Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28th, 2015: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: In a game tight from start to finish, the New York Liberty came out on top of the Los Angeles Sparks, 79-70. Sugar Rodgers had 23 to lead the Liberty, while Tina Charles added 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Kristi Toliver of Los Angeles led all scorers with 30 points in the loss; Nneka Ogwumike notched a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds.

For mispronunciations, cupcakes, unlocking achievements, electricity electricity, roster adjustments, the walking wounded, KIAH SMASH, and springboards, join your intrepid and sugar-hopped-up blogger after the jump.

Good, good afternoon, readers! It's a misty Sunday in New York City, as the eternal war between the coasts comes once more to life. It's a rematch of the first and original, as the Sparks come to New York.

Today is a good day to be a New Yorker. The East River Derby is lively- there were Red Bull fans doing cheers on the uptown E platform as we left the station. The Mets are home. And, of course, my fellow fans are at long last being treated equally in the eyes of the law.

Jasmine Lister is even more adorably tiny in person. She stayed out the longest to shoot.

We've got a biddy game before the real game. One of the girls is wearing a Northern Ireland jacket, so we're guessing they might be Irish. If so, hey, cool, welcome to New York, enjoy your stay! Also, if you can keep making defenders look silly in the paint, you can stay a while longer.

I have been informed that there will be cupcakes. If the cupcakes are a lie, I will not be amused.

There is also a rumor that Kristi Toliver is available, which is annoying not just because she's annoying, but because I wrote up my roster card assuming she wouldn't be playing and thus have no space to score her. Don't score points today, Kristi! (So I ended up using Andrea Hoover's spots, since Hoover is injured and not dressed.)

I hate Simon Sez so much. It is so annoying. Especially when everyone is bad at it.

Awesome anthem today, though.

At half, the Liberty are up 41-38. Sugar Rodgers has 13. That Slovakian guard has 11. Candice Wiggins is picking up cheap fouls like they were on sale.

The contrast between LA's posts and what's left of their guards is highly amusing.

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude has returned to the Garden, much to the happiness of Nneka Ogwumike and the unmitigated glee of Candice Wiggins.

The cupcakes were not a lie. However, the red velvet was a little dry, which is pretty impressive for red velvet, as I thought the point was for it to be moist. Maddie, the Fidelis mascot, Kym Hampton, and Herb Williams are working the room. Tina Charles popped her head in for a moment, but turned back before anyone saw her, one hand on her phone and the other holding a bag of ice to her knee.

Kym Hampton, you are not Marilyn Monroe. Please do not ever claim to have Marilyn reincarnate in you. You're not fabulous enough for it.

So many injuries for Los Angeles. I'd feel bad for them, but they're the Sparks. It's against the fan code.

Jasmine Lister's got a nice shot. She leans into it a bit, as if she has to put every iota of her being into it, but it works for her. I like her speed, too. She was a great pickup for them; I don't know what they're going to do when they have to start making roster decisions.

(Avery, Kiah, and Tina just walked in. Let them get their cupcakes, people! Kiah and Tina deserve them! And Avery has delivered enough cupcakes in her time to earn some for herself. Swin and Tanisha are signing, but it looks like it's only for a specific group. Difficulty level: expert. And there's Brittany! She's harder to find because she's normal-sized, but she's already surrounded.)

Jennifer Hamson is ridiculously tall, which sounds like a statement of the obvious, but it means that she neutralized Carolyn Swords. Her volleyball background shows in the way she defends the interior- she has a phenomenal knack for deflecting the ball down to a fellow defender. You can almost see her concluding that the ball must not touch her palms. Marianna Tolo brings good height, but still needs a lot of work. She committed one of the stupidest plays I've ever seen in a basketball game, just a couple of rungs below the Coco Hart play: with the ball and a fairly clear space for a lay-up under the basket, she crossed the lane to take the shot from the other side and promptly lost the ball. It only avoids Coco Hart status because LA got the ball back, because it was a fumble instead of a travel, and because it wasn't a fast break. I'm not sure if the Sparks know what they want to do with Tolo yet; from this game, she looks like yet another tweener caught in the 3-4 logjam.

(Essence is working the crowd here. I wonder if she's learning that from Spoon, or if it comes naturally.)

(Achievement unlocked! Had to chase Tanisha halfway across the Delta Club, but I got her. Achievement in awkwardness unlocked! Swin had left the building, and we were talking about it, and one of the ticket reps corralled her for a signed roster card. Which is fabulous and sweet and super-helpful! But does nothing for hats.)

I don't like Kristi Toliver. Usually it's because of the pouting and the moping and the showboating. Today it was because she was hitting shots from all over the floor. She drew a lot of contact and took advantage of her free throws. Her passing was also very sharp. Hard to believe she hasn't played with this team yet. Jantel Lavender came on like a house on fire in the first quarter, going hard in the paint. She took her game outside more in the second half, with mixed results. Nneka Ogwumike, no matter how you pronounce it, had no easy shots. The defense collapsed on her like a ton of bricks every time out, and she was forced into more and more acrobatic looks at the basket. She was able to rebound pretty much everything in the universe, getting into position and springing upward with great single bounds. Jennifer Lacy set up outside a lot. I think the Sparks were expecting her to be the outside threat that Pierson was when we played Tulsa, dragging our bigs outside and giving their posts space to operate. Sometimes I get so caught up in how short Temeka Johnson is that I forget how solid she is. She laid out Sugar Rodgers on a tackle going for a loose ball that I'm sure would have made Les Miles proud. She drove fearlessly and dished well.

LA might be dangerous once they get some semblance of a full roster back. If nothing else, their rookies are being tested by fire, which might pay off down the line. If, of course, Brian Agler continues to play them.

Candice Wiggins is very enthusiastic! (And likes her cupcakes.) I thought most of the foul calls on her were super-cheap. Brittany Boyd brought the speed, but seemed to be trying too hard to get the call on her drives instead of going for the basket. She's already a super fan favorite, the likes of which I haven't seen since the phenomenon of Leilani Mitchell in her second year. It's not the same dynamic as Leilani or Becky Hammon. Maybe the 2007 team in general? Carolyn Swords seemed uncomfortable working against someone taller than she is, which I can't say is surprising, since that only happens once or twice a year. We did not know how to get her the ball when Hamson was in the game, and Hamson came into the game whenever she did. Kiah Stokes brought the thunder on a couple of blocks, especially when she stuffed Tolo and when she denied Ogwumike. She finished well around the basket, too, which we're going to need her to do- she had trouble with that before.

O HAI Tina Charles. How are you? It's good to see you back in All-Star post form. The hook was falling today, and she was making power moves in the paint. Love it. She looked much more energized and active today than she has the last couple of games, and I welcome it. Essence Carson still has trouble finding the three-point line sometimes, though today she took one from the vicinity of Central Park that there was no doubt about. She did hard work on the defensive end; I saw her on Ogwumike a few times, and every time that I thought it was a bad idea, she made a big play. Go, you brave be-goggled woman you! Tanisha Wright was solid at the point- she slows the game more down than Boyd, but sometimes we need that, especially with the vets in the game. She tried to work the officials before the game, and then promptly got called for a borderline foul as the first foul of the game. I don't think it worked, T. Swin Cash was a non-factor. I don't chart minutes, but I think Kiah got the bulk of the important minutes, especially in the second half. She looked out of it. Sugar Rodgers put on a show early and often. She showed no fear at both ends of the floor (and I think a couple of the fouls called on her were a load of hooey), hitting big shots and getting to the line. When Sugar is on, she's electric to watch, and she and Brittany together are dynamite. Today was a good day for Sugar to be on fiyah.

Yes, as a matter of fact, that was my husband being season subscriber of the game. Photobombing Morgan Freeman with a Liberty towel gets you that honor.

Unintentional funny of the day: Brittany Boyd attempting to haul Carolyn Swords off the floor. Don't throw out your back, Boyd. That's what Kiah is for.

I respectfully disagreed with many of the fouls called on our backcourt today, but the reversal on the out of bounds at the end of the game made up for most of those. Quite the plethora of defensive 3-second calls today, too, with three on LA and one on New York (despite what the box score on ESPN says, Essence did not draw a T).

Substitute PA announcer is not GNoD approved. It took him most of the first half to pronounce the syllables in Ogwumike correctly, and most of the game for him to emphasize them properly; it also took him three tries to pronounce Nneka. He also mixed up Tanisha Wright and Sugar Rodgers, which, if nothing else, look at their socks if you're not sure. Do your homework, or GTFO.

I'm looking forward to Maddie's birthday celebration in two years. When Maddie turns 21, erryone gets sh-sh-sh-shots-shots-shots! As it is, today there were cupcakes and coloring books.

My heart goes out to you, kid with the Parker jersey, even if your grasp of current events is somewhat lacking.

This should not have been as tough as it was, but I'll take it. The more important thing: Tina looks like she's back, Sugar showed us what happens when she's on... and Epiphanny Prince looms for the road trip, in the best of ways.

This team is fun to watch, plain and simple. I'm starting to think it's an eight-year cycle: every eight years, a team will seize me by the throat and make me love them for two seasons. It happened in 1999 and 2000, then again in 2007 and 2008. This year's squad reminds me of that 2007 team.

See you in two weeks, Libbies! Go forth and be awesome!


Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19th, 2015: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Indiana rode a 32-12 first quarter lead to a 80-63 win over New York at the Garden. Maggie Lucas led all scorers with 23 points off Indiana's short-handed bench. Tanisha Wright had 12 points to lead the Liberty.

For bad life decisions, bad shooting decisions, bad passing decisions, bad rebounding decisions, bad marketing decisions, ripping Tina a new one, and desirable tchochkes, join your intrepid and irritated blogger after the jump. *achoo*

Good evening, fellow travelers! It's gameday and Pride Night at Madison Square Garden as the New York Liberty take on the Indiana Fever again. So far, this looks to be the proudest of Pride celebrations the Garden has ever hosted. We have light-up beer glasses!

