Philadelphia needs to update their gear. That's a very old Reebok logo.

Pocket schedules are simple this year, but the posters are nice.

I don't know if I like the quarter system for college basketball. I'm used to it from the WNBA, but I sort of miss long periods of play. Well, it is what it is.

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 42-29 on Philadelphia. Shooting was bad by both teams in the first quarter. Offense has picked up some in the second quarter, Philadelphia by finding open jumpers, Seton Hall by applying the backcourt trap and getting fired up by their defense. The seniors are making noise for the Hall, with 11 points for Tiffany Jones and 8 for Tabatha Richardson-Smith. Jessica Kaminski has 9 for Philadelphia (though it should be 8, that three was clearly on the line).

The game was definitely better than the travels and travails it took to get there. It's 6:10 right now, and I'm still in Manhattan. Transit has been madness, whether it's construction and signal issues on PATH or a police investigation on the J. We've walked around, rerouted, rerouted again, and finally gotten on a train that will get us to a bus that will get us to a long walk home.

So there are definitely things to look forward to for the Hall, and a couple of things to worry about. I don't know how good Philadelphia is going to be this year, but their two big shooters today were a redshirt freshman and a sophomore.

Philadelphia really didn't go deep into their bench for most of the game. The Rams emptied their bench late in the game, so we got brief glimpses of Valez Jackson, Alicia Lister, and Regan Marriner. None of them did anything of note. Jessica Kaminski would be a much more lethal scorer if she had a better sense of where the three-point line was; most of her shots were very close to the three-point line, and usually on the wrong side of it. It's the same issue I have with Essence Carson, only she wasn't even on the line most of the time. Jackie McCarron apparently played in the first half, but you can tell how much of an impression she left if I thought her first appearance was in the second.

An outside jumper is a very useful weapon for a post player, especially one with a stocky build who thus becomes less of a suspect in the ownership of a soft outside shot. That being said, Mary Newell seemed to rely more heavily on it than she should, which was a shame, because she seemed to have good moves around the basket, or at least the ability to make points happen in the vicinity of the basket. Tori Arnao was mostly shut down, and her shots seemed to get wilder as the game wore on. She did a good job boxing out and setting screens for her teammates.

Bria Young has a lot of speed and a lot of aggression, but not a lot of sense- she got nailed at the halfcourt line a lot, and showed a distressing tendency to stop there as if waiting for the trap to come. Rachel Day has a really pretty three-point shot that we saw entirely too much of, because she was able to use screens and get herself free. Kelsey Jones left minimal impression- she came off as someone who's very tough, but didn't necessarily have any occasion to use it. That happens sometimes.

Philadelphia seemed to panic as the game went on and the lead got bigger. There were a lot of bad shots thrown up just for the sake of having a shot up. They rallied a bit late, but very late, when Seton Hall had been up by 20 for much of the half.

Seton Hall has a lot of freshmen. That's to be expected, with the number of scholarships freed up from last year, whether by graduation or by attrition. We didn't get to see much of Kaity Healy, or Martha Kuderer (AKA McLaughlin; there was apparently some kind of issue with her jersey, so she was wearing a different name and number). LaTecia Smith put in some time at point guard, and I think she's got a lot of potential. The one glaring thing that stood out to me was clock awareness, or lack thereof. That might not be the right phrase; an inability to manipulate the clock might be closer. She's not going to hold the ball to run out the clock or to keep the opponent from having extra time on offense; she's not going to set up for one last good shot. Other than that, I like her. She's a freshman; she'll learn. The freshman who impressed me most was the forward Taylor Byrne. She needs to work on her stamina and conditioning, but for a freshman in her first college game, that's to be expected. I like her hustle, I like her shot, and I like her communication on the floor. She looks to be a very useful player already, and someone we can rely on in later years.

Jordan Molyneaux appears to have lost any court vision she had during her abbreviated season last year. I like what she does defensively on the inside (that foul was totally a clean block!) but I expected a little more out of her. Maybe she's just rusty, though. Jordan Mosley made some good moves on defense. Claire Lundberg's threes had a nasty habit of rimming out. Tara Inman gave up her body on defense. I love to watch her work on defense.

Shakena Richardson reminds me of Temeka Johnson, only slightly stretched out- not quite as stocky, a little bit taller, but strong for her size. She overthrew a couple of shots in ways I wasn't expecting. It's going to take a while for her to develop a rapport with her teammates, but I think she'll get there. I like her slashing ability to the hoop. Aleesha Powell has a lot of speed, and I love when she cuts off an opponent's angle. Again, some rough edges need to be filed off on team chemistry, but we're only in the preseason, and that's what you do in the preseason: you figure out what needs to be fixed.

Tiffany Jones had herself a game, hitting threes and pulling down boards. I always get a little weirded out when posts get comfortable beyond the arc, but if she can consistently hit that shot, I'm okay with it. Lubirdia Gordon couldn't hit a bunny all night, and it seemed like she had more of them than the box score shows (though she was fouled on some attempts, and I suppose some attempts never got sufficiently close to the basket to be considered shots). She pulled down the boards, but the boards don't do you much good if you can't convert them. She also seemed to not be communicating with the guards. Look down, Bird- they're there, I swear. And now we're getting to the part that I don't like writing, because I want only good things for Tab, even when she gives me the I Am Disappointed In Your Life Choices staredown. But Tabatha Richardson-Smith has a recurring case of recto-cranial inversion, and it flared up in the second half of this game. I love to watch her shoot. I love when she hits the boards. She's got the skills and the build to take that next step. But she knows it too, and sometimes I think she believes her own hype. And if you do stupid things on the court, and your coach gets upset with you for doing stupid things on the court, you don't ignore him. You don't act like you're not taking the game seriously (even if you're not- pretend to care).

The crew chief seemed very concerned with the small details of fashion today, since that was something she could enforce with any reliability.

This is not the team that went to the tournament for the first time in ages. This is something different- there's promise, but there are definitely rough patches. Communication is the key.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Red Storm Tip Off 2015

A brief interlude between seasons, in which dancing occurs, gender disparities are noted, fashion is critiqued, and cheerleaders are dropped.

Good evening, wanderers in the offseason wilderness!

It's that time again. They used to call it Midnight Madness back in the day, when it took place at midnight and ceremonially marked the beginning of allowed basketball activities. These days, it's less of a thing, more for appearances than anything else, and it's more likely to end before midnight than start after it. Now it's just St. John's Tip Off, but it's still good to be back at Carnesecca.

The only bad news is that we're not in our usual seats in Section 2 tonight, next to the band, rocking out to "Thriller" and "The Pretender". The good news is that we're in the third row behind the bench- Veronica came through this time. They're still trying to figure out how they hand will call tickets, but that's a familiar problem.

It looks like we're going to get an opening act, and not just the incessant ruckus of the DJ. Basketball-related entertainment is even better than most entertainment, and Black Jack Ryan and his daughter put on a good show.

I feel bad for the guy in the band with the Pirate blue trombone. Either he got pranked pretty badly or someone forgot to tell him the school's color scheme. It's not like it's in the team name or anything.

The place is starting to fill up, though I'll note they started opening the doors before the noted 7PM opening time, because it's only 7:04 now and I've definitely been sitting here for more than four minutes.

Bless your heart, guy in the Steve McNair shirsey. You have good taste in football skill sets.

I guess having some idea of when things get started would be helpful, huh? Battery's down to 53%, so I'll be back in an hour or so.

Pregame entertainment also included a burrito-eating contest that involved suicides, which just does not seem like a good idea. I've already seen people throw up on a basketball court at both the professional and collegiate levels, and I'm glad I didn't see a repeat this time.

So many different uniforms. I don't know how the guys are doing it, but the women are garbed by class- freshmen in white, sophomores in red, juniors in navy, and seniors in gray.

So much dancing. Some of it was even good.

Someone needs to take that selfie stick away from Danaejah Grant. It's for her own good.

