Sunday, November 10, 2019

November 9th, 2019: Fairfield at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall withstood a midgame run from Fairfield and reestablished control in the second half to run away with a 74-44 win. Desiree Elmore led the Pirates with 18 points and 14 rebounds, one of five Seton Hall players to score in double figures. Katie Armstrong and Rachel Hakes each had nine points to lead the Stags.

For all the trains, taking small ball to extremes, saying hello to old friends, fighting for the blue and white, and the hope of the future, join your intrepid and restless blogger after the jump.


Good morning! Okay, I'm lying, it's never a good morning when I have to set the alarm on a weekend. Okay, I'm also lying; it's always a good morning when there's basketball, even when it takes three hours to get out to Seton Hall for a morning tip. I am not a morning person. I'm not sure how the Hall is managing, although we suspect highly caffeinated drinks are involved somehow.

We come to you starting at the end of the first quarter, where Seton Hall leads Fairfield 24-9. Desiree Elmore has gotten off to a hot stat for the Pirates, with buckets and good passing. Katie Armstrong for the Stags seems to like the glass.

Fairfield seems to have traveled a decent amount of family.

Beautiful anthem to start the game.

(Part of) why Selena Philoxy is my favorite Pirate: her energy and enthusiasm in the pregame. Which is to say, she has better dance moves than some of the Saphs.

The importance of passing on traditions to the next generation: watching one of the assistants teach Mya Jackson the choreography to “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

33-21 Seton Hall at halftime, so if you're doing the math at home, that means Fairfield won the second quarter. I can't imagine Coach Bozzella is happy with this. This game may well be decided by the reserves; Shadeen Samuels has three fouls for the Hall and both Lou Lopez-Senechal and Katie Armstrong have three fouls for the Stags. (The third came on an offensive foul where she acted very indignant about the audacity of the officials for calling her hitting Shadeen in the face. DO NOT HIT SHADEEN IN THE FACE.)

There was a teddy bear toss at halftime. It was exactly as cute as you imagined it. Kiabear has found a new home.

We're good at getting out of trouble- finding shots when the dribble has been picked up, scrambling for loose balls, recovering errant passes. The problem is that we're awfully good at getting into trouble in the first place. Fairfield is starting to exploit that, and using Molly Bauer's height to take advantage of our lack thereof. In that regard, the big guns' foul trouble might be a blessing in disguise for the Stags.

(Wait, shouldn't they be the Does? Because aren't Stags male? If you're going to use gendered names, go all the way.)

I forgot just how hard these bleachers are. Ow.

57-37 SHU at the end of the third quarter, which is somewhat of a relief. The quarter break shooting contest is actually pretty neat- instead of dress-and-dribble, this time it was “stand behind the prize and win it if you hit the shot”. So you still get the gear but you get to choose and have more chances.

I don't understand why we're throwing passes over Lauren Park-Lane's head. It's not like we're particularly used to having tall guards. For some reason- I can't quite put my finger on it- Tony has a thing for small guards.

Fairfield is not a particularly talented team, from what I saw of this game. But they're well coached and know how to exploit weaknesses. Team comes at them with small posts? Run screens with your big combo forwards to create brutal mismatches and use your taller reserves. Clog the paint to take away drives. That kind of thing.

Andrea Hernangomez has rather more confidence in her shot than I would in her shoes, based on today's game. I thought she might have done better getting closer to the basket than she did cranking threes. Mackenzie Martin saw time in the fourth quarter- her teammates were very excited when she got a layup near the end of the game. I wasn't sure why her face was so flushed, but it was startling, to say the least. Eden Nibbelink got the short end of the stick on at least one call, where it looked like she took a hit to the face and ended up having the foul called on her. She seemed inoffensive out there.

Molly Bauer was a game-changer, and I suspect that's why she started the second half in place of Callie Cavanaugh. She took a couple of possessions to find her footing, but once she did, she hit the glass and freed up Fairfield's offense. I know it doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but she had a major impact on the game when Fairfield made their run. Ciara Bracken's shot releases pretty quickly, but I'm not sure about her range. It seemed like she was taking shots she couldn't hit.

Callie Cavanaugh showed a propensity for taking perimeter shots and admiring them. They were not worth the admiration. She was more successful when she got closer to the basket, and when she was not committing push-off fouls against smaller defenders. (Seriously, guys. How did Lauren end up stuck on her?) She was the player who came off the bench in the second half when Bauer moved into the starting lineup. Katie Armstrong's fondness for the glass extended throughout the game and throughout her entire shooting range- she seemed to be trying to use it both on her drives and her jumpers. I did not like her tendency to extend the forearm, nor did I appreciate her protestations of innocence when the refs caught her. For a senior, she didn't demonstrate a good ability to play through foul trouble. Lou Lopez-Senechal got into foul trouble very early on, and I think it threw her off her rhythm. She never seemed to get going. She did face some defensive pressure, but I don't think that was as much of a factor.

Around the second elbow Rachel Hakes threw, I decided I didn't like her. Her driving ability is good, and she had good hands on defense, but either she's careless or she's dirty, and I don't have to like either of those things. Sam Kramer took threes and missed threes. She had some very nice steals, though. She played hard on the ball.

I don't think this is the best team Fairfield's ever had, but I'd say they'll beat at least two teams they have no right on paper to beat, just from execution and game-planning. The runs in the second and third quarter demonstrated that, when the Stags had the deficit down to single digits.

Everyone wearing blue in the building wanted Victoria Keenan to hit that three near the end of the game, and it was a good look. Alexia Allesch, to my surprise, came up with a resounding block in her brief time at the end of the game. If she's decided to use her height this year, I'm intrigued. (My impression of her from the scouting report was that she was one of those tall players who likes to park on the perimeter. They're more common these days, and I know it's an important change in the game, but like many things in this life, that doesn't mean I have to like it.) Kailah Harris's goggles are at least interesting, even if she doesn't seem to be ready for rotation minutes just yet.

Selena Philoxy brings a lot of energy to the floor. I know that's a cliché, but Selena has done the impossible and made Tony Bozzella no longer the most animated person on his own team. When that kind of energy is successful, she's grabbing or causing rebounds for her team and making defensive stops. When it isn't successful, she racks up fouls like they were on sale and ends up taking the ball out of bounds. She's frenetic, and sometimes she's frustrating, but she's still my current fave. Mya Jackson found her shooting touch in the second half, swishing threes with the greatest of ease. Freshman fouls were a theme in this game, and she was guilty of a couple of those. She'll learn, though. I think. Jasmine Smith, on the other hand, is a junior college transfer from a notable program. I expect her not to be committing blatant touch fouls. It seemed like she got going more in the second half too, but I'm not sure if that was a function of minute allocation, Fairfield's defense starting to suffer, or her making adjustments. More study will be required.

I have very much missed cheering Alexis Lewis's three-point shots and tough rebounding. I didn't miss watching her line up at the four against much more physical players. I certainly think having her line up at five on defense is an even terribler idea. It is, in fact, such a terrible idea that it breaks the laws of grammar. We'll get into the particulars of the undersized lineup later. Shadeen Samuels picked up three fouls in the first half, which was sort of a blessing because it reduced her minute load. (I'm still not sure about that charge.) Her shots were not going down in this game, and I don't know if it was a problem with her mechanics or Fairfield's defense or just dumb luck. Sometimes the ball be that way. Desiree Elmore started the game on fire and kept it up pretty much throughout. Her midrange game was a thing of beauty, and she brought a combination of force and finesse to the three that Fairfield really couldn't counter unless they were just throwing bodies at her.

I was not enthused with Barbara Johnson's shot selection, or the quantity thereof. It seemed like she was taking a lot of stupid threes, but the box score is telling me otherwise. I'm not sure what to make of that. Maybe she just had a bad game. I think I need to see more of her to get a better handle on who she is as a player. I love how Lauren Park-Lane handles herself on the floor. There are certain names you don't bandy about lightly as comparisons at Seton Hall, and she definitely has to be more of a scoring threat before we can really have this conversation, but yes, I'm going to say it: she does remind me of Didi Simmons. For a more down-to-earth but probably also more contentious comparison, she also reminds me of Aaliyah Lewis from St. John's. She doesn't quite have the full air of command yet, but she's also a freshman, and she's most of the way there. I need her to not commit stupid fouls on three-point shots that have already been released, and I'm going to need her shooting to be better. Those are things that can be fixed, and fortuitously, Didi herself is on our bench these days. If anyone can unlock that sort of potential in Lauren, it would be her.

So, the undersized lineup. We have height. It's just on the bench for various and sundry reasons. Femi Funeus is still recovering from her season-ending injury last year and was in sweats. Whitney Howell was inconsistent as all getout last year and was a DNP-CD in this game. Kailah Harris saw only garbage time and needs time to adjust to the college game. Selena Philoxy is way too foul-prone to be a starter. So we end up running a front line of 5-10/5-10/6-0, and anyone with size is going to take advantage of that. I don't have an issue with Shadeen taking the opening tip. I do have an issue with either her or Lexi guarding the other team's center. If we're gambling on Femi being ready to hit the ground running, that's a heck of a gamble. I'd rather see improvement come from our other posts. The bigs need to get their act together, or Coach Bozzella needs to trust them to play through their mistakes in non-conference games against lower-level opponents. If it means only beating Fairfield by 20 instead of 30, so be it.

Officiating was mostly inoffensive. They called most of the elbows and only really inserted themselves into the action in the third quarter with a flurry of touch fouls and the occasional strict travel. I thought we got away with some stuff; I thought Fairfield got away with slightly less stuff.

I don't know if Whitney Howell grabbed the "Morning Madness" shirt by accident or as commentary on the 11AM tip time, but I feel you, Whit. I feel you. So do the circles under my eyes.

It sounded like cheer was working in some new chants. I don't like them. If you want the crowd to get involved, you have to keep them simple and easy to follow. (On the other hand, don't be Fordham and just not bother.)

There are a couple of pieces missing to this Pirate puzzle. We'll have to see how it all comes together as the season progresses.

Read More...