It's still refreshing to be at a Garden that embraces its gay fans and players. Such a difference from the Blaze era. Glorious. (I think Layshia Clarendon squeed her pants when they made the announcement before the game.)

I don't know if Natalie Achonwa had trouble with eBay vultures, or if it's just some super-Canadian politeness thing, but she insisted on personally inscribing the autograph. I've only ever had this twice before. Natalie, I swear I'm not selling it on eBay.

Judging from the six-year-old holding the glass, the "beer" portion of the name is not to be taken seriously.

Dance troupe that is not made up of prepubescent children gyrating in a manner better suited to the street corner! Hurrah!

Place is filling up nicely. Let's hope they get something good to watch.

Welp. That was... it could have been worse, and last year it would have been worse. That reminded me of the old grudge matches between the Liberty and the Rockers- it didn't get quite as bloody as Liberty-Sol, but the next one might.

Whichever genius decided that all merchandising past the gates would be run through one single express kiosk should be keel-hauled. It's a game that you've been marketing towards and trying to pack the house for, and you close both branches of the team store? And you think your big solution is the store down in the ticket office? I wanted that Pride shirt, but by the time I could find a place selling it, they only had small and medium left. (But I need those WNBA Pride thundersticks in my life and on my living room wall. Rainbow-striped ball!)

A smaller misstep: if you're doing Pride Night, perhaps you should have someone openly and visibly gay do the countdown to lights out, instead of a dad-and-daughter duo?

It's probably not a good sign for Jeanette Pohlen that even with a third of the team inactive due to injury, and two more injured in the course of the game for various periods, she only entered the game in the last couple of minutes, when everything was beyond a doubt. Lynetta Kizer gave us all a scare when she crumpled to the floor in the heartbreakingly-familiar position common to ACL injuries, seemingly without contact (it took a replay to determine that Briann January kneed her in the knee). She proved that she has metaphorical cojones of steel when she came back in. I love her toughness, and her ability to hit the midrange jumper. Layshia Clarendon committed mistakes that might have been critical in a closer game. I think she might be one of those people who overthinks everything in the universe (which does not surprise me, given her alma mater). Maggie Lucas shot the lights out, because that's what Maggie Lucas does when she has space to operate. She's gotten better at finding space and making space, and her defense on the ball was not deplorable.

Marissa Coleman, when I said you needed to be more aggressive, I didn't mean tonight! She used her height effectively against the smaller Essence Carson and actually went to the rack. I don't know where she was getting the assists from, to be honest with you. I feel like Natalie Achonwa is still a year away from being the effective post powerhouse she can be for Indiana. The rough edges still need to be filed off; she needs to learn to defend more with her body and her feet, less with her hands. But she has the build and the strength to be a key piece for the Fever in the Catchings-less future that approaches. Shenise Johnson has really big hair- actually, she's just bigger overall than I remembered (height and shoulder breadth, not weight). She was enough of a threat on the perimeter that we had to keep an eye on her. We keyed our defensive pressure on Tamika Catchings, always keeping a double either on her or within easy reach of her. It worked. She did not get good looks, and even the good looks she got she missed. I think it frustrated her a little bit; either that, or the announcement of her retirement has freed her up to express herself more than usual. She played angry tonight, reckless and tough. Any other player who slapped the scorer's table on her way out of the game would have gotten a technical and been out of the game for a second T. Briann January was physical and tough the whole game, and part of me admires her for it, and part of me wants to slap her for jawjacking the ref.

Candice Wiggins scored! Everyone was surprised. Even the PA announcer and whoever handles the Cheesy Musical Hooks weren't ready. She saw more time than she should have because of Tanisha Wright's foul trouble. She's not a 20-minute player anymore. Carolyn Swords was tough on the inside, but committed stupid fouls. Some nights she looks more like Sue Wicks than others. Avery Warley-Talbert was unremarkable, except forh er persistence in bringing the damn ball down to the damn floor. STOPPIT STOPPIT STOPPIT. Swin Cash played well in the first half, for the most part, but again, she's not made for as many minutes as she has to play without Rebecca Allen to take some of the pressure off the double shift. She started to fall apart on the boards and on defense in the second half, watching balls go out of bounds and making bad decisions. Sugar Rodgers was, as always, somewhere between the Sugar who hits big contested shots and the Sugar who makes highly questionable decisions with her shooting.

Essence Carson was overpowered all night. I don't know how long we can keep shifting her to the three; she doesn't have the size for it, and as players are getting taller, it's becoming more obvious. Her shot was all over the place, even on the break. Kiah Stokes was strong defensively down low, reading the boards well. Tanisha Wright came up with shots that were big in the context of the comeback. I think at least two of her turnovers were questionable offensive fouls, but you're not going to get the benefit of the doubt when you try to argue the ref into a travel after he's called a shot clock violation. Brittany Boyd played smart and fast, though I question some of her shot choices. You can be smart enough to read the defense, but you also have to be smart enough to pick up the pattern of the officiating; if they're not calling contact in the lane, putting up a shot with the sole intent of getting fouled is a bad idea. I just love watching her play, and as soon shirts with font that’s smaller than a billboard come out, I'm buying her name and number tee, along with Kiah's.

I will not, however, be buying anything with a 31 on it any time soon, and not just because I'm not into superstars. Tina Charles followed up her horrible game from Sunday with a stinker tonight, and compounded the debacle by acting like a jackass on the court. There is no universe in which you'll get the benefit of the doubt from an official on an elbow after you've already drawn a technical for slapping a karateka in the back of the head, especially since that is not a recommended survival move. There is no universe where the fans will give you the benefit of the doubt when you're a 6-4 post jacking up perimeter jumpers like a Big East shooting guard on a power trip. Horrendous shot selection, horrendous effort, horrendous attitude. And I blame Bill for not reining her in just as much as I blame her for being an idiot tonight.

This... probably did not turn out to be the best night for "buy a Charles jersey and meet Tina after the game!"

I suspect we're expecting Epiphanny Prince to be the answer to all our perimeter woes, but that's not how this works, that's not how any of this works.

Play of the game for the Liberty: Tanisha Wright slamming the door on Natalie Achonwa for the Liberty's one block of the game.

Play of the game for the Fever: jump ball, Swords versus Catchings. Swords controls, but right to Indiana. Kizer scoops it up and bangs home the layup in one fell swoop.

The officiating was very libertarian. Things were out of control early, and the officials' response was to loosen up on the physical play but tighten up the touch fouls and review things more closely. I don't get it.

Also, mop team, you are off your game. There was an area near the free throw line in front of the Liberty bench where a lot of people were slipping and sliding.

The crowd wanted to be into the game, but what do you do when you dig a 20-point hole in the first quarter?

Someone needs to fix Tina. Guess what? The easy part's over. The big homestand is done. The road awaits, and Epiphanny is weeks away. The veterans need to step up and keep up with the kids.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14th, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Washington surged in the second quarter and steadily pulled away in a 74-59 win over the New York Liberty. Ivory Latta had 20 points to lead the Mystics. Essence Carson and Carolyn Swords each had 12 points to lead the Liberty.

For frustration, rude children, indigestion, unlocking achievements, a family resemblance, missed shots, and hope amidst the ruins, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Welcome to yet another edition of the seemingly endless Game Notes of Doom! This time around, the Liberty take on the Washington Mystics on Dads and Daughters Day at the Garden. Someday you guys will get the full essay about my relationship through sports with my dad, but today is not that day.

There appears to be some kind of animal theme to the child exploitation via dance today. Please make it stop. No. It's not stopping. There's another group, none seeming older than nine, in bright pink dresses above the knee. Seriously. This is gross.

Swin Cash brought a group of kids from her foundation today and took pictures with them. Very sweet. (As a bonus, that meant she came out, and that meant she had to go back, and that means that Swin signed my cap, which has been difficulty level expert for about a year.) Swin's mom was also with the group- or if not her mom, then a woman who has the exact same facial structure as Swin and a similar, if not as athletic, build.

Stefanie Dolson's hair is even more vibrantly purple in person. It's spectacular.

The enemy is among us: Washington has organized a road trip. There are also occasional individual Mystics fans.

Substitute announcer today. Games without Mike W. make me sad.

So do games in which we play with no energy and Tina Charles couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if you put her in the barn. It's 35-29 at the half. Ivory Latta has been a sparkplug for the Mystics, and Stefanie Dolson has the outside jumper working.

I don't think Bria Hartley's playing any time soon. She has a little scooter. I don't know if she has a horn for the little scooter like Wendy Palmer-Daniel had.

Apparently Rebecca Allen is out for the year, so this space will end up being the fashion report. Today she's showing off her tan and her guns. Nothing too embarrassingly tight.

Washington's ballgirl is wearing a Dolson shirt. Not sure if Washington brought the gear or the whole kid.

That was ugly, but not quite as ugly as the scoreboard indicates. You'll just have to believe me on this. Neither team shot well, but Washington took better advantage of their looks. It helps when you have perimeter shooting, too, as Washington did.

Natasha Cloud committed a really pointless hard foul up 20 in the fourth quarter that we thought should have been a flagrant. She brought a different look to the Washington backcourt, with height and speed and solid passing. The play that impressed me most was actually a missed rebound- she read it very well but got deked by a bad hop. Ally Malott was an offensive spark, giving me frustrating flashbacks of a certain tournament game in 2013. She's not WNBA-ready in any other regard, at least from this game, but she's a jolt of offensive life from the perimeter. Kayla Thornton brought height and size. I have unresolved issues regarding Tayler Hill (g'wan and ask me in the comments), so I can't guarantee that my view of her is unbiased, but she doesn't seem shy to shoot. She needs to bring more than that if she's going to not be redundant- Cloud's a better passer and Malott's a better offensive option. Even with a 12-player roster, everyone has to have something that they bring that someone else doesn't.