Da'Shena Stevens still looks like she could go out there, play 30 minutes, and drop a double-double on an NCAA tournament team. Hey, now I can see for myself whether Sox Alexander looks as much like her as I thought.

Sorry, guys. I don't care about your NCAA banner, or Chris Mullin. I do appreciate whichever men's staffer that was who was getting his groove thing on during intros. Shake what your mama gave you.

Jade Walker looks like she's toned up. I like- we need her. Also love that Sandra Udobi is moving without the brace- we need her even more, with all the posts graduating. (I'd like to see her do more upper body work, though.)

I'm amazed at how many internationals there are on the men's team. We might have our own seven nation army going on here. (Okay, we might have to loan them Sandie to pull that off.)

How many people here knew who the university president was, or would have chanted his name, without Chris Mullin egging them on? It's amazing what people will do for the sake of celebrity. The part where he had the ref's shirt under his jacket was pretty awesome, though.

I liked the video of the teams' combined history- it looked like a men's video at first, but then you remember how long it has taken to get women's basketball started at most schools. They included footage from the first era of our success, and Shenneika's three, and the announcement of Nadirah's draft pick.

Cheer team is trying some really audacious things, but they definitely need to hit the weight room- there were a lot of drops, including one that turned into an eight-cheerleader pile-up. Dance looks like they're on point early (no, not en pointe), though I don't get the point of doing the suspenders and bow tie routine in the dark.

Danaejah isn't shooting around, but I'm not sure whether it's because she's hurt or because the selfie stick has adhered to her hand. (We did eventually see her with the phone but without the selfie stick.)

And that shootaround was really the last we got to see of the women. After both teams shot around, the men scrimmaged for about twenty minutes. Then they started setting up for the concert, at which point one of the WBB staffers got all WTF. Four of the women participated in the shooting contest (and the day someone can explain why Aliyyah and Sandie were involved, when they have three made threes in their combined NCAA careers, I think pigs will fly). At least Aaliyah can shoot them, and I don't know enough about Akina to judge.

After the disaster that was the three-point shooting contest, there was a plug for the men's trip to Maui for the Maui Invitational. And then the musical entertainment came on, though I'm not sure how much of that should be in quotation marks.

So yeah, that fizzled out disappointingly. I think cheer and dance might have had more court time than women's basketball, which is frustrating when you're there for women's basketball and to maybe see Liyyah do Liyyah things.

When we walked out of the arena, we looked at the schedules and posters on the table. Men's basketball schedule and season ticket form; men's soccer pocket schedule and group sales ads; what looked like soccer posters. You notice what's missing...

This is what bothers me about St. John's, and why it can be so hard to stay with them. It's not a problem with the team- I really like these kids. It's not a problem with the gameday atmosphere- the band is into it, cheer and dance are into it, the school's other athletes are into it, the students who do come get into it. It's not even a problem at the coaching level- I disagree with Joe's decision-making, but that's not related to the issue at hand. It's an institutional issue. It's the knowledge that no matter how good any other sport at St. John's is, it will always take the back seat to men's basketball, no matter how good or bad men's basketball is. Look at baseball- look at the soccer teams- look at golf. Look at Panik, look at Bradley.

And it raises the question: why should I throw my money and my time and my love down this hole when it's going to go to waste? Why should I give this athletic department any money when I know it's likely going to go towards a program that doesn't need it? I'm tired of having men's basketball overshadow women's basketball. I've been tired of being asked what I think about the men's team. The truth is I don't really care, except that when they win, the team I care about is happy. Why shouldn't I devote that passion and that small amount of money to a school I know is trying to make things happen? I'm watching reclamation projects at other schools.

There are reasons, don't get me wrong. Liyyah doing Liyyah things... Nae's jumper... Tiny Aaliyah's crisp passing... Jade with the fadeaway... Sandie blocking shots... Sox's bubbly personality... Crystalina's defense... Imani and the freshmen's potential... Day coming home... the affection I have for these players and the trust they have in us. I support them and I don't want to let them down. But I'm starting to get jaded, and not in the sense of having a nice smile and getting low low low on the dance floor.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 29th, 2015: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty went ice cold from the field and the Fever rose to the occasion, as Indiana topped New York 66-51 to take the Eastern Conference Finals 2-1 and advance to the WNBA Finals. Marissa Coleman canned five treys to lead Indiana with 15 points. Tamika Catchings had 14, Erlana Larkins 12 with eight rebounds, and Briann January added eight points, six steals, and eight assists. Candice Wiggins had 15 off the bench to lead New York; Tina Charles had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

For classless behavior, frustration, bitterness, rage, exhaustion, blame-slinging, Greek tragedy, and superficial basketball analysis, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

I refuse to entertain the possibility that this is the end. I can't go into the game with this mindset. No worries. No fears. No doubts. No hesitation. Can't bring those vibes.

It's been a bear of a day. Stressful and intense. Left my jersey and my hat at home, so the faithful husband had to bring them. Left my phone and my keys at the office to make the bus. This isn't helping.

Tina Charles is burning bright. Everyone else looks like dead coals. I don't know what's wrong with Piph, but it worries me. We're missing shots my high school team could make. Indiana is outplaying us, and it's not like we're making it easy on defense.

I rather question how Indiana had 4 fouls with 6:17 left in the second quarter and ended the second quarter with four team fouls. But the officials aren't yet worthy of blame in this game. We're bringing it on ourselves.

But I have to believe. What else can I do? This is my team. I ride or die with them. This is summer. My loyalties are not split. I don't have a fallback plan.

Right now, I honestly don't know what's more frustrating, the Liberty's ice cold shooting or the number of people standing in the aisles because the ushers can't be arsed to usher people to their seats and get the GA tickets out of already claimed seats. Today has been a hot mess of late-arriving large groups clustered in the aisles.

This had all the fixings of a magical night. The place is packed. Spike Lee showed up, at least ofr the first half. Knicks legends are all over the place: the Pearl, Clyde, Starks. The towels are waving. The fans are psyched.

...and historically, that's when post-2002 Liberty teams most often lay an egg, oh crap.

It sounds selfish to say this hasn't been my day, but this really hasn't been my day. This doesn't help. This was supposed to be coronation. This was supposed to be catharsis. This was supposed to be exorcism, supposed to be the link between the first and the last. Instead, the ghosts came back hungrier than ever, bigger than ever, cold and cruel and taunting.

Hamartia, the tragic flaw that brings down the hero in Greek theater: Piph's shooting, Tanisha's hesitation, Kiah's youth, Carolyn's knee, Essence's body, Sugar's impetuousness, Bill's nonchalance.

23 wins and homecourt are ashes and dust now. There's no advantage when you're not playing. Does the regular season mean nothing? No, it doesn't. This was a hell of a year and a hell of a team. But it's tainted now, overshadowed by the choke in Game 2 and the blown chances in Game 3, forever haunted by all that was supposed to be and all that could have been.

If Piph shot like the superstar she was...

If Tanisha drove instead of dribbling on the perimeter...

If we could hit our free throws...

If Kiah hit the bunnies...

But as a fan, and as one admittedly overinvested in the rise and fall of my team, there's a tiny voice in my head. If you had remembered your jersey… if you had worn the black on black like you did for Game 1... if you'd played through the playlist... if you'd done all the things you did when we won...

It's only weird if it doesn't work. Or maybe it's only not weird when it doesn't work.

All right. Time to breathe around this tension in my chest. I'm really hoping it's just my bra.

Both coaches emptied the bench at the very end, so Maggie Lucas and Jeanette Pohlen got a minute at the end of the game. Layshia Clarendon got a couple of minutes in the first quarter but was not terribly effective, so she went back to the bench until it was time for the victory formation. I miss the gold in her hair- you lose the headband without that contrast against it. Shavonte Zellous was aggressive offensively and generally seemed to be annoying people. She's good at that. Her emotions are a large part of her game, for both good and for ill.

