Thursday, January 18, 2018

January 18th, 2018: Iona at Manhattan

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona staged a 17-point comeback in the second half, but it wasn't enough, as Manhattan came away with the home win 67-63. Taylor Williams had a game-high 18 points for the Jaspers, while Kayla Grimme notched a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Alexis Lewis tallied 19 points for Iona.

For country music, the courage of one's convictions, team colors, finding friends, WTF face, ballistic freshmen, dissonance, and fast breaks, join your intrepid and stardust-laden blogger after the jump.

Whether they want me around or not, I'm determined to love the hell out of Iona, at least through the end of Treyanna Clay and Alexis Lewis's careers. I still believe in Phee and Phee still believes in them. This is why I'm sitting in a Five Guys somewhere between the Upper West Side and Harlem, typing up pregame notes before I hie me to Manhattan for some MAAC magic. (Can't call it MAACtion. The Mid-American Conference might get upset. And I like them.)

Granted, I am also hieing me the long way around because I want to put some distance on my 10K eggs in anticipation of the Pokémon Go double XP event on Saturday and because I need to grind stardust, but there's no reason I can't multi-task, right? I get to have the spiritual superiority of having caught a Kyogre before the difficulty nerf, and yet have the chance to get more before month's end. Today is so far a good day.

Getting to Manhattan was a little more complicated than usual, and I did have to abandon the bus plan midway through. One of the elevators at Manhattan is broken, which led to a couple of flights of stairs, but let's be honest, I could probably use the extra cardio.

Unfortunately, I didn't get in in time to determine which bench is which, and I don't remember from the Fordham game. Well, if I'm on the wrong side, I'll move over, but the team just came out and the staff seem to be on this side.

Shoutout to whoever's picking the music for the game, because they are rocking out. "Superstition" and "Centuries" in the same mix will make me a very happy blogger. And we've just segued into "You're Unbelievable".

Tori Lesko is still in a boot. Poor Tori. I do believe that's part of how we've lost our way; she's the closest thing we have to a leader on this roster, but she's the kind of leader who has to be on the floor to be at her most effective.

I don't know if Manhattan ran out of ticket paper or if that's just how they roll, but my ticket was printed out on paper with a bar code. Whatever floats your boat.

There are a surprising number of people here, or maybe it just seems that way because the kids around me haven't run out of energy yet. There's an awful lot of running to do, indeed.

Anthem singer didn't quite have the voice for what she wanted to do. (Also, I'm proud to report that Ashley Martin kneels on the road as well. I love seeing young people with the courage of their convictions.)

This could be worse than it is. It's 33-28 Manhattan at halftime. Alexis Lewis has 13 for the Gaels, with Jayden Eggleston adding eight. Gabby Cajou has seven to lead the balanced Jaspers attack. Their drive and dish to the corner has been exceptional tonight, and we'll see if Iona can adjust at the half.

Even the Boys and Girls Club biddy game is themed to this game, with "Iona" and "Manhattan" teams.

Manhattan's band has a very jazzy sound to it. Pleasant but not exactly inspiring. And St. John's does "Chelsea Dagger" better by light-years.

The student section is very full but has mostly been very quiet.

Ran into DSPN. I guess my secret's out, inasmuch as it was going to be a secret.

If I'm reading the end of the sequence correctly, drummer got so enthusiastic that one of the Iona family folks had to go get his drumstick.

All I want out of life is a good wi-fi connection. Is that so hard to ask of schools? Just set up a good guest network and let me pull up Twitter and the scoreboard.

I think I have sacrificed one of my Iona pom-poms forever, but it's for a good cause. One of the Manhattan band kids thought she was being slick offering Ashley's baby brother a Manhattan-colored pom-pom. Well, we couldn't be having with that, and Ashley's mom agreed. Don't worry; I have another one and a rally towel. (As it turned out, Jackie returned it after the game; she has plenty more at home, but she just needed to make sure her son didn't get attached to the wrong color. Truly, she's raising them up right.)

We fought the good fight. That's our motto. That's who we are. That's what we do. We made Manhattan flinch. Moral victories don't go in the record book, but they go a long way towards getting the ones that do. I keep getting "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" stuck in my head, but it's more about finding out who you are when the deficit keeps growing and the shots don't fall.

I'm very glad that Ashley Martin's family finally got to see her take the floor for the first time in what seems like forever, but perhaps throwing her directly at Amani Tatum went past "baptism by fire" straight into "baptism in Mount Doom". She wasn't ready for that. Better players have been not ready for that. I don't know what Amelia Motz did, or didn't do, to get thrown in the doghouse as thoroughly as she was in this game, though she was eminently forgettable in the minutes she did play. Tilasha Okey-Williams, to me, indicates that Coach Chambers is starting to panic and needs someone who's willing to shoot without hesitation alongside Lexi. She's the desperation move, the panic button made flesh. That sounds like a terrible thing to say about a person, now that I put it in written form, but it's more a statement about her role than about her personally.

I'm starting to think I understand why Alexis Lewis has been consigned to the bench. Yes, she's electric offensively, but she's inconsistent and she's streaky. I'm also starting to think that Lex has decided that the playbook is not relevant to her interests- it looked a couple of times like she was ignoring the play call and taking it herself. I sort of understand the urge, but I also understand why the coach might object and act accordingly. Kristin Mahoney, for a senior and a point guard, has a lot of trouble finding open players, especially when inbounding the ball. She really looks like she's going to freak out if she doesn't have someone by the two-second mark. (At the same time, if you have a choice between two equally mediocre point guards, all things being equal you should probably start the senior. Your only senior. Since you chased off the other one.)

(Yes, I'm going to harp on the Phee thing until someone gives me a good reason not to.)

Adrienne DiGioia is not yet ready to ride this ride. Her vision isn't there, her handle isn't there, and she doesn't have the gravitas to drag the team with her. Manhattan pressed her, and she either coughed up the ball or attempted to pass to people who were guarded by Kayla Grimme. Do not attempt to pass the ball to people who are being fronted by Kayla Grimme. Toyosi Abiola really, really needs to work on her handle Being one of the fastest people on the floor does you little good if you don't bring the ball with you. She also seemed lost on the floor- there were a couple of sequences where pretty much everyone in maroon was yelling at her where to go. I know, I know, she's a freshman, and freshmen are sort of clueless, but she either isn't picking up new schemes quickly or still hasn't quite picked up the old ones.

I love everything about Treyanna Clay's WTF face except the things that cause her to make it. She got tagged with some touch fouls that limited her minutes in the second and third quarters. I though Coach Chambers handled her foul trouble well in the fourth with good subs. She's moving better than she was the last time I saw Iona, which I consider to be a good sign. I'm not the world's biggest fan of her taking deep perimeter shots except when they go in. I was much more hyped about the slick backdoor cut as part of the fourth quarter run. Rebekah Justice is a big girl, and if she can adjust to the pace of the college game and maybe convert more of that mass into muscle, she can be a major presence for us on the inside. There were moments when she was going head to head with Grimme and holding her own on the glass, but they were only moments. This was probably the strongest game I've seen out of Jayden Eggleston- not just the best, though it certainly was that, but the one where she went most confidently to the basket and got buckets. She was fantastic tonight, and for the first time I was genuinely impressed with her. If we can get more of that out of her this season, we're not going to drop the table. Keep going to the hoop, Jayden! Take that away from this game!

I think Coach Chambers's interpersonal skills leave a lot to be desired, but I was impressed with some of her tactics in this game. She managed minutes well and rode the hot hand (which is why Alexis Lewis started the second half over Rebekah Justice).

Dear Manhattan: if you're going to play people with diacritical marks in their names, could you make sure you play them enough minutes to be worth writing about? My keyboard isn't equipped to write about Julie Høier. She gave them a couple of brief minutes, as did KellyAnne O'Reilly, whose primary function seems to be annoying the hell out of the ballhandler for one play per game on the baseline. Alex Smith is an absolute load in the middle, and not a particularly mobile one. We were able to get around her enough that Coach Vulin decided she wasn't worth the risk and sat her down. If she had anything that remotely resembled stamina... well, let's be honest, she'd probably still be at Middle Tennessee.

(My dude. You are not supposed to smoke on the train. This... is not complicated. There's a pictogram and everything. Yes, it bothers me. At least he put it out when he noticed me holding my nose, because smoke and I are not friends, but dude. You are not supposed to smoke anything on the train.)

Sini Mäkelä got looks for three from the corner and hit them. She's a spot shooter. It's who she is. It's what she does. Her teammates get her open and she hits shots. Mikki Guiton had an absolutely perfect screen wasted by a missed open Cajou jumper. I mean, c'mon, Fun Size Moriah Jefferson, you get that much open space from a screen, it's your responsibility to hit that shot and make your post player feel good about it. I'd say Guiton gives them more of a perimeter game, but Grimme's no slouch there herself. Gabby Cajou is very, very fast. She probably stripped the ball while you were reading this sentence. You didn't think I was comparing her to Jefferson just because she looks like a smaller version of her, did you? She's a different kind of offensive player, but she has a nice balance of drives and jumpers, and she's a nightmare in transition.

Amani Tatum is very intense and a little bit terrifying. She goes after everything with everything that has to offer, and that makes her one of the most dangerous players on the floor. Her shots weren't falling, but she more than made up for it on the defensive end, igniting the fast break with steals and either taking it to the basket herself or dishing it ahead. After those two missed free throws left the door open for Iona, I'm pretty sure she's either already back in the gym at the line, or she's going to be at the earliest possible moment; she strikes me as that kind of "no imperfections allowed" player. (Like I said, very intense and a little bit terrifying.) Lizahya Morgan is tiny and a little bit cute, and when Coach Vulin runs her in the backcourt with Cajou, there is too much tiny for me to handle. I think I see what her coach might see in her potential-wise, but I think I'd still take Cajou over her. Taylor Williams was hitting three-pointers all over the place (but not from "way" downtown like the PA guy was enthusing; bro, she was barely behind the line on that one). She's tough, I have to grant her that.