Friday, November 8, 2019

November 5th, 2019: Notre Dame at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Notre Dame used size, speed, and a 33-2 free throw differential to pull out a 60-55 win over Fordham. Sam Brunelle and Katlyn Gilbert each had 14 points to pace the Irish, with Destinee Walker adding 10 points and 10 boards. Bre Cavanaugh and Kendell Heremaia each had 14 points to lead Fordham in the loss.

For loud noises, belated election advice, mixed messages, and starting off the season with a bang, join your intrepid and enthusiastic blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow basketball travelers! You know what today is, right? It's Election Day! So if you didn't already get out to the polls... well, it'll probably be too late by the time I get these notes posted. But just assume I'm very disappointed in you if you didn't exercise your right and privilege as an American citizen. (If you aren't an American citizen, or are under the age of 18, or can't vote for some other reason, ignore this part.)

But more relevant to the interests of this blog, it's opening day for college basketball! Your intrepid blogger is typing blindly away on a D train headed to the Bronx, as the Fordham Rams open their season with a bang against the ACC powerhouse Notre Dame. I get the feeling my smooth transfers from train to train are about to be the highlight of the night, but who knows? Stranger things have happened, and CPTV has proof.

Our ace reporter on the scene tells me that the legendary Drums of Thunder are in the building. Given how small Rose Hill Gym is, that might be quite a sound. I'm expecting a packed house. Notre Dame alumni are everywhere, they travel well, and I believe there's a NY-area kid on the Irish roster as well. I'm not looking forward to this part. Notre Dame fans can make UConn fans look like choir members with their attitude.

End of the first quarter, and Notre Dame is up 16-14. We're playing reasonably smart basketball, but can't finish a lot of the plays. Two fouls on Anaya Peoples is a problem for Notre Dame early, but two fouls on Anna DeWolff might be a bigger one for Fordham. Even if we get cheesed later, I like what I'm seeing out of our freshmen guards.

At halftime, Notr Dame is up 36-24. All things considered, this isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be when we were scoreless for the first five or so minutes of the quarter. Sam Brunelle is putting on a show with 12 points. The freshmen guards are stealing the show for Fordham; Anna DeWolff is getting looks even if she isn't, and Sarah Karpell is making some astonishingly heady defensive plays for her first real game.

Drums of Thunder is about to get underway. Bring the noise, y'all.

There are a surprising number of split fans- Fordham jackets with Notre Dame hats, that kind of thing. I'm pleasantly surprised by how not-green it is in here, especially since the doubleheader is separate admission- in other words, it's not like people are here for the men's game and sitting on their hands.

Notre Dame's heralded freshmen are very good offensively, but they don't have the defense yet. I mean, it's their first game. I'm realistic here.

In tonight's edition of “counting is hard”: Vilisi Tavui is our starting center and wears 14. Ralene Kwiatkowski is a little-used reserve guard who wears 15. Guess what number the ref flashed when Vilisi committed her third foul (which was, IMO, a borderline call)?

47-35 Notre Dame at the end of the third. The foul differential has been instructive, to say the least. It's not a pretty game, but it was never going to be a pretty game if Fordham was going to have any chance. There have been a lot of “counting is hard”moments in this quarter, with some unusual foul calls and disagreements on who the foul should be called on. Mikayla Vaughn went down hard and stayed down for a while early in the quarter, giving us all a scare, but she was able to put weight on the ankle and came back into the game briefly. She got pulled again, though I think that might have been for blood, or possibly an illegal substitution. Come to think of it, I'm not sure she returned after that.

60-55 Notre Dame final, but honestly, I think there are a lot of positives to take away from this game for Fordham. We came back and stuck with a team that's bigger, faster, and more skilled than we are, and we took them to the last possession. A little more depth, a few less bad calls to have personnel available, and we might just have done it.

Kaitlin Cole played briefly for the Fighting Irish in the second quarter. I don't see a statistical impact for her. Danielle Cosgrove brought good height off the bench when Brunelle was in foul trouble and Vaughn was out of the game, but she's got to hit her shots close to the rim. At her height, with our relative lack of height, she should have been a more dominant force. Katlyn Gilbert impressed me more with her defense than her offense, but then I looked at the box score, and she tied for the lead in scoring. I was impressed with how closely she marked her assignment. And yes, that's it for the Notre Dame bench. McGraw didn't have the chance to go as deep into her bench as she might have liked early in the season.

I like Marta Sniezek's quick hands and her communication on the court. She was quick to call the plays and call out her assignment. I think I expected her to be more of a factor in the scorebook than she was, but maybe that's by design. When this lineup has its act together, it's going to be very offensively potent, and maybe they need her to be a facilitator rather than a scorer. Destinee Walker kept Notre Dame in the game with drives and a midrange game, and kept Fordham in the game with appalling free throw shooting. And it's not like she didn't have a chance to practice, but we'll get to that later, once I figure out how not to swear about it. Anaya Peoples has some sweet moves, but her defense needs a lot of work. She's a freshman, though. That happens with freshmen.

Sam Brunelle has a sweet stroke, especially for a big. She needs to work on her footwork, though. She got dinged for at least two travels in the second half. I can see why she's on the national watch lists, even this early. She's got an amazing amount of potential. I can see her fitting anywhere in a frontcourt and giving McGraw a lot of flexibility with her lineups. Mikayla Vaughn used her length well in the post to get rebounds and putbacks. I'm glad she was able to put weight on the ankle. When she went down I was worried it was an Achilles.

Notre Dame had more size and speed than we did, and there were a lot of plays that we might have been able to make against a typical A-10 team that got shut down against Notre Dame's size. Idon't think McGraw haqs her defense installed yet (note that the best defensive plays were mostly coming from the returning sophomore Gilbert; Sniezek made good individual plays, but not systemic plays).

I was surprised that we didn't give Zara Jillings a lot of run. I guess she falls into the undersized tweener trap against a team like Notre Dame, but she's a heady player and there were times when we could have used her communication skills on the floor, when passes went awry or players were out of position. Megan Jonassen was physical in the post, both on the glass and on putbacks. I like how she's shaping up. Sarah Karpell put in big minutes and made a lot of hustle defensive plays, getting back to stop breaks and getting in for loose balls. Her nose for the ball was fantastic. Katie McLoughlin saw time in the fourth quarter as foul trouble and long minutes took their toll on the starters, and she put up a couple of threes (I think one of them was one of the many Fordham shots that the rim rejected).

(Seriously, at one point my husband said of our shooting, "God hates us." My response, given who we were playing, was "No, God's mom hates us.")

I'm not sure how I feel about Kaitlyn Downey's love of the lookaway pass. On one hand, it's really cool when it works. On the other hand, when it doesn't work, we look stupid. There were stretches when it seemed like she had forgotten how tall she is and was leaving the heavy carrying down low to her teammates (which was not necessarily a great plan given Vilisi's foul trouble). But she had a couple of good blocks. I'd just like to see a lot less of her on the perimeter. (Somehow she snuck up on all the categories in the scoresheet. I don't know how either. I do remember the steals, though- she got into the passing lane and stepped in front of passes. She got by with a little help from her friends- those steals were usually off double or triple teams.) Vilisi Tavui shows some promise, and if nothing else, it's nice to have an actual tall post player to go up against everyone else's tall post player. She's a little more tentative than I'd like her to be, but I get it; this is really her first big action since the injury, and she's suddenly gone from the end of the bench to the starting lineup. That's a big adjustment for a kid who flat out admitted Fordham was her only recruiting opportunity.

Kendell Heremaia is rapidly taking that spot in my heart where I'm willing to fight anyone who makes a bad call against her. She's such a sweetheart. We've already had two games where the Law of Verticality was not only violated but subverted in her case (the Law of Verticality being that if a player falls down, a foul is called on the player who did not fall down, and poor Kene keeps getting the call against her, and it just doesn't seem fair). She's stepping up big for us, and I'm so proud of her. I love watching her on defense, even if it doesn't seem fair that she has to defend other teams' power forwards. I love seeing her run the offense and step into that role so easily. I love her hustle. I keep thinking she should not be taking threes that far back, and then they go in and I shut up for a while. Bre Cavanaugh was missing shots in the first half that it seemed like she should be making- and that she did, in fact, make in the second half. I'm now not sure whether she's actually more potent when she's not the first option or not; on one hand, she can explode in a good way, but on the other hand, it seems like she has her best performances when she doesn't have to be the superstar. It takes the pressure off and lets her play a more complete game. I'm sure Anna DeWolff is going to hit the freshman wall at some point, and I admit I'm worried about the length of time it takes for her to get off good shots sometimes. But until such time as she hits that wall and the shots really stop going down, I'll join the folks in the band who had the DeWolff Pack sign up. She hits shots and she plays without fear. She and Bre have a lot of the same instincts for the ball. Right now, that's a problem because they both try to be in the same place at the same time, and they end up getting in each other's way, which means we lose the possession as often as we gain it. But once they get a better sense of where each of them is on the floor, and they learn to trust each other to get the ball, our rebounding from the backcourt is going to be ridiculous.

I can't overstate the heart of this team. They gave it everything they thought they had, and then they dug deeper and gave some more. Kene was pulling the jersey with three minutes to go, and that was about a minute and a half of game time before she hit the big three. Kaitlyn was starting to register on the Kraayeveld scale. Anna's mask was slipping because of the sweat. But the team just kept coming. If we can take an ACC team to the wire like this, with one of the most lopsided free throw differentials I've ever seen working against them, I look forward to seeing what they can do against teams in their own weight class.

So, about that free throw differential, because we were going to get there eventually. I didn't really think anything of it when Sarah went to the line in the first quarter and split a pair of free throws. It's a thing that happens. We were annoyed that she didn't hit the first, but that's how life is. And then we started racking up fouls, and Notre Dame... did not. I thought there was an imbalance in how the physicality of the game was called, and I certainly objected to the allocation of some of the fouls that did seem legitimate. It just didn't hit me until I was on the train looking at the box score, and the differentials were there in black and white- 27-9 Fordham on fouls, 33-2 Notre Dame on free throws. (And really, if I'm Notre Dame, I'm not happy with my FT%, given that many cracks at it.) It gets frustrating when touch fouls are called at one end and hands to the face aren't called on the other.