In the heat of the game I was calling Stefanie Dolson "that freakin' Troll doll" (though I really think Washington needs to talk to the maker of said dolls about doing a giveaway based on Kalana Greene's joke photo, because I need that in my life). I'm surprised the ball ended up in her hands at the end of the clock as often as it did, and that led to two of Washington's three shot clock violations. She's got nice outside touch for a big. Kara Lawson lay low until the fourth quarter, whereupon she broke our backs with consecutive threes and great despairing was heard across the land (though not as much as there should have been). We came down hard on Emma Meesseman, who didn't get any good looks inside and really didn't retreat outside. On the other hand, Ivory Latta got plenty of open space that she took advantage of, whether it was going to the rack or hitting threes and proceeding to let everyone in the universe know just how happy she was to hit that three. Armintie Herrington intercepted passes like she was playing in the NFL, and found her free throw stroke later in the game after missing her first two. She's not an offensive option, but she's so solid on defense.

Washington made the game ugly, and we fell into that trap. They crowded the passing lanes and ensured that the crisp passing that characterized our wins wasn't nearly as easy as we thought it was going to be.

Candice Wiggins came in early in both halves because Brittany Boyd was having trouble adjusting. I think I would pay money for a transcript of her chattering at Ivory Latta during the game. That's all she was good for in the game, though. (I'm trying to be gentle, because she's super-friendly to fans.) Avery Warley-Talbert played briefly in both halves when someone needed a sub but Bill didn't want to throw the rotation out of whack. Stop bringing the ball to the floor, Avery; you're starting to give other people bad ideas. Sugar Rodgers was all over the map- good shots, bad shots, courageous plays, stupid plays. I love her ferocity, but she's never going to be consistent, and that's going to drive me nuts. Swin Cash was good defensively. Carolyn Swords got itno foul trouble, though partially because of inconsistent officiating, but got a lot of work done on the inside. To borrow a cliché, she brought her lunch bucket today, and she worked hard.

I wish I could say the same of the starter. Tina Charles was keyed on all game, I'll give her that. But she had open looks and missed them. She had chances and she blew them. I expect a lot out of Tina, and all we got today was a lot of nothing. Tanisha Wright picked off passes like she was auditioning to play corner for the Giants. I question some of her offensive decisions vis-à-vis driving into larger players, but T doesn’t back down from anything, so I can't say I'm surprised. Essence Carson was intense today- love to see that from her. I wish she'd stop stepping on the three-point line, though. I like to see her working on offensive rebounds. Kiah Stokes has to hit bunnies when Tina hits her with perfect passes, that's simply all there is to it. She came up with big blocks and seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Brittany Boyd spent a lot of time attempting to draw fouls, setting aside the fact that, for the most part, we were not getting those calls in this game. Sometimes she tries too hard. You can't fault her for that. I do fault her for not figuring out that if you throw a pass and it gets intercepted, you probably shouldn't throw the same pass in the same way.

The shooting was horrific. There were a lot of contested looks, but even when we got open looks we couldn't knock them down.

The moment I knew we were doomed: Armintie Herrington fumbled a dribble badly and sprawled on the floor. Somehow, she got enough control of the ball to keep it in Washington's hands, and the play ends with Lawson hitting a three to make it a 13-point game.

The moments in which I saw hope for the future: first, after Tina blew a lay-up short, Boyd immediately took her in hand to settle her down. Second, the offensive rebounding that led to Carolyn hitting a lay-up on the fifth chance.

The officiating was a hot mess. Very inconsistent. Call contact to the head, people! Sugar's got a Georgetown education, there's a valuable asset to protect in that skull!

It was a perfect storm of disasters for the Liberty. You can't win if your best player is 3-17 from the field. You can't win if you shoot 30%. You can't win if you give up 10 threes. You can't win if the free throw differential is 2-to-1 for most of the game. We'll get through this... but Indiana is closer to full strength than they were on Friday.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11th, 2015: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A slow start for both teams turned into a faster second half in which the New York Liberty took control over the Phoenix Mercury on their way to a 68-57 win. Tina Charles had 19 points and 11 rebounds for New York, with Essence Carson adding 10 points and Kiah Stokes 11 rebounds. DeWanna Bonner led all scorers with 22 points.

For bad shots, A Tribe Called Quest, attempted ref shows, cheap pushoffs, Scowl and Foul, relief, and cake, join your intrepid and humid blogger after the jump.

So it started out as one of those days, which I find doesn't augur well for my gameday experience, no matter how good the game is or what the result is. So if we smash Phoenix by 40 and the game notes are still harping on Candice Wiggins's hair decisions, you know why.

Dude in a banana costume on the bus, NBD. Reasons I love New York.

The difference a minute can make: I left at 5:30 on Tuesday and got to the Garden at 6:30. I left at 5:29 today and got to the Garden at 6:10. I had time to pester the opposing team for autographs- the Australians Francis and Madgen were sweet, and Leilani Mitchell got a warm greeting from fellow Liberty fans. (There should always be more Aussies. Aussies are awesome. {Aussome?})

Singing and clapping children are yes. Dancing children in sequined dresses are no. Please make it stop.

Looks like Phoenix is playing mind games with the Liberty: Shameka Christon is starting and attempted to run into the Liberty huddle. Or she's not starting- she was up there for the first half hour or so before they popped Bonner in at the last minute.

Shoutout to the Phoenix fans who decided to come see the Mercury while they were on vacation at the same time.

Heh. Pregame sketch with birthday girl Brittany Boyd and Essence Carson. Somehow I don't think this is what Boyd had in mind when she grabbed the mic. I just want to know if that's a real cake. (And of course: it's ya birthday, party up on Phoenix like it's ya birthday.)

Well, that was hot trash on a platter, but I'll take a halftime lead, even if it isn't much. We're playing out of control and stupid to a Phoenix team that has spare parts surrounding Candice Dupree. (And to a lesser extent DeWanna Bonner.) The passing is fast, but it's not crisp. And no one seems to have control- I think there were six charges called in this one, plus the blocking foul when Brittany Boyd knocked over Mistie Bass (and no, Bass wasn't flopping, it was a WHAM!)

I'm not sure what those pants are on Rebecca Allen, other than suggestive enough to draw cheers from the audience.

I like this reversal of the last couple of years, turning the third quarter into the time that we shine instead of the time where the wheels fall off. Both teams came out of the locker room with a lot more energy, but the Liberty really picked up speed and intensity in the third quarter.

So, the Phoenix bench. Tess Madgen got open for three and took advantage. I liked her recovery on a loose ball- she was beat on the dribble but managed to get enough control of it while on her knees to get enough possession for a jump ball (one that I believe Phoenix won). Mistie Bass brought physical screens and savvy rebounds, including one in the first half that she tipped right out of Tina's hands. She's one of those players who wins you over in an instant when she's on your team, but you kind of wish misery and pain upon when she's not. I liked Alex Harden's intensity on defense, but she was not good on offense. Shameka Christon has put on a fair amount of weight since her Liberty days, and it has, ah, accumulated in places that she might find advantageous off the court, but that are not particularly useful or comfortable on the court. Her shot has not joined her in the Valley of the Sun. Noelle Quinn faked Brittany Boyd out beautifully on a play (though I don't think she hit the shot) but was otherwise unremarkable at best.

I don't think Cayla Francis is ready for primetime yet. I know they're not expecting her to be, and that the games she starts are strictly because of Griner's absence. But she seems too perimeter-oriented and tentative to play post in the W. Leilani Mitchell showed some flashes of speed and steadiness for the Phoenix offense, and Phoenix's bigs gave her a lot of room to operate with great screens- but she wasn't hitting her threes and she wasn't finishing at the rim. Monique Currie brought the jumpers, but also brought the stupid fouls, careless turnovers, and sullen on-court demeanor. (Strictly on-court. She was sweet to fans off the court.) I suspect her face when a three was transformed into a two would have been a picture. DeWanna Bonner was effective closer to the basket than on the perimeter, and Phoenix might have had a better chance of winning if she had chosen to accept that instead of launching threes. Candice Dupree carried the load of the offense with her silky jumpers and post moves. She was solid on the boards, too. She spends a lot of time being overshadowed by awesome, so it's kind of nice to see her shine, but I'd prefer it not to be against my team.

The subs for New York were not as sharp as they had been in the last couple of games, though that might have to do with the shuffling of the lineup. Candice Wiggins brings energy on the bench, but not much else off it. I would not have run her today as much as Bill did. Avery Warley-Talbert is going to kill me one of these days with her mindless urge to bring the ball down to her knees or below after she pulls down one of those awesome tough boards. Avery, you're, like, 6-3 and really strongly built. Go up with the ball! Carolyn Swords was involved in a lot of collisions, but also in good offensive boards right at the rim. She cleaned up her teammates' messes. Swin Cash helped spur things in the second half, sinking the dagger in the fourth quarter (though I still believe it was a 2, not a 3, but the call stood). She helped realign the defense to a layout that made more sense with the personnel that Phoenix put on the floor. Sugar Rodgers had questionable shooting acumen, but went after the ball with tenacity and fire. She forced a couple of jump balls and dove for every loose ball. She drew the uncomfortable assignment of guarding DeWanna Bonner, and gave it her all despite the size difference.