Kayla Grimme was impressive today. She got into position in the paint for rebounds, and no one was getting them away from her. We don't really have anyone who can compete with her in terms of size, but that's not to diminish the numbers she put up. Having a big body doesn't mean you know how to use it. See above regarding Alex Smith, or two and a half years of me yelling at Karynda DuPree. We attempted to drive on her. This did not end well. We sent her to the line. This did not end well- she has a surprisingly nice stroke from the line for a post player. She's big for them in every way she can be. Courtney Warley brought a lot of energy on the glass, deflecting sure offensive rebounds for the Gaels and keeping Jasper possessions alive. She's toned down some of her wildness from the early part of the season.

Manhattan did two things really well on offense tonight: drive and dish for the three, or get the steal and run the fast break. Setting things up other than that didn't go well for them, but they really didn't need too much other than that.

Jayden should really go apologize to the Manhattan dance team for crashing into them like that. It looked like one of the dancers took a really hard fall (and Jayden may have given her an additional shove, whether intentionally or not- that looked rough). Play nice with the people on the sidelines, Jayden.

Officiating was more or less okay. They were lax on travels and a little too harsh on touch fouls, in my opinion.

If you're going to fill the student section, fill it with people who'll actually start making noise before the 19-point lead kicks into place. That was pathetic for stretches. It's not like there were even that many Iona people to out-yell. I mean, at least put some effort into it. (As an aside, the listed attendance actually looks low; I wonder if Manhattan didn't count comp tickets or something. I was impressed with the size of the crowd.)

I don't know if this Iona team has the moxie to match them, but this year reminds me so much of the step back St. John's took after the 2006 tournament bid- a lot of freshmen, a couple of upperclassmen, the inexplicable loss of a team leader, key injuries at all the wrong times. 2006-07 wasn't easy in Jamaica. But you find out who you are in times like these. You find out who has the mettle and who has the ability to lead even as an underclassman. You find out who can't deal with the losing. You find out who's going to bend and who's going to snap.

This too shall pass, Gaels. In the meantime, we fight the good fight, because that's what we do.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January 15th, 2018: Mount St. Mary's at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Strong defense in the clutch helped LIU hold off Mount St. Mary's, 53-48. DeAngelique Waithe had 17 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks to spearhead the Blackbirds' attack. Juliette Lawless had 13 points and nine rebounds to lead the Mountaineers in the loss.

For totally being a responsible adult, returning basketball to sender, post players breaking ankles, mean mugging the opponent to sleep, RedBullRedBullRedBull, and signs, join your intrepid and introspective blogger after the jump.

I have already adulted responsibly today. My mom had cataract surgery and I escorted her there and back again, carried her stuff, dropped off her laundry, and picked up her dry cleaning. So I feel no guilt in taking the R train back towards Manhattan three stops and going to LIU's game against Mount St. Mary's.

That is one big Mount on the Mountaineers' jerseys. I mean, dang.

Band anthems are almost always the best anthems.

At halftime, LIU is up 27-20. My most favorite DeAngelique Waithe is playing like she wants to get real paid, with 11 points and some monster blocks. Scoring is rather more scattered for the Mount, with Daly Sullivan's two long threes leading the way.

Bad news is that Jeydah Johnson is almost certainly concussed. She was on the bench with a towel over her head and her hands over her ears for the longest time, and she had to leave the bench for a while, though she's emerged about two minutes before the start of the third quarter. If she can't go- and from here I'd be very surprised if she even tried to give it a go- I don't know if we have the depth to hold anyone off, even a team as sloppy as Mount St. Mary's has been.

Well, so much for that theory. No, this is a good thing. Jeydah stayed on the bench the whole time (which is actually comforting, given the light/sound sensitivity it looked like she was showing in the immediate aftermath of the scrum) and we immediately got into major foul trouble, so Coach Del Preore had to go rather deeper into her bench for longer than I think she wanted to, and the reserves answered the bell.

Hunter Rowson entered the game for the Mountaineers in the first half, after a timeout, so it took a moment to recognize that she was in in the first place. I think we got into her head during the free throws she took. I'm okay with that. That's part of my job. Bridget Birkhead was mostly set up outside, but with her lack of scoring, she didn't leave much of an impression.

Rebecca Lee is a fairly big center for the NEC. She grabbed a couple of nice boards early. I felt really bad about trying to disconcert a fellow member of the sisterhood when she went to the line in the first half, but it's about the name on the front, not the name on the back, as it were. (I'm protective of my fellow Rebeccas. It comes from not having met another one in the flesh for the first nine years of my life. I thought we were all fictional!) Jatarrikah Settle played the bulk of the minutes off the bench for the Mount. She's got a nice jump shot and some good moves in the lane. I think she'll be good for them in a couple of years, and I think that's why she's coming off the bench now- she still seems to have a lot to learn.

Juliette Lawless did not make herself popular with the swinging elbows, but I have to admire her coast-to-coast drives. Shaky ballhandling along the edges of the court got her in a lot of trouble and caused LIU to strip her of the ball. She forces a lot of contact, and I guess I should respect that. (It just annoys me when officials go on long stretches of calls one way or another. But we'll get to that later.) Caroline Hummell has a surprisingly nice outside shot for a big center, but her hands were a hot hard mess. Lots of passes and deflections bouncing off them, which meant that loose balls occurred, which meant that LIU came out of a lot of scrums with the ball. I'd have to look at the play-by-play to see if it was her shots or Lawless's shots that Angel was sending back to Maryland the hard way.

Katrice Dickson needs to work on her footwork. Refs didn't catch it often, but she was walking all over the place- there was one drive where she scored after two fairly blatant travels. There's something about her I like, but I can't put my finger on it. I'd have to watch them again to see if she was doing the leadership type stuff that's usually why a player catches my eye for non-statistical reasons. Daly Sullivan's shot is aesthetically pleasing, with a high, high arc. When it goes down, it's nothing but net, but from where I was sitting, I don't know how anyone can read the arc to see where it's going to bounce when she misses. Those were some tough rebounds. She was a bit physical on defense, and I was surprised the Mount's coach left her to defend the ballhandler late in the game after her fourth foul, in what seemed to be an intentional foul situation. I guess they'd already conceded at that point. Kayla Agentowicz has an awesome last name that gives rise to all kinds of "ex-spy who has no idea how to live in the real world" story ideas. She also has no fear of shooting the three. She hit one late that put the game close, but was mostly ineffective.

Paris Jones is back in action, and not a moment too soon! I think this is the first time I've seen her play in over a year, and she definitely looks like she's still trying to figure out where she belongs on the floor at times. But it was good to see her be assertive on offense, and she hustled hardcore in the fourth quarter to hold off Mount St. Mary's when they went on a run to close within one possession in the final minutes. Seneca Richards canned back to back corner threes to extend the lead in the third, and was called on for a lot of defensive work that I don't think she's used to. We needed her height and her reach, and she did what we needed her to do. Tia Montagne's shot continues to be highly unpredictable, and she needs to be more assertive as a point guard- she spent a lot of time looking for someone to give the ball to to make decisions instead of initiating herself. I mean, I'm a Libra, I get being indecisive and wanting someone else to make choices, but if part of your job description is to make choices, do it.

Destoni Willock didn't play much- her seconds were super brief at the end of the third quarter, just to give the starters a little bit of a rest at a meaningless stop. Ella Vaatanen looked a little overmatched, especially on defense. She was very much not ready for this. That happens with freshmen.

I think DeAngelique Waithe wants to get real paid in Europe, because she's been playing the best ball I've seen out of her in a long time, and it is glorious. I hope if she ever hears me use the phrase "demented spider" that she understands it's a compliment. Those long arms of hers are up in everyone's business, everywhere, every time. Her read on rebounds, always strong, has been fantastic the last few times I've seen her. She's scoring at the rim. She's rejecting shots with authority. She's also getting called for a lot of travels, but if she's in Europe that might not be a problem. She's been fantastic and I just love her to pieces, and I have no qualms about being biased about her. Stylz Sanders does not match up well against really big centers. We had her defending all over the court today, both inside and out, and I think we were asking more of her than she was able to give. That all being said, watching her on the floor, communicating on offense and bringing the team in during stoppages, I'm starting to think she'll make a really good coach if that's the direction she wants to take her life. I guess when you're a 5-9 power forward, you have to learn a lot more about reads, angles, and positioning than the average power forward.

I swear to the sweet suffering hypothetical nine-pound twelve-ounce reason-for-the-season baby Jesus, if Denisha Petty-Evans doesn't figure out how to follow her shot I'm going to end up popping a blood vessel before the end of the season. Her shot's not that great. Her percentages aren't that great. It's great when the shot goes in, but if it doesn't, you've pretty much either given up a fast break to the opposing team or Angel has to put in double work to keep the ball. She's taken a step back from the start of the season, and that makes me sad. Jeydah Johnson hustled after loose balls, which was what led to her being in the scrum that got her hit in the head. I didn't actually see what happened, only what she looked like after she was subbed out of the game, and it didn't look good. Poor Jeydah. :( Drew Winter started the game like she'd chugged three Red Bulls and an energy shot- fast-moving, jittery, and fired up. She had a lot of trouble getting the ball inbounds today, though I couldn't tell you if it was because she couldn't see through the Mountaineer defense or because her teammates weren't coming to the ball. It's distinctly possible it was a combination of both. Her concentration started to slip in the second half, to the point where Coach was putting in Paris or Seneca for her.

There were a lot of great connective plays, for lack of my brain actually creating coherent words today. LIU's box scores don't have a place for team rebounds, but I think there were quite a few rebounds one would characterize as "team", where one player (usually DeAngelique) deflected it over to another Blackbird (usually Drew, though Jeydah and Paris both got in on the action). There were multi-player defensive sequences that were a joy to behold. They look like they're starting to gel (or is it jell in this context?) and I am inordinately proud of them.