I loved how raucous thecrowd was. To my surprise, the Notre Dame fans were fairly quiet during the game. They cheered during intros, but that was about it. Maybe it's different when it's non-conference? Because the ones who showed up to games at Carnesecca before the Big East imploded were real jerks, and that did a lot to color my impression of the fan base. (The Internet has done the rest.) I would like for the Fordham fans to bring this energy for the rest of the season, because these kids deserve it. I know it's not going to happen, but your intrepid blogger would like to dream.

On to the next one. Basketball never stops, and I'm going to have to type faster if I want to stay caught up.

Read More...

Monday, November 4, 2019

October 26th, 2019: Rutgers at Fordham

Basketball sort of happens, '80s music is referenced, fans travel, and your intrepid blogger beats the buzzer, more or less.

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen, boys, girls, genderqueer peeps, non-binary folk, and everyone else I might have forgotten! It's a beautiful fall day in New York City, the kind that you take pictures of the campus for admission packets on. So of course, we're in Rose Hill, preparing for Fordham and Rutgers in a previously closed scrimmage. We gave our ten bucks for admission. Clearly the Rutgers folks were used to a more technological setup, because they had to have a sign out indicating that they didn't take credit cards and providing the location of the nearest ATM. Conversely, the young ladies manning the register seemed pleasantly surprised that we not only had cash, we had exact change.

A contingent of Cagers, about 20 strong, has made the trip to the Bronx. They, uh. They might outnumber the Fordham fans, but on the flip side, it's half an hour before tip. We're still ready to get as loud as we need to get.

Vilisi Tavui is in sweats next to Isis Young. We know from the open practice that Ice is hurt, so I'm assuming Vilisi is being held out for the same reason. I hope it's only precautionary. I would like to see her stop being hurt at some point.

Rutgers's practice jerseys are hideous. The font is terrible and the two-tone numbers are worse. I also feel like there should be more red, but this is an ongoing argument i have with teams that have colors in their names.

Really, Cagers? Before a scrimmage on the road, you're singing the fight song? Before a scrimmage? On the road?

18-10 Rutgers end Q1, although it looks like the scores are being reset at the end of each quarter. If the purpose has been to put a winning team on the floor, this ain't it. If the purpose is to figure out our strengths and weaknesses, and to accustom the team to obnoxious traveling fans in advance of the Notre Dame game, then this sort of makes sense.

15-13 Rutgers end Q2. The physicality has picked up. I don't like it. Also, we need to hit free throws. This is a thing that is independent of the quality of our opponent, and we're something like 2-6 for the day. My eye was on the ball, so I idn't see how Maori Davenport got hit in the stomach, but it was bad. I thought she was going to throw up on the court.

Oh, now the PA guy wants to get going.

16-12 Fordham end Q3. Although now the scoreboard reads 51-all, and that's not accurate. If they're picking up the running score, it's 46-39 Rutgers. Tekia Mack's protestations of innocence and horror that she hasn't gotten the call amuse me.

Rutgers won the fourth quarter 27-18. So the final score was either 78-69 or 73-57 in favor of Rutgers. Your mileage may vary.

I was not happy with Rutgers's physicality in the second and third quarters. I understand that part of the goal of a scrimmage like this is to prepare you for the regular season, and we're going to be facing some very tough competition very quickly. But some of it felt unnecessary, and some of it felt retaliatory for plays that were not intentional.

Danielle Migliore brought a little bit of attempted shooting touch, but it often did not go well. She still looks like she's trying to fit into the Rutgers system as a transfer. I don't know if she's anything but a zone-buster off the bench, but maybe that's all they need her to be. Maori Davenport looks... for some reason unfinished is the word that comes to mind. Maybe I'm just getting older, but I swear they look younger every year. Between the nonsense she had to go through with the high school federation and the two bad tumbles she took in this game, I have to wonder what she did or who she angered in her past life. I hope she's okay. They were the only two players who were consistent in coming off the bench in both "halves".

Tekia Mack is probably going to earn herself a lot of fans at Rutgers, not just because of her way to slither into small spaces and hit shots at impossible angles or draw contact, but because she has a very expressive on-court personality- her body language and demeanor remind me a little of Courtney Williams. She's probably also going to make herself fairly unpopular among Big Ten fans and possibly officials, because at least in this scrimmage she was demanding every call in her favor and complaining about every call that went against her (and at least one against Mael Gilles). She's an interesting player, and she's fun to watch. She gave us fits with her height. I just get the feeling that if I were still a Rutgers fan, I'd spend Mack's entire career yelling "TEKIA, YOU'RE NOT GETTING THAT CALL!" She and Khadaizha Sanders got the start in the first half, but not the second half. Sanders got off a couple of nice shots, but I don't think Stringer was happy with her fouls in the third quarter- they were mostly cheap reach-in fouls, and a grad transfer should know better than that. Conversely, Noga Pelag Pelc and Joiya Maddox got the second half start but not the first half start. Neither was particularly impressive, although Maddox might be good for them in a couple of years when she really internalizes the system.

Most times I look at college players' listed heights and think, There's no way she's that tall. I looked at Arella Guirantes and thought, There's no way she's only 5-11. Maybe her hair is throwing me off, or maybe it's her build- I could think of no other description for her but "she thick", possibly even "thicc". She plays like a guard but can bang like a forward. She's not as well conditioned as I'd expect a Stringer player to be, though. There was one sequence where she was pulling on her jersey. I'd need a box score to look at minute counts, but she did seem to spend a lot of time on the court. Jordan Wallace got into foul trouble early, but Stringer chose to let her play through the three first-quarter fouls. She seemed more effective in the early going, although I'm not sure if that was because of the fouls or because Guirantes and Mack were carrying the load for the Scarlet Knights. She did do a good job of setting screens for her teammates. Mael Gilles has very quick hands. She deflected a lot of balls, and she's absolutely lethal as part of the infamous press. Her deflection skills did not serve her as well on offense.

Rutgers has a lot more size in the backcourt than I was expecting. Their reserves are kind of small, but I don't know how much they're going to get used. The press is as terrifying as it ever was- they forced at least two 10-second violations out of us, and while I know Coach Gaitley likes to run the shot clock deep even on a good day, I think they had us struggling at the end of the clock more than I'd like.

I like Sarah Karpell's heart. She's very clearly a freshman, though. She needs to work on her defense, but I recognize that attempting to criticize a college freshman on her defense before her first real game of the season is just mean. I'm not a complete jerk, and I think she has the potential to develop the way we need her to develop. Catherine Polisano doesn't seem to have changed much from the spot player she was last year. I'll need to see her in actual game action to have a better idea of who she might be for us this year. I like the height that Eden Johnson brings off the bench, and I think with time she'll know where her teammates are going to be on the glass enough that they all don't get tangled up with each other.

I was, however, disappointed in our returning reserves, and that's a wee tiny bit of a problem when we're relying on them to play the bulk of the minutes off the bench. Zara Jillings, heady as she was calling plays and relaying signals, couldn't keep her hands on the ball. She got deflections on defense that should have been steals and deflections on offense that should have been clean catches. I know Rutgers's defense is a lot tougher than anything we would normally face on this level, but she's got to be better than that. Megan Jonassen really needed to step her game up. She was okay, but not great- there seemed to be stretches where she was missing rebounds and defensive stops she has made in the past. She needs to be more than she was, and she was less.

Speaking of which, oh, dear, Kaitlyn Downey. Of all the returning players we have, she's the one who arguably has the biggest leap to take in her role, and in that scrimmage, she not only did not step up, she took a step back. Her shot's always been a little streaky, but it was especially bad in this scrimmage. She was slow on defense and she was not in position to make the hustle plays she was doing so well last year. She basically has to be Mary Goulding now that Mary's graduated, and this scrimmage made me less certain that she's up to the task. Admittedly, her role in the starting lineup will probably change when we have Vilisi back at center. 6-4 in the middle helps with a lot of things. We ended up more or less running a four-guard set, and while Kendell Heremaia is adorable, I'm not sure the "point guard defending power forwards" thing is a good plan going forward. She's feisty, and of all our top guards she has the most size, but still. I know switching match-ups between offense and defense is a thing, but not quite to this extent. I was pleasantly surprised by how well she's adapted to running the offense; so much of it went through Lauren Holden last year that I wasn't expecting Kene to step into the signal-calling role so smoothly.

I like Katie McLoughlin's hustle on the offensive glass. I don't know what else she has to offer, but I do like that about her. We'll have to see if she develops, or if she stagnates (it's not like we haven't had players stagnate on this team). Bre Cavanaugh finds ways to make offense happen, and she had one or two really nifty drives in the lane, but she was the focus of Rutgers's defense, and I don't think I need to tell anyone what kind of not-fun that is. Against bigger teams, I think she has to rely more on her jumper than on her driving ability, and I don't know if she can make that flip back and forth on a regular basis. Anna DeWolfe had herself a heck of a game, with solid three-point shooting and good court vision. She's certainly picked the right number if she's that kind of player. Also, it looks like I'm going to have Duran Duran stuck in my head for the next four years, and that means you're going to have Duran Duran stuck in your head for the next four years. You're welcome, fam.

Fordham lost a lot with graduation. We've still got Bre Cavanaugh, and that's a very good weapon to have in your arsenal. But our depth took a hit, and I don't know how well it's going to recover. And something tells me that getting cheesed by Notre Dame is not going to answer this question.

Read More...

Saturday, October 19, 2019

October 19th, 2019: Fordham open practice

Basketball never stops. For some really big rings, testing out mobile tech, and dubious eggs, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.



Good morning! Or something like that. It's too early for this. It's always too early for this, but we were out the door at quarter to seven in order to make it to Fordham for open practice at 9. There are other associated events like a brunch and a football tailgate, but I don't need breakfast or a football tailgate. I just want basketball and a ring ceremony for your 2019 Atlantic 10 champions.