Natasha Howard got some early minutes, but she showed in those minutes that the mental portion of her game hasn't necessarily caught up to her physical gifts. Lynetta Kizer was sorely missed by Indiana in that first game- she stretched the offense and brought physicality on defense. She's one of the most underappreciated players on this Fever roster, and that's saying something.

Briann January was tenacious on defense, fell down with style a lot, and sealed the deal with two late baskets, including one utterly ridiculous reverse lay-up late in the game that might as well have been the equivalent of ripping out our beating hearts and holding them up as sacrifice to the gods. (It's quarter to one, I'm slightly loopy and having a lot of trouble forcing myself to write these notes. If you're expecting brilliant commentary, go read Mechelle Voepel.) She chased down loose balls all over the court and read our offense better than most of our players did. Shenise Johnson and her giant hair did more work inside than out today, which I don't think we were expecting. Marissa Coleman shot the lights out from outside, because apparently we don't learn from our mistakes and don't understand that leaving Marissa Coleman open is a rather unintelligent thing to do. Any chance we had of getting our act together was shot down, and I mean that with a fair amount of literalism, when she got loose beyond the arc. Her height was a help defensively as well.

Erlana Larkins brought the physicality and set wicked screens for her teammates. She made sure the Liberty did not have good rebounding position, and she made baskets in the second half by taking advantage of open space. Tamika Catchings did Tamika Catchings things, but seemed to be hitting the deck more than usual and less of her own volition. She was the star, and she did her job, but she didn't carry her team except perhaps spiritually. She didn't have to. Gosh, that would be nice.

(Yes, I'm bitter like a mouthful of lemon and a spoonful of cinnamon. Next question?)

Erica Wheeler got a moment in the waning minutes and missed a shot over the basket, one of many Liberty players to do so. Sugar Rodgers was guarded closely enough that she couldn't get the looks she was getting earlier in the series, and she wasn't ready for it. (The petty, bitterest, part of me is all like you weren't familiar with that when you were Georgetown? {No, that's not a missing word. I saw her as a Hoya. She was pretty much all there was for a couple of those baaaaad years.}) She had shots. She missed. She fumbled. She made careless plays on the sideline. This was the Rodgers that Minnesota gave away for, ultimately, literally, nothing. Candice Wiggins played like her life was on the line. I question some of her shot selections, but she at least took the shots. She at least stepped up and brought fire to the court. That's more than I can say for most of her teammates.

Essence Carson hit one big shot and one smaller shot that might have been bigger if her foot had not been on the line. But she barely contributed defensively, and she made stupid mistakes with the ball. Kiah Stokes played like a rookie, and like the rookie she was projected to be when she was at UConn instead of the rookie she played like all season. She was late on defensive rotations, she was soft on the glass, she missed bunnies in the lane. We needed her to be rock-solid, and she crumbled.

Our starting backcourt might have been the biggest disappointment of the night, in a night that was full of them. Epiphanny Prince couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. There was a point in the game where she genuinely looked glazed over, like she was attempting to retreat to her happy place but she kept getting distracted. She pulled herself together briefly in the third quarter, but a combination of defense and... you know what, I can't even sugar-coat that bad shooting. When a slick shooter like Piph goes 1-4 from the free throw line, there's something wrong with the player on that particular night. But she's not even the starting Liberty guard I'm most disappointed in. Piph, for all her failures as a scorer, at least rebounded, defended, passed. Tanisha Wright? One of our veteran leaders? One of the players who's supposed to be at the forefront of the defense and the general of the offense? She checked out sometime in the second quarter. Her head left the game and never really came back. No way you're winning a game with a player in that mental condition. She strangled the offense with endless dribbling and made some truly dumb passes. It got to the point where Piph was playing point and Tanisha was pretending to be the shooting guard.

Tina Charles can't do it alone. We've seen how that ends. It usually ends with Tina flouncing (which, see below). She had a double-double midway through the third quarter. But Indiana doubled her constantly, or sent Tamika Catchings (AKA the woman DPOY should be named after someday) at her, or did both. And she had to guard Catch at the other end. She's only human. She faltered in the fourth. Someone should have been there to catch her. Swin Cash did her best. At least she hustled and went to the basket, but we shouldn't have had to ask that of someone who's thirty-mumble and has knee issues. I thought she should have been the defender on Catchings, but surprise. Carolyn Swords was ineffective. She fell down more than usual. She had good looks at the basket and missed. Again, story of our lives.

Bill all but pulled a Nancy Darsch in the fourth quarter, when we were still within range, taking out the hot hands and putting the starters back in. At which point everything went to hell in a handbasket, and by the time we hit the final five it was all over but the crying. (Yes, I cried. Judge me and I will hurt you with pain.)

I'd like to blame the officials, because Michael Price and Roy Gulbeyan are such good targets, but we did this to ourselves.

Even all of this might have been tolerable were it not for the endless seething frustration I spent the night stewing in. We saw an usher for the first time sometime after halftime, after we had missed probably five minutes' worth of game time due to people standing in the aisles and arguing over seats. There was almost a fight two rows in front of us that I still don't know the story behind. And the woman behind us was intolerable. Look, I love fans being loud. I'm one of them. You wanna yell at everyone and anyone on the court? I'm okay with that. But I draw the line at profanity at games, especially when there are children around, and there were two schoolgirls in the row in front of us. The woman behind us persisted in shrieking profanities at the top of her lungs in a shrill, carrying voice that probably killed untold cilia in my ears, even after we asked her to please stop swearing.

And then Tina decided that everyone else had disappointed us (except Candice), so why shouldn't she join the fun? As soon as the game was over, she tried to bolt for the locker room without shaking hands or anything. Swin was not having with that. I saw the play as it was in the midst of developing, so the first thing I saw was Swin sprinting full speed for the tunnel, and I thought she was the one frustrated and wanting to get away from everything. Then I saw her corral Tina and haul her back to the court to shake hands. Well done by Swin and disappointing by Tina. I understand the urge to get away from the scene and either go cry or go punch things, but if you're a professional, you need to paste on a smile for an extra few minutes before you go vent.

On the plus side, the organist is definitely ready for Rangers season. Me? I'm not ready for more basketball yet. I'm taking a break this weekend. I don't care about the Finals- I don't have a dog in the race and there isn't anyone on either team who I care about getting a ring.

Petty? Yeah. Fucks given? Zero.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23rd, 2015: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles flirted with a triple-double, and four Liberty players scored in double-figures as New York took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals from Indiana, 84-67. Charles finished with 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Kiah Stokes had a game-high 21 off the bench for New York. Shenise Johnson was the only Indiana player to break double figures, at 12 points.

For statements, silly hats, impressionable children, a hard-working usher, the branch office of the Connecticut Deli, sweatsuits, Stoooooooookes, unexpected results, aaaaaaaaand twins, join your intrepid and squinty blogger after the jump.
It's only weird if it doesn't work. Isn't that how the commercial goes? So you keep as much the same from the days that you win. Can't wear the same shirt, but I have a spare shirt I got yesterday as a gift. Same jersey, same hat, same pants, same shoes. Mom won't even text me because she didn't text me yesterday. No fear, no worry, no doubt. Not allowed.

Mechelle Voepel in the house! Hearts in my eyes.

I thought I saw Renee Brown both last night and tonight, but she might have a doppelganger.

Carolyn Swords is present, dressed out, and moving as well as can be expected.

This game has been so good that I think the officials have been watching it- not a lot of calls on either end of the floor, and I'm okay with that (though someone needs to sit Shavonte Zellous down and tell her to slow her roll). It's just been great basketball on both sides of the floor, teams finding ways to make shots. Kiah Stokes is beasting for the Liberty, Epiphanny Prince is making the shot clock roll over and beg, and everyone's playing their role. Indiana's playing well too, and I'm a little worried that Catchings hasn't fully Catch'd yet.