Brittany Boyd brings a new gear to the game. Her passes are hard and sharp and fast. We'll see how that lasts when teams get a more detailed scouting report on her. She needs to not double-clutch on those lay-ups- she had two today that she could have hit if she hadn't pumped one more time than she had to. I foresee a future of high numbers on both sides of the A/TO slash. Tanisha Wright kept passing the ball to Phoenix, which I guess means they were anticipating her (it's like Phoenix played Seattle four times a year for how many years now). Either that, or people weren't where they were supposed to be, which happened a couple of times with Kiah Stokes. Kiah did work on the glass, but she's got to finish at the rim. Essence Carson got lost on defense a few times, but came up with the shots at the right time. Tina Charles started a bit slowly and was a bit of a defensive liability, but more than made up for it with her offense. And then the rebounds really started to roll and she dropped the monster block on Mitchell, and we all remembered that time that Tina was an MVP.

The second unit misses the grit and versatility of Rebecca Allen.

I love that Sue Wicks has so far been to every game this season. Suuuuuuuuuuuue.

I think there were six charges and five 3-second violations, plus a long review for nothing in particular that Bill was almost laughing about by the end. Not a good look for these officials.

We played our worst game of the season, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And yet we never trailed. On to the next one, and Washington will not be this easy.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9th, 2015: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 20-4 third-quarter run turned a halftime deficit to the Indiana Fever into a 86-79 win for the New York Liberty. Tina Charles led all scorers with 21 points, adding three steals. Layshia Clarendon led Indiana with 14 points, with four Fever players tallying 13 behind her.

For podcasts, forceful blocks, that retro sound, untranslated Spanish, energy, fashion critiques, much hair, and juggling, join your intrepid and begrimed blogger after the jump.

A cool rain falls lightly on the city. Perhaps this will quench the Fever. Perhaps. Welcome to the GNoD.

(Okay, so maybe I've been mainlining Welcome to Night Vale. If you've ever wondered what community radio would sound like in a Stephen King novel, well, this is even creepier.)

Mid-week games start at 7, which is a bit of a drag when you leave work at 5:30 and the unspeakably stupid bus doesn't show up 'til 5:50. RAAAAAAGE.

The dancing little kids are a lot less creepy when they're not enthusiastic. I still didn't watch. Watching children too young to develop certain body parts attemping to shake those body parts is not my thing.

Indiana practiced at St. John's the other day, but kissing up to my girls of winter will do nothing to sway me from my girls of summer.

There are Pirates lurking. Hi, Tony'n'em! Note to Seton Hall: I think Tabatha Richardson-Smith really wants a Jumbotron for Walsh Gymnasium. I'll let you guys figure out how to install it.

Enticing me with a 20% discount on tickets and free thundersticks will do nothing to convince me to take a survey.

Rebecca Allen in street clothes for New York. Either tuck in your blouse or leave it untucked. There is no try.

Layshia Clarendon has gone full Mohawk. I kinda liked the golden 'hawk effect better, but it's her hair and her choice.

At halftime, Indiana is up 41-38 in a game where you can argue the reserves have been superior to the starts. Essence Carson has 11 for the Liberty; Layshia Clarendon has 14 for the Fever. We have been blessed with the presence of Tamika Catchings. Yay. This is my happy face. :|

Our halftime entertainment has been a series of dancing children. Stop it, please just stop it.

I'm not sure what was worse about the anthem: the lack of harmony from the kids, or playing the instrumental over the vocals.

Well. About that third quarter swoon we've normally been prone to. Didn't exactly show up today. Not that I mind at all.

I think Indiana's rotations were thrown off by the absence of Zellous, the unavailability of Larkins, the in-game injury to January, and the apparent minute count for Catchings. Stephanie White had to scramble, and it takes a lot more experience to scramble successfully than she currently has.

(also, you might be a native New Yorker if you typo Minuit for minute)

Maggie Lucas did not do well at things that did not involve shooting jumpers beyond the arc. The worst was the thwarted fast break; I'll give credit to the Liberty defender (who I think was Sugar Rodgers) for making it difficult for her, but she didn't adjust her shot at all, and then she couldn't get out of her own way on the floor. She, like many Indiana players, was wedged into a role that she wasn't truly comfortable in. Briana Butler's role was pretty much just to sub for Briann January when January was injured. Natasha Howard needs to inhale as much game film of Sancho Lyttle as she is physically capable of watching. Those long arms, that long jumper, that burning urge to jump the passing lanes, all that springy athleticism: she reminds me so much of a young Lyttle, except with even more of a propensity to foul people. She seemed to be everywhere. Lynetta Kizer gave really good minutes off the bench, moving with speed and crashing the boards hard. Shenise Johnson and her giant hair brought firepower from beyond the arc, even on review (one of her shots was initially ruled a two, then reviewed and upgraded at the quarter break, much to our dismay). She was part of the lineup that made the run in the late third and early fourth, as part of a rather oddball lineup by Indiana. Jeanette Pohlen got the second half start with the injury to January, and I'm not really sure if Indiana was sure who was running the point between her and Clarendon.

There was an awful lot of running around- a lot of switches and a lot of forced mismatches.

Tamika Catchings is going to do the things that Catch does, because she's Catch. It looked like she was on a minute count, which led to the unintentionally hilarious situation of pulling a multi-time DPOY in an offense-defense switch in the fourth quarter. She and Howard swapped in and out as necessary, Howard on D, Catch on offense. Why do we leave her open!? I feel like Natalie Achonwa should have gotten the ball more, though that might have also been the Liberty defense. She was very active. She has to work on her hands, though- too many turnovers and too much trouble gathering the ball. Layshia Clarendon is so expressive on the court. It's adorable. She had one pass with too much mustard on it, and from her facial contortions I was sure she had thrown out her shoulder on the bad pass before determining that, no, she thought it was the dumbest pass in the history of the universe. She got hot from outside, and was aggressive going after the ball. Briann January is demonstrative, always trying to get the ref's attention for a foul on the opposition. I hope she's feeling better after what looked like a chop to the throat. She brings a steadiness to her team that I think they missed without her. Marissa Coleman could have been more aggressive. Use that height and create mismatches! Just not against us!

Avery Warley-Talbert contributed some tough boards. I just wish she'd stop bringing the ball down where the guards can get it. Carolyn Swords had some beautiful looks and missed them, but made up for it with some wicked blocks. Swin Cash let her emotions get to her a little at the end of the game, committing a foul that technically let Indiana win the fourth quarter, but she brought tough defense and some veteran headiness off the bench. Candice Wiggins is still regaining her form, but there were flashes of her old speed. Sugar Rodgers can be frustrating, but she's also energetic and can affect the game in a good way.

Tina Charles got off to a slow start, and an indifferent one. Sometime around the second quarter, she got her act together and turned into the beast down low that we all know she can be. She was getting it done on both sides of the basket. Essence Carson showed off her perimeter shooting today, and brought some defense while she was at it. Kiah Stokes found her shot in the second half, and was blocking shots all night- she had a monster one on Achonwa that left Achonwa on the floor. Brittany Boyd brought fire and speed to the starting lineup, where I think she belongs. She was wild, and not always in a good way. But this too shall pass. Tanisha Wright was a steadier hand, though sometimes a little too slow for my liking. Love her toughness and her savvy.

It's odd that I was able to write more about the Fever than the Liberty, but for the Liberty it was a total team effort. Tina was awesome, and Essence was great, but everyone did something positive on the floor at some point. There's such a sense of camaraderie and tight-knit bonding among them. It's really nice. The pick-and-roll game was on point, and everyone seemed to be taking pride in going to the weak side for lay-ups.

The Brittany Boyd Roller Coaster Experience Ride: she shakes Clarendon like a maraca, throws up the scoop... and gets nothing with physical or tangible presence in this world, and the Fever rebound.

Officiating was uneven to start. It has always been my impression that, should a player be the last to touch the ball as it goes out of bounds, her team should lose possession. But what do I know?

Shoutout to the DJ who pulled "Feel It" out of the archives. Haven't heard that one at a game in years! And shoutout to the guest DJ who sneaked "Strike It Up" into her mix. I'm having flashbacks! Who knows, maybe we'll even find Tari one of these days.

Also, shoutout to the small adorable child with the stuffed Maddie from 2004.

I'm feeling good about this team. Let's see what happens on Thursday, though. Let's see what we can do with what's left of the Mercury.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

June 5th, 2015: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty came out strong and held on to the end of a 82-73 win over the Atlanta Dream. Tina Charles had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead four Liberty players in double figures. Angel McCoughtry led all scorers with 27 points, adding eight rebounds.

For energy, copious t-shirts, choral performances, quick moves, juggling lineups, nice jackets, and the thrill of the game, join your intrepid and sore blogger after the jump.

Good evening, boys and girls! It's gameday at the Garden, after entirely too long. We get to talk and watch basketball at long last.

Well, at the moment, we're watching the Silver Cloud Singers and Dancers, in stunning regalia. Adorable baby dancer is adorable. I guess this is one advantage to the Shoni effect: exposure to other cultures!

Boo on security for claiming a group of seats were reserved and then letting other people stand there. Also, protip to Bec Allen: never say you're coming back out, because we all know you're not. No one ever comes back, except Crystal Kelly.

Candice Wiggins and Carolyn Swords rocking the Lib green nail polish. WANT.

Why are Atlanta's suits black? Atlanta doesn't wear black. So confusing!

Not feeling Tanisha Wright's hair.

New ref jackets are fiyah. (I believe this is the proper use of the hip modern slang?)

I don't know how I feel about the new jumbotron pictures. On one hand, I like seeing players' style. On the other hand, I prefer a focus on them as basketball players.

There's a blonde in the next section over who bears a disturbing resemblance to Jenny Boucek. I know she can't be.

Way too many empty seats so far. With our luck, the Garden's crackdown on the planned NOW/WSF protests turned people away.

There are a batch of people in "I am Anucha Browne" shirts, and I approve this message. Just because I question picketing MSG doesn't mean I sanction or condone Isiah.