We're not going all the way out, but fans need practice too, so we're working on names, free throw timing, shot clock cadence, defense rhythm, and all that jazz. It's who we are. It's what we do. So I'm writing GNoD and he's doing names. I'm also getting used to my keyboard and trying to figure out why the shift key seems to occasionally be stuck. It's not just me running on permanent CAPS LOCK.

I think I saw one of the scout team players trying to work the officials. It seems to be working. We're having trouble not fouling the scout team. I'm not okay with this.

I like what I'm seeing out of Vilisi Tavui in this practice. She hasn't really had a chance to show what she can do, and she looks ready to prove herself. If we have a real center in this conference, with the guards that we have, we're in very good shape, even with the experience that we lost in Lauren Holden and Mary Goulding. Heh. Good eye by the ref noticing the shot clock hadn't started. Very professional, even in an open practice.

Now we're getting more whistles on both sides. (Kene was working the officials during the quarter break too, although it seemed to be more of a “this is what a travel is” tutorial.) And we've got our first egregious bad call of the season, with a collision between Kaitlyn Downing and Zara Jillings (both on the white team) somehow resulting in a foul on the scout team. It's not even November yet!

Next up: intros! Hi, everyone. The coaches introduced themselves, and then Coach Gaitley proceeded to sing their praises for them. Ice Young describing herself as “super old” was worth a giggle. Then there were trivia questions.

And now we have rings! Rings are the best thing. I'm pretty sure at least two players squeed. Alexa Giuliano and Lauren Holden returned for their rings. And hugs. There were lots of hugs. Everyone was hugging.

The floor was opened to questions, but people were pretty reticent. I know I couldn't think of anything to ask. Someone eventually asked the squad why they chose Fordham, and a frankly distressing number of the answers were “because it's close to home”, which made it funny when the mic got to Zara, who started her response along the lines of “unlike everyone else I'm not 20 minutes from home”. Vilisi openly said Fordham was the only door open to her and she took it with both hands.

I kind of get the sense that Coach Gaitley is way more gregarious than most of her players (except maybe Bre, who couldn't stop dancing even during the Q and A, and Ice). She was out there greeting everyone by name. So yeah, that was a fun event, short as it was, because it was actually basketball-related.

Read More...

Friday, October 18, 2019

October 18th, 2019: Red Storm Tip-Off

Ticketing snafus, rocking with the band, jersey deliveries, possible alumnae, and a distressing lack of basketball. You know what it means.

WE'RE BACK MOTHERFUCKERS


We almost weren't. Ticketing has not been timely in getting out info for WBB season tickets and thus we were unable to secure tickets to Tip-Off in the usual manner. Politely and glacially speaking to various people got us in (the “someone dropped the ball” look on the DOBO's face when he saw us was something).

Delivering Shenneika Smith her old Sun jersey brought such a smile to her face. (I think I've brought this up before, but my first rule of buying player gear is that its original owner gets right of first refusal.)

Too much bass. Cannot cope.

The Nolan twins are a little, uh, creepy in their inability to be separated.

Q's pride in her heritage is awesome, and also helps us spot her family. Poor Machi is already hurt, walking around in a boot.

Okay, but does Sox get to keep the flowers?

Huh. Lotta transfers and double transfers on the men's side.

Hearing the PA guy try to hype up Machi is... uh...kinda obvious.

The tortured dance routines are also... something. They do show off everyone's footwork well.

Coach Anderson, in that rusty veteran coach's voice, calling out Sears as “lover boy” has me dead from lulz. (Sox still has the flowers.) He couldn't get Tartamella all the way out of his mouth, but I'll chalk that up to unfamiliarity and maybe a sore throat.

Tiana's trying too hard to be showy. Maybe it's the lack of pressure because it's only an exhibition. Maybe it's the pressure of there being people here.

omg Tart-let so cute. Headphones may be larger than child.

Men's scrimmage coming up. We'll see if the women get anything similar. It's been rough. Lot of missed dunk attempts.

I reserve the right to object to people wearing random Bulls or Houston gear. Just because it's the right color doesn't mean it's appropriate.

Dance is. not. messing. around. this. Year.

Not sure if T is in the crowd for social purposes or because they ran out of seats on the bench (since it's also being used for the scrimmage).

Hi, Gina?

Co-ed shootout now. Don't lose count.

And that appears to be the end of the basketball content this evening. They started setting up for the musical act, and since we were right next to the bass speaker, I opted to forego my annual attempt to determine whether I like the new music or not. It seems like every year there's less and less basketball, and it's really depressing. I just want to see my team. I like what little I saw, but there wasn't much to see!

There's no rest for the wicked, or the weary. Fordham's open practice is tomorrow!

Read More...

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

July 27th, 2019: All-Star Game

Yes, I did actually survive Las Vegas, thanks for asking.

You may be wondering why it's taken so long for me to get my thoughts together about All-Star.

Or maybe you haven't. I see the page views. I know there aren't that many of you out there.

And writing the GNoD has gotten a lot harder with part of the casing for my laptop snapping off, and thus the hinge breaking and occasionally having the screen fall out at one corner. Yeah. Fun times. It's a bad sign when the electrical tape isn't enough, right? I didn't handle the heat well, either. While MGM has been great for the league as the Aces' ownership, and while they put on a heck of an All-Star weekend, I do not think that holding All-Star in a desert city at the height of summer is a good idea. So, sorry, Vegas, and sorry, Phoenix, but this is not a thing that can happen. If it does, I'm not joining you. I was genuinely freaking out at my brain fog by the end of the trip. Like "do I have enough PTO to schedule a visit to a neurologist?" freaking out.

Typing on the tablet is a lot harder. I'm just grateful that the Mandalay security either didn't recognize it as a tablet or decided that it was not the droid they were looking for, because trying to make in-game notes with just my phone would drive me up the wall.

Leg room is definitely a problem. I'm taller than the average woman, but not by much, and my knee was hitting the back of the row in front of me. During the actual game it wasn't so bad, but that was because we were directly over the stairs, which meant that we were looking at the game through the railing. All things considered, still better than the knee pain induced during open practice.

I think I've said this before during All-Star games, and I'm sure I will go as ignored as I did all the other times, but I want to see players doing what they're good at, not just goofing off. Yes, it was fun to see Griner throw down dunks (even though I'm pretty sure she hurt herself on the extended hang during the twohanded jam, although that might also have been because Cambage was an idiot and didn't give her enough space to land). But it might have been fun to see Cambage and Jonquel Jones throw it down. I get enough of Tina Charles chucking long jumpers when she's in a Liberty uniform. How about some of that gorgeous hook shot? Two brilliant coaches and two point guards with flair, and no one could think of throwing a Jewelly-oop? (OK, bad example there, there was one attempted alley-oop, but not to Loyd.) You have point guards who can make magic happen on the break and you have Alyssa Thomas, The Human Wrecking Ball, and these pieces were not put together often enough for my satisfaction. And that's not even getting into players whose best skills are defensive. Admit it, wouldn't you like to have seen one of the bigs swat a shot into the fifth row and ham it up?

Admittedly, it was fun to see the bigs handle the ball like point guards, and Cambage's handle isn't terrible, at least in a game with no defense.

The live-ball subbing wasn't as bad as I expected it to be, mostly because it seemed like neither team really had a good sense of how to use or abuse it. The shot clock reduction, however, was completely unnecessary; All-Star games are fast-paced anyway, and the clock never had a chance to get down that far.

I admit it, I bought the bottomless popcorn for the sole and express purpose of laying claim to one of the nifty basketball bowls. And because I have no shame, I fished out another one from the garbage. Now we have a matched set. The popcorn was mediocre, but I think the good stuff was sold in the smaller bags, and not in the giant movie-theater vats. The concession prices seemed reasonable. I can see a family of four getting very good value out of that bottomless popcorn.

If you weren't crying at Erica Wheeler getting All-Star MVP, you have no heart, and you have no soul, and frankly, I don't want to know you. Everyone was at least a little choked up.

Merchandise and space for merchandise at the event was not handled well. There was a very limited offering at the fan fest, at least when we were there. And while there was a merchandise stand set up at the entrance to the arena, that was it. The line was out the door both Friday and Saturday. You'd have been better off getting your merchandise online or at your local arena after the fact. (On the other hand, I loved seeing Aces merchandise in every MGM-owned property's souvenir shop, and there was a secret stash of All-Star gear at the Nike store at Miracle Mile.)

I loved seeing fans from every team at the game. WNBACon is best con.

So that's it for the GNod for this season. Between my laptop's issues and my ennui with the season, I’m taking the rest of the season off as a chronicler. You could argue that I'm not really needed anymore at the W level, that social media and online coverage have both advanced to the point where all the little things you see at a game have been covered by someone who's already there. I'm proud of that. And it means I can enjoy the game, or at least enjoy the ride home without having to work. So I'll see you lot in November, hopefully with a new computer, or at least with a good wireless keyboard that I can connect to my tablet.

Read More...

Friday, July 26, 2019

July 26th, 2019: All-Star Skills Challenge/3-Point Shootout

Las Vegas too hot for bebe.

Fan Fest is pretty cool so far, although the beverage prices are an obscenity. $6.50 for water?

Shout out to the lady in the Shock shirt from Oklahoma, to the San Antonio jersey, and to the lady in the home Wicks jersey. So far I've seen gear from Connecticut, Dallas, LA, Las Vegas (obviously), Minny, New York (not us), lots of Phoenix, lots of Seattle, and Washington. I thought I saw Chicago, but now I'm not sure. No Atlanta, no Indiana.

Merchandise selection is a bit limited. Hoping for better on game day.

One of my friends has informed me that a) Helen Darling, of all the random alumnae, is here, and b) her triplets are 17, and I object to this reminder of my mortality when I'm on vacation.

The passport stamp idea was cute, but the inconsistent requirements were annoying. The stamp at Kaiser Permanente is especially obnoxious.

I don't think Stefanie Dolson's calling is the DJ booth.

Mandalay has a very nice arena, but the seats are uncomfortably narrow and there is no leg room. Security was quick at least.

We've added Atlanta and confirmed Chicago, so the only team missing is Indiana. Do better, Fever fans.