John Starks in the house! So are the Lopez twins, which led to an amusing bit of business with hats. Robin Lopez plays for the Knicks; Brook Lopez, his twin, plays for the Nets. Robin appeared on the big screen wearing a Mariners cap. Someone from offscreen dropped a Nets cap on his head (which was how we guessed Brook was there). Later, Jason, the Liberty in-game host, returned with a Knicks cap, which Robin happily put on, though he had trouble getting his hair under it.

Well. That was clearly the result we were all expecting after the Liberty ground out a clutch win yesterday. We certainly expected them to come out like gangbusters and keep on soaring through the second half. Oops, did I leave the sarcasm light on? My bad.

Natasha Howard made effective use of the minutes she got at the end of the game. I'll grant she wasn't facing top-notch defense at this point, but she used her body well and made plays. I always say she should be watching tape of Sancho Lyttle to improve her game, because that would allow her to be a better defender and extend the range of her jumper. But do that after this series. Natalie Achonwa put in work on the boards, but she crossed the line on screens and picks and got dinged for offensive fouls. We'll have to see after a year, but I'm starting to wonder if the ACL stole some of her mobility the way it did with Rebecca Lobo (though Lobo had somewhast less to lose, so the effects were more obvious).

Layshia Clarendon was tossed into the game in the second half to try and bolster the defense, or at least be steadier and less demonstrative than Shavonte Zellous. She seemed to calm the team down, but she was more a distributor and defender than a scoring threat- she would penetrate, but pass out. Zellous looked to score, but her head was not in the game. I don't know where it was, but it was not in the game. I'm not just talking about her temper getting the better of her, either- there were a couple of sequences where she clearly was not on the same page as her teammates, and I would never want Erlana Larkins yelling at me. Maggie Lucas was in as a three-point threat, for the most part, though she burned Candice Wiggins badly on a beautiful backdoor cut. Jeanette Pohlen played garbage time. She hustles. But there's a reason she doesn't play when the minutes matter.

Tamika Catchings had no relief all night. I'm not talking about not getting rest, because Stephanie White gave her some good stretches on the bench to get her feet back under her. But she was constantly defendered and defended well. She got few good looks, and the looks she got were not in good position for her. She never let up on the intensity, of course, since she's still Tamika Catchings and she's still breathing. Erlana Larkins positions herself really well. I think that's a North Carolina thing. She boxes out and gets on the boards spectacularly, and she sets wicked screens.

Shenise Johnson has such a pretty shot. You'd think she'd be easier to find with that big ol' hair, but we kept losing her on midrange jumpers. Part of that was the super crisp ball movement and the screening by Indiana. Briann January really puts her martial arts training to work on the floor, in terms of taking contact and rolling with it. Marissa Coleman is a size mismatch nightmare for the Liberty (as is Johnson, for that matter). No matter how you shuffle the defense, someone's going to be too big for the defender. Coleman put that height to work in the first quarter, drawing contact and getting to the line. She should NOT have gotten free throws on that three-point attempt that Essence was called for the foul on. Bad call.

I wasn't expecting Indiana to run as much as they did. As the game went on, I'm not sure Indiana was expecting Indiana to run as much as they did.

Avery Warley-Talbert had a nice play that got her the one basket, muscling the ball up through contact. It was the one good play she had. Essence Carson brought the defense. She looked energized. Great to see her playing to her strengths. And then Kiah Stokes had herself a game. Talk about playing to your strengths- I think only one of her baskets was outside the paint. Everything else was right at the basket, from pretty little feeds from Tina Charles or off rebounds. She stepped her game up and fired up the crowd.

So did Sugar Rodgers. Sugar took a lot of good shots and the threes were falling. She's learned not to take bad shots, which is impressive. She's come so far since Georgetown. Candice Wiggins absorbed the pain, annoyed the offense, and got herself in foul trouble. I almost wish she could apprentice with DeLisha Milton-Jones- she could learn much about being evil on the floor and sweet off it. She's been such a catalyst for this run. Erica Wheeler tried to do too much. Someone wants serious minutes.

Tina Charles started the game on fiyah, and found her touch again in the second half. But what impressed me most was when she didn't shoot. She had position- but Kiah had better position, and she dropped dimes like they were going out of style. That's the kind of star I love to see- one who's equally capable of taking the shot and making the pass. Carolyn Swords was a welcome returnee. She didn't- she couldn't- play big minutes, but she played minutes where some of the physical pressure was off Tina. She made plays on the glass and tapped the ball out to her teammates. She tired more easily than normal, so that's something we have to keep an eye on (it's easy to tell when Carolyn's overworked, because she turns red). I'm also worried about Swin Cash. Her minutes have declined sharply. She's bringing the defense, and she's a leader, but can we afford to have a starter whose only contributions are intangibles?

Tanisha Wright didn't seem to have her head in the game after the second quick foul, which seemed strange because I thought the second foul was intentional to get out of the game after she got knocked down. It might have worked out for the best, since that meant Sugar and Ice got minutes and were ready to get their game on. Epiphanny Prince made it clear that she was a superstar and she's ready to be the star we need. There are few players who toy with the shot clock the way she does. She has moments of great defense, too.

Total team effort. The ball movement was fantastic- not as crisp as Indiana's, but we found each other. We communicated. Indiana seemed to be doing more yelling at each other than anything else.

Denise Brooks, I am not even talking to you right now after that call on Essence Carson. Call it both ways.

This team made a stand. They chose this. The front office could have scrambled for an alternate arena on a different day to keep the rest period consistent with the rest of the playoffs. They chose the back-to-back. They chose the Garden. They chose us. They made a statement- this is our house, this is our time. I don't think anyone expected this.

Maybe we should have.

We're coming home, MSG. We'll see you again.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 22nd, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles put up 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Sugar Rodgers poured in 20 off the bench, to defeat Washington 79-74 in Game 3 and 2-1 in their playoff series. Ivory Latta led Washington with 18 points and seven assists in the loss.

For fashion reports, diabetic shocks, step-back threes, party favors, the man we call stan, digging deep, questionable rotations, wandering fans, and exhaustion, join your intrepid and booked blogger after the jump.

So here we are. Backs to the wall, or more precisely backs to the back-to-back, say that three times fast. Winner plays Indiana for the right to hang an Eastern Conference Championship banner from their rafters. Loser goes home. Liberty-Mystics, one more time.

So it's time to get superstitious. Don't mix the Lobo and the Boyd jerseys, we lost on Friday with those. Wear a hat. Hats are cool, plus we need all the mojo we can get. Add a lei. Add another lei. Leilani's gone, but the leis live on. All black everything. White bra, not the red, because the Mystics wear red. Devil's in the details, you know.

Is it a good sign someone else in a Liberty shirt got on at Grand, or bad news because that happened on Friday too? Very superstitious, writing's on the wall...

There's no room for fear. There's no room for doubt. Worries have to be left on the train. Can't plan for anything tomorrow except Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That's the energy we have to bring. Calm. Confident. Winning is the only option. Alternatives are not to be even considered, because they're not happening.

If the guy on the escalator is to be believed, I came up the escalator directly behind Shannon Bobbitt and may have almost hit her in the head with a towel. I'm not always good with faces, and it's not like Shannon Bobbitt stands out from the average human being in terms of size and build.

Today's giveaway is towels with the #BurnBright hashtag. They're not quite twirlable yet- too new, too starchy, but as quick as the turnaround would have had to be, I can't say I'm surprised. (I work in the business. Four days is asking a lot, especially with a weekend. Essentially next day? Fantastic work by the vendor.)

Bad mojo to change the walkout music for this game. No objections to Jay Z here, but you don't change something you've done, in full or in part, for 19 years.

At the half, the Liberty are up 45-37 on the strength of a 30-12 second quarter. Maybe the mojo isn't so bad after all. Sugar Rodgers and Candice Wiggins have stepped it up off the bench. Sugar has 14 off the bench and Candice has a pair of treys to go with fantastic defense.