Halftime involves Maddie getting his Katy Perry on. I don't even. I can't even.

You don't get to call dibs on t-shirts half a row away from you. There are rows of t-shirts available. Grab 'em later.

This has been a breakneck first half with so much energy! I honestly don't remember the last time watching the Liberty was this fun. 2008, maybe? There's pace. There's excitement. There's enthusiasm. It's fun! Atlanta's strategy seems to be to pass until they get an open perimeter shot. 11 three attempts in the first half alone. You have Érika de Souza down low. You have the athleticism of Sancho Lyttle to spread the floor. Why are you turning Tiffany Hayes into your secondary offensive option instead of them?

Slowing down the clock too early against a team that likes to bomb threes is maybe not the best option in the world. I sort of understand if Bill's trying to rein in the young guns and temper their enthusiasm, but he has to be careful he doesn't leave everyone crazy paranoid. And Atlanta played more to their strengths in the second half, cranking up the defense (especially on passing lanes) and going closer to the basket.

Matee Ajavon played briefly. She did not leave a good impression, but she never has. Aneika Henry saw time in the first half, but none in the second. Nadia Colhado was the primary post sub for the Dream. I like her board work. There's a lot of promise there. Yes, I know, the box score shows almost no statistical impact for her. But she boxed out well, defended pretty solidly, and got after loose balls. Erica Wheeler brought speed at the point, but only on offense. She got made a fool of defensively. Also, running out of bounds on the sideline near the Liberty bench and going into parts of the arena that are not in play seems to be her thing- this time it was the scorer's table, not the bench. Roneeka Hodges saw a lot of time in a small-ball line-up. It created mismatches, and she got open in her spots, but if that's what you're going to do, you have to either hit the shots or stop doing it. She didn't hit the shots. She fronted bravely on defense.

I'm not sure if Shoni Schimmel is going to be the long-term answer for this team. Her conditioning is bad; I think the only reason she doesn't register on the Kraayeveld/Adubato scale is that she has a darker complexion than either Cathrine or Richie. She does have the dagger mentality, I'll give her that- if the clock is running down, I want the ball in her hands. I just don't know if I want it in her hands at any other time. There are flashes of the star she was at Louisville and the All-Star MVP she was last year; the one that stands out to me was the one-armed pass she rifled to Tiffany Hayes for a shot in the corner (though I don't believe Hayes hit the shot). Tiffany Hayes took a lot of shots. She got on a hot streak at one point, which is the point where I turned to my stalwart companion and said, "Y'know, at least once a year I look at Tiffany Hayes and think, 'there's just something about that woman I don't like'." This was that time. Sancho Lyttle plays the passing lanes so beautifully, and kept balls alive, but wasn't a factor on offense. Neither was Érika de Souza. Part of that was the Liberty defense, but Atlanta didn't seem inclined to test it. They were content to pass around the perimeter and not even attempt to get the ball to the bigs. They went to that a bit in the third quarter, but then the Liberty defense tightened up again. Getting into foul trouble in the second and third quarters didn't help, either. She was big on the boards, though. Angel McCoughtry brought the fire on offense for the Dream. Late in the game, it looked as if she had decided that no one else was terribly inclined to attempt to win the game, so she was going to go it alone. I don't know if that's a good plan for Atlanta- it certainly didn't work when Cappie Pondexter was doing it for the Liberty. And it got to her near the end, when she got a technical.

Atlanta, I don't know what you were doing, especially in that first half, but if you want to keep doing it against the Liberty, I'd be all right with that.

I loved the bench play tonight! Lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm. Carolyn Swords needs to work on her catching and holding abilities, but she got inside and got position. The big girl played fearless. I approve. Rebecca Allen really, really brought the hustle- there were at least two plays I could think of where she stole a rebound away from Atlanta. I'm waiting for her to hit a three just so I can belt AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE. Sugar Rodgers was a spark and a lightning rod- great hustle, big shots. On nights like these, I understand why she stays. Swin Cash brought the offense, especially in the third quarter, and came up with a couple of key rebounds and baskets to keep Atlanta at bay. The star of the night, at least among the crowd in my area, was Brittany Boyd, who broke Erica Wheeler's ankles at least once, maybe twice, and fired up the team and the crowd like Four Loko injected directly into the veins. She was everywhere. She was relentless. She got a little crazy, and got a bit distracted by the Timeless Torches, but rookies gonna rook.

Candice Wiggins rocking the Knicks hair, which might explain why her mojo was a wee bit absent. She was capable. She wasn't abhorrently awful, but she did nothing of note, and had trouble keeping up at both ends of the floor. Tanisha Wright eems to be the point guard whose job it is to slow up the game, as opposed to Brittany throwing things in fast forward. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you need to throw the chutes. And I like the flexibility she provides us to switch around everyone else in the backcourt. She brings a lot to the table. Essence Carson still needs to get the hang of the extended three-point line. I'm really glad to see she's been cleared to play without the goggles. She was defensively assigned to McCoughtry for much of the night, during the times that Swin wasn't, and the results were... less than spectacular. Kiah Stokes was a bit more of the late-senior-season Kiah than the awesome preseason Kiah, but she brought defense against de Souza and rebounding, especially in the second half. Tina Charles did her thing- finishing at the glass, pulling down boards, all that good stuff. She had one shot that was especially pretty, a left-handed finish on a fast break. She got a little too one-on-one in the third quarter. I think she forgot she has teammates now.

Play of the night: Sugar steals a rebound on the baseline, performs a full spin to get possession while still staying in-bounds, gets the ball off to Tina, Tina outlets to Tanisha, Tanisha hits Swin for the lay-up. It was beautiful.

Officiating was close. Daryl Simpson showed an annoying tendency to blow his whistle about three seconds after a foul actually happened. Stay with the pace, man!

Not-quite-on-court thing I liked: after Brittany got subbed for, she went to the bench with a bit of that chip on her shoulder showing, at which point T-Spoon took her in hand and gave her a pep talk from behind the bench. They're going to get on like a house on fire. Possibly with screaming if it doesn't go well.

Lots of athletes in the house: John Starks, Dick Barnett, a couple of current Knicks I wouldn't know from a hole in the ground, Prince Amukamara (we looked to see if either of his sisters were there), and Bart Scott.

A great start- and a nicely balanced one. It's clear that the starters of this game won't all be starting in September, or even in July.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 27th, 2015: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Atlanta Dream turned on the afterburners in the third quarter to lead by as much as 23 in a preseason win over the New York Liberty. Angel McCoughtry and Erica Wheeler each had 13 to lead Atlanta, while Érika de Souza added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tina Charles led the Liberty with 12 points.

For reversals, troubling injuries, enthusiasm, missed shots, so very many players, defensive energy, cool shirts, cool hair, and too many kids, join your intrepid and clammy blogger after the jump.

Good morning, gentle readers! Wow, that came out too enthusiastic. I hate mornings. I hate Camp Day games. And yet here I am at the Garden for Camp Day versus Atlanta in the preseason. I love my team. I may disagree strongly with their management decisions, but they're still my team and I have to love them or there will be nothing left to love.

To the kids in section 108: knock it off with the thundersticks already. It's a half hour before the game. My head already hurts.

Matee Ajavon, it is not cool of you to blow off all autograph seekers, especially the one in the Rutgers tank top. Erica Wheeler signed for her.

I forgot how hard it was to get Liberty autographs at Liberty games. And Swin Cash still eludes us all.

Flopping in a biddy game? For serious? Shame, because the fast breaks are actually pretty good. (And no, young lady in the headscarf, neither team is the Liberty.)

Substitute announcer. I think it's the Seton Hall guy. I wanted to hear how Mike W. did the names for the newcomers.

Oh, hey, cool, another kids' game. Though this one's going to have to be pretty fast if they want to get the players on the court on time. Atlanta just came out, and Shoni Schimmel's face, even nine rows away, is pretty fantastically WTF. And Sancho Lyttle will not be denied. She wants her basketballs! They came on before the kids had finished clearing the floor.

I still do not approve of the "Strike It Up"/"Turn Down For What" mash-up, but I am a stick in the mud and I want all these kids to get off my lawn.

At halftime, Atlanta is up 44-39, but that's mostly on free throw shooting. I love what I'm seeing from the newcomers for the Liberty, especially Rebecca Allen, Kiah Stokes, and Brittany Boyd. The energy is fantastic. For Atlanta, I've been very impressed by Sequoia Holmes and Erica Wheeler. Wheeler really, really wants a W job. (That being said, running full speed into Bill Laimbeer is not a recipe for long-term health.)

Scary moment near the end of the first half- Nadia Colhado got into a collision with Rebecca Allen and a Dream player, and rolled around on the floor holding the top of her head. But she's back out for warmups, so it must not have been as bad as we thought.

Candice Wiggins is rocking blue and orange hair. I'll let it go, but I'd prefer the seafoam green. I know a lot of players prefer the NBA connection, or at least the appearance of an NBA connection, but we wear black and seafoam. Also, who wants to be affiliated with the Knicks right now?

So things fell apart a little in the second half, but I don't think it's as big a concern for the Liberty as you might think from looking at the splits or even watching the game. Laimbeer seemed to be feeling out his players (not feeling up, that's Isiah's job {yes, this will probably be the first of many inappropriate jokes about Isiah Thomas until such time as he takes a long walk off a short pier}), his rotations, and who can run what plays with whom. Cooper got into that more in the second half, once they'd established the big lead early in the third quarter.

So many players, so little time, but we'll see how many of them left anything resembling an impression.

