Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 20th, 2017: Creighton at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Creighton broke open a close game in the second quarter, and St. John's was never able to fully recover in the 55-43 Bluejay win. Lauren Works had 12 points to lead Creighton. Aaliyah Lewis had 12 points to lead St. John's.

For harsh words, a lack of effort, very short possessions, contenders, and pretenders, join your intrepid and exasperated blogger after the jump.

The grudge match is upon us. It's St. John's and Creighton all over again, a rematch of last year's memorable for sentimental reasons championship game.

Solid anthem by an alum.

Something may actually be wrong with the basket in front of the St. John's bench; at halftime, the maintenance crew is putting in a new net and making some adjustments to the rim.

At halftime, Creighton is up 28-19. I am not amused. St. John's appears to have abandoned the offense that works for a half-hearted attempt to emulate Creighton's offense, only also attempting to up the difficulty level by putting the conference's most accurate three-point shooter on the bench while doing it. Our posts are shooting jumpers and standing there to admire them. This is somewhat understandable for Jade Walker. This is somewhat less understandable for Maya Singleton. Crash the boards and follow your shot!

The biddy game at halftime is actually pretty good, and has been a halfcourt game by necessity, since the rim's still being worked on. Oh, dear. The game may end up being delayed. They just started redoing the net again. They got it done in time, not that it seemed to help much, and St. John's came out of the locker room fairly late, not that it seemed to help much.

That could have gone better. That could have gone a lot better. I'm not angry at Creighton- well, except for Lauren Works taking down Alisha Kebbe, I'm pretty angry about that. But I'm angry at the inconsistent effort from St. John's that was so often a lack of effort. You have to know going in that Creighton will outwork you- they even have a player *named* Works, to demonstrate! You have to match that effort if you want to win, because otherwise the Bluejays will win time of possession and every loose ball to make up for the talent level.

I was very impressed with the redshirt freshman Jaylyn Agnew. She set good screens (though her best was wasted on a terrible shot by Janning) and scrambled well. Kylie Brown has that awkward adolescent gazelle look to her, where she has the potential to move that long lanky frame with grace, but currently isn't quite sure what to do with her arms and legs. She had a couple of shots in the lane that went in through very strange angles. Myah Mellman played point for bits of the first half- I know she was the point guard because Coach Flanery was yelling at her to take point. Bailey Norby saw some time in the first half and set picks. Creighton tightened up their already tight rotation further in the second half, and Flanery used his subs effectively to keep everyone reasonably fresh.

Maybe this was a bad night for Marissa Janning, but if this night was average, then she hasn't recovered from the ACL. There's no oomph in her shot- her threes were all short in various ways and angles. She still showed good heart, but her offense was utterly absent. As mentioned above, Lauren Works is not my favorite person in the world right now, though I don't think she was aiming to hurt Alisha. She brings the defense and the effort.

Sydney Lamberty lists as a guard, and on offense she plays like one with her three point shot- but on the boards, she crashes as hard and as tough as any forward. She came up with the rebounds that the Red Storm's posts should have been chasing down. She got a lot of help from Audrey Faber, who was remarkable at boxing out. She's not good at handling passes, but for a tall forward, Faber's got a pretty good handle for bringing the ball up. Brianna Rollerson takes no nonsense from anyone- she was deflecting and disposing of weak shots thrown up at the basket with no real aim or forethought. Her physical play in the middle was key for Creighton, and Flanery juggled her foul trouble well, albeit with the help of convenient stoppages.

Oh, my Johnnies. I am so cranky at you right now you wouldn't believe it.

Tamesha Alexander saw a few seconds at the end of the first quarter so that Aaliyah could get a break. She fought hard for that one rebound. Joe was trying rather a lot of different things- he used Sandra Udobi often in an attempt to tighten up the interior defense, but Creighton was able to exploit her lack of mobility, and her elbow jumper was not with us this evening. Andrayah Adams was used to try and spark some offense, with no luck, though I like how her defense is improving.

Maya Singleton does not have a jump shot. I feel like I shouldn't be revealing this in public, but anyone who really wants to know these sorts of things is getting game tape, not reading the long-winded rants of a blogger. Maya does not have a jump shot, and thus if she takes a jumper she better be calculating where it's going to come off the rim, not standing there admiring it. She pounced on any moment of hesitation or weakness by Creighton; if a forward took a moment to gather a rebound, that moment was going to be full of Maya. I wish she'd finish better at the rim. Crystal Simmons brought that bizarre, sort of underhanded, three-point shot, but her defense wasn't as strong as usual, and she was too hesitant to shoot anything other than threes. She had good lane penetration a couple of times, and passed out to teammates who had no reason to expect the pass.

I love Jade Walker as a player, I really do, but there are many times when I want to love her with a two by four upside the head. I'm super proud of her hitting 1000, and I wish I could have been there for it, but I think she let it go to her head a little bit tonight. She was slacking on her effort, both on offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds. She was happy to settle for bad shots, or to put up weak shots and then throw up her hands when she didn't get the call from the ref. At leat she was going inside, but I'd like to see her be more forceful about it. Imani Littleton seemed disengaged again, which is more of a problem than it should be. Even on her bad days she has her good moments- a strong defensive stand on the inbounds, a smart pick- but I feel like there's another level there that we haven't been able to crack.

Can we now say that Akina Wellere is in a sophomore slump? Is that something we can admit? She's scared to shoot. She's committing stupid fouls on defense. I'm almost hoping there's a nagging injury that we haven't heard about, because otherwise there's no reason Works should have been able to take her to the basket so easily- there were two plays where Works took a first step and suddenly she was four steps ahead of Akina. Her inconsistency worries me. Aaliyah Lewis wasn't herself today- backing out when the play was to go go go, holding the ball for too long, calling her own number way more often than usual. She was stymied, and that's not a good look for her. Alisha Kebbe drove the lane well and played solid defense. I shouldn't have had to find out about her awesome Batman socks by watching her trying to get up with a bum ankle. (They are awesome socks, though.)

Some strange officiating on the sidelines and baselines, and I'd like to know how Aaliyah got taken down without a call. I really don't understand how, if the ball went out of bounds in the backcourt, the inbounds can take place in the frontcourt. Joe was just as confused by this.

You can't go up against a contender to the conference crown and not bring your best game. I expect better from my team.


Monday, January 16, 2017

January 15th, 2017: Marist at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona started well, but Marist finished in the fourth for the 68-62 win. Maura Fitzpatrick's 18 points led four Red Foxes in double figures. Alexis Lewis had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead Iona.

For weakness, seeing red, harassing cheerleaders, cheap shots, stomping the bleachers, and packing your own lunch, join your intrepid and irrational blogger after the jump.

Basketball never stops. I'm starting to think that should be the new title, or at least subtitle, of this blog, because I say it over and over again. Two games yesterday couldn't sate my addiction. It's rivalry weekend amongst my mid-majors, as the Iona Gaels play host to the Marist Red Foxes.

I'm interested in seeing how this game plays out with the old roles reversed- Iona as the hunted instead of the hunter, Marist the underdog instead of the favorite. We've been down this road too many times with Giorgis before.

Do Marist fans not understand whose bench is whose? Go stand behind your own bench, people. At least we seem to be getting early reinforcements, which is good. Marist fans travel, and they get loud.

Why are you showing our cheerleader your media guide, Marist fan? Leave her alone.

At halftime, Marist is up 35-27, after Iona led the first quarter. We need to get stronger, and we need to play smarter. Inconsistent officiating hasn't helped, as quick foul trouble sent Marina Lizarazu and Karynda DuPree to the bench for much of the first half. Alexis Lewis has eight points and six rebounds, all in the first quarter, to pace the Gaels. Marist has 12 points from Maura Fitzpatrick.

Marist sets screens. So many screens. Screens everywhere. Screens around screens. Screens to screen the fact that someone was screening. More screens than your local multiplex.

I'm pretty sure we've received an alumna visitation. Aaliyah Robinson is pretty unimposing in street clothes, but there's someone with very familiar eyes talking up one of the staffers.

Solid anthem from one of the cheerleaders, who has a deeper voice than I would have expected.

We have a problem. Our bench is not ready for prime time, to put it politely. They're good kids, and I love my dorky kids, but they're very much not ready for the big time.

Once, just once I would like to walk out of a women's basketball game without wondering exactly what kind of idiots the leagues are hiring. Once, just once, I would like to go to a game and think that it was well and fairly officiated. People got hurt today, and I am not okay with this. Now, I will admit, part of my rage is because I'm irrational where Philecia Atkins-Gilmore is concerned, but there's nothing good about not even reviewing when players get elbowed and go down.

I was impressed with Marist's screens. They really did work getting each other open. And I swear that they spent the first quarter jacking threes solely to make sure we defended the perimeter more so that they could drive into the paint.

Jordyn Jossart played briefly at the end of the first half, as a corner three shooter. Morgan Bartner got some time in the first half as well, but if she had any measurable impact, I managed to miss it. Kendall Baab was the primary reserve for the short-handed Red Foxes (who had five or six players in street clothes), and she did most of her work facing the basket, getting rebounds and playing defense.

We're going to get this out of the way early so I can try to focus on the rest of the notes without this tense ball of rage in my chest. As far as I'm concerned, Claire Oberdorf can go kick rocks with no shoes. I'm not going to argue that Philecia didn't foul her, or that Treyanna didn't foul her. But there was no need for her to respond with an elbow to Trey's stomach, and no need for her to do whatever she did that made Phee shriek in pain. You cause that in one of my players, we're going to drop the gloves. I now find myself amused by the lay-ups she was consistently missing short and the free throws that went off back iron. I would like to respect her fearlessness, but I am not in the mood for that.

Maura Fitzpatrick seemed to be setting screens every time I looked at her. Leaving her open was not always a smart move. She knifed through the lane for most of her baskets. Lovísa Henningsdottír provided most of their size and a good chunk of their rebounding. She was efficient at the basket, and also skillful at being in the way of the other team. (There's got to be some better term for the overlapping skill sets of screening and boxing out, but this is my third game in two days, I am tired and I no word good.)

I imagine there will be a lot of Hand puns in Poughkeepsie for the next four years. At least, there would be if I were a Marist fan, because let's face it, your intrepid blogger is a sucker for bad puns. Hannah Hand was more of a hustler, pulling down medium-range rebounds and disrupting plays. Rebekah Hand was more of a shooter, setting up for threes from the top of the arc and other such jumpers. Hannah had more impact on the game, though I can see where Rebekah will be useful. (Also, she is one of my people, even if she spells it funny.)