Officiating was the usual NEC hot mess. A lot of things went uncalled on both teams. I couldn't tell you why the Mount's coach got her tech, though I'm going to guess she used strong language, given how thoroughly Stephanie was haranguing the refs about the non-calls on the baseline. (Seriously. Y'all have got to stop knocking Stylz out of bounds like that. It's not fair and it's not nice.) I think it's nervy of a coach to complain about calls when there was a stretch where the fouls were 6-0 LIU, but I'm just a fan in the stands.

Trying to beat the line at the concession stand doesn't work when the concessionaire has neither the food you want to buy nor enough change to take the money you have. Had to wait until halftime, but worth it. I needed the caffeine and I needed the liquid.

I really hope this team really is hitting its stride. They seem like really nice kids and I want all kinds of wonderful things for them.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

January 14th, 2018: Villanova at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Clutch shooting in the fourth quarter helped St. John's take down Villanova, 70-64. Maya Singleton's 16-point, 11-rebound, five-assist effort led four Johnnies in double figures. Kelly Jekot's 16 points led the Wildcats.

For an entire spectrum of Philadelphians, team effort, diplomatic negotiations, chasing loose balls, and forward momentum, join your intrepid and territorial blogger after the jump.

PSA: it is still cold. Hopefully this will extend to Villanova's shooting and not ours.

Flying solo for St. John's games is the worst- husband has to go play nice with Seton Hall, thanks to the Awkward Bowl next week.

Sky Lindsay always manages to be the suavest person in the room.

Why is it always Villanova fans who don't understand the concept of which bench is which? They're worse than Notre Dame fans and just as bad as UConn fans, I swear.

(Also, should I be weirded out that there are three second-generation players on Villanova? Dude, you might want to think outside the alumnae network.)

There's an AAU (or maybe Jr. WNBA?) team with the Stars logo, and it's kind of cute and kind of sad at the same time.

Note to self: must ask Alisha and Sox if all Philadelphians are this bad at taking hints, or if it's just these doofuses. The sad part is that the youngest person in the group is the only one with some common sense- kid settled himself center court. I applaud his enthusiasm.

Our regular PA announcer has been out the last two games. This guy doesn't have enough resonance for the job.

Oh, FFS, you don't use the home team's sign-making material to make big bright signs for the visiting team. I've already been reduced to just this side of swearing and it's still 20 minutes before tip. At least the people in front of me got the hint and moved center court. Go away, Villanova. Just... go away. If there's one thing I've internalized from one of my best friends being a UConn fan I met in 2002, it's a bone-deep loathing of Villanova.

I love my band people, but if y'all can't keep track of where you are in "The Pretender", please don't perform it.

At halftime, it's 29-25 St. John's. Miss Maya has 10 points to lead the Red Storm. Alex Louin has nine for Villanova. This crew seems overly fond of her hair dye.

Credit where credit is due: I think about half a dozen Villanova students decided to do the men's-women's weekend in New York. I complain enough about people not showing up for both teams, I suppose I shouldn't complain when they do. Personal annoyances shouldn't make me a hypocrite.

This halftime CYO game has been surprisingly good. Some really fun plays. One of these kids has some serious game, though she doesn't seem to have a jumper yet.

Great team win. We beat a good 'Nova team that, while they didn't have their big guns working, did get a lot of hustle plays from their utility players. Team effort is the best effort.

Efficient use of personnel by Villanova- send in the deep reserves at the end of the bench to absorb fouls and protect the big guns from picking up cheap fouls or fluke injuries late in the game. That seemd to be the sole role for Raven James and Cameron Onken. (I think Perretta also got Brianna Herlihy up briefly to play that role, but changed his mind at the last minute.) It's not the craziest idea in the world if you're already down. If nothing else, you can see how well the kids take direction. Bridget Herlihy got some run in the first half, and I seem to remember her hanging out down low, but she made some mistakes with the ball, and her coach did not look happy with her when she went back to the bench. In that context, I can understand why he didn't go back to her in the second half.

Grace Stant seemed to be a go-to reserve for immediate substitution in the forward area, but contributed very little. The Wildcats got excellent minutes out of Mary Gedaka, who seems to have thrown her name in the ring to join the Rebounding Rumble Royale against G'mrice, Angel, and Maya. She got phenomenal reads off missed shots, racing in from deep on the perimeter to claim offensive rebounds. She took contact and got free throws. She did a nice job cutting into the lane for shots, though I'm not sure how much of that was her first step and how much of it was our defense doing dubious work in the paint.

(As it turns out, the people who were being relentlessly clueless were her family. They did all eventually move, which is good. I don't like yelling directly in people's ears, believe it or not.)

I don't know if our defense wasn't ready for Kelly Jekot, or if we were just having collective brain farts when it came to her, or if she really is that fast and that sneaky. But she came in like a wrecking ball in the lane and we got out of the way like she had raised the staff of Moses. Her handle was shaky, though, and we were able to exploit that. We stuck close on Adrianna Hahn most of the night, and while she was able to get off some shots, creating space for herself with fancy dribbling and speed, she wasn't the dynamic offensive force I've seen her be. Alex Louin's shot continues to be extremely funky- she looks like she's trying to emulate Pennefather without remembering that Pennefather was double-jointed. She ends up with a weird hitch that wrecks her follow-through and sends the ball to the corners of the rim, where strange things happen. She's big and physical for a guard, which isn't a fun time when trying to defend her with smaller players and sort of makes me cross-eyed when trying to defend her with the most immobile player on the floor. (Sorry, Imani. But you kind of were.)

Megan Quinn was big, and slower than I remembered. She lumbered along the baseline and didn't seem to have any offensive inclination whatsoever. I seem to remember her occasionally having a three-point shot, but she showed no indication of wanting to use it. Even the things she did well went to waste- she had a great screen to open up Hahn for a three in the early going, but Hahn missed the shot. Jannah Tucker is long and smooth, and I keep saying I don't remember her being a three-point shooter, but at some point I rather think I should. But I don't think she got the angles she wanted.

Villanova was uncharacteristically sloppy today. Usually they're sound on simple fundamentals like passing and dribbling, but today they were careless with the ball. And I don't think burning their timeouts fairly early in the fourth quarter helped. I was surprised they were going with the quick-two-and-foul strategy, given how well known they are for shooting threes.

I love Tamesha Alexander as a person to itty-bitty pieces, but I was not the world's biggest fan of putting her in the game in the first half. (A lot of other people probably were- she was very popular after the game.) She wasn't able to keep up with the speed of the Villanova offense, a phrase I can't believe I actually typed, and was pulled pretty quickly. I'm still not a fan of the Andrayah-at-the-four lineup, but I've been impressed with her rebounding prowess. She plays tough. I like her better as an offensive threat, though, hitting from deep and in the lane. Akina Wellere still looks like she's getting back into the swing of things, but that's fine. At the very least, it's far more survivable than I thought it was. If we all step up together, there's nothing we can't do, at least within reasonable limits.

Qadashah Hoppie was clutch today. She hit gutsy shots in the fourth quarter, and her defense on Hahn was critical to our success. She stayed close and never really let her shake loose. That's a lot to ask from a freshman, even one as good as she is, and she answered the bell. Tiana England went out of the playbook a fair bit, judging from Joe's reactions on the bench, but this time it worked better than it did against Georgetown. She had a nice steal off a deflection in the second quarter. I hope she keeps playing with this kind of confidence. Alisha Kebbe was fierce on the glass and going after loose balls. She stepped up big to seal the deal with two buckets late in the fourth quarter.

Maya Singleton continues to do Maya things, whether it's tracking down loose balls and rebounds like she's got radar, hitting shots down low, taking and receiving contact, or, yes, dramatically exaggerating the contact to attempt to draw a foul. (Maya, dear, many Big East schools sponsor diving, but so far as I know St. John's is not one of them.) I do love her toughness. She's our double-double machine and she powers so much of what we do inside. Villanova made their big runs when she was on the bench. Imani Littleton was really stiff in this game- Gedaka was eating her lunch inside. I don't think she's ever really recovered from the torn ACL, but she's been a trooper through it. I think this highlights the problem in our recruiting- we don't have enough post players and Joe doesn't trust the ones we have. I really don't know what we're going to do next year.

This was a great team effort. Everyone stepped up and did their job. I love that kind of work from the team, when you're not sure who to single out for their game.

Officiating was reasonably balanced, which is to say both sides were screaming about calls and non-calls. Villanova should probably have had a couple of three-shot fouls given to them- we have got to be more careful about hitting people on the follow-through.

It's really hard to get noise going without the dance team. One of these off-seasons I'm going to put together play cards for the cheer squad so we can get coordinated. I really wish we could get them started sooner.

Today was another round of autographs. It went pretty quickly. I was reminded just how gosh darn likeable Sox is. Some folks are friendly, but she's especially outgoing. She wears Sky's number, and I get the feeling the two of them would get on really well.

Next up: Awkward Bowl at Walsh! Happy fun times for your intrepid blogger and her stalwart husband. Early reports are that getting there is going to be a whole new level of pain in the butt, not even considering that it's, well, Awkward Bowl.


Friday, January 12, 2018

January 12th, 2018: Georgetown at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A game of first half runs turned into a runaway for St. John's, as the Red Storm took out Georgetown 64-41. Qadashah Hoppie had 12 of her 15 points in the first half to set the tone for St. John's and lead four Red Storm players in double figures. Dionna White had 16 points to lead the Hoyas.

For chippiness, a boring bus, cheering on the deep bench, an exchange of pleasantries, and rising above the muck, join your intrepid and foggy blogger after the jump.

Hello on this ever so foggy Friday night in the heart of Queens! It's Georgetown. It's St. John's. It's... about two dozen people in the seats if you don't include the band. I counted. I know it's about twenty minutes before tip and it's Friday night after work, but still. We're into the 30s now, I think.

Good news! Akina Wellere is dressed! We'll see if she's ready to go or of this is an "in case of emergency break glass" move, but after how bad she looked to be injured last time out.

Welp. Crew just came out, and we've got Enterline. And the four Georgetown captains and the ref crew sure looked like they were trying to freeze out Maya. This will surely not end badly.