Matee Ajavon seems to be back up to speed and snarl. I think she picked the defense up a little. Samantha Logic got in very late and had some nice passes, including the prettiest play of the game, a sweet assist to Erica Wheeler for three. Sequoia Holmes didn't make a statistical impact, but I give points to a player who has the court awareness to at least try and get her team to stop play while a teammate is hurt. Ify Ibekwe mixed it up on the glass. Aneika Henry was solid on the boards (you might notice a theme here) and set tough, not always legal, screens. Martha Alwal is tall, but that's the only impression that she left. Roneeka Hodges doesn't have the shot she used to. Nadia Colhado works really well with Érika de Souza on the boards- she was mixing it up on the offensive boards and taking advantage of balls that were not fully possessed. There was one sequence where she and de Souza were going back and forth rebounding the misses. She has to finish at the rim, though. But the biggest and most pleasant surprise off the Atlanta bench was Erica Wheeler, who seems to have studied the road map that Michelle Campbell wrote. She shot well, though perhaps more often than she would in the regular season, and played fantastic on-ball defense on our rookie point guards. I'd keep her if I was Atlanta.

Sancho Lyttle still has those quick hands. Do not pass a ball anywhere near her unless you play for the Atlanta Dream, because she will jump that lane and take that ball. She seems to have taken her offense out to the perimeter for good. Érika de Souza is a load down low and went hard to the rack whenever she had the opportunity. The rim robbed her twice; I'm honestly surprised she missed as many shots as the box score would indicate, and I’m using the ESPN box score, so it's not that is broken again. Angel McCoughtry was her styling, acrobatic self, at least when she played, but there will be more on that. Shoni Schimmel fired up some shots late, but overall didn't look great, nor did she look like she was thinking about getting into game shape. Tiffany Hayes did a nice job of drawing contact going through the lane, and it's really annoying when she hits threes.

The biggest concern for Atlanta right now: in the second half, McCoughtry abruptly pulled up short as if cramping, dropped to the floor, rolled to the sidelines, and was helped up putting no weight on her left knee. They took her back to the locker room briefly. She came back out, but didn't play (by the time she was back out there was only about 4:30 left in the game, and Atlanta was up big). She didn't come out to the handshake line, and she left on crutches.

On to New York. Amber Orrange should not make this team. Harsh, but she doesn't have the WNBA vision or the WNBA handle to make it in the league. Maybe if she plays overseas for a couple of years she'll be ready to try again. I saw nothing positive out of her. I did like Chelsea Hopkins's passing eye- she and Essence Carson hooked up for two late beauties- but her handle leaves something to be desired. WNBA guards will not give you a chance to get the ball back under control. Sugar Rodgers committed dumb fouls but somehow found ways to get the ball in the basket. Sugar is high-risk, high-reward, and has always been. I don't know if she's worth investing in. I like Shanece McKinney's hustle, and I like the work she puts in, but I don't think she has the talent to cut it. She will push her teammates, but in the pros, is that enough to keep her on the roster? Candice Wiggins's shot fell consistently short. Ominous. (Also, if you have bright, multi-colored hair, do not put yourself in a position where an official can decide to call a foul on you. You are easy to spot that way.) Avery Warley-Talbert hit the boards well, but she has to finish. She absolutely has to finish. She missed at least two easy shots right at the rim, and she had trouble with free throws. Rebecca Allen made a really good impression. I love her slashing ability, and she seems to have range. Her shot wasn't falling until fairly late, but that's a risk you take. She brings other things to the table. Brittany Boyd has solid vision, but she's still learning the speed of the game, and what plays she can and can't make against WNBA competition. I love her eye on the boards- you hear about it, but it doesn't click until you see it. Carolyn Swords falls down an awful lot. She clears space well down low, and she can be a useful player for us, but I'm worried about her durability. If she can stay healthy (and upright), she shows flashes of being similar to Sue Wicks. And no, that is not because she's blonde and, er, oh dear, how to put this... looks older than her years, at least in profile (please don't kill me please don't kill me). I didn't realize how many rebounds she came up with until I looked at the box score.

Kind of worried a little bit about Swin Cash. She really didn't bring much of anything today. She was okay defensively, maybe a little better than okay, but that was it. Essence Carson found her shooting mojo late in the game. I think she's still finding her way back. She seems to be shifting back to the two instead of the three, which I've long felt is where she belongs. Tanisha Wright ran a solid point, and I liked watching her on defense. Tina Charles was mighty pretty on offense, going to the hole and finishing, but I worry about her lack of rebounding. Then again, that might just have been because Kiah Stokes grabbed all the rebounds. I'm on the bandwagon now. I like the way she plays, I like the way she gets work done down low, and I like how she fits with this team. Tiny thing I liked most about Kiah today: she made a huge, crowd-firing block into the third row... and as she saw it go out of bounds, she scowled, as if infuriated that she hadn't kept it in play.

Officiating was mostly solid. Tiara Cruse was feeling her oats early on, but then Bill yelled at Denise Brooks.

Shoutout to the kid who customized his school-issued green t-shirt into a Neymar jersey.

There's still work to be done, and I'm not anointing us Eastern Conference champions yet, but I like this team more than I've liked squads in the last few years. There's promise and camaraderie. The energy, especially in the second quarter, doesn't come through in the statistics, but it was there, almost tangible.

It's good to be home.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22nd, 2015: Fordham at St. John's (WNIT)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford had 23 points and 10 rebounds to power St. John's to a 77-63 win over Fordham in second-round WNIT action. Emily Tapio had 19 points to lead Fordham.

For bittersweet farewells, lost shoes, rhythmic clapping, wardrobe changes, dueling bands, and never winning raffles, join your intrepid and conclusive blogger after the jump.

Off with the blue, on with the red. Can't stay in the Big Dance, time to hit the Medium Dance. Still got some of our Jersey girls playing. Sleep off the heartbreak at Gampel, hit the road with hope for Carnesecca. It's a battle for the heart of the city, as the Fordham Rams come to Queens to play the St. John's Red Storm.

I think the event staff at every staircase is a little excessive today, given that we have approximately 20 people in the stands so far, not including the Fordham band.

The Mighty Sound of the Red Storm is back in action, and ready to rumble.

D'awww, one of the Fordham players is wearing the Senior Day shirt.

In addition to their band, Fordham brought their mascot and cheerleaders. Their cheerleaders have flags, unlike the poor guy from Seton Hall last night.

At halftime, St. John's is up 38-32, in a game that's been a lot faster than I think anyone expected. Fordham likes to slow it down, but they've been content to run with the Red Storm. Aliyyah Handford is back to herself, with 19 points and some athletic rebounds. She's such a joy to watch, honestly.

Fordham has brought a lot of fans along for the ride, and they've been loud. Fortunately, a fair number of Johnnies showed up to counterbalance them. I think some of the guys from the men's team have joined us.

Strong contender for worst feeling in the world: your raffle ticket is one off a winning number. There are a lot of raffles today, though. It's a fan appreciation day. All I want is the UA skyline socks.

Our over-quota dancers have been exiled to the bleachers during the game. At least it helps us get the crowd noise going.

Fordham found their offensive groove in the second half, stylistically, but the game was still moving fast enough that St. John's was able to maintain control, and by the end, we were able to penetrate their defense with relative ease.

Khadijah Gibson came in near the end of the game when it was a lost cause and the seniors were getting their curtain calls. Danielle Padovano got a lot less time than I was expecting and really made no impact. Danielle Burns was first off the bench in both halves, but was so little of a factor that my loyal traveling companion (who knows Fordham better than I do) thought she hadn't played at all. Asnate Fomina brought a little bit of shooting, but nothing on the defensive end. (The box score also shorted her a missed free throw.) Taryn Durant brought a little bit of defense, but not much else.

Tiffany Ruffin played with the speed and passion of a player who knew that this could be her last game, especially in the latter part of the second half. She drove through the lane fearlessly, though not recklessly. I have to admire her toughness on both ends of the floor. G'mrice Davis missed a couple of early shots and got bodied up a little by the defense, and I think that got into her head a little bit, or more than a little bit. She rebounded decently, but she was not fully engaged in the game. Samantha Clark stretched the floor a little, and was certainly tough on the inside (seriously, do not run headlong into this woman, it does not end well for you) but committed stupid turnovers. Hannah Missry put a scare into us early with her stroke, but that was all she could muster for Fordham- even her one 2-point field goal was a long jumper. Once we stayed on her, she was a non-factor. Emily Tapio was great- hitting jumpers and going to the basket, rebounding, setting screens. She threw a couple of really nice head fakes to get good passing lanes or space to move closer to the basket.

I wasn't expecting Fordham to try and run with us, and I don't think they were either. Their offense became more deliberate, albeit not ponderous, in the second half.

Tonoia Wade sighting! I don't know what took Joe so long to find her at the end of the bench, but she came in near the end of the game and made a couple of nifty defensive plays. Tamesha Alexander came in around the same time. Kyra Dunn had some really good rebounds today- there were at least two that she seized with both hands and held on to, which is unusual for her. Imani Littleton played briefly and did nothing of import. Crystal Simmons looked really lost. Except for Kyra, this wasn't exactly a strong game for the Red Storm's bench.

Fortunately, when Aliyyah Handford drops 19 points in the first half, you don't necessarily need bench production. She looked more like herself, even in the second half when Fordham was doubling her. Her energy was back and her smile was back. Danaejah Grant had some issues with the rim, but got more of her shots to fall in the second half. Jade Walker committed dumb fouls and mistakes on defense, but her shot was going in nicely, both at the basket and from the midrange. Amber Thompson hit the boards and cleaned up missed shots. Aaliyah Lewis ran the show smoothly. I think I might have liked to see her take some more shots, but I think things worked out well today.

Not much to complain about with the officiating, other than that time Aliyyah took a forearm to the face from Fomina with no call.

Your funny moment of the game: as the second half was about to get started, Liyyah clapping along with "Thunderstruck".