I don't know what Marina Lizarazu did to end up in the doghouse, but she really needs to apologize for it in a hurry. I don't think Coach Godsey is doing anything super sneaky like using Marina to anchor the bench and provide a spark that way. That being said, something seems missing from her game. Her defensive discipline is lacking, and her passing eye isn't as sharp. She looked for her shot late, but not necessarily often. The three to end the third quarter was vintage clock management, but I'm still worried about her. Kristin Mahoney, after two and a half years, finally seems to be developing a little bit of moxie. I think taking her off the ball and using her more as a corner sniper has helped.

Ashley Martin, oh, dear. Her play today epitomized "not ready for prime time". She looked like someone whose growth spurt occurred in the middle of the night, and she's not sure why she's so tall, or how to run with these legs. She combined the weakness of a slender build with an appalling lack of either speed or assertiveness on offense. She had a perfect fast break- and then pulled it back like she'd seen a ghost, allowing Henningsdottír to obliterate the shot from existence. Impressed, I am not. Tilasha Okey-Williams got rather fond of the three-pointer, which I'm not sure I'm okay with. She got the second half start over Tori Lesko, though I'm not sure if that was rewarding her for her play, or because Coach was just going with the lineup that ended the first half. I'd like to see some more judgment in her shooting- she seemed to be going off half-cocked. Amelia Motz had a nice rebound, but offensively, was a non-factor.

It took until the final semester of her senior year, but Karynda DuPree finally figured out that she's 6'4" and fairly strong. This was one of the best games I've ever seen out of her, and I'd love to see a whole lot more of them. She went to the hoop, she rebounded, she stood her ground down low- I love it! She only gave in to the urge to shoot perimeter jumpers once or twice, which is a big improvement. Alexis Lewis started the game like a house on fire. Marist's defense keyed on her more as the game went on, but she still found space to make spectacular plays on the boards and from the perimeter. She's streaky as all getout, but she's fun to watch. Someday, her classmate Treyanna Clay will be the same way. First, though, someone needs to get Trey into the weight room. She has to get stronger. Too many shots are coming up short; too many rebounds are slipping from her hands. She's getting pushed around, and this is not cool.

Tori Lesko started the game with two turnovers, which didn't exactly endear her to Coach Godsey. I like her hustle, but she's got to get better on offense. Either shoot or don't shoot- don't hesitate and travel. She's regressed from her hot start to the season. Philecia Atkins-Gilmore brought the hustle, as she always does, but her shot was off, and not just after the collision with Oberdorf. Still, Phee is my favorite special kind of crazy. You'll always know she's out there.

Why are we jacking so many threes? Ill-thought-out threes, no less. We have forwards with some length. It seems like it would make more sense to work on cutting to the basket more.

Really good crowd today, and the Marist fans were uncharacteristically quiet until the end. I'm okay with this.

All I ask for from the officials is that they call the game consistently. Don't call hand checks at one end while you let trips go on at the other. That's all I want out of the officials. Is that really so much to ask?

We knew this year wasn't going to be last year. I'm worried about the future, if the freshmen don't develop or get recruited over. Get in the weight room and get stronger, or get out.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

January 14, 2017: St. Francis at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iverson Fleming had 13 of his 16 points in the second half as LIU came away with the 65-58 win. Fleming was one of four Blackbirds in double figures, with Jerome Frink adding 15 and Jashaun Agosto and Nura Zanna each contributing 12. Rasheem Dunn of St. Francis led all scorers with 21, but he and Yunus Hopkinson (18 points) were the only Terriers in double figures.

For not dunking the ball, cheerleaders on the road, big plays, odd numbers, a mix of colors, and sweet revenge, join your intrepid and exploratory blogger after the jump.

Time for men's basketball now! Battle 2 will begin shortly, with LIU and St. Francis taking another shot at each other. We'll see if I can write anything about this game without my lingering RAAAAAAAAAEG at the first game bleeding through.

The size of men's players, even at this level, always takes me by surprise. It's not even the height so much as it is the width and the breadth. There are some very impressive shoulders out there.

Most of the St. Francis women have wandered out. LIU's taking a lot longer, but we still got to reassure Brianna Farris that she had a good game. (She really did. Four threes and strong defense.)

Because the benches typically reverse when it's a doubleheader, we're now technically in St. Francis territory, but I'm too tired to care. I have Game Notes to write; I don't have time to play musical bleachers. (Besides, I'm a sucker for Glenns.) And then it turned out the benches weren't reversed after all.

Oh, good grief, Angel, did you forget your backpack too? This is starting to edge into Tari Phillips space cadet territory. Stylz had to haul it along with hers.

At halftime, it's 23-21 LIU, but St. Francis has had the momentum for most of the first half. This halves thing is really confusing me. It's been a while. Yunus Hopkinson has 10 points for SFC, while Nura Zanna and Jaeshaun Agosto each have six for LIU. SFC has had a lot of opportunities at the rim and blown them with astonishing efficiency.

That game was entirely too close for comfort, but I'm glad LIU was at least able to salvage a split of the doubleheader. Big plays at the right time for Iverson Fleming and Nura Zanna, and SFC's persistence in missing at the rim did them in at the end.

SFC brought a lot of length off the bench, in general; I think all of their reserves were playing at the basket. Jagos Lasic gave the Terriers some good minutes late in the first half, rebounding and setting picks. Jahmel Bodrick really impressed me with his work on the offensive glass, which led to good hard putbacks. Josh Nurse had good length, though he was committing some rather stupid fouls. He had a wicked block on Jerome Frink in the second half. I'm trying to remember what Keon Williams did out there, and I think it was mostly being tall and rebounding.

Robert Montgomery had some trouble with fouls, so he spent a lot of time on the bench, which was what allowed those big reserves to shine. We were sitting near Glenn Sanabria's family, so I was kind of hoping he'd have some big plays, even though I was rooting for LIU, and he did have a nice three near the end of the shot clock. He kept getting in foul trouble, though. Gunnar Olaffsson lived up to his name for stretches, going deep early and often, but what annoyed me more about him was the foul that should have been a flagrant- you hug a guy around the waist after the ball goes up, there should at least be a review, because that's not a play on the ball.

What really shone for St. Francis was their backcourt. Yunus Hopkinson got started early, creating offense on the fast break and firing away from three. But even then, I liked the look of Rasheem Dunn more, though Dunn only had three points at the break. He broke out big time in the second half, creating his own offense and displaying a nice combination of range and ability to create his own shot. The two of them sparked the Terriers, and they're going to be fun to watch this year in the NEC.

The Terriers' coach needs to switch to decaf. That all being said, I think this young SFC team has a good chance to go where they have never gone before and take the honor of being a 16 seed crushed in the first round.

For LIU, Julius van Sauers was the utility post in the first half- whenever someone needed a quick rest or got in foul trouble, he got up for a little bit before it was time to go back to what seemed like the regular rotation. When Nura Zanna got a better grasp of his fouls, van Sauers was somewhat redundant. Raul Frias had a really nice putback in the first half and a little bit of speed. Raiquan Clark wound up a couple of monster blocks that got the crowd fired up (at least the LIU portion)- the one in the second half was especially spectacular.

Jerome Frink was rock solid down low, though he is not a guy I would like to see shooting long jumpers very often. He reminds me a little of Aaron Williams, back when I used to follow the Nets- not as chiseled, perhaps, but broad and strong on the inside. Nura Zanna needs to get back on the free throw line and keep practicing- there's no excuse for missing six free throws, all but airballing one of them. He made up for one of the misses with a powerful putback. His game is all about power and strength. He lacks finesse, but that's okay. I like post players.

I do also like guards, though, and though I spent the first three-fourths of the game wanting to smack Iverson Fleming upside the head for showboating and generally living up to his name and number in all the wrong ways, he was clutch late. He got the big baskets, both inside and outside, and stepped up on defense. His game is inconsistent, but well-rounded. Jashaun Agosto penetrated the lane and sort of sneaked up on everyone- I certainly didn't realize how much scoring he had done until I looked at the scoresheet. Julian Batts broght speed, and one big basket relatively late in the game, but was otherwise unremarkable.

I was really expecting LIU to rely even more on the power game than they did. They need to finish better; there's no reason they shouldn't.

The crowd was pretty evenly split, as one would expect when the two schools are so close together. I was surprised that there weren't that many more people there for the men's game than the women's game, though part of that was because most of the very large group of elementary school cheerleaders left after the women's game was over.

(Speaking of cheerleaders: you know it's a rivalry game when the opposing team brings their cheerleaders, and the cheerleaders bring their pom-poms. SFC's cheer squad was behind their bench.)

I couldn't find it in me to be upset when one of the St. Francis women got hit with a stray pass that went out of bounds.

This was a game worthy of the rivalry, even if the officials did their level best to look like amateurs out there.


January 14, 2017: St. Francis at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Rachel Iozzia's three-pointer with nine seconds left turned out to be the game-winner in St. Francis's 56-54 win at LIU. Game MVP Kat Phipps had 11 points off the bench to lead the Terriers, notching nine of them in the fourth quarter to erase the Blackbirds' five-point lead. Shanovia Dove of LIU led all scorers with 20 points, with Brianna Farris canning four threes for 12 points in reserve.

For missed opportunities, riding the hot hand, a change of seasons, lousy officiating, and once again skipping intersectional discussions, join your intrepid and fuming blogger after the jump.

Hello, hello, hello! It's game day in Brooklyn, and it's one of the only LIU games that, no matter what, you have to watch. The Terriers of St. Francis College have hopped the train, or perhaps the B38 bus, or even just bundled up and walked down Flatbush, to take on the Blackbirds of LIU in the Battle of Brooklyn.

LIU has extra security out, but they've closed one of the bathrooms. Because closing facilities makes sense when you're expecting a big crowd, yes.

Fanfriggingtastic. A family of St. Francis fans has decided to park directly behind us. There are maybe 100 people in the entire building, and that might be including the players. Go away. Go sit across from your own bench.

(Yes, as a matter of fact, I have issues with St. Francis and their incredible whiteness. You want to represent Brooklyn, and New York, and the toughness of my city, and its vibrant diversity, your own diversity shouldn't be "our hair colors range from blondish brown to brownish blonde, except for the token black chick". And your coach shouldn't be getting players across four continents to achieve that look.)