Jumpman needs to let the Re2pect thing go already. It sort of made sense for Michigan because he's from Michigan and almost went to the school. But c'mon, Hoyas. Find someone else's coattails to ride on.

Andrayah, put a shirt on, you're making me cold.

Now that Shenneika's fully embraced the dapper look, she's working it, bowtie and all.

Substitute announcer. Dubious on pronunciations.

Not a terrible anthem. Styled after the Irish tenors and the hockey singers.

At halftime, it's 33-18 St. John's. Georgetown closed within 20-18 on a 14-something run, to which St. John's said, "LOL U FUNNY" and went on a big run. Qadashah Hoppie has been the sparkplug in the second quarter, with 12 points.

Play of the night- loose ball scrum, shot clock running down, either Akina or Alisha gets the ball up and out to Tiana England with two seconds on the shot clock. Tiana touch-passes it over to Qadashah Hoppie for the three to beat the shot clock buzzer (here via Twitter, I love having wi-fi!). Q's been clutch in this game, whether it's beating the buzzer or drawing fouls from people who who should know better. I'm going to guess DiDi Burton did not watch Tennessee-Texas A&M last night. Dionna White's the live-or-die player for Georgetown tonight, with 10 points but some boneheaded turnovers.

I don't actually know what DiDi Burton was doing last night, but it seemed to involve losing her mind, as the foul on the three-pointer and the ejection during the brawl would indicate. (Well, brawl might be an overstatement. Scuffle, maybe? I've always preferred the euphemistic "exchange of pleasantries" myself.

I expected better from Georgetown. I'm used to the physical play and the defensive play, and I'm even used to them having spurts of offensive ineptitude. But this game seemed to bring out all the worst the Hoyas had to offer, and I don't think it's just the viciousness of the schools' rivalry.

Breonna Mayfield played for a stretch in the first half, a big body taking up space inside. Honestly, she was more effective from the bench, as one of the loudest voices in their endless chanting of "DE-FENSE!" (I have a problem with them being quite so loud, and I think the cheerleaders did too. But we'll get to that later.) Tatiana Thompson is pretty much the opposite of everything the rest of Georgetown's guards are- stocky, slow, and not very mobile on defense. I'm a little confused as to how she ended up as a Hoya, all things considered. She's got a decent-looking shot, so it's not that that I'm questioning. Morgan Smith ran her mouth a bit after a foul call went against her, which I thought was rich- besides, trying to trash-talk a Philly kid like Alisha Kebbe is probably not a good plan. (Given that Alisha went to Neumann-Goretti and was around the same time as the kids who had the smear campaign run against them, she's probably heard worse than I want to think about anyone yelling at a high school kid.)

Mikayla Venson is quick with the ball, quick on her shot, quick on defense- just lightning quick all over the floor. I think I'd enjoy watching her more if she didn't play against my team. There's a bit of a chip on her shoulder, a bit of swagger in her step- she reminds me of the guard from Manhattan, Amani Tatum. She didn't back up the swagger quite as much as Tatum did in the Fordham game, but she's got the game to back it up a bit. I'm not sure if she's usually a starter or not. I expected a lot more from DiDi Burton, but while she brought some of the old intensity on defense, her head was not in the game. I don't know why she involved herself in the exchange between White and Maya. There's a story there, methinks. Dionna White is damn quick, and her shot is really nice. She made some slick defensive plays, never letting up on the ball. But her quickness cost Georgetown almost as much as it gained them- she gambled a lot on the ball and got burned, and she was careless leading to turnovers. She's got to keep her head in the game if she's going to be a big part of Georgetown's season.

Yazmine Belk is a load in the middle, able to simply power her way to offensive rebounds. If she could put back the looks she got at the basket, this game might have had a different complexion. She sets screens well for her teammates- there were a couple of beautiful open looks from deep that she created the space for. Cynthia Petke was part of the extremely persistent and insistent Georgetown defense. I don't know if I'd call it a press per se, but it was very close and very intense. There was a shot she missed that I'm pretty sure she would have made if she hadn't changed the angle of her arm to put her upper arm into the Red Storm defender.

One of the things I was favorably impressed with from the Hoyas was their screen awareness on both sides of the court. They set beautiful screens for their shooters and did a really good job of getting around the screens set by St. John's. I don't know if they were calling them out well or if that's a point of emphasis for them.

That all being said, it is crass to make enough noise that you're drowning out the cheerleaders on your side, and it would certainly be highly inappropriate to disconcert the shooter from the bench. I can't say for certain that the well-timed disruptive noises were coming from people on the Hoyas' bench or behind it, but it sounded pretty close to the bench.

I don't know what our starters were more hyped about, the three by Shamachya Duncan or the assist by Tamesha Alexander. The family ties with Qadashah and Shamachya definitely intensify the celebrations, though. It's always nice to see Sox and Machi get a little time on the floor. They're good kids. Kayla Charles, I thought, rebounded well, though I think she lost credit for a couple of rebounds by turning them into deflections to teammates. She made some freshman mistakes, and I think Joe was too short on the leash for her. She's got to learn somehow, Joe; did you have any better suggestions than harsh experience?

I'm so glad to see Akina Wellere back in action. She's not 100%- I don't think she's getting the lift out of that ankle that she would like to get- but she's a threat even when she's not fully healthy, and I’m just so relieved she's back. It felt good to see her going to the basket. Mobility is probably going to be an issue against Villanova and possibly at the Awkward Bowl. Andrayah Adams has adjusted surprisingly well to being called on as a power forward. Her rebounding has been very good, she's making some good defensive plays, and she's still stretching out the opposing defense with the long ball. She still has moments where you can see Joe resisting the urge to face-palm in public, though.

Tiana England seemed to be going off the playbook quite a bit, and while it worked sometimes, it did not work all the time. When it didn't work, and sometimes even when it did, Joe looked furious; after one ill-advised shot in the lane, he yelled, "Run the play!" She has panache, and she has a good passing eye, but I don't know if she's as ready to go off-script as she thinks she is, and I'm not impressed so far with her mastery of the point guard position. I recognize that she's a freshman, and many stranger things have changed with freshmen. I just don't know if she and Joe are ever going to be on the same page. Qadashah Hoppie had dubious ballhandling under pressure, and boy howdy did Georgetown bring the pressure. But she got her points in big moments in the first half. (No matter what our point guards think, she's not quite Aliyyah Handford with the ups and I don't think she can pull off the Jewelly-oop, even if we do try.) I sense many years of elation and frustration wound together around each other with her. Alisha Kebbe hit the deck for loose balls and did work on the glass. She was reading angles and driving Georgetown mad. I love the work she was putting in. One of the best games she's had all year, and certainly one of the most complete.

Imani Littleton is entirely too young to have to be worrying about this, but she was moving very stiffly today and had a lot of trouble going for loose balls on the floor (she tried, but by the fourth quarter I wasn't sure she'd be able to get back up if she dove). And she does have the ACL history, and it was damp as a mofo out there. I knew Georgetown was bad news when they had her visibly riled up, because Imani doesn't get riled up all that easily. She did a lot of work today- not all of it the kind of thing that will end up in box scores, though the monster block on Thompson and the block on Venson certainly did. She made loose balls happen, even if she couldn't go for them herself, and was our anchor down low on defense. Maya Singleton started out the game rebounding like her rear was on fire. The second foul got her out of her rhythm a little bit, and I think the lack of calls for all the contact she was taking started to get to her in the second half, culminating in the loose ball that turned into a bit of a scuffle with White. A source I trust tells me that Maya did in fact start it, but I'd believe she was provoked. She got more aggressive offensively in the second half, like she was taking it personally. I'm not sure the short braids are working for her, though, and yes, that is an observation of dubious merit.

We've got to do a better job communicating on the floor. That being said, the hustle was incredible and the number of big-time plays was impressive. There were stretches when it felt like we were playing 5-on-8, and we used it as fuel. Admittedly, sometimes we used it as the wrong kind of fuel.

I did not expect better from Bryan Enterline. I did, however, expect better from Eric Brewton. These refs were a mess from beginning to end. Blowing the whistle a good five seconds after the play you're claiming the foul was committed on, when the next possession has pretty much started and almost everyone is at the other end of the floor? Really? They did call the worst of the contact, and they did manage/ to end the exchange of pleasantries before anything stupider than Burton jumping in off the bench could happen, but I still think that the way they called that game allowed the situation to degenerate to that point.

I still can't get over the terrible pun in the contest to win Netflix. They play Johnny Cash to win Johnny cash.

Georgetown-Villanova may be the strangest pod to prepare for. You go from a faster-paced defensive style to a slower offensive style. So I don't know how much this game says about us going forward. We've got to keep our heads in the game and not let other people in them, though. (And given my fondness for Seton Hall, I don't envy them that task on Sunday, either.)


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January 10th, 2018: Davidson at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Rams held off a last minute Davidson charge to take the win, 66-58. Bre Cavanaugh led all scorers with 20 points, while G'mrice Davis fought her way to another double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Mackenzie Latt and Justine Lyon each had 13 to lead the Wildcats.

For the non-fuzzy kind of Kiwis, dubious officiating, doing the wrong thing badly, shameless bias, the highs and lows of freshmen, and people who do not understand one does not just walk into a restaurant and try to use the bathroom, join your intrepid and socially confused blogger after the jump.

I think this is the earliest I've ever had a sense of impending doom at a game. I'm not just saying that because of the time of day, though the fact that this is Field Trip Day at Fordham certainly isn't helping soothe my nerves.

You may recall, or know from experience, or have read, that Rose Hill Gymnasium is a very small facility. Therefore, when you're cramming school groups into it, there's less space to put unsupervised adults than there is at Carnesecca or Hynes. Therefore, I am currently in one of the padded seats courtside, being grateful to all my typing practice for letting me type blind so that I can keep a constant eye on the court for stray projectiles. I don't love Manuel like I loved Jocelyn or Kristen, but I'd still rather not replace him due to a runaway basketball.