Awesome jersey spotting: the entire Big Three, home Holdsclaw 23 Mystics, an honest to God Mabika jersey, the Kelloggs Swoopes jersey.

Looks like Bird is commentating and Stewart is ambassador-ing. I think Mama Taj and Michele Van Gorp are both working. Jasmine Thomas, on the other hand, is probably here to cheer on her teammates.

Shekinna Stricklen just went by on a cell phone. That's not what they mean by being dialed in from long distance, Strick.

There appears to be a shooting contest involving fans from every team. Minnesota won, but it went to a tiebreaker, and watching the Sky players' enthusiastic support of their representative was awesome. (although that nominal Sky fan was married to a Sparks fan, which would be a strange relationship unless built on shared nostalgia for Kristi Toliver, so way to break kayfabe, guys)

Shock of shocks, Griner took an excuse to dunk. She still lost the round.

Can we talk about that three by JJ with the ball guy impeding her?

Well played by the DJ, mixing in the instrumental from “Touch the Sky” after deShields won the skills challenge.

Spotted a fan in a Dupree tee (a Dutee?) so the collection is complete.

There are enough Liberty players, current and former, to declare quorum. I love it.

Apparently that *was* what they meant by being dialed in. Well done by Strick. Loved seeing Jonquel Jones film her post-event interview.

I don't want the nachos. I don't want the popcorn. I want that bowl, though.

The Sky players, both All-Stars and not, were adorable cheering on their teammates. Get you a squad like that.

Seeing the camaraderie among so many of these players makes me wish they'd done an open practice. I know they streamed it, but that's not the same as being there.

Read More...

July 24th, 2019: New York at Connecticut

some bullshit-ass half-assed notes

Good morning! It's too early for this, but here we are at Camp Day at Mohegan Sun, as Connecticut hosts New York in their last game before the All-Star break. Intrepid blogger needs caffeine badly.

At halftime, New York is somehow up 39-36. The reserves are having another good game, and this time Tina Charles has decided to remind everyone of her All-Star capabilities. Kia Nurse left with an apparent elbow injury and has not returned. I don't see any reason to risk her. (although she's warming up here at the break)

Morgan Tuck did Tari Phillips's show-the-ball trick. I'm easily amused.

I don't want to say that the Liberty are tanking, or worse, throwing games. That would be a hell of an accusation to make. But that last minute or so of game time might certainly give the impression that the players on the floor didn't particularly care if New York won that game. Terrible clock awareness. Terrible shot selection. Why are you forcing the ball inside down two or three possessions? Why are you messing around for six seconds when you only have fifteen? STAAAAAAAHP.

Rebecca Allen started the game on fire from beyond the arc, and then appeared to run out of battery power. The problem is that if Bec isn't hitting, then the flaws in her game (like her dubious defense and her tendency to panic when the defense comes hard at her) become harder to overlook, and she goes from a positive to a negative very quickly. Reshanda Gray was physical, but not advantageously so, which meant that she was getting called for fouls as often as she was getting rebounds. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe was okay defensively to start her day, but got burned more often in the second half. She missed too many shots at the rim for my liking.

Brittany Boyd seems to be missing some speed with the lingering ankle issue (she had the trainer looking at it right before the game) and once again let her emotions get the best of her. I don't mind players who play with emotion. I do mind players who let it completely control them and get swallowed up too easily by frustration. She's never going to be as good as she can be if she doesn't get out of her own head sometimes. Asia Durr still looks a little gimpy from the groin injury (which should put paid to rumors that she wasn't injured) and saw both her minutes and her touches reduced. Loved to see her out there when we needed perimeter shots and the entire team is looking to force the ball inside, because that made such perfect sense. Marine Johannès demonstrated a frankly appalling lack of speed against Connecticut's guards, which Williams and Hiedeman were especially able to exploit, but even Banham was able to get a step on her regularly, and while there are many complimentary things one can say about Rachel Banham, her speed has not usually been one of the things complimented. I like Marine's style, and once she either gets to know her teammates better or learns when to tone down the fancy stuff, she'll be a huge asset to this team.

For the first time in a while, Tina Charles actually looked like a post player. It was very refreshing. She still took a lot of stupid contested shots, but at least she was getting rebounds close to the rim. I don't like that the team was trying to force the ball inside to her at the end of the game, and I don't like the number of free throws she's been missing lately. But I'm glad to see her rebounding again. I would like to see if we could get back international Amanda Zahui B. That would be nice. She hit an early three, but so much of her offense was perimeter-oriented, and I've said this before: post players being able to hit threes is a nice surprise weapon, but it ceases to be a surprise when it's all that you do. I would also like Bria Hartley to get her act together. I know she's better than this, but she's coming off as terrible when she's on the floor, even when she hits shots. She had some inexcusable defensive lapses where she essentially just gave up on her assignment, and that's unacceptable.

Okay, I'm sorry. I'm cutting the notes off here, because it's been two days and while I'm still at a casino and resort, I’m three time zones away from this game. Given that I had to cudgel my brains to remember who was starting at guard for the Liberty, I don't think I can produce acceptable notes at this point. Sorry, Sun fans. Courtney Williams was amazing in the second quarter, Jasmine Thomas took over late, and it really seems like Curt Miller has to choose between Brionna Jones and Kristine Anigwe.

Read More...

Monday, July 22, 2019

July 20th, 2019: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Solid bench play fueled the New York Liberty's 83-78 win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Marine Johannès had 17 points to lead New York, while Kia Nurse added 14. Nneka Ogwumike had game-highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds for the short-handed Sparks in the loss.

For a truly international game, distressing superstars, Chiney Ogwumike's earnest belief that she did not commit that foul, and role reversals, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
Happy belated birthday, Maddie! Happy anniversary, moon landing! (Happy birthday, dad!)

It's game day at That Dump in White Plains, known to less cynical fans as the Westchester County Center, as the Los Angeles Sparks (or at least whatever's left of them) come visit the New York Liberty.

After the smooth sailing of last game, it's back to the usual tangle of confusing and crossing lines, waits at security, and not having the ticket ready to properly. (Yes, I'm not sitting in my ticketed seat. No, I do not believe situating my mouth directly above the visiting bench is a good idea.

I don't know what happened, but I saw a trio of Sparks in hot pursuit of a teammate. No idea what was going on. Mostly guards, I think.

New DJ today. I like their taste better than the usual woman's.

On the other hand, substitute announcer is not as good as Mike.

Anthem singer thinks he's Whitney Houston or something. Narrator: He was not Whitney Houston.

It's 44-37 Liberty at halftime, and it's been reserve play doing the job for the Liberty. Marine Johannès is putting in work, with 13 points and some spectacular passes (unfortunately, Kalani Brown blocked the finish on the best one). Nneka Ogwumike has 12 points and seven rebounds for the Sparks, while Chelsea Gray has come on strong in the second quarter with 11 points, but most of the rest of the Sparks have been... not good.

There's a French family in the rows behind us cheering enthusiastically for Marine, and I love it.

I don't know if someone sprung for a spa visit for Katie or something, but she looks amazing. Refreshed, relaxed, well-coiffed, sharply dressed.

Asia Durr's street clothes brought to you by the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network.

Beating the Sparks is always fun. After all, this is the league's oldest rivalry. How we did it honestly amazes me as well. I'm not used to our bench play being so solid.

There is a whole lot of Kalani Brown, but she seems somehow less balanced about it than her draft classmate Teaira McCowan. Her thighs/upper legs seem out of proportion to the rest of her. She brought a lot of physicality to the floor. Her foul trouble did not help with the Sparks' lack of available depth. I see her potential- she did a couple of numbers on Reshanda Gray with a quick turnaround for her buckets- but if she can't stay on the floor, she's not going to be any help to Los Angeles. Marina Mabrey drove hard and missed just as hard. I'm not surprised Fisher didn't go back to her in the second half. She was out of control. Karlie Samuelson took threes and hit a pretty big one late in the fourth to help keep the Sparks close.

Such a loss of depth for LA in the backcourt. Losing Parker is a big blow, but losing three guards forced Fisher to do a lot of juggling, and I think he was less prepared to juggle than he was to play without Parker. At least up front you have the Ogwumikes.

Yes, I know she has the assist numbers today, but Sydney Wiese is not a point guard. I don't know what she is other than a shooter, and a very quick one at that. She's certainly not a starter, and she's not the person I want initiating my offense if I have Chelsea Gray available to do that. (Which, to be fair, LA did not have for stretches in the second half when Gray got into foul trouble.) To borrow and abuse a turn of phrase from Shea Serrano, Chelsea Gray was out there ruining my life with big threes and ridiculous steals. She's so good. I was relieved and shocked when that last three was so off line. (And the petty part of me wants to say, "C'mon, you committed a push-off to get that open and that's the best shot you could get off?") Her hands are so quick, and she's so relentless. Physicality isn't necessarily the right word for her game, but she's not afraid to use that big build of hers to create space on offense or make her assignment uncomfortable on defense.

Speaking of making people uncomfortable as a defender, shoutout to Tierra Ruffin-Pratt for doing ridiculously hard work on players much taller than she is and often knocking those shots off line. There were a lot of switches by LA, and she's part of the reason they could get away with it. While I don't necessarily like how quickly Nneka Ogwumike moved into Tina Charles's head today, or how physical she was with Tina at both ends of the floor, I can respect it, more or less. I didn't realize how much of a perimeter game she'd developed until she was hitting threes early on in this one. For most of the first half, it was her, Chelsea Gray, and a bunch of not particularly helpful people. She's so good. I have to respect that. I do not have to respect Chiney Ogwumike's inability to shut up, stop whining, and sit down at appropriate moments. Yes, shockingly, Chiney, if you hit someone it's a foul. You went to Stanford, I know you're smart. Now that she's not on one of my teams, she annoys me too much to write about her.

Someday, Katie Smith will run a five-nation line-up out there, and I will rejoice. You don't even need to trust Han Xu to do it! You need Amanda, Marine, and Bec, plus either Nayo or Kia, plus one of the Americans! Presto, instant United Nations!

(In case you weren't sure I was a giant nerd. Spoilers: I am.)