Your maturity moment of the game: Crystal Simmons, badly out of position on defense, makes a weak swipe that ultimately results in Amber Thompson committing a foul. As soon as that whistle blows, Aaliyah Lewis calls everyone together and rips Crystal a new one for being out of position. I love that kind of leadership from a young player.

Your 'do not taunt happy fun band' moment of the game: Fordham's band played "Seven Nation Army", a major piece in our band's repertoire. As it happens, our band has recently added a bass. So, as the victorious Red Storm ran off the court, the band played not "Mars" (our fight song of sorts, because the Red Planet is appropriate for the Red Storm, and Holst is for the win), but... "Seven Nation Army", and proceeded to kick Fordham's butt in that regard as well. Seriously, do not mess with Kevin.

These will likely be the last Game Notes of Doom you'll see this year. St. John's is off to Villanova for the next round, and while I've done Philadelphia, I can't do it mid-week. So, if this is the end of my chronicles of the regular season, it's a good ending. I hope you've enjoyed my rambling, babbling, and incoherent muttering. And if you haven't, well, you've got a month or so's break before I head to Mohegan Sun for the draft, so you can sigh in relief.

To the teams that I love, thank you. Best of luck to my Johnnies and my Wolverines, still dancing in the WNIT. Best of luck for next year to my Pirates, my Gaels, and yes, my Rams. Thank you for the stars and the shining moments, the milestones and the magic numbers.

Thank you, Amber, Selina, and Kyra. Thank you, Janee, Ka-Deidre, Daisha, and Chizoba. Thank you, Damika. Thank you, Liz, Taryn, Tiffany, and Emily. Thank you, Shannon, Nicole, and Cyesha.

See you in the summer!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21st, 2015: Seton Hall at Rutgers (NCAA tournament)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Kahleah Copper and Tyler Scaife each had 21 points to power 8th-seeded Rutgers past 9th-seeded Seton Hall. Betnijah Laney added 17 points (including 4-6 3-point shooting) and 12 rebounds to seal the deal. Tabatha Richardson-Smith had 18 to lead Seton Hall, getting 17 points and seven rebounds in support from Tiffany Jones off the bench.

For a sea of blue (but not that sea of blue), road tripping, bad calls, well-aimed kicks, an uncharacteristic lack of poise, and Moooose, join your intrepid and peripatetic blogger after the jump.

Hello, loyal readers! Your intrepid blogger is currently coming to you live and in stereophonic sound from the lobby of Walsh Gymnasium, where the Seton Hall faithful are starting to gather for the bus that will take us to Gampel Pavilion, on a collision course with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

You won't be getting in-game notes from me, as Gampel frowns upon both backpacks and laptops. (Moose, however, are strongly encouraged, so Moooose is in the bag with our Seton Hall gear.) At most, if Gampel has wi-fi, you'll get tweets.

I'm rather enjoying the evisceration of C. Vivian Stringer that our boosters are engaging in. Apparently she tried to bar the SHU band from the WNIT game last year, and the WNIT was all, uh, no, you can't do that.

This was not how the story was supposed to end for Daisha and JJ and Chiz and Didi. This is not how it was supposed to go. This wasn't what was supposed to happen, and all I can bring myself to do at the moment is rail at the heavens, because this is not fair and it's not right, and yes, we partially brought it upon ourselves, but not entirely. And as hard as these seniors have fought to be in this place at this time, to have it taken away not entirely by their own hand is heartbreaking.

Gampel Pavilion's security is ridiculously strict. I brought a totebag to carry my clipboard, Moooose, and a few small things. They told me no. It's maybe 14" x 12" x 4". In front of them, we took everything out of the bag, stowed the small things in our pockets, picked up Moooose and the clipboard, and rolled the bag into a tube the size of a tossed t-shirt. Seriously, guys, you need a hobby.

(Also, I don't want to say that the "no flag" policy was strict, but the SHU cheerleader who normally does the flag run had to use an imaginary flag.)

Kathleen Egan gave a few spot minutes at the 4. Jordan Mosley was the sub for Ka-Deidre Simmons when Didi got in foul trouble, and showed guts going after a Rachel Hollivay shot. (She got her hand on it and it still went in.) Lubirdia Gordon brought size down low, primarily in the first half, but seemed a little tentative. Then again, so were most of the Pirates. Tiffany Jones was one of the few people not afraid to attack the basket. I think early on she thought she was going to be more effective from beyond the arc, but someone knocked sense into her, and she went more towards the basket as the game went on. Tara Inman showed spunk, but not always common sense.

Chizoba Ekedigwe was stiff in the middle, and not in the stalwart kind of way. I think she actually played a minority of the critical minutes. She's normally a defensive stopper, but she just couldn't seem to get moving. Daisha Simmons was solid, though she did a lot of unnecessary passing. Janee Johnson was hot from outside. I think she knew what this game meant and wanted it worse than anyone else in a blue jersey. Tabatha Richardson-Smith was solid offensively and made a couple of great, aggressive defensive plays. I could do without the shots from somewhere in the vicinity of Metuchen, though. I've said before that as goes Ka-Deidre Simmons, so goes Seton Hall. And tonight Didi didn't have it. I don't know what was wrong with her. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe it was simply the doubles and triples Rutgers was constantly throwing at her, grinding her down. But she showed only flashes of the fearlessness that has been her trademark, constantly passing when she had interior looks, throwing up bad shots out of desperation, losing the vision that marked her as a point guard to be feared. This was not the Didi who led us to the top of the table.

Accidental funny but shouldn't be funny but funny anyway: Tab chased a loose ball into the Rutgers bench and landed hard on Coach Stringer, and may have gotten a foot to her gut. Later, she would fall into referee Tiara Cruse with the aid of momentum. I am positive Tab meant no harm, but it was a bit cathartic.

Rachel Hollivay came off the bench, though I think she might have started the second half. The PA guy wasn't really clear on announcing subs. She was strong, but her motion seemed limited. Cynthia Hernandez fired off two quick makes in the first half, and thereafter we were forced to devote somewhat more defensive attention to her. She doesn't look like your prototypical three-point specialist, but she's got a nice shot. Christa Evans played brief minutes when both Butts and Hollivay had picked up quick fouls. Shrita Parker has a lot of speed. I'm not sure how much common sense she has on the floor, but she has speed and she has guts.

Betnijah Laney has clearly heard the aspersions cast on her professional prospects due to her lack of a perimeter game at her size. She'll never be asked to participate in a WNBA three-point contest, but she was stroking them today. I'm not completely certain how many of them were fully behind the line, and she needs to get that extra foot or so in the next couple of years. She cleaned up the boards that extra step away from the basket- not necessarily the ones directly at the rim, but a little ways off. Tyler Scaife brought the pretty, pretty offense in the second half, hitting jumpers and getting looks. I can tell from the box score that Briyona Canty did things, but I don't remember her doing things. Kahleah Copper was a matchup nightmare- she ate our backcourt alive. She was too big for either of the Simmonae to handle and too fast for Tab. She's so athletic. Ariel Butts boxed out well, but didn't really make an impact.

I am not a trained official, but my impression has always been that if a player is touching the ball while her feet are in contact with the floor out of bounds, then she and the ball are out of bounds and it's a turnover. This crew managed to mess that up twice in the first half. Unless there is some new rule I have not been made aware of, and the painted area on the far side of the baseline is now part of the floor, this is a load of hooey. The officiating seemed to deteriorate further in the second half, though honesty compels me to question whether the officiating changed, Seton Hall changed, or my perception changed.

Seton Hall brought about two busloads, more or less. Rutgers may have brought more. There were even a few brave St. Francis fans there to bear witness to the carnage to come. The UConn fans seemed friendly enough.

The ice cream stall was extremely popular. What is wrong with you, Connecticut, there's still snow on the ground!

Damika Martinez of Iona decided, 'you know what, I'm going to the tournament, even if my teammates don't come with me'. We saw her walking the concourse at halftime.

We played our hearts out. It wasn't enough. And I grieve for our seniors, that they had only this night on the big stage. I wanted so much for them. I wanted them to exact satisfaction on Rutgers for last year and for the slights this year, and then who knows? The sky would have been the limit. Why not Seton Hall?

But that's the question for next year now. Why not Seton Hall? Why not Tab and the Pirates?

For this year, though, I'm left saying words I thought I'd never say. Go UConn. Destroy Rutgers. I'm petty, what can I say?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19th, 2015: Army at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: 20 points from Aaliyah Lewis and an 18-point, 13-rebound performance from Danaejah Grant spurred the Red Storm to a first round WNIT victory over Army, 64-56. Kelsey Minato and Olivia Schretzman each had 19 for the Black Knights.

For deferral, splitting up the band, defensive energy, bad body language, ticket gripes, and tedium, join your intrepid and apathetic blogger after the jump.

You thought you were done with me, didn't you? You thought the time of Game Notes had safely passed and you could breathe a sigh of relief, safe from giant blocks of text and irrelevant observations.

You forgot about the WNIT.

Your intrepid blogger is once more ensconced in her familiar perch in section 2 at Carnesecca Arena as the Red Storm host the Black Knights of Army.

Because it's the WNIT, and thus technically sort of neutral, Army brought their band, and they did a rendition of the national anthem that gave me goosebumps. I guess that's to be expected, but still, rock on, West Point Band.

(The Mighty Sound of the Red Storm is not so mighty, since most of it is off to Charlotte for the men's tournament. It's, uh, actually kind of pathetic look I'm sorry guys but you have like eight people today.)

There's nothing quite as disconcerting as seeing an Army officer in dress start yelling his head off at a game.

When St. John's was making their run to end the half, I thought for sure Dave Magarity was about to Reeve his jacket, but the Defcon level was lowered in time to keep the jacket on the chair.