(Yes, there are a whole bundle of intersectional issues to unpack here, thank you for asking. But I'm tired and this is a double-header. That discussion will not be today.)

At halftime, it's tied at 26, thanks to a really strong defensive stretch in the second quarter by LIU- St. Francis was held scoreless for the first six minutes of the quarter and without a field goal for the first eight. Shanovia Dove is doing work for LIU, and Brianna Farris's three-point shot from the corner has shown up. For St. Francis, Alex Delaney has done a good job of getting to the line, and Tori Wagner is strong defensively under the basket.

We're being treated to an adorable JV cheer performance with some pretty impressive gymnastics for elementary school kids. They might actually be more skilled than St. John's. And... that was the JV. Now the varsity is performing, and I think the primary difference is better synchronization than the JV. I'm a little intimidated, but in a good way.

Bless your heart, Angel, my most favorite flake. Coach Oliver got ready to put DeAngelique Waithe in the game, and Angel took off her warm-up shirt and ran to the scorer's table... whereupon Coach Oliver discovered Angel was not wearing her jersey. Angel did a couple of double-takes, realized that she was wearing her undershirt but not her jersey, and sprinted back to the locker room. Coach pulled back the sub after that.

You know what should never turn into a refshow? The final minute of a close, heated rivalry game. That was one of the biggest debacles I've ever seen in officiating, and I've been at games where the band all but chased the officials out the door. That was a disaster on top of shame on top of incompetence. We had our chances, and we were certainly given one, but the end-game officiating was not worthy of this game and this rivalry.

Kat Phipps was game MVP, and deservedly so. She stepped her game up in the fourth quarter, hitting big shots and big free throws. Samantha Keltos was tall, and took up space in the lane, but needs rather a lot of help offensively. She threw a lot of stuff at the rim without rhyme or reason. They were the primary reserves for SFC.

I was impressed with Tori Wagner in the few minutes she played. She needs to polish her offense somewhat, but her defensive instincts are very good. She had a very clever deflection down low that led to a rebound for Keltos. I was surprised she got as few minutes as she did. Etta Andersen saw a couple of minutes of relief time in the first quarter; Lorraine Hickman saw a few minutes in the third quarter. Neither made any noticeable impact.

I really do not like Alex Delaney. I'm not talking about her ability to draw free throws, either. I'm talking about the endless reaching, and grabbing, and holding, and other such behavior that crosses from aggression to dirty play. She hustles well, but not always in a good way. Olivia Levey was ballhogging a bit in the first half, and has an inexplicable love for the long jumper. It doesn't work for her. But we've been down this road in the STJ game notes with Jade Walker; I don't care enough about SFC to dissect it further for her. Maria Palarino did her work close to the rim, making backdoor cuts and cleaning up offensive rebounds.

Dana DiRenzo lists as a guard, but most of what I remember her doing was in the paint and on the glass, disrupting rebounds and pulling a few down herself. I was impressed with her strength and her tenacity. Rachel Iozzia hit the game-winning shot and is thus not one of my favorite people right now, but that's because I am saltier than the Morton's girl skipping across the Dead Sea at this moment. She has a nice shot. I am just not in the headspace to appreciate it.

Stylz Sanders got a few minutes on defense in the first half, but either she did something to get into Coach Oliver's doghouse or Coach decided to ride the hot hand. She might have been helpful. DeAngelique Waithe was okay on defense, but a step slow on reaction time. The jersey thing didn't help, and may even have been a symptom. (I mean. Really. How do you forget your jersey?!)

This is the first really extended look I've gotten at Autumn Ashe, and she impressed me defensively. I really like her instincts that way. The offensive ball thought will come, I think. It's easier to teach offense than defense, or at least it's easier to teach offensive ball thought than it is defensive ball thought, in my experience as a basketball fan. Drew Winter came on strong in the second half. She's really starting to find herself as a point guard, which might explain why Dionne Coe was a DNP-CD. (I am perfectly okay with this. Dionne has sort of captained the failboat this season.) Brianna Farris, despite the missed free throws at the end of the game, had one of the best games I've ever seen out of her. She had a rough start, fumbling the ball and having passes go off her hands, but came on strong from the second quarter on with her three-point shot and her defense. She had the right play to tie the game after the missed free throw- just a moment too late. Hold your head high, Brianna. You deserve it.

Seneca Richards started the game, but after one mind-numbingly stupid play, she got benched, and that was the last anyone saw of her on the court. I can't say I'm surprised. (Honestly, if Dionne is the captain of the LIU failboat, Seneca is the first mate.) Gabrielle Caponegro played scared, and she played tentative, and she has to grow out of that. She's going to lose minutes in a hurry if she doesn't. Aja Boyd needs extra spirit finger mojo to hit free throws, or at least that's the story I'm telling myself. She has to work on her footwork- she travels pretty much every possession, and it's up to the Random Number Gods whether the officials call it or not. I like her strength, and I think she's going to get better, but someone's gotta get back down to fundamentals with her.

Victoria Powell got the start, but Drew Winter took the bulk of the minutes at point. Victoria came back in late, and came up with a bucket in the fourth quarter. Shanovia Dove took control of the offense, almost to the point where none of the other perimeter players really knew what to do when she wasn't in the game. She was playing at a different speed from everyone else, which was an advantage when she was driving and rather a disadvantage when she was dishing out to her teammates. I sometimes get the feeling that Shanovia is doing her own thing out there, and Coach just has to let it happen because otherwise the offense doesn't exist.

I get the feeling most of the roster needs assertiveness training. They need to step up and show out. Everyone seems afraid to shoot. Shanovia's a senior, guys. She's only going to be with you for a few more months, and then someone else has to be the center of the offense. Who's it going to be? Who wants it?

So now we're going to talk about the officiating. More specifically, we're going to talk about how the final minute turned into an absolute refshow. We're going to talk about the rebound stolen from LIU, and the fact that St. Francis was trying to foul and never got called for the hacks and the shoves that led to three offensive rebounds. Then we're going to look at Rachel Iozzia's game-winning shot, and the fact that she traveled to get it, and that she was over the line and the officials never reviewed it. We're going to talk about the blatant jersey pull on Drew by one of the SFC forwards, either Palarino or Delaney, that went uncalled. All of this was not unnoticed. The crew was sub-standard all day, but this took the cake.

That all being said, at least they did call the three-point foul correctly. And as much as it tears my heart out of my chest to admit it, Brianna's putback was late. They were correct to not count it, and while counting it might have been karmic balance, it would have only exacerbated their failure as neutral arbiters of the game.

I am kind of hoping Coach Oliver has the LIU band mantra of "Free throws win ball games!" carved into every locker by the end of the week, though...


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 10th, 2017: DePaul at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: DePaul started strong and always had an answer in their 78-66 win over St. John's. Brooke Schulte's 21 points led four Blue Demons in double figures. Jade Walker had 16 points to lead St. John's.

For spare saints, flying solo, hoisting the flag, band family, dance moves on fiyah, bad habits, good vibes, and bending in painful ways, join your intrepid and bedeviled blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Welcome to Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's University, where tonight the Blue Demons of DePaul face the St. John's Red Storm.

It's halftime now- pregame notes are hard to come by on weeknights. DePaul is up 38-30, and frankly, it could be a lot worse than it is. We've been feeding off the free throw line, because DePaul has erased most of our ill-advised drives into the lane. I mean, really. Running headlong into Jacqui Grant is a terrible, horrible, idea.

We've got a few folks from RedZone in the house, and they're making a good amount of noise. We need MOAR NOISE, though.

If Jade Walker takes one more straightaway three, I may break something. And I've already killed three pens this season from banging the clipboard.

I'm pretty sure Keylantra Langley is in the house, and maybe that's why Akina is doing so well (they share the number 20, though Akina is more of an offensive specialist and Key was a defensive player who had a knack for hitting at the end of the clock). She's less familiar without her awesome letter jacket, but you watch someone for four years, you kind of get to recognize them, and wow, that sounds creepy.

It's lonely without the significant other to bounce things off of- worse, my hotspot's acting up, so I can't even connect with him. I hope Seton Hall's having better luck with Marquette than they did with DePaul.

In someone's desperate need to have a Maggie Dixon game this year, this game was hurriedly designated the Maggie Dixon Classic, so there was a segment on her between the first and second quarters, her family was in attendance, and everyone's got shirts.

I don't know who the shorter inactive player was for DePaul, but with her hair down she's very striking.

This was better than I could have thought. I mean, no, we didn’t win, and there were definitely some serious issues that need to be addressed before the seaboard road trip, but it could have been worse, and I thought there were a lot of things we did well.

Tanita Allen needs a better sports bra. It's petty, but it's true. And she's very active, so the excess movement is especially noticeable. She was one of the few DePaul players who looked very uncomfortable shooting threes, but she used her strength well inside. She was tenacious on defense. Chante Stonewall has a strange combination of gawkiness and grace, like she knows what she wants to do with her body and hasn't quite gotten it to do that yet. She had a nasty block on Alisha Kebbe, and after her first three-point shot was a hot mess, her make was a thing of beauty. She's going to be just fine for them. (Though I keep thinking that last name should belong to either a defensive specialist or a gay rights activist. Maybe she's one or the other, though. I know nothing about her personally.)

Lauren Prochaska is not the best Lauren Prochaska I've ever watched, but she's pretty good. Her speed really took me by surprise- I think the only St. John's player who was able to keep up with her was Aaliyah Lewis. Kelly Campbell had a lot of family and friends in the house, including a gentleman in a name and number DePaul sweatshirt who I'm presuming is her dad. She has a nice shot and a lot of scrappiness. Brooke Schulte did work at the rim and in the mid-range. She was quietly efficient. She and Amarah Coleman are both mismatch nightmares for teams of average size.

Coleman had a couple of amazing finishes at the basket with heavy contact. She's very athletic and lean, and contorts in ways that make my eyes water a little bit. Jacqui Grant was a facilitator as a screener and an eraser on defense- she had a couple of big blocks just in the first quarter. She has range outside, which makes her very difficult to guard.

When DePaul was moving the ball, they were able to get shots. They had stretches of crisp passing and well-executed fast breaks. They were able to capitalize on openings far better than we were- too many offensive rebounds, too many loose balls.