For the honor and dignity of all Rebeccas out there, Imma need Rebecca Allen to please stop committing stupid unnecessary fouls on defense. She committed two of them pretty much back to back, and it was extremely frustrating. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe played the first half like her hair was on fire (her hair was not actually on fire)- going up strong inside and stepping outside for the trey. She cooled down in the second half. Reshanda Gray pretty much won the game for us. She had a couple of huge rebounds right at the end, and got the steal when LA had it within two. She was relentless. I do still need her to get the foul trouble under control, although in this game much of it had to do with these terrible officials and I place no blame on her getting called for a foul when she was the player getting hit.

So, this was my first look at Marine Johannès in a Liberty uniform, and I like what I saw. She needs to either tone down the fancy passing or she'll get more used to her teammates and more of those too-much-mustard-on-the-hot-dog passes will find their way to their intended recipients and things will get fun again. She gave us a long-range option with style, which is very nice to have, since most of our long-range threats are people I would like to not be volume three-point shooters (hi, Amanda). Maybe this was her best game, and we know no one is ever as good as their best game, but I think I'd be happy with even half of what she produced today, at least early in her tenure here in New York. Brittany Boyd needed a good thwack with the clue-by-four in this game. On one hand, I do sympathize with her getting clocked in the chin by a Chelsea Gray elbow and not having it either called or reviewed. On the other hand, that is no excuse to pull back from the shooter and basically stop playing. That was bush league, and she got pulled out of the game shortly thereafter. She got her head back in the game eventually, after a good long sit on the bench. She had her moments, but there was something missing.

I'm going to need Tina Charles to stop doing her Cappie Pondexter impression now. She's not very good at it and I don't want to see her descend into Cappie's fashion "sense". She took terrible shots early in the shot clock. She shot directly into unnecessary double-teams. She generally forgot about the existence of her teammates in order to take terrible shots. She was not good on defense. She let the Ogwumikes, especially Nneka, have their way with her. I know she's better than this, or at least she has a history of being better than this, but lately I'm starting to wonder if she's approaching the McCray cliff. Amanda Zahui B got off to a hot start offensively, but cooled off quickly and never seemed to recover. She got passed over in the second half by both Nayo and Reshanda, and I think Katie made the right call on both accounts. She's capable of banging, but she doesn't do enough of it to match up well with LA.

On the petty, shallow tip, I don’t like Bria Hartley's new hairdo at all. The gilding doesn't suit her. According to the box score, she lined up at three, but that's a little disingenuous; inasmuch as any of the guards in our three-guard set could be considered a small forward, Kia Nurse is probably the best candidate for the role, and none of them are particularly suited to it. Bria did not look ready to be back in the W after Eurobasket. I think she'll shake it off, but for now she looks bad. Kia looked out of sorts and under a lot of pressure. LA's switches defensively did her no favors. Ladies and gentlemen, your All-Star starter. (For the record, I didn't vote for her. Then again, I didn't vote for anyone.) I'll say this about having Tanisha Wright on the floor: there seemed to be a lot more vocal communication on the floor when she was out there. Even if it highlighted the team's issues with knowing the playbook and people knowing where they needed to be, it showed that at least people were willing to step up and address those issues. She's not a long-term solution at point, but if she can mentor Boyd and Marine, passing the torch without too much of a hiccup, I'll be okay with her sticking around for this year and maybe even next. (But next is a stretch, and honestly at this point I'm hoping that one of the people she'll be mentoring if she is here in 2020 is Sabrina Ionescu.)

Hoo boy, these refs. Love to see two terrible out-of-bounds calls in the first five minutes of the game. There was a lot of physical play, and a lot of the worst of it wasn't called. Credit them for some consistency, though: the sequence where the defensive player gets sandwiched between two offensive players and is called for a foul because... I don't even know... was called on both teams (Bec for us, TRP for them). I think the Sparks have a lot of nerve being upset about the foul differential, with the elbows they were throwing, but some things don't change.

Shockingly, if you give Liberty fans a beat to get the "Let's Go Liberty!" chant going to, we'll get it going. It was announced as a sellout, but there were a lot of empty seats. Something tells me there will always be a lot of empty seats, even if they claim to have sold every ticket. When we had reason to make noise, we made noise.

Look, kid, you already have one t-shirt, stop screaming for another one.

The guy who lost "Don't Get Torched" got screwed. The last shot was clearly after the buzzer.

I'm not expecting our reserves to play like this every game (but on the other hand, I'm not expecting our starters to play like this every game, either). It's great to see them do so, and I love how Marine is settling in with this team.

Read More...

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July 7th, 2019

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Las Vegas started strong and only got stronger as the game went on, taking out New York 90-58 on the road. Kayla McBride had a team-high 24 points for Las Vegas, with Liz Cambage adding 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tina Charles had 13 points and eight rebounds to lead the Liberty.

For the boiling point, misplaced fans, terrible shot selection, and what is this I don't even, join your intrepid and very tired blogger after the jump.

On to the next one! This time it's off to That Dump in White Plains, as the Liberty take on the Las Vegas Aces. I'm getting a weird feeling of déjà vu for some reason.

The Mexican place, El Poblano? Best damn mole I've ever had in my life, and I've had some good mole.

Security was a breeze today. I know we're well over half an hour from tip time, but I'm not liking the emptiness of the seats right now. The crowd filled in well enough later.

Anthem singer: "Microphones? Where we're going, we don't need no stinkin' microphones."

If I find the ticket rep who sold Aces fans seats behind the Liberty bench, we are going to have words, and most of them are going to be unsuitable for children. Most of the section across from the road bench is empty. GO OVER THERE. GO AWAY. GOOOOOOOO.

It's 44-32 Las Vegas at halftime, and it feels like it could have been a lot worse. Our energy is high but unfocused. We appear to have forgotten what defense is, and the existence of our teammates on offense. Too many possessions have involved guards (usually Brittany Boyd, but not always) dribbling for way too long, panicking, and expecting Tina Charles to bail them out with a shot at the end of the shot clock. There are occasional variations in which a post player not named Tina has the ball, but these interludes usually involve someone freaking out.

T-Spoon is on the bench in a "someone is going to die today" suit. It may be a contract hit, it may be an impressionable femme swooning over her, but she looks sharp.

It's probably a bad sign when the team is so disorganized, the chemistry is so AWOL, and the star is so frustrated that I'm pretty sure Tina Charles yelled something to the effect of "DON'T MAKE ME TURN THIS CAR AROUND!" at her teammates, and that was only in the second quarter. People did not know where they needed to be on the floor- there were way too many occasions where someone was screaming at someone else to set a screen or use a screen. I choose vodka.

The Aces were relentless on defense. When you've got two big erasers on the inside like A'ja Wilson and Liz Cambage, you can afford to take more risks on the perimeter, and Las Vegas did so very effectively. They swarmed us, and we were not ready for the pressure. Offensively, both halves of the inside-out equation were working, which meant we were screwed either way we tried to defend. Ultimately it meant that we didn't, period.

I'm assuming Carolyn Swords's knee or something is acting up, which is why she came in so late into garbage time. She had good pursuit on the ball in her limited minutes. I love JiSu Park's energy on defense. Her shot needs work, but her nose for the ball is good and she works hard on the floor. She's got so much potential, and as a WNBA fan I look forward to seeing her develop. (So don't screw this up, Bill.) Dearica Hamby also brings a lot of energy, although hers was a little less effectively focused. She did have a nifty defensive stop on Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe that I think ended up as a Liberty turnover. She's chippy. She's got one of the best to learn from in that regard on the bench.

Sugar Rodgers got a decent hand when she came into the game, and showed her sweet stroke (though mostly from the midrange instead of beyond the arc). I'm still not sure how we managed to leave her open at any point. I mean, most of y'all have met Sugar, right? You know who she is and what she does? Y U NO GUARD JUMP SHOOTER? *insert meme here* I keep forgetting about Sydney Colson's vertical until she does something ridiculous like drop the hammer on a post player's shot. She did that to Avery Warley-Talbert, and I was embarrassed for Avery's sake. She's not necessarily flexible positionally, but she allows other players to flow into other roles when she comes into the game. Tamera Young is good at annoying people, including me. It's been 11 years and I'm still not used to her having a jump shot that remotely approaches reliable. She had one pretty one that she kissed off the glass, which I remember mostly because I was yelling at the rim for letting Aces shots through. (I recognize this is irrational, but when the game is happening, I am always irrational.)

I have taken a profound dislike to Kayla McBride. It's mostly the respectful kind that comes from a player ruining my life, but there are also moments when it's because she's not afraid to give a little shove or engage in some holding. She gets open, and the shot goes up, and it goes in, and the world keeps turning because that's one of the universal constants. Kelsey Plum's shot wasn't falling, but she was tenacious on defense, often to a fault (yes, Kelsey, I saw where your hand was on that Boyd drive; I hate to break the news to you, but I don't think you're her type). Neither she nor Jackie Young really seems to fit as the point guard for this squad. It's like hammering a square peg into a round hole- it doesn't fit, and if you do manage to get it in, it'll lose its edge. It's a good thing Las Vegas has players who can create their own offense, because no one's really going to initiate it.

Speaking of which, dear Lord is Liz Cambage unstoppable when she wants to be. She goes in the paint, and she puts her hand up, and she gets the ball, and she hits the shot. It's just that simple. She creates space, or she finishes through contact, and she hits the shot. She's big, and she's strong, and sometimes I think she would not object to ripping someone's heart out and raising it above her head in triumph (except that it might ruin her nail polish). A'ja Wilson had a monster block on Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe that I felt the pain of in my soul. She had more trouble finishing at the rim than Cambage did, but she had plenty of looks and hit her fair share of them. She's so long and so smooth with it.

Vegas has a lot of good pieces- but I'm not sure how they all fit together. When McBride and Cambage are both on fire, it sort of papers over the questions in the backcourt and the lack of guard depth.