I just hope these dunkers at halftime don't bend the rim too badly. That's where we're shooting in the second half.

The place really filled up in the second quarter. Not sure how much of it was tickets being given out at the last minute and how much of it was late arrivers. Apparently a lot of people are hanging out at the concourse bars, too. Stupid hip young things.

Spike Lee is in his Knicks seat, in his Knicks colors. Nice of him to join us- now someone get him a jersey!

We're sitting behind the Sugar stan. (You know. That guy who always screams, "PUT SUGAR RODGERS IN THE GAME! I WANNA SEE SUGAR RODGERS!" You've probably heard him.) Together we make a loud tandem. But we weren't the only ones. By the last couple of minutes of that fourth quarter, the Garden was rocking. Everyone was on their feet without prompting. I love it. That's Liberty basketball.

My hat is off to the Washington Mystics, and especially to Ivory Latta. They put up a fantastic fight. I may swear at Latta and call her a goddamn Smurf (picked it up from a Maryland fan in her UNC days), but at the end of the day, it's the disrespect of respect.

Ally Malott came in at the very end of the game as a shooter, but I don't even know if she got a touch. She was there as an option. Kia Vaughn had moments where she torched Kiah Stokes in the paint, but she always seemed a moment behind the play, taking a moment to think before she moved. When she got low in the paint, she moved like an avalanche, but the slightest hesitation and the defense broke her down. She did not deal well with pressure.

Taylor Hill looked hassled out there. We weren't able to cover that weak-side corner when Latta was shooting it, but Hill was a step slower to the spot. We don't always learn quickly, but we learn eventually. Natasha Cloud, demoted to the bench as Mike Thibault tinkered with the lineup, was a non-factor. Kara Lawson's defense, if not spectacular, was heady and sticky. She had a couple of nice, deft poke-checks. Her release was, as always, super fast. Her shot is just so efficient.

Stefanie Dolson played a very tough game. She had a hard assignment, with Tina Charles on her at both ends of the floor, and she showed flashes of her outside shot, as well as some nice rebounding work. I admire her flair and her toughness. LaToya Sanders stroked some early jumpers in both halves, but really seemed kind of quiet today. I don't know that the gamble worked. Emma Meesseman was quiet in the first half, though she rebounded well, then came on like gangbusters in the third quarter. Her usual shots didn't seem to be falling, so she made up for it on the glass.

I love to hate Ivory Latta. Sometimes I think she feeds off that as much as she feeds off the passion of her own fans. She made things happen. I think she might have had more trouble hitting shots without a hand in her face, because she certainly had no trouble taking that step back and letting them fly when the defense was all up in her business. She hustled. She found her teammates. She was fantastic and has nothing to hang her head about (not that I think she ever has in her life). Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was phenomenal defensively- you could tell the difference when she was on someone, versus when one of her teammates had the assignment, and I thought our comeback would die aborning when she switched onto Sugar Rodgers. She flashed some offense by the basket, too.

I swear on my honor as a former Girl Scout I will end up breaking things if we continue to ignore the corner in front of the bench and let three-shooters run rampant in it.

When Eric Thibault is trying to get Mike Thibault back to the bench before he gravely offends the officials, do you think he ever says something along the lines of, "Dad, stop, ohmigod, you're embarrassing me!" as he does so?

Am I bothered that Kiah Stokes is our only post off the bench right now? Damn skippy. We're going to need to go to some way smaller lineups tomorrow to juggle our personnel better. But Kiah came through for us tonight, picking up all the loose change on the glass, finishing at the rim, and coming up with the big, big, big block to end the game on Latta. She made the right plays at the right time.

Essence Carson made a cameo in the first half. It was unremarkable, and she was not asked to return for an encore. She needs to step up big tomorrow (which is now today). But the other two guards off the bench (yes, I still consider Essence a guard even though she usually lines up at forward) more than made up for it. Candice Wiggins was the sparkplug that spurred the comeback after that putrid first quarter. She fired the team up on both ends of the floor. She has so much enthusiasm. I understand why other teams want to smack her around, but I'd appreciate if the officials would call it. And Sugar Rodgers just would not be denied. She wasn't just jacking threes, either- she was driving hard to the rack. Love seeing that from her. We needed someone to turn it up, and she turned it up big time.

I'm a little worried about Swin Cash- not because of the stats, but because of the minute count. We could have used her before the last possession of the fourth, when Tina Charles looked like she was completely out of gas. Even a minute or two- enough to get some Gatorade and take a breath- might have been enough for Tina to stop jacking up long jumpers and find the strength to get into the paint. A lot was asked of Tina tonight, and she delivered a lot. She took some stupid shots, and she fumbled passes she should have caught. But she came through when we needed her. And she's going to have to continue doing it. Avery Warley-Talbert, bless her heart, and that's about all I can say about that.

Tanisha Wright made the right plays at the right time. She usually slows the offense up, but she was running with the rest of the pack tonight. She went hard to the basket, expecting more calls than she was getting. Epiphanny Prince had a rough night all night. Her shots were just not going down... well, except for the one that had to go down. In the end, that's all that matters, isn't it? Well, at least until tomorrow, which now comes today.

I'd love to know the backstory on why Bill didn't take Tina out in the fourth quarter when she was obviously gassed. I know Avery is not an option, but Swin and Essence both seemed to be available. I wonder if it had anything to do with the heated conversation he had with Laura Ramus early in the game.

Fashion report: Brittany Boyd rocked it tonight. Those long, loose, jackets and vests really work for her. Carolyn Swords wore what, in scale, would be an LBD, but can a black dress truly be little if the wearer is 6'6" and broad in frame?

Play of the game: Stoooooooooooookes.

Favorite moment of the game: after Kiah scored on a sweet little drop pass from Tina, or maybe it was the other way around, Sue Wicks, sitting on the endline near the basket, reacted with such joy that I'm pretty sure she wanted that pass in her life. (Or possibly sat down next to Kym Hampton and said, "Hey, Kym, you never passed me the ball like that!")

The officiating got extremely frustrating in the second half. All I ask for is consistency and for people to stop calling Candice for the audacity to be run over, sawhorsed, ridden, tangled, wrapped up, and otherwise physically abused by the player she's on. Call the contact on both sides.

General admission seating continues to be an issue, but the good news is that ushers are cracking down on people in seats that have been specifically sold. The bad news is that they kept hassling the two guys across the aisle from us, who actually had their seats. It was the other people in their row that seemed to be an issue. The only reason I'll give security any kind of pass today is because the Garden was double-booked- there was a concert tonight at the Theatre.

Let's see if we build on the guts of this victory, or if we're too wiped to put up a fight. But y'know what? I'm not going to the gym tomorrow. Because I'm going to the game.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

September 18th, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Washington forced overtime twice to claim a 86-83 win over the New York Liberty in game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. Ivory Latta led Washington with 15; three other Mystics each notched 13. Epiphanny Prince led all scorers with 26 points, with Tina Charles adding 22 points.

For substitution confusion, communication breakdown, Smurfs, trolls, wandering fans, orange sequins, small children, a contested three, and mindgames, join your intrepid and disappointed blogger after the jump.

It's a new season- the postseason. The Liberty host game one of the Eastern Conference semis against Washington, and so far it's been a tough one. The Liberty got out to a hot start early, but Washington tightened up the defense in the second quarter, so we're all tied up at 36 at halftime.

Love Brittany Boyd's shoes tonight. The all black everything is classic, and totally New York.

Fantastic anthem from a pair of operatic singers.

I kind of wish the ushers actually felt like, y'know, ushering people tonight. Lost fans should not be reduced to asking the cotton candy vendors where their seats are. With a big crowd, you need more attention to people, not less.

Body-checking Swin Cash out of bounds is a good idea, Natasha Cloud. Not only should it be a foul, but you have angered one of the Bad Girls. Swin knows pretty much every trick in the book.