The sad part is that with all the noise from the kids and from the music, you miss most of the fun nuances of sitting courtside. You can't hear the conversations because there are a few hundred screaming kids chanting along to their hit of choice.

I don't know why Davidson is wearing neon orange t-shirts with their red uniforms. They're plain shirts, no logo or anything, so I'm not sure if they stand for anything or if they stand for "our shooting shirts are in the wash/were stolen/clash horribly with the rest of our gear".

I will say, for the most part, Fordham has done a nice job of getting the kids in early. There are only oen or two large swathes of empty seats- unfortunately, one of them is dead center. It's across from the benches, so maybe it won't be as visible as I fear. And the Davidson pass list seats are clearly marked, though I'd think you'd put them behind their own bench instead of directly behind one of the baskets, but money talks and visitors walk, I guess. And I guess putting unsupervised adults in the courtside seats isn't the worst way to handle things.

Shoutout to the young lady keeping one of the groups in section 109 organized, neat, and grooving.

Wow, you can really feel the footsteps as the players run out onto the court here. Stomping acoustics must be great. Paging Stephanie Del Preore...

Good anthem. Not great, but better than serviceable.

At halftime it's 33-31 Fordham after Bre Cavanaugh basically decided that she had had quite enough of this nonsense and exploded for 10 of her 13 points in the second quarter. Justine Lyon has eight to lead Davidson. The Wildcats have been pressing, which has given Fordham problems and basically consigned Kendell Heremaia to the bench because she has more turnovers than the corner bakery.

Forget breaking her ankles, I think Lauren Holden faked Kianna Speight right out of her knee brace to set up a three.

These kids are fairly easy to lead in cheers. If Fordham had any consistent offensive cheers, we could really get them going.

The disadvantage of putting your field trip game at 12 instead of 11 is that the kids start leaving a lot earlier. The largest groups are already gathering coats and bags and leaving. What exactly was the point?

A young lady with a coffee and a charming accent sat down next to me and turned out to be Mary Goulding's sister. (Which is lousy timing to cross the globe, because Mary's still hurt and we're having a brutal cold snap, which might take one by surprise coming from midsummer in New Zealand.) We've been leading cheers and encouraging noise from the kids behind us. (She's a little more choice in her opinion of calls than I am, but not quite as loud. Which is good, because if you're telling the ref to eff off, you should probably not do it loudly.) I had fun cheering with Georgia, and I hope she had as just as much fun.

It got really rough at the end. I think frustrations were starting to boil over, and people were expressing their feelings through both their words and choice shoves in the back. Davidson was physical all day, but they seemed to step it up in the fourth quarter, and unfortunately we answered in kind at points. We've got to be smarter than that. We can't let the opponent get into our heads like that.

Kelly Fitzgerald can take all the seats, and she can please take them somewhere else. There's no excuse for open-field tackling in basketball, and not even good tackling. I mean, if you're going to blatantly break the rules of the game you're playing, at least be good at it. She's pesky, and she's obnoxious, and she pretty clearly got under Lauren Holden's skin. That's not the hardest thing in the world to do, but she did it effectively enough that Lauren started visibly reacting. Chloe Johnson played in shorter stretches than I realized. I have a dim recollection of a shadowy figure on defense, but not much else.

Kianna Speight's last name is pronounced like spite, as far as I could tell from the PA guy, and it certainly seemed to fit with some of her physical play, riding the ballhandler and hawking the ball. She gambled hard on the ballhandler; when it worked, she was able to disrupt the offense and often ignite the fast break for the Wildcats, but when it didn't work, she got burned so bad that I might have wanted to call for the aloe vera. One sequence, Lauren juked her so hard she knocked herself halfway back down the court and it was 5-on-4 for a good six or seven seconds. That was sort of fun, except I think she was fast enough to still recover from that. Sarah Donovan did most of her work inside, absorbing contact to get to the line and pulling down boards, as well as setting screens in the midrange.

To my great relief, it appears that they did after all disallow the halfcourt hurl by Katie Turner. It was really freaking cool, but I thought it was late (neither the officials nor the PA guy made it clear whether the shot was disallowed), I think at the time I said something along the lines of "That was late, but it was awesome!" She's got long range, or at least she fancies she does, but she takes shots from a ridiculous distance with so much confidence that she has to have hit them at some point in her life. Justine Lyon did a nice job of getting into the paint, but I think we did an equally nice job of keying on her. It came back to haunt us with some bad mismatches down low (there's no way Lauren or Bre should be trying to single cover a post player). Saadia Timpton sneaked inside for lay-ups and was a big part of that Davidson defense.

I'm actually not sure which of their post players I like less. Neither Ally Welling nor Mackenzie Latt seemed to know how to set a legal screen, and both seemed inclined to throw their weight around without regard to the rules of the game. Latt did a good job of scoring inside, fighting through contact to get baskets off offensive rebounds. I guess I can respect that. Welling was more of a screen-setter, and less of an offensive threat, and less versatile as one as well. Latt at least stepped outside for a three-pointer.

I think Davidson has to figure out the difference between playing harder and playing dirty. When they knuckled down, they got much more physical, perhaps encouraged by the lack of calls. There are ways to play physical without resorting to tripping and to shoves in the back. That being said, if they can sustain that defense for longer stretches without losing control of it, they'll be a hard team to beat.

This was probably the best game I've seen Halei Gillis have all year. I know, small sample size, but Halei put in a lot of work on defense that might go unnoticed in the box score. She was tough, and she was physical, and she was just what we needed to counter Davidson inside. That monster block on Lyon was immensely satisfying. For the first time, I think I saw Halei as the defensive force she can be down low, the anchor who pulls down the boards, and the immovable object who makes opponents pay the price to get around her screens. So happy for her. Zara Jillings stabilized the playmaking when Kendell was having trouble getting the ball over and Lauren was in foul trouble. Sometimes size does matter, and her height gave her angles that Lauren might not have been able to see. She had some gorgeous passes from deep inside the paint (usually the assist woud be registered right around the time I was wondering why she didn't just shoot the damn ball). Both of them more than deserved the second half start.

Oh, Kenny. I love me some Kendell Heremaia, but she was not ready for this jelly. She got into trouble in the backcourt frequently, and either she would turn the ball over directly or have to be bailed out by someone who would turn the ball over in the aftermath. She's got to follow her shot on those three-pointers, too. That's a pet peeve I have all over the place. I don't blame Coach Gaitley one bit for sitting her early in the first half and not bringing her back in until deep in the fourth quarter. Lauren Holden is very lucky she didn't pick up the third foul earlier than she did, because there was a play where she clearly sawhorsed someone and the refs missed it. I think that, and the resulting time off the floor, would have changed the complexion of the second quarter run. Those long three-pointers were working today, even with the extra distance she was taking them from, and they were all huge for momentum. Frustration was starting to get to her by the end of the game, I think. She's never exactly been the rah-rah kind of leader on the floor, but she seemed more snappish than usual with her teammates and quicker to exchange pleasantries with her opposite number. Bre Cavanaugh has ice water in her veins. She drove hard to the lane to take heavy contact and finished more often than she didn't (and did her best to get free throws when she didn't finish). I love her heart and I love her hustle. My heart leaps into my throat every time I see her head snap back on a play, though. She's just such a take-charge player. I can't believe she's only a freshman, even a redshirt freshman with that extra year of experience and poise attached. She's going to be amazing. She's already amazing.

Johanna Klug wasn't keeping up with the pace of the game in the first half, and I think going to Halei to start the second half was the right move. Once Davidson started to slow down and we were able to get more favorable match-ups and positioning, she was able to cut inside more and get position for easy feeds. The problem with her is that she's not necessarily good at creating offense for herself- she makes a good target, and she's good at making herself a good target, but that also makes her easy to defend. A stationary target is easier to handle than a moving one, after all. G'mrice Davis fought and grinded the entire game. Nothing came easy, and she still managed to grit out that double-double. Having her bring the ball up was not my favorite plan, although I fully admit we were down to Plan C on bringing the ball up much of the time. She makes so much happen with her rebounding and her tenacity inside, whether it's extending Fordham possessions or disrupting opposing ones with deflections. I love it. I think she has a chance to be good on the next level, and I hope to God you guys get to see her for yourselves one of these days.

Sometimes I'm not sure if this whole slowing the offense down thing is a Coach Gaitley thing or a Lauren thing, but it's not a plan I'm always okay with. There are times when it's appropriate, but I think Lauren thinks it's appropriate more often than Coach does. But unlike other slowdown teams, we have that extra gear to speed up to- her name is Bre.

Officiating was a hot mess in this game, and we are so, so lucky that no one got seriously hurt. There were a lot of shoves, a lot of trips, and a lot of people who hit the deck for no discernible reason and for no call. I don't say that Fordham was blameless- y'all know I'm willing to hold my teams accountable, and Lauren and Zara especially got down in the muck with Davidson. But there were an awful lot more white jerseys on the floor than red ones. Coach Gaitley wasn't happy with the officials, and Davidson's coach certainly worked them enough.

I don't know how long we can rely on G'mrice, Bre, and Lauren passing the Superman cape around. We need Mary back, because I don't believe Halei and Johanna can be consistent yet, and Kendell is out of her depth at this point in her career. A win is a win and there was a lot of good progress. I'm just not sure if it's enough to prepare us for Dayton or Duquesne.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 6th, 2018: Quinnipiac at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Quinnipiac started strong and was never challenged in their 74-38 win at Iona. Taylor Herd had a team-high 16 points, 12 in the first quarter, to lead four Bobcats in double figures. Alexis Lewis had 13 points off the bench to lead Iona.

For injuries, a leadership void, dubious handling of players, a persistent source of positive energy, and train wreck jokes, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

The recurring theme of the GNoD, until such time as polar vortexes and bomb cyclones release their cruel hold upon us, is that it is too damn cold for any of this. And yet, here we are at the Hynes Athletic Center, about to discover for ourselves just how bad Iona has gotten this season, as they take on Quinnipiac.