Maya Singleton has got to hit the bunnies at the rim. I love her fight and I love her hustle, but she's got to hit open lay-ups at the rim. She had one attempt where everyone was ready to go nuts, and she blew it. I'm starting to wonder if Andrayah Adams is injured and trying to play through it- for an offensive-minded player with a pretty good stroke, she's been putting up some very strange one-handed push shots. You can tell she's trying, but she's not there yet. Crystal Simmons's defense continues to be clutch and top-notch, but I really don't want to talk about her shot. I think someone has got to work with her on her follow-through on it.

As said before: if Jade Walker takes one more straightaway three, especially when there's time on the shot clock, I'm going to break something. It's not her shot. It's not a good shot for anyone, really, but it's not her shot. I have learned to tolerate the corner threes as an attempt to extend her range, but there are reasonable limits. Her midrange game was on point, and I love when she powers to the basket. I need her to adjust her attitude when the call doesn't go her way. She misses a play with that, I have a problem. Imani Littleton was inconsistent- at times letting balls go by her, at times laying ye olde smackedowne on shots. I like how her defense has developed. Akina Wellere's shot was a little better this game, but in the second half she fell back into some bad defensive habits and got caught reaching. It doesn't help that she broke one of the cardinal rules of defense and made it work- she left her feet and charged at a three-point shooter, and it forced DePaul into a shot clock violation.

Aaliyah Lewis's definition of offense is starting to irk me. I understand the urge to drive and get contact, especially since we were hitting free throws and DePaul does have a habit of holding. I love her fearlessness. But she has to understand that sometimes- a lot of the time- she's not going to get the call. She has to be thinking of a good shot at the basket before she thinks of a good chance at free throws, and I'm not sure she's going into the paint with a clear concept of the shot. She's fun to watch, but she can be frustrating. I like how Alisha Kebbe's all-around game is developing. She's got some weird spin in her shot that she needs to get out, but she's got time to work on that. She's got game on both ends of the floor, and I think she's got a bright future.

I thought we executed our defense reasonably well, all things considered. But holy crap, our offense was a mess of blocked shots (the box score lies) and mishandled passes. Can't get sloppy around DePaul. They'll swarm you and take you down.

I'm pretty sure it's not a whistle-worthy held ball if the span of time for which it is held is shorter than the time it takes the official to blow the whistle. And I would like an explanation of how Akina got the foul for the pushout when she was pushed by two DePaul players. But we got 25 free throws, so I don't think blaming the officials is the way to go here. DePaul had a case to be irked at some really cheap calls in the second quarter.

We're not as good as we were with Aliyyah and Danaejah, nor should we expect to be this year. We're coming into our own, and all things considered, we could have had a far worse showing against the heavy favorite in the conference. I just hope our seniors recognize the bad habits they're falling into.


Monday, January 9, 2017

January 8th, 2017: Marquette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's started on an 8-0 run and paced Marquette from start to finish in a 70-64 win. Jade Walker continued her streak of setting new career-highs, this time with 32 points; Aaliyah Lewis notched a double-double with 21 points and 10 assists. Allazia Blockton led Marquette with 20 points and eight rebounds.

For realizations, Girl Scouts, multifunction cheerleaders, pushouts, offensive freelancing, unsung defense, and new hairdos, join your intrepid and moosed blogger after the jump.

Happy New Year, everyone! New calendar year, but basketball never stops. The Game Notes of Doom are coming to you from the familiar confines of Carnesecca Arena, where the Red Storm return home to face the enigmatic Golden Eagles of Marquette.

I'm not a fan of Marquette's powder blue uniforms. The sweatsuits for inactive players are even uglier; they look like they're in jammies. The taller inactive player looks really cranky about it, too. (I don't know who she is. Honestly, without names and numbers, the only Marquette players I can immediately identify are Danielle King and Natisha Hiedeman; King because she's tiny, Hiedeman because she's got that Layshia Clarendon look going on.)

Girl Scout Day and cheer camp today, so there will be lots of little girls, and lots of high-pitched screaming. Unfortunately, it looks like we're not going to have the services of the dance team- they were loading into a van when we arrived.

Maya Singleton appears to have left her hair at baggage claim. I could have sworn she still had a ponytail on the road trip.

At halftime, it's 40-31 St. John's, and it's that close because Jade Walker did the second-dumbest thing I've ever seen a St. John's player do on a basketball court- bailed on a rebound and then blatantly fouled Danielle King to allow a four-point play. If you're going to not guard the tiny player, at least make sure she doesn't hit the shot.

As it turns out, the mini-cheerleaders aren't here as part of cheer camp, they're here with the biddy team that's playing at halftime. Should I be worried that fourth graders have cheerleaders? Oh, jeez, one of the kids just went down like a ton of bricks. She was crying, but she got up pretty quickly.

Marquette's coach seems to be taking the scooter thing in stride (as it were) and with good humor.

I won't say it was our best game, and I won't say I'm not disturbed by the lack of scoring balance, but it was a good win, and I love the development of our freshmen.

Shantelle Valentine was called upon for the bulk of the minutes in the post, especially after Erika Davenport left the game for unspecified reasons. She's got nice touch at the basket, but she has to be less aggressive defensively and know her foul situation. You can't be running the trap if you're in foul trouble. You and your coach both have to be aware of your foul count. Altia Anderson was called upon for a few minutes late in the game, with Davenport and Valentine both unavailable. I see the potential in her, and she certainly has the right name for her height.

Amani Wilborn was very aggressive offensively, looking to take a lot of shots. The defense was there to stop her at the rim, and she didn't let that stop her. She probably should have. She wasn't always the best option. Isabelle Spingola has some potential, but she's not ready for the big time yet. If she's more willing to get physical, I can see her stepping into the McKayla Yentz role for the Golden Eagles in time- she has the build, and I think she can learn the positioning.

I don't know what happened to Erika Davenport- she left the game, and then Valentine started the second half and we never saw her again. She may have been sick- someone was bent over behind the bench around halftime. She does need to learn to pick on someone her own size, though- she got in a nasty hit on Aaliyah Lewis. McKayla Yentz did a lot of work setting screens for the guards, then curling into the corner for three-point attempts. I think she was more effective as a screener, though.

I've come to the conclusion that, as a Johnnie, I can best describe Allazia Blockton as the biologically impossible but athletically miraculous lovechild of Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant, and this is probably why she regularly opens up a can of whoop-ass wherever she goes. She's not slashing as much as she was last year, but the jumper is pretty solid, and she gets to the line. And you can't get casual with the basketball around her, because she'll take it away in a second. I'd like to see her slash to the basket more, but not against either of my teams. Natisha Hiedeman scored a lot of her points late, and her motor just doesn't stop. She's fun to watch- sometimes she's even more fun than Blockton. Danielle King is fast and loves the three, and she runs her team well. I don't know if she's the right point guard for this roster, though; Marquette might be better off with Wilborn starting and Hiedeman switching to point.

Maya Singleton had a putback for the only bench points. She didn't play a lot, but she did what we needed her to do. Ditto for Sandra Udobi, whose brace has either grown or acquired a larger sleeve. Her entire leg was covered by the end of the game. Should we start worrying about the Borg?

Andrayah Adams needs to work on her handle, or at least her ball security. I like her assertiveness on offense, though. Crystal Simmons brought the defense- I love watching her intensity as she defends. Whatever deal with the devil she signed for her shot to land has expired, though, and I don't know how effective she can be if she's one-dimensional.

Imani Littleton's inconsistency frustrates me. There are times when she's ferocious on the glass and strong in the paint. There are times when she deflects rebounds instead of pulling them down and lets passes go off her hands. And there are days like today that are somewhere in the middle where she is adrift offensively but erases drives on the inside. I find her strangely fascinating amidst the frustration. Jade Walker had herself a day on offense. Sometimes it was not as planned- there were a couple of plays near the end of the second quarter where it was abundantly clear that the long jumper Jade was taking was not the play that Joe had called. She was at her best when she was forcing her way inside with power, then stretching the offense with her jumper. And we won't talk about the two fouls against three-point shooters. I love when Jade does amazing things, and she was certainly the star of the show, but that doesn't get her off the hook for mind-numbingly stupid decisions.

Aaliyah Lewis has to acknowledge sometimes that she does commit fouls. It does happen. She was on point today, on so many levels. Her passing was good, her footwork was slick, and she made the shot clock beg for mercy. She's got to improve her free throw shooting, and get out of her head when she goes on a cold streak. I think she dwells on missed free throws too much when she gets back to the line. Alisha Kebbe did yeoman's work on defense today. She had the difficult task of trying to contain Allazia Blockton, and she did a very good job of it. In that context, I can understand why she was having trouble with some of the chippies, and why she might prefer the three-pointer on offense. Her going beyond the arc certainly made up for the lack of production from Akina Wellere. Part of Akina's problem was stupid foul trouble, but she's regressed a lot from the scorer who helped us win the Big East title last year. She's inconsistent and playing scared. Can't have that from her.

Officiating was the usual mess of inconsistencies, loose in the first half and tighter in the second. Joe objected to some of the travels by Marquette he thought weren't being called.

Nice anthem, but it had "trying too hard" written all over it. You have to know the limitations of your voice and not wander all over the musical map.

I have a band moose now!

Trying to generate crowd noise with just the cheerleaders and DSPN doesn't work. We really need to develop signals.

I'm happy we won, and very happy for the big games by Jade and Aaliyah. But I'm worried about the lack of balance. DePaul is no easy task, even without January.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

December 31st, 2016: Bryant at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: LIU fought hard, but never got over the hump in their 62-53 loss to Bryant. Shanovia Dove came off the bench for 21 points and 10 rebounds for LIU. Kierra Palmer led Bryant with 18 points, with Alex Klein contributing 15 points and 10 rebounds.

For ending the year, travels, class dynamics, a conveniently placed Pokestop, fundamentals, and hustle, join your intrepid and off-cycle blogger after the jump.

We close out 2016 much as we started it- in conference play with one of our chosen teams. It's Bryant. It's LIU. It's the NEC, coming to you on tape delay on the Game Notes of Doom!

Part of me thinks it's a crying shame Paris Jones has spent so much time injured. Part of me is like, "Damn, girl, you lookin' good out there." At least if we get stuck with a chronically injured player, we get one with phenomenal fashion sense.

This game is a double-header. I don't know if we'll stay for the men's game, though. I don't have a roster card or anything. We didn't. New Year's Eve plans with the family trumped that. I have serious pennies to win at the card game tonight, after all.

Bryant did a good job of keeping our shooters out of their preferred spots (though sometimes it's hard to tell with our shooting) and was much more aggressive on loose balls for much of the game. That's not a good sign. LIU's not going to beat teams on talent; they have to beat them on heart and hustle.