Our bench is going to look so different after everyone finally meanders back from Eurobasket. I have to remember this. We have four players either returning or debuting. That's going to shuffle things around. I have to remember this.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe looked scared out there. She was careless with the ball, she didn't go hard, and she generally looked like she was pressing too hard and not getting any results from it. I think she knows she's on the chopping block, and I think she might just be okay with it. Avery Warley-Talbert worked hard, but she was a hair slow, a step short. She should have hit the shots she had at the basket- they were close in, and she was often unguarded. She showed both the reasons why she'll always be in camp and the reasons why she'll usually be the last cut or a regular temp. Han Xu got extended time in the fourth quarter, much to the joy of the crowd- she got a ridiculous hand when she came in. I don't know if it's because she's now a folk hero, or if people just want to see her do well because she's so adorably naïve, but the roar when she scored her first basket, and when she hit the three the place went nuts. She looked a little more awkward out there than she did in the preseason, but she was far from the only Liberty player to not know where she was supposed to be on the court.

Tanisha Wright started the second half and I don't know why. (The postgame tweet congratulating her on moving up the all-time assists list provides a possible reason, but a terrible one.) She's doing better running the offense than Brittany Boyd, but both of them are offensive liabilities. Tanisha repeatedly passed up open looks I know she would have taken a couple of years ago. She's a safe pick for now, or at least a safer one than Boyd, but we should not be thinking so heavily in the short-term. Tiffany Bias is adorable, but it's abundantly clear that she was just a temp. And I have no idea why she and Boyd would ever be out on the floor together; inasmuch as Tiffany has a position, it's point guard, and Boyd at off guard is a terrible, terrible idea. (Generally, shooting guards should both be willing and able to shoot.)

I guess this flows into the general sense of "WTF, Brittany" that has hovered around Brittany Boyd this season. I feel like she's hit a wall, and I don't know if it's one she can't climb or one she's decided she doesn't have to climb even though it's clearly in her way. Her passing was careless and often right to a Vegas player, and she wasn't finishing at the rim. Unless she gets her shot together and relearns some passing discernment, she's hit her ceiling so hard that she bounced off on the way back down. I want to see her do well, and when she's on she's amazing to watch. It's just that she's been off more and more often as time has gone on. Kia Nurse's shot was off, although it was often contested (it's like she's good and defenses are learning to key on her or something). What bothered me more, to be honest, was that her defense was flat-out terrible. I'm not used to her being a bad defender, but she was getting blown by and left behind by pretty much everyone she tried to defend. Asia Durr had a couple of big blocks, which surprised me. I'd have liked to see her looking for her shot a little more.

Reshanda Gray got into early foul trouble, which not only limited her effectiveness, it forced us to go to our bench, which...um... was even less of a good thing than it tends to be. When she can't be physical against taller opponents, she's up a creek without a paddle, and this goes double when it's the dual threat of Wilson and Cambage. Tina Charles took bad shots, but she was getting pounded inside, so I don't know if I blame her for retreating to the perimeter. And a lot of those shots were at the end of the shot clock, when she was the human equivalent of the panic button. But Tina's ones of the best post players in the world, or at least she used to be. I'd like to see a little more of that. I know I sound like a broken record in that regard, and that it's never going to change, and that it's going to get worse as she gets older. Let me gripe about getting these kids off my lawn, okay?

If we don't have a point guard worth her salt, we have a problem, because this offense needs directing. We don't really have anyone who can consistently create her own offense (Asia's the closest, but consistency is the key word in her case; she's a rookie and I'm not going to throw full responsibility for the offense on a rookie.) Maybe Bria's return from Eurobasket will be the answer. Maybe Marine Johannès will slot so smoothly into that role that we'll forget we never had a point guard. Maybe Boyd will have a revelation. I don't know.

The game got very physical, and there were plays I was amazed weren't called fouls. (I mean, really, Plum had a whole handful of Boyd's posterior. Rude.) But we knew this crew was working back-to-back, because we'd seen the game at Connecticut the day before. So I can't say I'm surprised.

Liberty fans are trying to get behind this team, we really are. But the squad's not making it easy. (On the other hand, being in the lottery wouldn't be a terrible thing.)

Read More...

Sunday, July 7, 2019

July 6th, 2019: Minnesota at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: In a nip-and-tuck game, Connecticut miscues turned out to be the difference-maker, as Minnesota came away with the 74-71 road win. Odyssey Sims had 21 points and eight assists to lead the Lynx, with Sylvia Fowles adding 18 points and 11 rebounds. Jasmine Thomas had 16 points for the Sun in the loss.

For patriotism, awkward moments with bananas, shooting questions, and the possibility of being in a parallel universe, join your intrepid blogger, in hopes that the next leap will take her home, or at least to a universe where the Liberty have won a title.

Good afternoon, fellow travelers! Pick up your dribble and sit down for a while, because it's a busy weekend here for the Game Notes of Doom. First up, we're off to Connecticut to see if the Sun can get their act together against the ambulatory MASH unit known as the Minnesota Lynx on "Hometown Heroes" day.

Cute pants on Damiris Dantas. Very maroon.

One of the Sun coaches was rocking the Rapinoe/Bird 2020 shirt in pregame. I approve of the sentiment, even if I think Bird should be at the top of the ticket.

Natisha Hiedeman looks SO WEIRD without her 'fro.

Gorgeous anthem by the army band. Recording-worthy quality.

44-43 Lynx at the half. Sylvia Fowles has 14 and I'm sure an ungodly number of rebounds. She, Odyssey Sims, and Napheesa Collier have 35 of the 44. More balance on the Sun side, with Jasmine Thomas and Bria Holmes each having 7 to lead the squad. The defense is not good. Jonquel Jones looks like she's never tried to defend anyone her height before, which annoys me because we know this isn't her first rodeo.

Asia Taylor looks like she wants to be DeLIsha Milton-Jones when she grows up. She doesn't have quite the same disproportionate length as DMJ does, but she plays long, especially on defense. She gave them some good second-half minutes. Alaina Coates got lucky that the unnecessary slam on Courtney Williams was only considered a common foul, because it really seemed like retaliation for Court getting the benefit of an out of bounds call. She was physical, but otherwise ineffective. Taylor's length and superior defense gave her the advantage.

Shao Ting is... she's trying, she really is. She seems really happy to be out there, and I'm sure she's a great teammate, but she looked absolutely lost out there- scrambling constantly on defense, in over her head on offense. I understand Reeve not going back to her in the second half. Lexie Brown and her incredible kicks hit a couple of big threes in the second half. She seemed to have a little bit of a chip on her shoulder regarding her former team, and a couple of her former teammates didn't seem to miss her all that much either, if the extra nudges were any indication. I don't know if I'd have had her inbounding the ball at the end of the game, though; Rach forced her into a timeout to avoid an inbounds violation, and almost drew a second one. But I couldn't help wondering where those three-pointers were when she had a Sun uniform on.

Seriously, though, who opened the portal to the parallel universe where Danielle Robinson shooting corner threes is a thing that happens on a regular basis? I don't know what to do with this! Like the bad actress in the Symetra commercial, I am confused! It seems like some of her driving game has gone away, although I don't know if that's out of necessity or because of her injury history. Odyssey Sims hit contested shots and didn't always hit open shots. I could make a petty remark about her wild driving ability, but I'm sure you know I have standards, right? I'm one of them classy broads.

Stephanie Talbot, despite the lack of statistical impact, actually started the game off really well, setting solid screens and playing good defense. She got good looks and couldn't put them down. I'm not sure how I feel about her being so perimeter-oriented on offense. Napheesa Collier is an immovable object on defense. She doesn’t have the size, but she has a solid build and has mastered the art of holding her ground, using her body to disrupt the balance of taller players. I didn't know she had a perimeter shot, either. Her height is a bit of a detriment on the inside offensively against taller players, but it all balances out. Sylvia Fowles can do pretty much whatever she wants inside, and it got a little frustrating after a while. She has such a knack for finishing at the basket. She had a pretty spectacular block, too.

I don't know how Minnesota's doing it. Admittedly, having Sims and Fowles are two very useful pieces, and Collier has been the revelation of this rookie class, but there are a lot of complementary parts that have to complement for this kludged-together team to work.

I'm not going to say that I love Rachel Banham's defense, but it's something she definitely seems to have applied herself to, and she has her moments, such as the inbounds defense at the end of the game. She's growing on me. I'd like to see a bit more discernment in her shot selection, but that's part of who she is. At long last, we have had a Natisha Hiedeman sighting, and she made a splash with a steal on her first play of the game. I'm biased, of course, but she looked like she belonged out there. Connecticut used her speed to have her double on the perimeter, while her primary assignment seemed to bounce between Brown and Sims. Morgan Tuck only played in the first half, and hit a three to the roar of the crowd. But Coach Miller tightened up his rotation in the second half, and leaned heavily on Rach and the starting guards.

Bria Holmes got off to a rough start with a missed chippie, but made up for it with the rest of her offense and her dogged defense. She's been improving since the start of the season, and it really looks like she's found her stride. I'm also happy to see Kristine Anigwe getting more time. She gave as good as she got against Fowles, which is a pretty tall task for a rookie. I like the development I'm seeing from her, although I realize this probably means she's going to hit the rookie wall in a month or so. (And of course I'm worried about Brionna Jones, and I don't know whether to hope that she's just been passed over in the rotation or be concerned that she's injured.)

So now we have to talk about the starters, which means the question of what the heck happened to Jonquel Jones has to be raised. I know some of the answer to that question is "Napheesa Collier happened"; JJ doesn't run into a lot of players who are as comfortable inside and outside as she is, and probably even fewer who are comfortable doing it on defense. Collier got up under her well, and then if she went inside, there was this problem named Sylvia defending the rim. But Jonquel also looked flat. Too many of her shots were the same sort of short casual shots we yell at Tina Charles about in New York. She doesn't have to do it alone. Although I'm wondering if something is up with Shekinna Stricklen. She barely played in the second half. I mean, okay, she's not exactly known for her defense, which seemed to be Miller's focus in the second half, but there were some sequences in the fourth quarter where having both of the splash sisters on the floor could have been useful. (No, I can't believe I'm saying this either. Maybe I fell into the mirror universe instead of the alternate D-Rob sneaking through to ours.) Alyssa Thomas continues to be a human wrecking ball, and throwing yourself in front of her continues to be a terrible life choice. I'm worried about her shooting; there are moments when I wonder if she remembers which hand she wants to be shooting with.