I do not understand why Quinnipiac has blue plaid on the shoulders of their warm-up shirts. It is not a good look for them. The academic font and colors clash too badly with their athletic colors and font.

I don’t see Treyanna Clay out there for warmups with the rest of the team. I'm not panicking, you're panicking.

I will try to keep the "soulless ginger" remarks to a minimum, but Quinnipiac has two redheads now, so this is going to be difficult.

Well, I'm starting to understand some of Iona's problems right now. Tori Lesko's on crutches, Treyanna Clay looks like she's fighting through a bad hamstring, and arguably the team's most vocal leader isn't actually on the roster.

(Side note: in about twenty seasons of college basketball, there have been three, maybe four players for whom as people I would ride or die, whose enemies are my enemies and whose team is my team: Joy McCorvey at St. John's, Janee Johnson at Seton Hall, and Philecia Atkins-Gilmore at Iona, and if you talk trash about DeAngelique Waithe at LIU Imma fight you, but Angel is not quite on the same level as Joy, JJ, or Phee. So, no, Billi Chambers is not my favorite person this year.)

It's 33-22 Quinnipiac at halftime, which is actually about as good as I could have expected, all things considered. Taylor Herd hit four threes in the first quarter to get the Bobcats off to a hot start. Toyosi Abiola has nine, mostly in a late second-quarter flurry, and Alexis Lewis is doing Lex things with nine.

Y'all probably think I'm exaggerating aobut the leadership in the stands versus the leadership on the bench, but if I had to go to war with a couple of Iona guards at my side, I could do a lot worse than Philecia Atkins-Gilmore and Shonice Hawkins. (Shonice is helpfully wearing her road jersey for identification.)

Cheerleader didn't have quite the voice to do the anthem she was trying to do, but it could be worse. Yesterday's anthem singer managed to gum the word "spangled" near the end of the song. Yes, the word that is a quarter of the title.

Poor Adrienne DiGioia. I swear Coach practically dislocated her wrist yanking her back after she came back to the bench.

We're having a bit of trouble finding the Quinnipiac shooters. This is, granted, exacerbated by pretty much everyone on Quinnipiac's roster being a shooter, but perhaps the people who have multiple threes should be watched somewhat more closely than the others.

I reiterate and elaborate on my previous point: the most vocal player on this team isn't on the team, the second most vocal is injured, and the third most is a freshman who hasn't played. There sure as hell seems to be a giant leadership void in the heart of this team that no one seems inclined to step up into, and someone's going to need to do that if this team has any intentions of doing anything other than going down in the failboat.

Apologies for any typoes I miss- my fingers are still numb. Iona game times and the Bee-Line bus schedule don't play nice together and the first few stops of the downtown 6 are outdoor stops; I can still see my breath on the train.

Quinnipiac works together really well, which is perhaps more evident when playing a team that seems to have communication issues. Their doubles on the ballhandler were quick and crisp, they set screens well for each other, and they ran good fast breaks (and all gods knew we gave them plenty of opportunities to run fast breaks.

By the end of the game, it looked like Quinnipiac was just trying to light the tree, which is the only good reason for Danielle Bradley to be chucking threes up 30 in the final two minutes. She's got some touch for a big girl. Chiara Bacchini is quick- got to the basket for a lay-up off a steal. (Also, I am strangely fascinated by a redheaded Italian. I know it happens, but it's still unexpected.) Katie Grant is a big body in the middle, and I think she might be the heir apparent to othe role of "screen setter and maker of misery for opposing defenders" that Paula Strautmane fills so well right now.

I honestly didn't realize Jaden Ward played in the first half until I was told she was coming back into the game. She provided some interior defense that was more apparent in the second half than in the first. Paige Warfel had some strong rebounds in the middle, but there were a couple of plays where her mistakes almost cost Quinnipiac. (One of the many differences btween these two teams: Quinnipac mostly recovered from their mistakes, while Iona either compounded their mistakes or squandered their opportunities.) Edel Thornton has a very pretty shot. We let her get entirely too many open looks. I should not be this aware of how pretty a single reserve's shot is. Brittany Martin was able to take advantage of the foul count and get to the line. She's long, and uses her length well defensively.

There is no excuse for anyone to be able to hit four threes in a quarter, I don't care how good you are, I don't care how good your team is, I don't care how bad the defense is. Don't give me any of those excuses or reasons or whatever you want to call them. What Taylor Herd did in the first quarter to the Iona defense is inexcusable. At least her threes went cold in the second half, though that just meant she moved closer to the basket to score. Carly Fabbri did most of her damage in the fourth quarter- for long stretches Coach Fabbri used her bench instead of her starters, because that's how Quinnipiac rolls. It felt a little like she was kicking us while we were down, but, well, what are you going to do, stop playing?

As long as Jen Fay hits big threes in the most obnoxious way possible, and deflects anything she can get her hands on, and is generally both annoyingly good and good at being annoying, I'm going to continue referring to her as the soulless ginger. Consider it a mark of respect, in a twisted way. She's relentless on the ball, and spearheads so much of what Quinnipiac does on both sides of the court. I'll be immensely glad when we don't have to play against her anymore. Aryn McClure is disruptive, especially on the glass, but also on defense. She cuts well, even if she doesn't always finish well. She's ridiculously tough. Paula Strautmane has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. She passes well for a big. She needs to leave Toyosi alone, though.

I've already touched on Quinnipiac's teamwork, and on the double-teams they were able to bring. There are a lot of interchangeable parts, and there are a lot of direct substitutions (Thornton and Herd come immediately to mind).

Oh, my Gaels. Oh, my dear sweet summer children. I don't know what you've gotten yourself into, but I'm pretty sure it's not going well for you.

Tilasha Okey-Williams was given the green light in the fourth quarter to start shooting, and she was streaky, but not too terrible when she got going. I don't know what else we were expecting from her, which is good, because other than a boatload of turnovers, we didn't get much else. Ball security was bad for most of the squad, but it was especially bad for her. Adrienne DiGioia is not ready for prime time, though I felt really bad for her when Coach yanked on her wrist like that to get her attention. That was uncalled for. She's got to be a better passer, both in terms of throwing the pass and knowing what pass to throw to whom when.

I love the hustle Amelia Motz brings to the floor. She's undersized for the work she does, but somehow she makes it happen. I'd like to see her work with a shooting coach, but I'd like to see a lot of Gaels work with a shooting coach. We'll get more into that later on. She's scrappy on the offensive glass, and I love that about her. Alexis Lewis runs hot and cold, but when she's on, no one's going to stop her. Even when she's not on, she gets into the middle of the paint and either pulls down rebounds or deflects them to her teammates, or she's able to scoop up her teammates' deflections. She scored her 1000th point in this game, and I couldn't be prouder of her- at least we got something good out of this flaming dumpster fire of a game, and at least there's something to celebrate in this dumpster fire of a season.

Something's not right with Treyanna Clay. She didn't come out for warm-ups with the rest of the team. When she did come out for the lay-up line, she was on the bike to nowhere. She's moving stiffly, and slowly, and with all the mobility of my mother during her rehab from various joint replacement surgeries. (Hi, mom!) This is not the Trey I remember from her first two seasons in New Rochelle. To turn a phrase from the Lobo era, she was never that fast but she was never this slow. If she's trying to power through an injury, I admire her heart but not her good sense; if Coach is trying to make her play through an injury, me and her are going to fight; if it's a conditioning issue or an undiagnosed injury that the training staff has somehow missed even though it's obvious to people in the stands, then someone on the training staff is stealing money from the institution. There is a lot I am not okay with here. If someone can work with Rebekah Justice on her shot, and on her conditioning, and on her positioning, she could be a very good MAAC center. But right now she's throwing the ball too hard off the glass and the rim, and she's about as fast as a glacier with all the turning grace of a Sherman tank, and she has no idea where she's supposed to be when she's rebounding. She's a freshman, and I acknowledge her youth and inexperience. But I have no faith that she's going to get better with this staff, and I have no faith she's going to seek out enough help outside this group to get better by herself. (Also, gesundheit. She went into a bit of a sneezing fit on the bench at one point.)

After four years, Kristin Mahoney looks no readier for Division I play than she did when she arrived in New Rochelle as a freshman. We called her "deer in the headlights" for a reason, and she hasn't stopped looking scared yet. She freezes when the double comes at her. She doesn't, or can't, or won't, shoot. She doesn't, or can't, or won't, pass out of the double-team or the trap or the press. She went from back of the rotation to starting lineup in the space of two months and I have no idea why, other than her senior status. And I guess if everything's on fire, it doesn't matter who's starting, so you might as well give it to the senior. Toyosi Abiola had the green light for much of the game, which is a problem for a freshman who is all speed and gangly limbs and not nearly enough fundamentals on her jump shot. I think she has the potential to be a game-changing type of player, but someone needs to work with her on her fundamentals, and I don't know if this staff is willing to put in that kind of work on players. I haven't seen any evidence of it yet. Don't get me wrong, I love when she cuts to the basket and scoops it in, or when that hiiiigh-arcing jumper goes down, but the awkward way she lands gives me nightmares. Jayden Eggleston rebounds well, but she's a liability on offense.

I don't understand these lineups. I don't understand the lack of fundamentals from players who did actually have fundamentals once upon a time. I don't understand how a coach can be so calm under these circumstances. I don’t understand a lot of things about Iona, and frankly, one of the things I don't understand is why I still want this to be one of my teams. But damn it, Phee still believes in them, and I believe in Phee, so I spent most of the game banging my clipboard and screaming at the top of my lungs to support this team, whether they want me around or not.

Officiating was tolerably mediocre, and if there was any favoritism it mostly went towards Iona. (Though that does not mean arguing with the ref when you're up 30 is reasonable, Coach Fabbri.) We did almost get jobbed out of free throws because the ref couldn't count to five. That was a fun stretch.

Shoutout to the kid who won the shootout, and did it in style.