Chanel Ramcharran is adorably tiny. She ran point briefly in the third quarter. Sydney Holloway was very aggressive on both ends of the floor, driving the paint offensively and working hard on defense- a little too hard at points. I think she was one of the many players who had trouble with her footwork today. Haley Connors finished well at the rim.

Morgan Olander's minutes were limited by foul trouble. Her height was extremely advantageous for the Bulldogs. She was able to deflect a lot of passes and shots. Alex Klein looks like a player who watched a lot of Tim Duncan growing up. She was very fond of going high off the glass for bank shots, with mixed success. She has to get better with her off hand- the contortions she was putting her body through to get to the strong side were rather spectacular.

I don't remember much about Stephanie Lesko, though I am wondering if she's related to Tori Lesko over at Iona. Naomi Ashley was limited by foul trouble, but made a couple of solid defensive plays. I really enjoyed watching Kierra Palmer, both defensively for the work she did keeping Shanovia Dove out of her sweet spot and offensively for her ball movement and scoring at the basket.

This is really more of a pregame note, but good Lord the bulldog head on the Bryant shorts is huge.

I don't know why Coach Oliver didn't go back to Drew Winter in the second half. Sure, she had one truly awful pass that demonstrated why LIU doesn't sponsor football, but I don't think she was so much worse than Dionne that she shouldn't have gotten a couple of more minutes. Autumn Ashe soaked up a couple of minutes at the end of the first half and took a really bad shot underneath. Stylz Sanders brought defensive hustle, but she needs to not box out her own teammates. You know these people, Stylz.

I'm not sure how this dynamic with Coach Oliver and Shanovia Dove is going to play out. On one hand, Shanovia has been the only consistent scorer I've seen us have, so it makes a negative amount of sense to have her come off the bench (though she started the second half). On the other hand, I think a lot of her points are coming off freelancing, and she's certainly been very shot-happy. There were several possessions where she jacked a three early in the shot clock and Coach Oliver did not approve. Brianna Farris has really regressed, and it's really sad. Her three-point shot (which was always streakier than a Windex knockoff) has gone very wild, and her defense has gone from tight to overly physical. She used to be better, I know it. DeAngelique Waithe is proof that I am cursed to love defensive posts whose shot leaves something to be desired. Her rebounding is good, her defense is good, and I love to watch her defending inbounds passes. But her shooting form is not good, and she needs to finish better at the rim.

Dionne, we need to have a talk about your shooting. You can't take the second-most shots on the team in a game and not make any of them. I honestly thought she took more threes than the box score would indicate, and a replay might show some long twos out there. I thought Dionne Coe was calling her own number way too often, possibly because she didn't see better options. And better options were out there. I'm worried about Seneca Richards- if a player is brought in to be a three-point specialist, her three-point shot has to be somewhat more reliable. And if her shot isn't being reliable, then she's not bringing anything else to the table. Maybe I'm being too hard on her, since she is a freshman, but I haven't seen anything out of her that impressed me. Victoria Powell had a three that got the Blackbirds back in the game during one of the runs, but otherwise seemed to be playing a little tentatively.

I really like Aja Boyd, but I would like her a whole lot better if she could finish at the rim, and if she could hold on to the ball. I'm impressed with her strength, and she's got the right instincts, but she needs work on her fundamentals. She's a freshman, though; there's time for that, if she's got a coach that's willing and patient enough to work on that with her. Gabrielle Caponegro needs to stop being scared out there. Go up strong with the ball! Don't back out of a good shot! She passed out of way too many opportunities. She has to get stronger and she has to be less afraid. I detect a trend with these freshmen.

I'm kind of weirded out by starting four freshmen and a grad student when much of the productivity I've seen has come from the upperclassmen. Maybe the games I'm seeing are the anomalies and the freshmen are playing better in games I haven't seen. I don't know.

The officials got travel-happy in the first quarter- I think there were five travels called in the first five minutes- and a little inconsistent about contact in the second half. Either I was really off on out of bounds calls or they were really missing a lot of players going out of bounds.

I wish I knew what LIU was missing. Maybe it's just the difference in skill level among my conferences, and I should stop expecting more from LIU than they can ever provide. But is it wrong for me to want them to be better?


Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 30th, 2016: St. John's at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Two teams both alike in dignity dug down deep in the fourth quarter for defensive stops, but in the end, Seton Hall came out on top of St. John's, 64-59. JaQuan Jackson had 18 points to lead the Pirates. Jade Walker of St. John's led all scorers with 21.

For a key reserve, alumnae, heart-meltingly adorable kidlets, the student and the teacher, rocking the red, being among the family, and defensive stops, join your intrepid and Shakespearean blogger after the jump.

Big East conference season is underway, and you know what that means. It's round one of the Awkward Bowl, as St. John's pays a visit to Seton Hall.

So far, only a couple of double-takes, but I'm trying really hard not to make eye contact with Lubirdia Gordon. I don't like having post players angry at me, and Bird is... loyal to her team to an extreme.

The husband, as always when we visit Walsh, is on the Seton Hall side in SHU colors. I'm behind the St. John's bench in my red.

Aria, when did you get so tall? Weren't you, like, itty bitty a second ago? Her playmate is adorable, stretching with the team and everything. (Her playmate is Tasha Pointer's kidlet, who promptly glomped Brady Tartamella as soon as the family arrived. Kidlets everywhere!)

Also, judging from the interactions between Tiana England's family and Da'Shena, everyone in Connecticut is within two degrees of separation from each other, so maybe this wearing 3 thing will work out okay. (No, wait. That still leaves All-Big East Angela Clark and all-time program scoring leader Aliyyah Handford. Seriously, why did we hand out the most decorated number in team history to a freshman with Aliyyah barely out the door?)

So far we have Conn-tingent 2.0 and Aaliyah's family. (For heaven's sake, Aaliyah, put on some clothes, stop running around in your undershirt, there are cameras everywhere.)

At least one member of the SHU Sign Mafia is here. That's good; they’ve been flaking on big games. Of course, I haven't actually seen any of the signs in action.

This is going to be so awkward. It always is. There are people who get the split thing, and people who don't, and never the twain shall meet. Though so far the awkwardness has been minimal, mostly because I'm trying not to make eye contact with too many people.

Nadirah. Look. You're one of my all time favorites. I will fight every Prahalis stan on the Internet to protect your honor. But I cannot and will not defend the dreadlocks you have so inexpertly woven into your hair. No. No on so many levels of does not fit you.

She's not the only alumna in the house. Embarrassingly, I only recognized Aliyyah Handford because I saw her mom first. Seton Hall also has a couple of former players in the house, and the Awkward Bowl could end up being suuuuuper awkward if Janee Johnson actually recognizes me. I think she was with one of the Simmonses (Simmonii?).

At halftime, it's 31-31. It's been competitive. It's been tight. It's been a little chippy. There's been some psychological gamesmanship. You know. The usual. Jade Walker has 10 for St. John's; Lubirdia Gordon has 8 for Seton Hall. I suspect one or both will finish this game disqualified.

Akina, dear, Tony doesn't play for us. Passing him the ball is not a good plan. Akina, dear, Claire doesn't play for us. Akina, dear, Deja doesn't play for us. Akina, stop passing Seton Hall the fardling ball.

That was emotionally wrenching and draining. My hands hurt and I never got my drink at halftime because the line was ridiculous. My throat hurts, my hands hurt, and my feet hurt, and it still wasn't enough. Now I have to buy my husband dinner. :/

Plans that involve Aaliyah Lewis not being on the floor are bad plans, Joe. Everyone knows that as soon as Aaliyah comes off the floor, it's time to bring the pressure, because we have one ballhandler and her name is Aaliyah.

O HAI Iona DOBO. If Stephanie or Ang show up, I think we have bingo. Or maybe Yahtzee.

D'awwww, Shadeen and girlfriend and kidlet of some variety. I like kids as long as they're either well-behaved or far away from me.

We need a reliable bench. And we need another ballhandler, but I brought that up already. So far it's not Andrayah Adams, who's a solid shooter but needs to be a little more fearless. (And is also not Danaejah Grant, who is also at the game. I'm still not used to the casual hugging thing.) So far it's also not Crystal Simmons, whose shooting has actually regressed- I swear she's trying to shoot a right-handed free throw with her left hand. I love Crystal's defense, and she's our best weapon against Seton Hall's backcourt, but offensively she's a liability.

We went three-guard set a lot, because our reserve forwards were... not helpful. Jordan Agustus got a very short stretch in the first half, proved nothing, and sat down. Maya Singleton missed bunnies and let rebounds go through her hands. Neither of these are conducive to earning additional playing time, nor are they conducive to winning.

Alisha Kebbe's shot must have been waiting for the 31 bus, because it didn't show up until the fourth quarter. She stepped up defensively as well. She's got to be more consistent on her shot through contact, and somehow she needs to get some of the spin out of it. It's a strange thing to say for someone who was one board shy of a double-double, but Akina Wellere was playing scared out there. She was repeatedly backing off three-point shots that she could have taken. Part of that was the Seton Hall defense making sure she couldn't get the exact spot she wanted, and she kept hesitating. What worried me more was her passing- she was consistently throwing the ball to the other team, which tells me she's either telegraphing her passes or she's not putting enough mustard on them. Aaliyah Lewis was fearless driving into the lane, but she can't be both the facilitator and the secondary scoring option at the same time. She was ruthless on defense, as well. Freshmen should not attempt to cross over seniors.

Imani Littleton slipped back into that mode she has sometimes where she doesn't seem to give a damn. It happens sometimes. She gets lackadaisical and she doesn't go hard for rebounds. She had a really nice one in the first half that turned into a basket, but for the most part, she seemed way too comfortable letting the game come to her instead of seizing control. Jade Walker was bound and determined to put on a show in her final game in New Jersey, and so she did. The big girl took a lot of smart shots and hit them, and she took way too much contact from Lubirdia Gordon. I'm sorry, Bird, but I really don't like you right now. Please to not be trying to elbow Jade in the face.

Seton Hall still has trouble with the press- the guards can do fancy stuff with the ball, but they can't maintain control of it consistently when they face pressure. Their matchup zone was great- really slowed down our offense and forced us to do too much thinking.

Coach Bozzella threw some spaghetti at the wall in the first half with Kaity Healy and Martha Kuderer. Martha looked very lost on defense. Kaity was ineffective. Jayla Jones-Pack got some extended run, but didn't do very much with it.