I love that Bill Laimbeer had the entire staff up for the Coach of the Year presentation. Laura Ramus is one of the hardest working people in the business and needs some love.

Someday, we'll look back on this game as one of the W's great games- if not necessarily spectacular, I think it's one of the games that best encapsulates the strengths of the WNBA. It was tough, it was competitive, it was intense, it had enough flashy plays and slick moves to not look like a defensive slogfest. The crowd responded to all of that. You don't necessarily have to put on the SportsCenter play to fire up fans.

The fans around us as we left were ragging on the refs, and certainly that jump ball that Tanisha Wright and Bill Laimbeer thought they had timeout on was an issue, as was the resulting violation on Swin Cash that gave Washington the ball for the game-tying possession. But if you get 26 free throws, and you miss ten of them, that's a problem. If you commit 14 turnovers, most of them unforced, that's a problem. If your coach decides players don't need rest even when they're having trouble getting up and down the court, that's a problem.

(I'm sorry. I'm having a lot of trouble making myself write these. Disappointment is not great writing fuel.)

Mike Thibault put a lot of faith in Tayler Hill. She was the one playing in crunch time overtime instead of Natasha Cloud. She hit some big shots, especially in the second overtime. She's got some pretty moves on offense- nice crossover, a good first step. Still don't like her. Probably never will. (Yes, I'm still bitter that she had a roster spot held for her the year she was pregnant and therefore Thibault had to cut a guard. And no, I don't like Ohio State.) Kara Lawson's shot is so damn quick. You give her a moment of space and it's off. She also came up with a nice steal in the third quarter, and poked away some balls on deflections. Armintie Herrington is a solid defender, but a liability on offense. She had more space than she knew what to do with. Well, that's not completely true- she ran through it a lot.

(Surprised to see no minutes for Bria Hartley. Injury flare-up?)

LaToya Sanders continues to impress me with her positioning on the boards and her ability to sneak into tight spaces. She also sets surprisingly solid screens for a post with a slender build. She and Ivory Latta, perhaps unsurprisingly, have excellent chemistry on the floor. Kia Vaughn spend so much time making sure she's in the right position to make an offensive play that she forgets about her footwork. I don't think Thibault wanted to play her in the OTs, but he had no choice after Sanders fouled out.

Natasha Cloud had a passionate rooting section sitting across from the road bench- we're pretty sure they were in fact St. Joseph's Hawks. She was solid, if unremarkable, more effective with her size than with her shot. Ivory Latta really impressed the guys in front of us with her stepback threes, especially with their timing and utter cold-bloodedness. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt brought the defense, but not as much of the jumper as she did in the regular season.

Emma Meesseman had a strong offensive game in the middle, but the little reverse she likes to throw as she flies past the basket wasn't going down. She mixed it up inside and got the boards, though, and she took a lot of contact on both sides of the floor. Stefanie Dolson was frustrated inside by the Liberty's defense, but found more success outside the paint. I hope she's okay after coming up lame late in regulation. I know I call her a Troll doll because of the hair and because this will never stop being funny, but unlike some of my neighbors, I try not to wish harm on players.

Washington tightened up on defense as the game went on, and they hit some unbelievable guarded shots. We've got to be better on the perimeter, but even that doesn't help with Ivory Latta.

Candice Wiggins did little except commit intentional fouls at the end of the game. I think this was a game where we missed Brittany Boyd: as another body, as a sparkplug, as a penetrator. Despite the earnest entreaties of the stan, Sugar Rodgers did very little as well. She didn't even look to shoot, which is surprising and a bit disappointing.

Kiah Stokes was the lone bright spot among the reserves. She looked a bit more like the player who was garnering hype for Rookie of the Year. If we'd won the game, she might well have made herself the hero with big defensive plays and rebounds. But you've got to hit your shots. Essence Carson looked done. I don't mean that she looked awful. I mean that she looked like she had found the Nikki McCray cliff and flown off it with shrieks of glee. She looked like a player whose body is not-so-gently hinting that it is no longer suitable for professional basketball, and wouldn't she enjoy herself more in the recording studio? She lost most of her shot. She's lost most of her closing speed. She's lost the handle that made her a point guard alternative at Rutgers and early in her Liberty career. Her vision's gone. A defensive specialist shouldn't be wasted on Armintie Herrington.

I know I'm being hard on Essence, and it hurts. She was one of my favorites at Rutgers. I bought her jersey the year the Liberty switched to black. I paid retail money for her jersey, a thing I do not do lightly. (That I have, in fact, done only one other time before- my Davenport tee- and one time after- a Cruz jersey. Everything else I snag off eBay or use gift cards for.) I don't like eviscerating her as a basketball player. But it hurts to watch her rapid decline. I'd rather see her happy in her post-basketball life, where she's using her phenomenal skills in that field, than see the shell of her on the floor.

Tanisha Wright stepped her game up in the second half. She was more aggressive and made smarter plays. Defensively, she's one of the smartest PGs we've ever had. Offensively... she can be hit or miss. She as mostly hit tonight, but her passing is not as sharp as it could be. Epiphanny Prince was on fire, playing hard at both ends of the floor. She definitely let her Scarlet show in the fourth quarter, with tough on-ball defense.

Swin Cash was tough. She brings defensive tenacity and veteran savvy to the floor- she caught Meesseman encroaching on the inbounds late in the game. She's an example of why your starting five isn't always your most talented five- you need someone to hold the team together and save some punch for the reserves. Carolyn Swords had a great game in the middle, turning it up in the second and third quarters, grabbing loose balls and making plays. I would have given her minutes in overtime. There were multiple opportunities where there was a chance for her to be an offense-defense sub for Tina Charles. Those minutes might have made a difference, because by the end of the night, Tina was gassed. She had run out of reserves early in the first overtime and was gritting through because it's what you do. But she spent too much of the night relying too heavily on the long two, and too much of the night with rebounds or passes going off her hands. I don't want to dump on her head, because unless she told Bill she was good to go, it's not her fault he didn't sub when there were opportunities.

We should have had it. It was there and we should have had it.

I'm not going to blame the refs, though it's tempting. But Swin did encroach on the jump ball, and Tina's shot was late. Those are facts. I object to players taking players out with falls and there being no call. And I think Tanisha had the timeout call before the jump ball, and without that, this game ends in overtime with a Liberty win.

The crowd was super into it. But that's what I've seen happen over and over again- even people who aren't expecting to be into it are sucked into the energy. The place was packed. The disconnect between the expectations of the Liberty people and the expectations of the Garden people is spectacular. (Though MSG might have been shorthanded because of the concert that night at the Theatre.)

Lots of Knicks were there. Current guys, plus Starks and Larry Johnson.

We have the best road record in the league. I believe. I choose to keep the faith and keep the torch burning bright until all is said and done.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

September 13th, 2015: Chicago at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Connecticut Sun ended their last game of the season on a high note, dominating Chicago in the fourth quarter to win 86-75. Kelsey Bone notched a career-high 31 points. Camille Little added 15, and three other Sun players had nine. Elena Delle Donne was the only Chicago player in double figures, with 28.

For the injured reserve, sweethearts at the food court, cool hats, books, a complete collection, well wishes, rushing headlong, free stuff, and long bus rides, join your intrepid and throwback blogger after the jump.

L'shana tova, loyal readers! Have some cookies and chocolate with me as we celebrate the end of the regular season and the beginning of a new year. (I'm not Jewish, but I know some of my regulars are, and I picked up a lot from the salesfolk I worked with.)

Your intrepid blogger finally, finally, got to dust off her Miracle jersey for a neutral trip to the casino to take in the Sun's final game of the season against the Chicago Sky. (But fret not, Libs. I'm always true to you in my fashion; darlin', I'm always true to you in my way. My Miracle jersey is the #24 of Tari Phillips.)