Jasmine Thomas had a good shooting day, and she absolutely murdered Talbot's ankles on a crossover, but as a point guard, she's looked uncharacteristically hesitant the last couple of times I've seen her. She and her team are running too much clock, and that doesn't fit with their pace. The passing and the chemistry aren't there. This seems like a good thing to be worried about. If your point guard and the rest of your team aren't on the same page, you might need a new book. Either that, or see previous comment about parallel universes. Given that I appear to have watched this game in a universe where Courtney Williams takes contact willingly, I'm starting to wonder. She did not do a good job finishing at the rim. She's always been streaky, and that's the risk you take with her. She went up for rebounds, but she didn't come down with as many of them as she usually does.

I think the possession where we had four shots, missed them all, got the foul on Minnesota, had Court miss the "heck with it, I'm bored" shot after the whistle, and then had JJ miss the first free throw really encapsulates our offensive woes here. There were stretches of being unable to hit water falling out of a boat. I don't think all of that was Minnesota's defense.

I'm amused that the officials finally remembered what a three-second violation was in the second half. I'm less amused that they missed a blatant trip. (On the other hand, some of the plays that the home crowd was baying their fury about were legit. No matter how tempting it is to give Sims an unnecessary shove in the back, AT should not have given in to temptation. And the out-of-bounds reversal was probably because there was an uncalled foul that should have been called.) I'm annoyed they were so slow on the call, though.

How does Cheryl Reeve get so much slack from the officials? Shut up or switch to decaf, Cheryl.

The four-year-old who couldn't remember her lines and forgot how to stop dribbling was adorable.

Having Rachel Banham give the pro-police (and pro-first responders in general) message was very shrewd and very carefully balanced. I doubt anyone's really going to internalize the message, but they tried.

The Photoshop jobs on the various All-Star ads varied in quality- I thought the JJ/House of Cards and Jas/Scandal ones were the best by far.

Alyssa, you miiiiiiight want to enunciate the first word better when introducing a segment called "Pitch, Please". Unless there's something you want us to know about Jasmine? (Jas... did not do well with it. Honestly, she was funnier scrambling to cover her pitch afterwards than she was giving the pitch. Full disclosure, though: I'm married to a salesman, so I kind of look at these things with a professional eye.)

It sort of spoils the dramatic reveal of the selfie section if you can see the staff giving out the cards beforehand, I'm just saying.

Having the bench step their game up does not mean that the starters can slack off. Connecticut needs to get their act together. Just not against New York. :D

Read More...

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

June 16th, 2019: Seattle at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A finishing kick in the fourth quarter propelled Connecticut to a 81-67 win over the Seattle Storm. Alyssa Thomas had a team-high 20 points for the Sun, with Jonquel Jones adding 13 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Natasha Howard had 20 points and eight rebounds to lead the Storm.

For a lack of weather jokes, drama, karma, the unit divide, and looking gift horses in the mouth, join your intrepid and tired blogger after the jump.

Happy Father's Day, fellow travelers! It's game day at Mohegan Sun Arena, as Connecticut hosts Seattle.

Our day started out quite adventurously, as ticket sales for the bus were held up by someone claiming the coordinator had attempted to defraud him of his money. Three rounds of cops later, and with the timely assistance of a key witness, it was dealt with, but we almost didn't make the bus because of him. Jerk. I hope every bus he attempts to get on is sold out and that if he does make it to a casino they clean him out.

(We talked our way onto the bus and gave the guide a big tip; she moved us up closer to the front of the bus for the ride back. We gave our match play coupons to a fellow rider and he bought us donuts. Truly, this is the strangest timeline.)

Mohegan is popping today, and I'm trying to figure out a way to strike up a conversation with the kid a few seats over who's also playing Pokémon Go without being exceptionally creepy.

FEED THE BEAST

Interesting anthem, half vocal and half saxophone instrumental. I liked her sax playing better than her voice.

Shoutout to the fan in the Natasha Howard jersey. You're a real one.

That third quarter run by Seattle made things more interesting than they really had to be, but Alyssa Thomas was a wrecking ball in the fourth quarter, and that plus defense was enough to push down the understrength Storm.

Sue Bird traveled with the team, but it looks like Jordin Canada did not.

Courtney Paris got some run in the first half, and her size was effective against Kristine Anigwe, who did not seem ready to handle quite that much defender. But she didn't play in the second half, as Seattle stuck to a slightly tighter rotation. Crystal Langhorne seems to have convinced herself she has a long-range shot. Based on today's game, this is a supposition completely without merit. She did play excellent defense on Anigwe. You could almost see her baiting the rookie into thinking she was open and then SURPRISE Terp inna face.

I honestly don't know if you really need both Sami Whitcomb and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis on the same roster. They both essentially do one thing- shoot from the perimeter. KML occasionally considers the possibility of shooting inside, and Whitcomb can pass a little better, but they both look to shoot the long ball as their first, second, and third options. I do like Whitcomb's footwork to ensure that she's behind the line. But when rosters are as tight as they are in the WNBA, having two dedicated shooters seems like much of a muchness, and it seems like Whitcomb brings more to the floor than KML does. Shavonte Zellous's midrange jumper was deadly, and she was a steady hand bringing the ball up the floor. She was much of the reason why they repeatedly came back on Connecticut. She just refused to lose for as long as she possibly could.

Natasha Howard was fantastic in the paint. She threw up one-handed push shots that went in whenever she wanted them to. She was ferocious on the glass. She's just so springy and uses her length really well. Mercedes Russell used her height well in the early going, but as the game wore on, she seemed to have more trouble holding on to her rebounds, instead tipping them out to the perimeter, and Connecticut was ready to pounce on those opportunities. Alysha Clark brought the defense, as she does.

I'm looking at the box score right now, and it still doesn't feel like Jewell Loyd hit as many of the shots she took as she did, even with hard evidence in front of my face. I understand that a lot of the burden is falling on her with no Bird and no Stewart, but she seemed to be settling for a lot of difficult shots from low-percentage areas of the floor when there were available teammates. (I mean, also credit to the Sun defense for making those shots difficult, but they got help.) (Side note: I thought it was interesting that she was introduced with her hometown, not as being from Notre Dame. An FU at McGraw, or some kind of technicality?) Blake Dietrick is... well, I guess she was there? She brought the ball up when she was in the game, and showed some good presence of mind on the edges of the court, but she was an inoffensive non-entity otherwise. I don't know if that's the right dynamic for this team right now. I know this is out of necessity with all the injuries, but if Canada is out for any length of time and Seattle does want to try and win games, they might need a different style of point guard.

I hope Brionna Jones isn't hurt. She never took the jacket off, even when Coach Miller was getting Bridget Carleton up in the last thirty seconds (she never got to come into the game because there wasn't a stoppage, and he eventually called her and Morgan Tuck back to the bench).

I was not expecting this kind of defense out of Bria Holmes! She showed really good hands against the ballhandler in her minutes. I mostly know her from her shooting, so this was a pleasant surprise. Morgan Tuck looked a little overmatched. She gave good effort, but even against this motley Seattle crew she didn't seem to have a good match-up. Kristine Anigwe took the minutes that normally would go to Brionna Jones and acquitted herself very well on the glass and in the paint. There's definitely still an adjustment period she has to go through against larger and faster defenders, but it was good to see her get a chance to show she can contribute at the W level.

Rachel Banham's shot just wasn't falling. She took a couple that were not the best shots she could have taken, but some of them were just bad luck. I'll live with it. Layshia Clarendon drove hard and ran a solid offense, although she and Jasmine Thomas were both uncharacteristically unaware of the shot clock in this game.

Connecticut's bench really needs to step its game up if the Sun are going to succeed. Someone's got to step up and be a true sixth woman. Right now, the drop-off is painfully apparent.

Bad day for Jasmine Thomas, and it's unusual to see Connecticut manage to power through one of those. She took a lot of contested shots and a lot of forced shots late in the clock. Her passing was off target. She persevered, and there were a couple of plays to Alyssa Thomas that were beautiful, but this was not her day. Courtney Williams has to learn to take some contact. I know she's small and I know she doesn't like contact, but it's part of the game and she's going to have to deal with it. I love her hops, and her drive-and-dish game was on point.

Alyssa Thomas looked at that game in the fourth quarter and decided that she was going to take over. She bulled her way into the paint and got either buckets, free throws, or both. I'm going to stick with my favorite descriptor of her as a little bit terrifying and a little bit awesome, and I'm going to resist the urge to start singing about how she came in like a wrecking ball. I know y'all are going to do it for me. ;) Shekinna Stricklen hit shots that weren't threes! My heart almost stopped from the shock of it. There was one I really liked, where it looked like she was using her shoulders to get position against the defense, and a little part of my mind was chanting "YES!" over and over again in joy. She got buckets at the right time. I mean, there's no wrong time to get a basket, but hers always seemed to be cutting off a Seattle run or kicking off a Sun one. Jonquel Jones does such amazing work on the glass with those long arms and her long fingers and her ability to control the ball mid-air until such time as she can bring it down and truly lay claim to it. She had herself a day.

Connecticut's starters are so good and usually work so well together. There were some really weird stretches of bad passing that worry me, though.

I know we were playing much more of a perimeter game, but I side-eye the foul differential in the second and third quarters so hard that I think I sprained my cornea.

Seattle has a lot of fight in them, and that will serve them well when Bird comes back, as long as there isn't too much deference to her when she does.

We were in the lucky section! Except that it's "selfies" only, except that it's not even a selfie because one of the staff members takes the picture with your phone for you. How is that a selfie? Ugh. I'd rather spork my eyeballs out than do photos, so we just awkwardly said "good game" to Court and Kristine as we left. Judging from the fact that maybe 10 people from our section stayed, we weren't the only ones less than enthused about the prospect. At least make autographs an option, for heaven's sake, instead of just setting up a black curtain and having done with it.

As always, I worry about the sustainability of this Sun team, but they're fun to watch when they're good.

Read More...