This game was such a train wreck it had memetic effects on the MTA. We've been in transit since 3:30 and I'm still not home yet. The dude next to my husband has been snoring since Long Island City. This is ridiculous and I'm tired.

We got a t-shirt! There weren't a lot of options to throw it to, so I'm not surprised, but it fits!

(Also, that official attendance is laughable.)

So that was a thing that happened. I understand now why Iona's such a disaster this season. There are enough bad teams in the MAAC that we might yet steal a win, but hell, if you're going to be this bad, you might as well drop the table and have done with it. Go big or go home.


Friday, January 5, 2018

January 5th, 2018: Creighton at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's found itself once more in overtime, but this time held off Creighton 72-65. Tiana England notched a double-double to lead the Red Storm, with 17 points and 10 assists; Alisha Kebbe matched her with 17 points, including two threes in overtime. Sydney Lamberty had 14 points to lead Creighton.

For adequacy, seniors, a biting cold, the possibility of a gender-swapped Othello, setting screens, and insufficient levels of caffeination and intoxication, join your intrepid and still pessimistic blogger after the jump.

PSA: it is as cold as the deepest levels of Dante's inferno out there. You do not want to be out there unless you have to be.

But since St. John's has a home game and I'm not actually dead, I do have to be out there, so here I am at Carnesecca Arena, watching St. John's and Creighton face off. I would like to not be 0-4 in conference. Let's see if we can manage that.

At halftime, we attempt to be considering the possibility of attempting to win our first conference game of the season. It's 30-29 St. John's behind 10 points each from Tiana England and Qadashah Hoppie. There is an adorable biddy game going on as I write.

The officiating has been pretty terrible, and this is not of the good. I was actually expecting the officiating to get better as we got into conference season, not worse.

I have no idea how we've managed to stay this close. We haven't looked good, but the kids are hitting the right shots at the right time.

Creighton really plays at a difference pace when Agnew's pushing the ball than when anyone else is running point.

At least Akina isn't completely in need of the crutches to get around. But she looks sad and lonely on the bench. The reserves did a better job of keeping her company this time.

I actually am honestly not sure how we won this game. I mean, I know some of the rational reasoning behind it- Alisha Kebbe with two threes in overtime, huge clutch plays from Imani Littleton in the second half- but I still feel like I watched a team that should still not have a conference win. But you better believe I'll take it. We need all the good luck that we can get.

Creighton's bench should maybe consider shutting up and sitting down before the game's over. I think it bit them in the ass a little bit, and I'm okay with that.

I admit that Harvard and the Lynx set certain expectations for me. When I saw Temi Carda on the Creighton roster, I was not expecting a little blonde guard. She did the sorts of things one might expect from a small guard who plays for Creighton, which is to say she hit threes from behind screens. Her drives need work, though- she had a couple of chances close that she wrecked by trying to make it too fancy. Tatum Rembao didn't get heavily involved in the game until the second half, when she started being more able to slide into scrums for loose balls. She insinuates herself into small spaces well. Olivia Elger defends hard, which I appreciate, but demonstrated a propensity for dramatics on the floor that I do not appreciate. You're not going to get the call if you keep flopping like that, sunshine.

Bailey Norby seems to have gotten a bit, ah, heftier since last I saw the Jays. She set a lot of screens, but did not seem to move very well, even considering her size. I seem to remember the same thing happening with Brianna Rollerson, and that might be something to keep an eye on with the Jays. Kylie Brown played briefly in the first half, when Creighton got pretty much everyone into the game at one point or another. Long, tall, and otherwise forgettable. Brooke Kissinger came in to commit a rather unnecessary foul- I think it might have been a shooting foul, possibly even an and-1.

I realize Creighton likes to have flexibility and have everyone able to at least take the three, but it's not Ali Greene's strength if this game is anything to go by. She did much better in the paint, using her height to take advantage of defenders. She also set a lot of the screens that got the Jays' shooters open. They did quite a lot of shooting on us. I am not okay with this. I don't tend to think of Jaylyn Agnew as a forward, because she plays so much point and generally keeps the offense flowing. The uptick in pace when she's running the point is very noticeable- everyone else seems to slow it down somewhat, but she's going full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes. She laid one of the two big blocks in the overtime that turned a St. John's possession into a disaster (Elger had the other one). Quiet game for Audrey Faber, and she wouldn’t' be the first Creighton player to fade out after a hot start to her career. She fits well in their sceme, and she gets to the basket well, but I think she's taken a step back from their tournament run a couple of years ago.

Sydney Lamberty will outwork everyone on the foor, anywhere, any time. Clever little bird made the smart play to give Creighton the best chance to win in regulation- Bluejays were up three, but St. John's had the ball. She gave the fifth team foul in order to prevent the three-point attempt. I don't think she was expecting St. John's to get the offensive rebound off the second free throw and Tiana England to tie the game with that drive. She's a playmaker on both ends of the floor and I will be very glad when we don't have to play against her anymore. Myah Mellman is a steady hand at point, but she was sort of a nonentity on the floor, and a lot of the minutes at her spot went to Elger instead.

She didn't play a lot, but Tamesha Alexander made an impact when she did. I love Sox to itty-bitty pieces, and I love it even ore when she makes heady plays like knocking the ball off an opponent to make possession, or comes up with big offensive rebounds down low, or plays that tough St. John's defense. We're going to need everyone to step up, and she's answered the bell. Ditto for Kayla Charles, who I would have liked to see more of tonight- she was rebounding really, really well. She looked like she was understanding her height on the collegiate level for the first time. She's got to do a better job of getting position- so many times it looked like she was just being tall and expecting that to be enough, and she was lucky this crew wasn't calling over the back fouls very often. But I love her tenacity- she's learning some of the right lessons from Maya Singleton in that regard. I don't think I'm a fan of the Andrayah Adams at the four experiment. Yes, she's rebounding very strongly, and I can sort of understand the match-up if I squint and tilt my head, but it seems counterproductive to have a post player and not use her as such, while using one's best three-point shooter as an interior player, which is very much not her strength. (That being said, Andrayah, please feel free to keep tearing down rebounds with the force of the North Wind.)

This was one of the least energetic games I've seen out of Maya Singleton in her St. John's career. I don't know if she wasn't feeling well to start the game or something, but I've never seen her be so passive on defense down low in the paint. She recovered a little bit, and had a strong block in the third quarter, but this wasn't the Maya we've been used to all season, which led to Joe having to juggle the reserves. Fortunately, it also led to Imani Littleton doing the senior step-up thing. I don't know if she's had two bigger offensive rebounds back to back than she did in the overtime to essentially end the game. She hit more lay-ups tonight than I can remember her hitting in a single game ever, while rebounding more fiercely than I've seen since before the knee injury, and dropping blocks like they were hot. I am here all day for this version of Imani and would love to see a lot more of her.

I remember a time not too long ago when Alisha Kebbe was one of our most reliable defenders. Today was not her day in that regard- she got beat bad and she got beat often. The two threes in overtime were huge, and I would love for her offense to make its triumphant permanent return, but maybe not at the expense of that much of her defense. Tiana England started the game off on fire, and I was absolutely in love with the idea of her being more assertive on offense. But a little bit of defensive pressure and a couple of misses later, and she had retreated back into her shell. Play through the mistakes, Tiana! It's all right! We probably won't kill you! (I can't necessarily say the same about Joe, which is probably more her concern.) Qadashah Hoppie was sloppy with the ball- Creighton is opportunistic, you can't dribble casually around them. She came up with some big threes at the right time. Her freshman tendencies are starting to come through more and more, and I don't know if she's in the right place to fix them.

Perhaps this is why I am not a coach, but it seems like if you are doing a thing, and the thing is doing well for you, you should keep doing the thing, instead of going back to the thing you did when you were losing. And yet, after we built the lead, it was back to Maya (even though she wasn't having a good game) and back to Tiana pounding out clock. And hey, guess what? We choked away a 10-point lead. I have problems with this.

I also have problems with an officiating crew that might only recognize a blatant pushoff if it was perpetrated upon their person. There was one play where the ball was clearly off Creighton and everyone could see it- well, everyone except Audrey Faber, whose contact was knocked out by the contact. The refs stopped play so she could once more see things- and then gave the ball to Creighton. Guys. The ball hit her in the face. Literally, this was why there was a stoppage. And somehow it managed to be Creighton ball? C'mon, man. Horribly called game all around. Fortunately I think everything shook out in the end; also fortunately, no one got seriously hurt because of their incompetence.

I don't know if it was the temperature or a coincidence, but the rims did a lot of strange things on both sides of the floor- they were very tight. Something the guys will need to consider tomorrow against DePaul (your intrepid blogger has other plans that may or may not be preceded by smothering her husband).

I still can't believe we won this game. We did just enough to get over the line, and I'm happy with the grit our four-year seniors showed. But I don't think this game was a wake-up call or a turning point for the season. It's a bad loss for Creighton and it's nice to get that first conference win on the board.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 2nd, 2018: Providence at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: IN a low-scoring game, it was Providence that came away victorious, 49-44. Maddie Jolin had 14 points to lead the Friars. Maya Singleton posted team-highs of 13 points and 18 rebounds for St. John's.

For frustration, injury, religious regalia, a continuing cold snap, the flaws in the plan, and not nearly enough rum in this Diet Coke, join your intrepid and actually teetotal blogger after the jump.

Happy New Year, fellow travelers! Are you ready for conference season? I'm not sure I'm ready for conference season, but here we are.

I am immensely jealous of that thing Imani Littleton is getting buffed with. My right shoulder is killing me so hard you have no idea.

Whoever managed to sneak "Lightning Crashes" into the pregame music mix, thank you. That was a pleasant surprise.

It's early enough that everyone's still setting up. One of the ticket takers wasn't even in position yet and the band is still gearing up.

It's so cold outside there's a cheerleader wearing sweatpants and another one wearing a jacket.

Providence has a nice bus. I don't know if it's a wrap or a paint job, but it looks good.