We were far from alone. The line at the Arena Club, usually half a dozen people at most, stretched clear out past the fountain in front of the escalators to the hotel. There must have been sixty-seventy discrete groups on that line, all waiting for their tickets. Connecticut was releasing as many as four tickets per casino card, so there was a lot more paper in that place than usual, and more than even security was used to. I wonder how many people who usually buy tickets ended up getting freebies for this one? You have to be careful how you value, or devalue your product.

Gorgeous anthem by a Hartford School of Music student whose name I did not completely catch. Soaring soprano.

There were really cool giveaways all through the game, but honestly, I think the person in row A of section 11 could probably have afforded the prize so cavalierly given away to them. I wouldn't have minded $100 for dinner at Tuscany.

Lots of advertising for the arena's lacrosse team, the Black Wolves. Either ticket sales are not doing as well as they expected or they really couldn't sell ad time for this game.

Inside the last home game of the season seems like an odd place and time to advertise the family ticket pack.

Free t-shirts for all today! Plain, white, but coming in a variety of sizes. Appreciate size ranges.

It was an odd ending. You could almost tell where Chicago stopped pretending to care and just settled for jumper after jumper.

Cappie Pondexter was with the Sky, but did not play, and I don't think she ever took off her sweats. Other than her, everyone for Chicago got time- Pokey Chatman channeled her inner Blackhawk near the end of the game and send in a full line change. Five subs at the scorer's table and five starters on the floor left Cappie standing lonesome by the Sky bench.

(Holy crap on a stick, the ride home is crawling. It's been half an hour and we're only at exit 71. The police car that just wailed by us might hold an answer to that riddle, though.)

Jacki Gemelos was part of that big change at the end of the game, but I don't think she did anything memorable in those two minutes or so. Jamierra Faulkner got a lot of run due to early foul trouble, mid-game injury, and late-game preservation techniques. She's so very quick. She takes hits and keeps on ticking. Scoring-wise, she seems to be better as a penetrator, not a jump shooter. Allie Quigley is always a threat from the outside, but she wasn't hitting today. She always has to be guarded, and Connecticut did not cover her adequately. They got lucky in that regard. She's not there for her defense, but I'd still like to see her at least try some, y'know?

Clarissa Dos Santos continues to impress me with her solidity and tenacity in the paint. This is not a woman you want to rumble with in a dark alley, even more than the average six-foot-tall, strongly-built woman. I do not think the jumper is her strength, but when she goes inside and goes up hard, she's hard to stop. Cheyenne Parker got a lot more time than she has in most of the other Sky games I've seen this year, and she brings a bit more finesse in that post position than Dos Santos does. She blocks well and has a bit more range, but not nearly as much strength. She's still very much a rookie, but a rookie with potential, and for the first time I felt like I was seeing it. Betnijah Laney did not leave a fantastic impression today- when she missed her shots, she missed them badly, and did a bit of whining to the ref.

Courtney Vandersloot had a couple of close shaves today- foul trouble in the first half, a jar to her right shoulder in the second. From our unusually high perch in the upper deck at Mohegan Sun Arena, we could see the plays unfolding as if on a telestrator, and from that angle, it's easier to see her orchestrating the movement of the offense. It's hard to get a grasp on her role for Chicago, and that's not necessarily a bad thing! To me that says she has the ability to score when her team needs a scorer, but to step back and pass when other people are scoring. Tamera Young was pesky defensively, but made bad decisions with the ball, both passing and shooting. The sideline was not her friend.

Jessica Breland had a couple of monster blocks deep in the paint and was pretty tough overall. Érika de Souza cleared the glass, especially on the Sky's end of the floor- I think she had two on one possession. She's not as mobile as she used to be, but she's an immovable object when she needs to be.

Elena Delle Donne missed some chippies early on, but got stronger as the game went on. What would make me excited as a Chicago fan were the threes she was hitting. Her three-point shot has been AWOL for much of the season, and if it's coming back now, the timing is pretty much perfect. I'm also intrigued by her willingness to bang in the post on defense. I was not expecting that from her on that side of the ball. I'm starting to think she might be a Mary Sue escaped from the realms of fiction, y'all.

I really like Chelsea Gray at point for Connecticut. (And let's be honest, I wouldn't mind Chelsea Gray at point for the Liberty, either. "Chelsea Dagger" and "Shades of Gray" would both be awesome Cheesy Musical Hooks...) She's daring and dynamic. Better offensively than defensively so far, but with the right counterpart say, Brittany Boyd? that would be a very interesting platoon. Shekinna Stricklen never seemed to find her shot, but I'm not sure how hard she was looking for it. And it's not that Chicago was guarding her heavily. I think that's just not how the schemes were drawn up today.

Jennifer Lacy stretched the defense a little, but was otherwise unremarkable, and the shots she forced Chicago to defend didn't go down. I suspect Connecticut was relieved to no longer have to start her. Nikki Greene was physical. That's what she does, like the Geico commericals. Kayla Pedersen brought her hustle today, and sometimes even got rewarded for it with a whistle. Other times, not so much (there was one play where she had a ball and should have gotten a jump ball against Dos Santos- instead, Dos Santos ripped the ball out of her arms and knocked her backwards with no call). She had a very solid game. Makes sense- I think she's playing for her job, knowing that there's probably only one roster spot next year between her and Kelsey Griffin. (Yes, I am aware Connecticut waived Griffin in the middle of the season. I'm willing to bet actual-facts money that that was strictly a salary cap/roster positioning move and they'll bring her back next year.)

Kelly Faris got a lot of applause when she did things, or even when she didn't do things. The three she hit got one of the biggest cheers of the night; the free throws she missed elicited an arena-wide "awwwwwwww...". It really, spectacularly weirds me out. I can't deny her hustle- a guard who boxes out Érika de Souza will always get my respect for her metaphorical cojones- but I don't get the sheer adoration. Jasmine Thomas intercepted plenty of passes from Chicago. Granted, some of them were thrown directly to her, but she played well on the ball. She had a lot of shots that should have gone down but didn't. I'm not so sure about her offensive decision-making, though she did rack up the assists.

Then again, it's pretty easy to rack up the assists when Kelsey Bone is making power moves in the middle. Since she wasn't putting the ball down a lot (even when she technically should have), I can see official scorers being generous on the assist call. She missed a lot of shots early, ones that she should have been hitting. They went down for her more in the second half. It got to the point where I needed her to share the ball or I was going to run out of room on my score sheet. It still bothers me how easily she seems to get rattled by a bad call or a missed shot. Alyssa Thomas is starting to rub me the wrong way. I can't shake the feeling that she would have been the perfect Laimbeer player... and it's probably better and safer for the entire league that she doesn't play for Bill. She's very physical and very fearless. I feel like I should respect that, but I'm scared at the same time. I always forget that Camille Little has an outside stroke, and then she sets up from straight away and her team has three more points. She's so smooth. And she's sweet, too- she took the mic after the game to thank the fans for coming out.

Connecticut did a video with everyone, players and coaches both, thanking the fans for their support. I thought that was sweet.

One more soda and now I have the entire collection of Connecticut Sun "Share a Coke" cups. I really hope other teams pick this up. I'd love to see a "Share a Coke with Essence" cup.

The kids with the adorable Blaze hats were back! They were at the last game I was at, but I forgot to mention them, and I feel bad, because those hats are so cool!

A lot of late whistles in this one, and a very odd continuation call (but still not the least acceptable basket counted in a Chicago game, amirite Dream fans).


Good luck in the lottery, Connecticut. Faretheewell, Sun. For this has been the last game of the season, the last bus ride, the last taco bowl, the last uncomfortable ovation for Kelly Faris, the last slot pull, the last pile of sweet delicious candy.


Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11th, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Washington dominated in their 82-55 win at New York. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led all scorers with 15 points. Emma Meesseman added 14 points and eight rebounds. For New York, Avery Warley-Talbert had a team-high 12 points and six rebounds.

For disappointment, souvenirs, pictures, hat difficulty level, giant flags, missed cues, long gray shirts, practicality, and Essence Carson's hair flowing free in the wind, join your intrepid and sore all over blogger after the jump.