Jordan Molyneaux gave good minutes in the post, but defensively she wasn't a good match for Jade. Tall and slim doesn't work against a more substantial build. She rebounded well, but missing at the rim isn't a good look. Same for Shadeen Samuels, though apparently her knee was bothering her. She had a couple of brilliant open looks and blew them. Her strength in the post impresses me, and if her knee ever recovers properly she'll be amazing. Deja Winters had a strong game, especially beyond the arc- she's a streaky shooter, but when she's on, oh boy is she on. She made a couple of big defensive plays in the fourth as well, intercepting passes and hustling.

Dear St. John's: I don't know if you've noticed this, but Claire Lundberg shoots threes real good. It's her strongest skill. Leaving her open, or leaving poor Tiny Aaliyah alone to cover her, is not the world's greatest plan, and I suspect that the four-point play was the real turning point of the game. She also had one really nice rebound, but overall, anyone who's scouted SHU knows that she's out there to shoot. Lubirdia Gordon got good position down low, both offensively for putbacks and defensively for rebounds. She and Jade really mixed it up. Jade did not approve, though to be fair, most people do not approve of other people's elbows approaching their face. (Not that Jade didn't give almost as good as she got.)

I was looking forward to seeing Kaela Hilaire trying to take on Aaliyah Lewis. I was not disappointed. Their styles are very similar, as are their on-court demeanors, and fast-moving guards with swagger are very fun to see take each other on. The difference was experience. KK wasn't ready for Aaliyah, but I think she knows who she wants to be when she grows up now. Kaela dished well, but when she tried to do fancy dribbling, that ball was gone. Don't break your own ankles. LaTecia Smith was quick in the passing lanes and fearless on the drive. She didn't call her own number as much as she normally does, which is a good thing. Sometimes TT and KK both get too much into their own heads. Good things happen for Seton Hall when JaQuan Jackson gets open, and we gave her way too much space too often. She made her own offense too, off steals and fast breaks.

Who does the "stomp around with arms out and an incredulous expression, daring the official to call a tech" routine after a dubious foul? Quanny or Tiny Aaliyah? There's more of JaQuan to emote with, but Aaliyah might be louder. As always, there were a few dubious calls, but ultimately they didn't affect the course of the game, unless they affected someone's headspace.

The crowd really got into it when it got close and Seton Hall was making moves. We need more of that at Walsh. It has the potential to be an insane noise box, and the fans don't live up to that potential nearly often enough. (Hey, man, I try, especially when I'm rocking the blue.)

This rivalry should be very interesting this year, and you know I'll be keeping an eye on both of my teams.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 21st, 2016: UMBC at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: After an offensively challenged first half for both teams, UMBC came out strong in the second half to knock off LIU at the Barclays Center, 57-45. Tyler Moore had 17 of her team-high points in the second half to lead the Retrievers. Shanovia Dove came off the bench to lead LIU with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but no other Blackbird cracked double digits.

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On the road again, this time off to the Barclays Center for half of a double-header- we'll be watching the Blackbirds of LIU take on UMBC.

(Why only half the double-header? Because I don't care enough about men's basketball to get home at 11:30 when I have a meeting early the next morning.)

We've had fantastic music on this long R ride from Continental to DeKalb. First there was a clarinet player who did beautiful work on some Christmas tunes, then an accordion player who was really good. I love my city sometimes. Most of the time.

We're at T-minus 24 minutes, and there are maybe twenty to twenty-five people in the stands. And I think about a quarter of them are LIU band members. It's weird having a little bit of distance from the team, but I like having some perspective.

Lost Albany fan is lost. The women are playing UMBC; the men are playing Niagara. So think I can ask him for any tips on Imani Tate?

I don't think I like the Nets making all their banners black and white, even from the times when they were red, white, and blue. It just looks wrong somehow. At least the Isles are still rocking the city colors. (White, blue, and orange are kind of a thing with New York teams- see also the Mets and the Knicks. It's a flag thing.)

Looks like we weren't the only ones who made the trip out to Brooklyn from Queens. Hi, Veronica!

At halftime, it's 15-13 LIU. This... has not been an inspiring half of basketball in the name of Brooklyn hoops and the women's game. Six points and five boards for Aja Boyd for LIU; Taylor McCarley has eight out of 13 for UMBC.

The guy across the aisle from us knows his stuff. He agrees that LIU needs to be way more aggressive on offense. There's way too much passing the ball around, not enough attacking. And then Aja drops the ball.

It's kind of cool to have an entrance/intro video for once. LIU's normal scoreboard doesn't allow for one. The whole team was watching in fascination, including the staff.

So, uh. That was a thing that happened. The easy way out would be to say, "Look, I don't want to revisit this game, you don't want me to revisit this game, and Coach Oliver definitely doesn't want me to revisit this game. Let's just talk about the band and the arena and the overpriced but delicious Diet Coke." But I don't take the easy way out in GNoD, so you're going to get the cold hard truth as I see it from the stands.

UMBC's coach is kinda loud and seems fond of using his timeouts. I know you don't get to take them home with you for the next game, but if you're up eight with 11 seconds to go, it might be okay to leave one on the table.

Carly Harris and Kayla Hinderlee only came in at the very end- I think there were 11 seconds left. Come to think of it, that might have been why he called the timeout, which is kinda sweet, but at the same time, is eleven seconds really a reasonable amount of playing time? Hinderlee was so unprepared that she had to be called back to the bench to get her earrings off. Lucrezia Costa was awkward in the middle, picking up three very quick fouls in the second quarter. UMBC's coach went back to her in the second half, with slightly better results.

I honestly didn't notice Emily Russo in the game until the second half, so I don't really have much to say about her. She was probably scrappy on the ball, though- most of the Retrievers were. Taylor McCarley started off like a house on fire- she was pretty much the sole source of offense for UMBC in the first half. She's long and lanky, and used her length and speed to press ahead on fast breaks, slicing through LIU's defense like a hot knife through butter. She started the second half.

McCarley got that start over the other McRetriever, Allison McGrath. I liked McGrath on defense. I'm wondering if she got hurt; she didn't play at all in the second half, and I didn't think she had done anything worthy of being buried on the bench. I didn't see an injury, though. Amanda Hagaman should really have been much more effective- she had good looks at the basket and blew them. She made life difficult on the inside for LIU, though.

Laura Castaldo took her turn as the star of the UMBC offense in the early part of the third quarter, hitting from range. She was a demon defensively, leaping on the slow and telegraphed passes of LIU. (There were a lot of those, but we'll get to that.) When she cooled off slightly, there was Tyler Moore, hitting corner threes and scoring on the break. Te'yjah Oliver quietly ran the point and took contact. (There was one play where I thought LIU was backing off under the mistaken impression that Coach Oliver was somehow related to the Retriever guard and thus fouling her would be a Very Bad Idea.)

LIU, I can't even with the extra passing and the bad passing and the telegraphed passing. More importantly, I can't even with the endless dribbling, the cold-blooded murder by strangulation of a perfectly innocent shot clock, and the utter lack of urgency.

I don't know what Brianna Farris did to get buried at the end of the bench, only dredged up in the fourth quarter to take corner threes off the heel of the rim and devour fouls when the Blackbirds tried to extend the game. On the other hand, the way she played would not indicate that further minutes were deserved. DeAngelique Waithe remains my favorite, despite her occasional bouts of offensive ineptitude. I still like watching her play defense, especially when she drops monster blocks.

Shanovia Dove was unafraid to shoot, which was a marked contrast to the rest of her teammates. She was hitting from deep, as well as from the lane. She's always been streaky, and this was a good day for her. Coach Oliver rode her hot hand for most of the game. Stylz Sanders was extremely active on defense, especially early on. She deflected a lot of balls. Drew Winter, when she took her shot, had a good shot, but like many Blackbirds, she was tentative with it and took too much time to even work up the nerve to shoot.

I don't know if there are drills that a player can practice to improve their hands- their ability to catch passes and hold rebounds. If there are, someone please send a link to Aja Boyd so she can start doing them. She had good passes and fumbled them; she had rebounds and lost them. And she has to finish better in the lane. I think the latter is easier for a freshman to fix than the former. Gabrielle Caponegro was playing scared, and this isn't just my assessment- the guy across the aisle from us was talking about how she wasn't like this in high school. She was hesitant to shoot and unsure of her place in the scheme. I think she has a lot of potential. I don't know if she has the makeup to tap that potential at LIU.

Dionne Coe is going to drive me crazy if she doesn't either start hitting shots or stop dribbling. So much dribbling. So much wasted time dribbling, dribbling, dribbling. The problem was that either she would dribble herself right into a steal or throw the ball right to UMBC because the pass was telegraphed. She's not the answer at point- obviously not for the future, since she's a grad transfer, but I don't think she's even the answer right now, despite her experience. Victoria Powell was just as timid, but slightly more accurate, and at least you can excuse a freshman for being timid. Seneca Richards was in to shoot threes, and while her shot was pretty, it was all she brought to the floor. I'm not sure that a single-dimensional player is a luxury this team can afford to have in the starting lineup.

So, this team. We're in the NEC here. This isn't the Big East; this isn't even the higher echelons of the MAAC. You're not going to get players with full skill sets. If you do, or if you get a player who's only missing one piece, she's probably going to climb the ladder. Witness Jasmine Nwajei going from Wagner to Syracuse, or Sofia Roma going from Wagner to Duke. For that matter, LIU has a history of feeding the BCS, with Kim Mac Millan going to St. John's and Valerie Nainima going to South Carolina. At this level, there has to be a lot more teaching of the game. I'm not sure that's being done. Now, I'm only seeing things from the stands, so I'm not even getting one side of the story. I don't know if the coach isn't coaching, or if the players aren't listening, or if there's some other gap that's not being bridged. But there's a fundamental disconnect between what's being said and what's being done on the court. There's a stark difference between what the flow of the game might dictate and what's actually happening.

I want to get behind them. I really do. The game day experience at LIU is great- cheer is enthusiastic, the band's interesting, and nobody brings the noise like LIU's spirit squad. But I feel like the joy is being squeezed out of everyone once the ball goes up. It's hard to keep your own spirits up that way.

So, uh, Merry Christmas? Happy Hanukkah? Joyous Festivus?