At halftime, it's 23-22 St. John's. It has not been a good game, and it has not been a well-called game. Qadashah Hoppie has 10 points to lead all scorers, while Maddie Jolin has three threes for Providence.

Now I know why they were playing "Lightning Crashes" during the pregame- it's the music for the dance team's routine. The new routine needs a lot of of work, especially on the synchronization. But the costumes are nice. Then again, I'm a sucker for purple.

Providence has an actual-facts, literal Friar on their bench, full robe and cloak and hood and all. He is quite majestic, even if he is simultaneously a weedy-looking dude with glasses and a feeble excuse of a beard.

We've had a couple of disconcerting injuries in this game, Akina Wellere's ankle and Ny'Dajah Jackson's elbow. Jackson seems to be fine, but Akina is nowhere in sight.

Ny-Asia Franklin is not Jamaica's favorite person right now. Too many trips, too many elbows, too many travels that went uncalled.

Well, I think it's safe to say that game was a flaming dumpster fire that was on fire. Our offense ground to an absolute halt, our defense couldn't keep up, and we once again demonstrated the clock management skills of a slightly concussed puppy. It's not like we were an offensive juggernaut with Akina and Andrayah, but without them there's almost no one on this roster who's actually willing to shoot on a regular basis. Our flaws were even more obvious without a shooter to paper over the lack of offense and with a lack of depth to show the flaws in our defense.

I feel like I shouldn't be taking anything away from Providence- after all, they had their own injuries to deal with, with Ny'Dajah Jackson unavailable for the second half and without Maddie Jolin's shooting in the fourth quarter (I don't know what happened, but we looked over and she was holding both hands over her face, and she spent the rest of the game with either a towel over her nose or with two rolls of tissue stuffed up her nostrils). But I don't think they did anything particularly well, and there were a lot of things they got away with that made me angry. I think Jim Crowley buttering up the officials before the game (while Joe was hanging out by the Providence bench to the point where one guy in our section thought we had a new coach because he wasn't in the usual spot) helped them get the benefit of the doubt on a lot of travels and elbows, and I have a problem with trying to influence the officials that way, along with officials who give the impression of being able to be influenced in that way.

I do hope Ny'Dajah Jackson's all right after that fall she took in the first half. She came down really hard on her elbow, and it looked like it wasn't just a funny bone stinger, because she was able to use the arm a little bit in the lay-up line, but not enough to be available for the second half. She relieved Chantell Williams when Williams got rest in the first half. Kyra Spiwak has to learn the college distance- there were to shots of hers that were such long twos I initially thought they were threes. Don't start getting influenced by the Sparks, not that way. She's a real spitfire- I admire her chutzpah trying to defend Maya Singleton, as a slightly built freshman guard going against a physical senior forward. Clara Che was part of the offense-defense switch in the final minutes, and couldn't buy a bucket close to the basket. Small mercies, right?

Brianna Frias played a lot in the first half, and almost no minutes at all in the second half (if any- our guy isn't so good at listing subs). She brought screesn outside. Ny-Asia Franklin gave them the bulk of the minutes off the bench in the post, and man do I not like her. It's not even that she's physical, it's that she slides her feet out to trip people and has her elbows up at every opportunity. Her foodwork is abominable, and she couldn't finish through contact. I respect her rebounding ability, but I don't like her style of play, not one iota.

Maddie Jolin has a very pretty stroke and we should have done a better job of guarding it. She was also not afraid to get inside and pull down boards, which I think might have been where she got her nose hit. But I didn't see the play, so I can't be certain. Olivia Orlando is a big beefy guard, to the point where I'm not sure listing her as a guard is fair or accurate. She wasn't afraid to use her build to her advantage (Crowley had her in late to take up space).

To be fair to our defense, Jovana Nogic has been having herself a year for Providence, and we keyed on her down low to shut her down. So there's that. I am also not terribly fond of her elbows and her traveling. Chanell Williams is very fast- she blew throught he lane and threw up high floaters that kissed the glass and fell in. I guess there are advantages to having a friar in full regalia on your bench. You get a direct channel to the Big Guy upstairs. There's a swagger about her that I respect even if I don't love. Allegra Botteghi is tall for her position, but she didn't play a lot in this one despite starting. I think Crowley wanted to try other match-ups.

And this is "I hate the way they eat crackers" petty at this point, but what the heck, I'm as salty as the aforementioned crackers, so let's go. If you're a coach who doesn't believe in last names on jerseys, first off screw you. Second of all, don't use a template that has a slot for a nameplate and then fill it with something twee. In this case, everyone's got "Friars" as their "last name" and it makes me just a little bit twitchy.

So due to various injuries Joe actually had to dig deep into the bench. This is why you recruit deep and play deep, Joe. Y'all know my feelings about running your starters into the ground, and I think I've also made my feelings about St. John's carrying the minimum clear. And with all due respect to Machi, I'm no longer actually sure we recruited Shamachya Duncan because of her basketball talent. We've tried using the "offer older sister to get more talented younger sister" gambit before. (It failed spectacularly with the Sidney sisters, but I'm not entirely sure they all had their act together anyway.) You can see the similarities in body type and playing style when Machi and Q are on the floor and playing defense at the same time. It's a striking resemblance. But six minutes of sweet Fanny Adams isn't going to cut it when we're short-handed. And while Qadashah Hoppie's shots were great when they went down, and it's nice to have someone on the floor who isn't petrified to shoot, she took a lot of bad shots as well- quick ones with no rebounders in place, contested ones, wrong shot at the wrong time. I realize she's a freshman and she'll learn these things with time, but I'm worried she's not going to get the coaching that will help her hone her judgment.

I love Tamesha Alexander to itty-bitty pieces as a person- she's one of my favorite people on the team and she's a good clubhouse guy from everything I can tell. But having to play her extended minutes highlights our lack of depth and how much she hasn't advanced since freshman year. She was slow and tentative on the floor. I love her moxie on defense, but I'd like to see more out of a senior. Kayla Charles rebounded well, and her rebounding seemed to get stronger as the game went on. She's got to move faster on defense, though. I don't know if she didn't know the scheme or didn't know the signals, but she looked out of place and disinterested even when she was in place. (If that's her problem, then maybe Joe's got reason not to play her.)

Akina Wellere hit a three from the corner, then came down sort of funny a couple of possessions later and couldn't put any weight on her left leg. She eventually came back out in a boot and still couldn't put any weight on it- Andrayah Adams and one of the other staffers had to help haul her around, and by the end of the game no one was helping her over to the huddle. She was sitting there on the bench all alone, and I wanted to hug her, or at least keep her company. Tiana England needs to stop passing to that patch of air on the far sideline where she seems to think someone is going to be and no one ever is. One of these days Joe is just going to terrify the ability to shoot right out of her. She's reticent enough as it is, but the one time she put up what you might consider a bad shot- a three early in the shot clock with no rebounders in position- Joe took the next opportunity to rip her a new one like she had personally scored in the Providence basket. She was a little more hesitant to shoot after that, and shooting is already not exactly Tiana's favorite thing to do on the floor. I'm watching a player who could be dynamic slowly being worn down into plodding mediocrity and I hate every second of it. Alisha Kebbe got into early foul trouble, and any trust Joe had in her evaporated. Being unable to hit shots on offensive rebounds certainly didn't help, but having her on the bench for most of the first half was problematic.

I've said it before and even though it's the final semester of her final season I'm probably still going to end up saying it again before March: I love Imani Littleton, and I think she's a very interesting person, but if she can't hit lay-ups in the paint we're going to have problems. She boxe dout well,a nd made smart plays on deflections and blocks, but her offensive ineptitude and/or fear is a liability that we can't afford in the starting lineup. Except that we have to afford it because we have almost no post players because Joe has this thing for fast guards who he proceedstot hammer into playing a slow game. *takes a deep breath* I may have some unexplored issues here. Maya Singleton took a lot of contact down low, and I think that affected her ability to make shots. I love her rebounding, and there were stretches when it seemed like she ws the only person on the floor who wanted to rebound. That is also a problem. She's been the star of the show so much that defenses are starting to key on her, and her offense is suffering somewhat as a result of it.

Also, free throws win ball games. It's an LIU thing, but it has universal applicability. Yes, Maya, I am looking at you and that abominable 3-9 line.

I don't necessarily think it changed the outcome of the game, but good Lord this was one of the worst crews I've seen in a long time. They couldn't call a travel if their lives depended on it, they were consistently missing elbows and pushes and trips by both teams. (I swear, we are so lucky that we weren't called for contact after the shot on multiple three-pointers.) They allowed the game to degenerate into a hotter mess than it already was, and it was already a pretty hot mess.

Even when we were ahead, I thought we looked like a team that was about to be 0-3 in conference, and sometimes I really hate being proven right. Our lack of depth was showcased, our lack of offensive firepower was laid bare, and all the flaws in our endgame management were made abundantly clear. You have to know time and score. And if the players on the floor aren't aware of it because they're mostly freshmen, then it's the responsibility of someone with more experience in game management- like, say, a head coach- to let them know that, no, going for a contested two when you're down five is a bad idea. Too many of our shooters are too passive in all the wrong moments. Having Akina and Andrayah would have helped with that, but next man up, and no one stepped up.

I was not a fan of hiring Joe in the first place- I thought it smacked of laziness on the part of whatever search committee we were using- and though he's had moments where I thought he could grow into a good head coach, I don't think he's ever going to get out of hts habits. And if he wants to run a halfcourt offense, that's one thing- but then why are you recruiting players who would work better in a fast-paced offense? And it's not like he's working with other people's recruits at this point. He's been here long enough that these are his recruits and his choice of players. He doesn't have improvisational players who can get him out of trouble anymore. And this is what we get.

We had a few alumnae in the house, and honestly, I was having more fun watching Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker watch the game and cheer for their former teammates than I was watching the game itself. At least Jade and Aaliyah were excited (when Sox hit the shot a the endo fthe third quarter, they went nuts, and I can't blame them).

This is going to be a long conference season if we don't have Akina for any length of time.