So here we are, gentle readers. The last regular season home game of the Liberty season. We know for certain it is not the last of anything- the season finale is at Indiana, and the playoffs assure us at least one more home game. But there is, nevertheless, a sense of completion, if not finality, about the day.

I don't know who was thinking what when they decided that the Liberty's final home game of the regular season should be on the 11th of September, against Washington of all teams, of all cities. It's insensitive to the people whose grief is an open wound and to whom any joy on 9/11 is salt; it's insensitive to the people who want to enjoy a basketball game without reminders of cruel reality creeping in at the edges.

(Inevitable "where were you?" story short: High school English. Mom worked in the financial district, almost went shopping at the WTC mall that day, but forgot her coupon. We lost no one within two degrees of separation, thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus.)

Today will be a day of shopping! $75 in Garden gift certificates + 20% coupon = Kiah Stokes or Brittany Boyd jersey and possibly a shirt. We'll see what's in 2XL.

Today will also be a day of pictures- the perfect attendance award photo is after the game. Round up the Usual Suspects and prepare for much breeze-shooting. You may not know this, readers, but I used these notes one season as proof of my perfect attendance when there was an issue with my tickets. There are advantages to being prepared. Girl Scouts for life, yo.

Today is also the day to attempt to add Erica Wheeler to the Cap, Volume 3. (Volume 1 started in 2000, ran out of space in 2006. Volume 2 started in 2010, reached back to 2007, ran out of room this year. The goal is simple: everyone. My mother's version of Volume 1 went to Australia for Jessica Bibby. Everyone is serious business.)

Wonderful. At halftime we're down 13, no one's guarding the 3 (seven treys for DC), no one's guarding Emma Meesseman (10 points), Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is hitting jumpers (12), our stars do not give a good goddamn, and the entertainment is the annoying Simon Sez guy who won't go away no matter how hard I wish.

Shopping completed before the game. No Kiah Stokes jerseys to be had, but I bought a Boyd jersey, a t-shirt, and some other trinkets. Shoutout to Frances and her cohort whose nametag I could not see, for letting me use the 20% off coupon though it technically was only good downstairs (where there was diddly-squat in my size). Super helpful and super patient with our penny-pinching and careful counting.

Passes are too hard, shots are too short. And that was in the first half when we still pretended to care.

Look, I understand that this game meant precious little to the Liberty. All the things that can be clinched are clinched. But at least pretend to care. Pretend the game means something. Pretend to play. Most of the Liberty didn't even bother to do that.

This may be breaking news to some of you who were in isolated caves or on desert islands, but Armintie Herrington does not have a jump shot. She does, however, rebound beautifully and jump-start fast breaks with her speed and length. She's not a point guard, except when leading the break. Bria Hartley's shot is working a little, but I thought the best play from her was an early punchout of a rebound that the Liberty had all but buttoned up. Tayler Hill has a pretty shot and plays the ball very aggressively. I still like neither her nor her alma mater. (Sorry, Katie. I have deep-seated issues with the Ohio State University. Go Blue.)

(Spoon is currently playing HORSE with a fan. It is somewhat less successful than you might think. Spoon, after all, despite being legendary for a shot, is not a shooter.)

(Tina wandered out to talk to a couple of fans, but I think they had to re-do the ice on her knees.)

Kia Vaughn knows all the post moves, and performs them well, but takes a long time to do them. It's not so much that she's stuck in slow motion as it is she's doing them at practice speed, posing to demonstrate that she knows them technically. You always feel there could be something more, another gear. Ally Malott has a lovely jumper, but we all knew that. (Flyers in red hitting threes give me flashbacks to the NCAA tournament and Nadirah huddled in misery on the bench.) LaToya Sanders has a remarkable knack for slithering into small spaces in the paint and filling them admirably. Coming off a game where Camille Little did the same thing, I'm starting to wonder if this is a UNC thing. She kept balls alive for Washington.

Ivory Latta hit a deep three in perfect rhythm, but really didn't need to do much else. Natasha Cloud was aggressive, and a bit physical, and faster than I thought.

When did Tierra Ruffin-Pratt acquire a jumper? Is it not enough for Washington that she's one of the best defenders in the league? Now she gets to have a jumper and call glass? That is not fair. She's turning into one of the great success stories of the WNBA, and if we hadn't been playing Washington I would be a lot happier about it. Stefanie Dolson's hair is in Troll doll territory, in shade, texture, and shape. She took a lot of her shots from the outside, with mixed results, and did a lot of grunt work defensively. Emma Meesseman has such a pretty shot, and such good hands. I like watching her play when she's not playing against us. She did most of her damage in the first half, but then, that's when she was most needed.

Washington exploited our weakness against the three very well, and they beat us soundly on the boards. The rebounding, at least, I can chalk up to the Liberty's overall lack of energy, but we've got to do something about the perimeter defense, oh my God.

Avery Warley-Talbert is not a high rotation player for a team that wants to win a WNBA championship. Late in the game, however, when no damns were being given by either team, she started pouring in baskets. Pretty sure we were practicing plays that would go to Tina Charles in a real game. But it was good for her, and I'm sure it made her feel good. Kiah Stokes was highly disappointing. She was consistently late on her defensive rotations, and you can't leave shooters like Malott or Meesseman open. She still rebounds well, but if she's going to be a defensive stopper, she needs to move better and read her scouting reports. Essence Carson hit some shots in the third quarter, but was otherwise unremarkable. (Which I guess is an improvement over "ESSENCE WHAT EVEN ARE YOU DOING I CANNOT WORD WHARGARBL".)

Erica Wheeler looked like she got her feet under her a little bit. The shots were definitely falling for her, and she was pesky on defense. I'm still not thrilled with her eternal dribbling and her insistence that she can totally take any defender thrown at her, but she did more of what we needed of her tonight. Sugar Rodgers did not play with the energy I would have expected of a reserve fighting for minutes and trying to show she can step up in a teammate's absence. She was as laid back and as many steps slow as most of the starters. Fortunately for the remaining shreds of my sanity, Candice Wiggins does not have a neutral gear. Candice's gears are all set to go. Candice came in with energy and intensity, and with a desire to win. I would have liked to see her take more of the shots she passed up, but for all I know, that might have been part of the greater design, and I might have thought differently if anyone on the Liberty other than Avery were capable of hitting a shot.

Tina Charles spent most of the game nowhere near the paint, or if she was in the paint, taking runners in it. She hardly posted up. She didn't play much, and I think she played more than Bill wanted her to because of the foul trouble for Avery and for Carolyn Swords. Carolyn committed some remarkably stupid fouls, and seemed a little off her game on the boards. Swin Cash was the unfortunate starter to play near the end of the game, when it was beyond a blowout, and I think she was there to infuse them with some energy- she looked like she had come to play, or at least to rebound and defend.

Tanisha Wright took ill-advised shots and made bad passes. This was not her finest night as an offensive point guard. It wasn't her best defensive night either, but she was stronger there than on offense. Epiphanny Prince hit jumpers, but seemed to be taking some that she shouldn't be. She had a couple of great defensive plays on Emma Meesseman in a row, one of which should have been counted as a block.

We didn't see a lot of the starters in this one. Once Washington got the momentum in the second quarter, there was really no reason to play them. It was cler that no one with any authority with the Liberty cared about winning this game. I think they had reason to, to try and choose their first-round opponent. Clearly my opinion was not shared.

Saw surprisingly few Washington fans. I know it's a weeknight, but they usually travel well.

Shoutout to the girl in the Warley-Talbert jersey. I know the odds are pretty good she or one of her kinfolk is either a Warley or a Talbert, but that's still adorable and she should feel good for wearing it.

Beautiful anthem tonight.

This is not how I want to go into the playoffs, but part of me is relieved that everyone's safe and sound, and part of me thinks Bill wanted them to show their flaws so he could patch them up.