December 21st, 2016: James Madison at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Down 10 at the half, St. John's stormed back in the fourth quarter to beat James Madison, 74-63. Jade Walker had a team-high 16 points, supported by the 14 points and 13 rebounds of Imani Littleton. Precious Hall had a game-high 22 points for JMU.

For ugly sweaters, foam fingers, point guard energy, defensive lapses, offensive sparks, battening down the hatches, and the hot hand with the Cali chill, join your intrepid and proud blogger after the jump.

Good morning, for lack of a better phrase. It's time for the annual exercise in masochism and team pride: Field Trip Day. Yes, surround the childfree people with thousands of screaming children. This is a good idea.

(Why don't I skip them? Because there is a game and my team is playing. Honestly, ask a stupid question.)

At halftime, James Madison is up 36-26. Precious Hall went off in the second quarter for all 14 of her points. We are not being coached well. The offensive game plan has been stagnant; the defensive game plan went from brilliant to WTF in the course of a single substitution. Joe does know that he can't jake it for the old alma mater, right?

Seriously, though. Precious Hall had 0 points in the first quarter, mostly being guarded by much larger players. She had 14 in the second, mostly being guarded by our more skillful defenders. Gee, what do you think was working?

I can't believe the grit of this team in the fourth quarter. It's night and day from how we started the year against Duquesne, and I'm up for a rematch.

Shout out to the JMU fans, even when their nearest local connection is a Connecticut yankee. (And also to the JMU bus. That is a nice bus.)

Coach O'Regan was working with a fairly short bench, and it got steadily shorter as the game wound down. Lexie Barrier has the perfect name for a defensive player, so I wasn't necessarily surprised when she missed her first two shots badly. She was pretty solid on the glass. Devon Merritt was the first sub for the Dukes in the first half and the last sub in the second half. She was unremarkable.

I will say, Hailee Barron looks to have diversified her skill set. The last time I watched JMU play, she was a straight-up three-point specialist with no thought to any other part of her game. Now she's a three-point specialist who gets up close and personal on defense and can force the occasional turnover. Aneah Young brought physical defense and an absolutely monstrous fourth-quarter block on Alisha Kebbe.

I really like the knack Kamiah Smalls has for being in the right place at the right time. I'll probably like it better if/when I go see them at Hofstra, when I get to cheer for them (and not just for our RPI/SOS, or because of Ashley Perez- I like the program and want to see them do well). She was the most effective offensive player at the beginning of the game, not Hall. I was expecting rather more out of the Syracuse transfer, Tasia Butler. It's not like she hit foul trouble until the fourth quarter. She's strong- physically so, I mean. Amber Porter grabbed some strong boards in the middle- she, like many JMU players, spent much of the second half in foul trouble.

I know who you're probably here to read about, if you're not here for St. John's, but you know me, I like to build to a point. So let's talk about the point guard Logan Reynolds a little bit (whose last name is not Richards, no matter what the PA guy thought that one time). Offensively, she looks like the new version of Barron, but with better passing skills. Her first reaction when she takes a shot is a three, though, and I don't know how confident she is- which means we really don't know how confident she'll be without the magnificent security blanket known as Precious Hall. And Hall is one heck of a first option to have. She's not afraid to shoot, nor should she be. She's got a nice-looking shot, too, though she was more successful on the drive than from the perimeter in this one. She's fast, and she's aggressive, and you basically have to beat her on sheer physical tools to beat her. You match her with skill, she beats you. You match her with speed, she beats you. In this case, size matters.

JMU swarms when they spot weakness. They're not afraid to get down low and grab loose balls, or the occasional ankle.

Oh, Maya. Bless her heart, but in the first quarter Maya Singleton came in and immediately turned the game into a dumpster fire. Her head was not in the game, which made me sad. She recovered somewhat in the second half, showing her fire and her strength, but this missing bunnies at the rim thing needs to stop. She and Crystal Simmons were the defensive half of the platoon subbing Joe spent much of the fourth quarter playing around with. But she was so bad early that Joe went to Sandra Udobi almost immediately in the first. Sandie was unremarkable. Foul trouble and decreased effectiveness forced Joe to give Jordan Agustus early run, and it was clear that she wasn't ready.

Crystal Simmons brought close on-ball defense, and I love to watch her with the quick hands, but she has got to do something about the long wind-up on her shot to be anything more than a defensive specialist. I don't know- maybe that's what she's focusing on, and her offense can go to hell for all she cares. Andrayah Adams came in to shoot, but was unsuccessful at that. She really looked lost.

What a day for Imani Littleton! This was the kind of game we were waiting for from her, and I'm so happy we got it. She was efficient inside, taking advantage of defensive lapses by JMU, and she was absolutely vicious on the boards. All the rebounds were hers, especially in the first half. I love to see her playing with urgency, especially when she combines it with that Cali chill expression. Jade Walker hit the lane like a freight train and scored well, but she always seemed upset at the calls she wasn't getting and the plays she wasn't making. I do love to see Jade work inside, though. Smite them!

Akina Wellere's developing a disturbing habit of getting into foul trouble late in games. I don't know if it's a conditioning thing and she can't keep up, or if she's never going to be as good defensively as she is offensively, or if she hasn't picked up the finer points of defense yet. She had a huge trey in the fourth quarter to really key the St. John's run. Alisha Kebbe had really rough puck luck with the rim- I'm thinking she might need to soften up her shot a little bit to stop getting some of the weird bounces. Her defense on Precious Hall was great, both straight up and help. Aaliyah Lewis won the hearts of some of the kids behind us (by the end of the game, there was a scattering of "Let's go, number 4!" cheers, and I don't think they were for Tasia Butler) with her speed, her daredevil drives into the lane in the fourth quarter, and her dribbling skills. Ankle-breaking has universal appeal. I don't know if she feeds off the team, or the team feeds off her, but she has that synergy with her team's energy that good point guards always have. I don’t know if she has the control of it that elite guards have, or if she's as susceptible to it dragging her down as she is to riding the wave up.

Usual complaints about the officiating: they call the ticky-tack stuff and ignore the three-player pile-up. There was one sequence near the end of the game where my heart was in my throat because Jade was down and still very vulnerable to being stepped on. No breaking our seniors, people!

Ugly sweaters plus cheerleaders equals awkward, terrible idea. Pretty much everyone affiliated with the team in any significant capacity had an ugly sweater, except for Tasha Pointer (because say what you will about Stringer, but when her players leave her system, they will have dignity whether they want it or not). Why are ugly holiday sweaters a thing? This is a cultural question, I genuinely don't get it.

Shoutout to the school group across the aisle from us, who had awesome signs and an adult willing to get them cheering in big moments.

Ms. Kelly, while I'm flattered you recognized us, trust me, we never saw you play unless it was in an alumnae game.

We needed a comeback win like that. It gives the youngsters some confidence.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18th, 2016: Rider at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall built up an 11-point halftime lead, watched it all dissipate in the third quarter, and recovered in the fourth to claim an 89-81 win over Rider. JaQuan Jackson and Kaela Hilaire each had 19 points to pace the Pirates. Kamila Hoskova had 14 to lead the Broncs.

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Good morning, South Orange! It is too early for this, but here we are anyway, despite the best efforts of the Port Authority's Trans-Hudson train service.

Seriously, I am not joking, we waited 20 minutes at Journal Square for the Newark train and then the conductor took the train out of the station in the wrong direction for a good thousand feet. Much WTF was had by all. We ended up dodging wildcatting freelancers to catch a cab at Newark-Penn Station.

Shoutout to the Rider player with the ferociously magenta hair that almost matches her team colors. (Yeliz Dogan, for the record.)

The ROTC team presenting colors today is working very diligently, but they need a bit of work on their synchronization.

Is it a bad sign that the strength coach is injured?

Wonderful anthem. I approve this message. Rider did what seemed to be a hybrid of the linked arms for solidarity and the raised fist, which is very cool.

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 51-40, but Rider kep it tight for the first sixteen minutes or so. The polar vortex must have been the harbinger of the Minnesota kids' shots' arrival. Claire Lundberg has 14 points, including four threes, in the first half, and would have had a fifth if Jordan Molyneaux hadn't committed an unnecessary offensive foul. Rider has a couple of really good freshmen that I'm impressed with.

Rider also has a large contingent of fans, which makes sense- it's not that far, even by train.

The band gauntlet has been thrown down. Seton Hall's band did "The Pretender"- one of the Mighty Sound of the Red Storm's signature pieces.

As Seton Hall comes out of rthe second half, they're doing their stretches all over again. This is unusual. I don't think Tony was happy with them, and their response coming out of the half was... less than promising.

We shouldn't have to scrap and fight and come back multiple times against a team like Rider. Rider is a very good MAAC team, and this might even be their year to be MAAC mommas, but we have the talent. What we don't seem to have is the offensive execution, and that worries me. It's the middle of December; people should be at least somewhat familiar with the plays by now, and yet there are too many possessions where it looks like either the play broke down or players are falling into the habit of calling their own number.

I was really surprised that Tracey Goodman and Johnnah Johnson didn't see time in the second half. I thought they both did well in their roles. Johnson was solid on the glass and efficient in the paint. Goodman had a sweet outside jumper that we couldn't defend, and got very physical with Lubirdia Gordon. Yeliz Dogan cut well to the basket, and she'll be even more effective for the Broncs when she stops giving in to the temptation to help on defense and thus leave her man open.

Lexi Posset got the second half start over Taylor Wentzel, and in a reversal of the usual way these things go, set a nice pick for the center Duggan for a midrange jumper. She took a lot of shots, but they weren't necessarily the best shots for the situation. Safie Tolusso mostly came in as a situational shooter, especially near the end of the game; her subbing became less situational when the foul trouble started to hit the Broncs.

Kamila Hoskova had a knack for hitting shots near the end of the shot clock. She drove aggressively. Taylor Wentzel was good defensively- her defensive stance with her hands out wide was almost textbook. Robin Perkins was unafraid to shoot- she was their primary distance threat. There was a foul she disagreed with rather strenuously.

I was very impressed with Stella Johnson. Somehow I managed to resist the urge to belt out "STELLAAAAAA!" while she was at the free throw line, so take a moment to applaud my newfound maturity. She moves really well both with and without the ball, and she pounced on sloppy Pirate passes. I can't believe she's only a freshman- she's great. (And ooooh, I want to see her against Alexis Lewis from Iona. Dis gun be gud.) (The perils of following all the conferences.) Julia Duggan was solid for the Broncs, finishing inside and making space for her teammates.

Rider is a lot better than I was expecting. They've brought in good talent that works well together. If they gel even a little bit more, they'll be very dangerous. The coach just has to trust in her freshmen a little bit more.

In her brief appearances, Skyler Snider did some serious work on the glass. Her offense still needs some refinement, but I love the work she does rebounding and on defense. I'd like to see her get some more minutes, and there were opportunities (Shadeen Samuels and Jayla Jones-Pack were both unavailable due to injuries). Jordan Molyneaux was surprisingly effective at the line; she needs to work on her angle of approach to the basket to stop hitting the bottom of the backboard, and gain more confidence in her off hand, though. But a really good game for her overall. Lubirdia Gordon was big inside- driving into her is not a good life decision if you're an offensive player- and hit baskets when we needed them.

Kaity Healy stabilized the team on both ends of the floor- I can't put my finger on it, but it seemed like things were calmer when she was running point than when Kaela or TT were. Deja Winters was quiet- looked for her shot and had one nice defensive play- but we could have used more out of her.

Kaela Hilaire drove hard, but the free throw numbers aren't related to that- she was the person with the ball at the end of the game when Rider was fouling to extend the game. I feel like she made the choice to call her own number more than was perhaps called for by the flow of the offense- she was forcing a lot of her shots. So was JaQuan Jackson. Maybe I'm bad luck for Quanny- every time I've seen her, she's had a game of questionable shot selection. She was hitting late, which fueled her rebounding and her willingness to hit the passing lanes. I find it fascinating how she comes together as a complete player when her shot starts falling, and is otherwise an offensive disaster. LaTecia Smith was really forcing her offense. Do not shoot into three players. This is a bad plan. I do love her rebounding, though. Somehow she has the length and the ups to do things on the glass no guard of her size should be able to do.

Claire Lundberg spent the first half on fire and the second half playing scared. Seton Hall started in a small lineup and went bigger in the second half; strangely enough, that didn't benefit her. She was exploiting mismatches and defensive switches that she wasn't getting in the second half. Martha Kuderer had a couple of nice plays, including a nifty basket off a sweet pass from Kaela, but she seemed to be playing back a little. She took what she was given, but she didn't seem to want to do more.

LOL of the day: TT throws a pass. It is not an accurate pass. It goes out of bounds and smacks Kat Egan right in the head. Cue up, "Oh, come on, TT, hasn't Kat suffered enough?"

Tony, I understand your passion, and I understand the urge to yell at everyone for being in a dogfight with Rider. I'm just saying, yelling at the person actively shooting free throws is maybe not the best game plan.

I don't know what happened, or who said what to whom, but there was a kid next to the passageway to/from the locker rooms, on the Seton Hall side, booing every Pirate free throw. He and his mother were not getting along with the Seton Hall fans there, and near the end of the game they were escorted out of the gym by security.

Today was an autograph day, so since we were waiting for our ride anyway, we said hi to the ladies. I have to play nice. Next game is Awkward Bowl I of the year. I don't think either team wanted Seton Hall to go into it on a low note. We'll see how STJ goes into it.

Survive. Advance. That's how we roll.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17th, 2016: Wagner at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's dominated from start to finish against an undermanned Wagner team in their 62-34 win. Jade Walker had 12 points to spearhead a balanced St. John's attack. Tanasia Russell had eight points and nine rebounds to lead Wagner.

For pity, awkward injuries, defensive specialists, questionable personnel choices, and a ride home (shoutout our awesome band peeps!) join your intrepid and discomfited blogger after the jump.
It's gross out there, I'm not even gonna lie. It snowed last night, and it rained this morning, and it's a tricky slushy mess outside. But I've got boots, and today's gameday. So here we are at Carnesecca Arena, getting ready to see St. John's take on what's left of the Wagner Seahawks.

I say "what's left" because they have 11 names on the roster, eight players present on the court during warm-ups, and six available to play (the other two are both in walking boots, one right and one left). I feel really bad for them, unless the rest of the team is on a bus somewhere or something. Which, given how hard it is to travel to/from Wagner via mass transit on a weekend, and factoring in the weather, gives me the mental image of antsy Seahawks on the S79.

DSPN, my man, I'm happy that you're doing work and getting into your field, but I wish we still had you and the noise you bring in the stands instead. Selfish, I know.

Don't drop the drums, y'all, Garfield will never let you hear the end of it.

Solid anthem.

At half, it's 28-13 St. John's, but I've got a really uncomfortable feeling. I don't think that was a clean play by Akina Wellere in response to the bump by Julia McClure; all I know is that McClure bumped Akina, Akina did not look happy, and suddenly McClure was on the floor and pounding a fist in pain.

But the thing I'm actually more uncomfortable with is Wagner's response- which was to take one of the players in a boot, take the boot off her, tape up her entire foot, spray her with anesthetic, and jersey her up. No. If she's injured, she's injured. There's no reason to risk her long-term health in this game. That's reckless. (And after a foulout, they needed her, but at least they kept her movement to a minimum. I'm still not okay with this.)

This was one of the stranger games I've been to in a long time. Here's the moment that encapsulated it just a little bit for Wagner: at the end of the third quarter, one of their players put up a three-quarters-court heave. It had the distance. It had the angle. And it nestled itself perfectly into the tiny space between the basket and the backboard.

Kellie Crouch was pressed into service near the end of the game as a substitute for the disqualified Taylor Butigan- she was the one who was in the boot, then taken out of it. To Coach Jacobs's credit, she did her best to keep Crouch from having to move too much- she only left the backcourt once. I think Crouch wanted to give it more of a go than her coach did. Corinn Baggs was the sole healthy bench player for the Seahawks. Her shot could use some work, but I love her defensive instincts- she had a great stop that turned a St. John's breakaway into a turnover.

Kerstie Phills brought physicality in the paint and on the boards. Taylor Butigan was also physical down low, and it might be a miracle that she didn't foul out earlier than she did. (Or it might have been a choice, but we'll discuss that later.) Jackie Dluhi set screens for her teammates- there was one possession where she and one of the guards were in a textbook pick and roll, except that she missed the shot.

Tanasia Russell was the focus of the offense, and while she had some moves, mixing jumpers and drives, she took a lot of shots under pressure- I don't think she was ready for the defense. As the game went on, she started to wear down. She was the only player who never got to rest. Not that Julia McClure would have wanted to play such short minutes the way she did with that ankle sprain. I'm just glad it wasn't a knee; for a moment, with the pounding the floor in pain, I thought it was.

Wagner spent a lot of time in zone, which was a pretty good idea- we're not the strongest three-point shooting team, no matter what hitting back to back threes to open might indicate. And it kept them fresher longer. Coach Jacobs used her timeouts early in each half, which I thought was strange; I would have thought she would want to stagger them. They boxed out well as a team.

If anyone knows why Crystal Simmons and Sandra Udobi didn't play today for St. John's, that would be cool. I mean, we weren't exactly in need of our super defensive specialists, but inquiring minds want to know and all that.

It's cool, though, because that gave the young guards more time to shine. I'm not sure where Kendyl Nunn falls in the guard/forward mix, though, but we list her as a guard, so she's going in this paragraph. She has a very odd, strong shot; if she can put a little less strength into it she might have more luck with it instead of having it rebound off the back of the iron as often as it does. I feel like she's starting to find her place in New York and figure out her role on this team. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. Tamesha Alexander made a strong defensive play (we heard the basketball get slapped) and recovered a fumble for a midrange jumper. She's adorable, and really great with kids (today was an autograph day). It's like some kind of mirror universe version of Philadelphia rudeness or something. Shamachya Duncan alternated running point with Sox. I like her speed, but I don't know if I like her jacking threes early in the shot clock of a fourth-quarter blowout. One must learn discretion. I think she will, though.

Alisha Kebbe seems to have taken her removal from the starting lineup well. She looked like she had done some extra defensive drills after the Fordham game, though level of competition might also be a factor. I kinda wish she'd saved the good luck on her last two baskets for a closer game, though. We might need five points someday, and the rim and the gods of sport will say "no". Jordan Agustus has to go back to work on her fundamentals. Go hard to the basket, go strong, and forget throwing it up there like "LOL whatever". She did really well on the boards, one of the few Johnnies who controlled the rebounds she grabbed. Maya Singleton has to finish better at the basket and stop committing stupid fouls, but I absolutely love how she fights for loose balls. She has that junkyard dog mentality that every ball is hers by divine right, so if someone else has it, there's something wrong with the universe.

I don't normally swear in this blog, but I feel this needs to be said: Aaliyah Lewis makes the basketball her bitch. It comes to her when she calls it and she makes it do tricks. So what else do you call it? She is tiny and fierce and adorable and I think she relished starting the game off with a bang from three against the team from Staten Island. (I suspect she also relished a game where she got light minutes and got to watch everyone else go to work.) Andrayah Adams still needs direction on defense (Aaliyah had to yell her into position at least once) but her offense is coming along. Akina Wellere seemed to have a lot of energy pent-up from her limited minutes in the Fordham game- she was all over the boards like a demon, especially in the first quarter. I get the feeling like she thinks she's got something to prove- maybe to herself, maybe to Joe, maybe to Chicago, maybe to New York.

Jade Walker was powerful in the paint, but she's got to stop expecting that the foul is going to be called in her favor. It's not, Jade. You're never going to get the call, even when they knock you over as blatantly as they do. Stop acting like you're going to get the call and stop letting it get to you. Do you, go strong to the basket, hit those sweet jumpers, and crash the boards. I'm not sure what was up with Imani Littleton, but I agree with Joe's decision not to play her a lot. She had opportunities in the paint and blew them, and really seemed to have checked out of the game mentally. I know this time of year is rough for a kid from San Diego, but you chose this, Imani.

The fourth quarter was not what I would call a fabulous display of basketball from either team. Wagner was playing back to avoid running out of players, and St. John's was playing back because of the lead, and there were stretches where no one seemed to be too terribly interested in the outcome of the play. (Oddly enough, Maya was the biggest offender during this stretch. Maya - intensity = confused blogger.)

There were stretches when it looked like the officials were looking for excuses not to call fouls on Wagner to avoid the situation of running out of players. That was part of why Jade was in her feelings.

Cheer camp was today, and the kids were adorable and well-taught, and the parents were well-behaved. I approve.

Pants do not go on over a skirt. Please take apparel into consideration before picking dress-and-dribble contestants.

We won, and it's on to the day game against James Madison. Hi, Ashley!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have cookies to make. The office bake-off is on Monday.