I am not thrilled with the $2 jack-up of ticket prices for this one, especially since for me it's more like a $7 increase, since I normally buy season tickets. I blame the WNIT and its organizers.

The crowd is uninspiring, and heavily in Army's favor. They brought family and officers, and even the SJU ROTC seems to be leaning towards their future employers instead of their present location.

Our dance team has been dislodged from their usual baseline, since that would be where Army's cheer squad would be if they joined us today.

The defensive energy is high for both sides, but St. John's looks like a hot mess on offense.

This was not a fun game to be at. By the end of the second half, I had reached a state of ennui where I genuinely no longer cared whether St. John's advanced or not, and was starting to slide towards, no, lose, end it, I'm tired and I want this to be over. The body language was awful. Maybe they all felt the way I did, but they get hefty scholarships to play basketball- you have to at least pretend to care, or at the very least, your coach has to pretend that he cares whether you care or not.

Fun moment before the game, though. ESPN was red-hatting the tip to extremes, and at one point I may have burst out, "C'mon, ESPN, some of us have to go to work tomorrow!" Or words to that effect. Whereupon Joanne Aldrich turned around with an amused smile and a gaze to the heavens, as if to say, what can you do?

Army brought excellent defense, but was tentative and unfocused on offense. Most of them didn't seem willing to shoot, and insisted on passing to one of the two scoring options.

I loved the defensive intensity of Janae McNeal. She was always on the ball and always moving. She's got great potential, and she's only a freshman. Brigette Ocran was a big body in the backcourt, creating some mismatches with her strength. Dani Failor possesses an unfortunate last name, but solid rebounding ability. Ciara Jackson played briefly in the first half and was so unremarkable that the PA announcer initially announced her as Jordan Elliott. Destinee Morris threw me off because I mistook her for who I presume is her twin sister.

Daizjah Morris left no impression, though, again, that might be because I had trouble keeping her and her sister straight. Aimee Oertner pulled down the boards near the basket. Jean Parker spent a decent amount of time in foul trouble, which opened the door for McNeal to get minutes. Olivia Schretzman got good looks near the basket and in whatever one calls the area between the high post and the low post, and took care of her turf. Kelsey Minato has good speed, and she shoots quickly, but I don't know what to think of her release- it seems a bit crossed up. I think Army also relies on her too heavily- when the game was still close at the end and winnable with swift offense, they passed the ball around too much, looking desperately for their leader to save them.

Imani Littleton saw daylight in the second half, and of course it was after her first positive play- a defensive disruption that ultimately led to an Army turnover- that Joe pulled her. Kyra Dunn played briefly in the first half, but was so ineffective that Joe pulled her in a hurry and started yelling in her general direction, at which point she evinced no indication that she was absorbing his words. Crystal Simmons saw some time and played very stiff.

Jade Walker hit some shots, but did not have what I would call the world's greatest shot selection, and fell into the trap of staring at her shot instead of following it. The only thing I'll say about that is that she seemed to be doing a lot of switching on defense, so she might have been short on energy. Amber Thompson rebounded all the things, hit some nice shots, and even dropped a slick dime to Aaliyah Lewis on a backdoor cut. Aliyyah Handford was hassled by Army double- and triple-teams all night. There were flashes of her unbridled athleticism in the second half when she hit the fast break and when she rebounded. But I'm more worried about her increased penchant for dramatics. Flopping isn't going to succeed as a long-term bodily protection strategy- in the end, you get fewer calls than you would otherwise. (Exhibit A: Coco Hart, who was once knocked briefly unconscious at center court by a West Virginia player without even a stoppage of play.) Danaejah Grant continues to be an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a mini-hawk. She's a brilliant scorer, and without her work at the basket and beyond the arc, Army would be visiting Fordham on Sunday. On the other hand, her body language was that of a woman who cared only for her numbers and had completely lost interest in the game. She consistently gave up on plays, and no one did anything about it. Two examples, both from the second half. First: Nae gets stripped of the ball and doesn't even bother to chase, preferring to marinate in her own pity party in the backcourt. Second, she's the one in an Army 2-on-1, with McNeal and Minato running. She bumps Minato and then immediately starts arguing with the ref that Minato bumped her... meanwhile, McNeal goes for the lay-up. Thank goodness we had Aaliyah Lewis, because Tiny Aaliyah fears nothing. She went to the basket and made plays, and she sealed the deal at the line. She took what she was given, and she took full advantage.

Officiating was loose. I think it was clear that everyone involved just wanted to go home already.

Cheer and dance were also split, with half of each team at the game.

Attendance was sparse, to be generous. Listed at 211, and that might include the West Point Band. I am not looking forward to Sunday.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 7th, 2015: Princeton at Columbia

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Princeton Tigers kept rolling towards perfection and clinched the Ivy League title with a 63-44 win at Columbia. Blake Dietrick led Princeton with 17 points, while Annie Tarakchian came up just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds. Tori Oliver led all scorers with 18.

For the end of all things, a look at history, tracking rebounds, too many stairs, badly designed stations, friendly strangers, and big cats, join your intrepid and gimpy blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and of course all our readers who eschew the gender binary!

We're wrapping up the regular season here in New York with an evening visit to Levien Gymnasium on the grounds of Columbia University, where the Lions hope to spoil the heretofore undefeated season of the Princeton Tigers. As is customary when chronicling the athletic endeavors of the Ancient Eight, your intrepid blogger will attempt to elevate the level of her writing to suit the academic excellence of these two schools.

We're up in row Q at Levien, having been assigned to the Princeton side of the court. It's already bustling half an hour before tip. There are a lot of people in orange and black, and a lot of alumni showing their pride.

I believe several members of Leslie Robinson's family, including her father, have joined us this evening. Since security hasn't been amped up and I haven't been strip-searched, I'm assuming Aunt Michelle will not be coming.

The Columbia band has chosen to wear their most formal gear for this game. I suppose that makes sense. You dress up for Saturday night, right? I don't understand the pink foam whales people are wearing on their heads, though.

Columbia's Senior Day preparations include balloons in the shape of the seniors' numbers. For some reason, the jerseys are also reversed. Perhaps that reflects Columbia's awareness that Princeton fans are likely to outnumber Columbia fans.

I love the faded shadow effect of the inlaid center court logo, though the giant trademark symbol detracts from the effect.

There is a young woman in a Harvard sweatshirt in the Princetonian section. Lost, related, or just trolling?

After a short disappearance, the Columbia band has marched into the gym. Bonus points for the violin.

Very sweet of the announcer to take the time to introduce each member of the color guard.

At halftime, Princeton is up 36-23, but the Tigers have underwhelmed against a Lions team that's in transition from Nixon's seniors to Glance's recruits. Blake Dietrick leads the Tigers with 11, while Tori Oliver leads the Lions with 10.

The Princeton fans have flags, but have mostly been quiet, except for the older gentleman next to us who's enjoying the game quite a bit.

Princeton turned up the defense in the second half, but they did not look like a team that could threaten in the NCAA tournament tonight, nor did they look like a team that's undefeated. Ominous for the road ahead.

The Tigers went deep into their bench in the second half, so we got to see a fair number of their reserves. Leslie Robinson was physical, as well as foul-prone (though in her defense, one of those calls was a very poor one). Vanessa Smith showed some pretty moves on the inside and facilitated the fast break. Taylor Williams played long stretches in the second half and couldn't quite take that next step in the post- lots of foul trouble, especially on the defensive end. Mariah Smith made some nice defensive plays.

I love, love, love the way Michelle Miller reads the ball off the rim on missed jumpers. She tracked long rebounds really well. Amanda Berntsen is super fast- she accelerated and attacked beautifully. Annie Tarakchian came through with threes at the right time and smashed a second half block so fierce that one of the Princetonians behind me was impelled to scream, "NOT IN MY HOUSE!" (I did have to remind him that this was, in fact, not his house.) She's sneaky good on the glass, too. Alex Wheatley had shots on the inside that she should have hit, but she was solid down low overall. Blake Dietrick was very impressive, showing speed and solid game management. I suspect she was in with the deep reserves to keep them from running up the score- Princeton was looking to keep scoring until the last few seconds, though they did run clock. I like her all-around game.

Princeton ran a motion offense that showed flashes of pure beauty, and was sticky on defense, switching between a tight man and a zone.

Jillian Borreson's brief appearance was at the end of the first half- I think Stephanie Glance was using her for a little height. Camille Zimmerman showed speed and mobility for a big player- the guy behind us (who I think was a youth coach) was really impressed with her. I question her ball security, though. Columbia got unremarkable minutes from their bench, for the most part- better than I would have expected from their record, but not statistically relevant.

Campbell Mobley got the start because it was Senior Day, and that's pretty much all we saw of her. Miwa Tachibana also didn't start the second half after starting the game- the tiny guard was hot from the field, but couldn't keep up with Princeton's speed. Sara Mead found ways to get to the line and was solid for the Lions. Amara Mbionwu hit the boards, but I don't know if she was looking to shoot, or if any shots she intended to take were off offensive rebounds that she never grabbed. Tori Olvier showed some fantastic moves and was the bright light for Columbia.

Actually, that's a pretty harsh assessment. The upperclassmen on this team, for the most part, are not up to the par of Princeton or Penn, or even Yale. The underclassmen, on the other hand, show a lot of potential and stood their ground against the Tigers. I'm looking forward to a resurgence in Manhattan.

Lousy, lousy refs. No game-changing calls, but lots of bad procedural calls and no-calls. I expect refs doing Ivy games to be able to count to two.

I think Princeton was looking ahead to Penn and to the tournament. In a year or two, Columbia will make them regret that kind of attitude.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1st, 2015: Davidson at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Fordham Rams gave up a 10-point halftime lead, but finished on a 12-2 run to win 54-46 on Senior Day. Emily Tapio led the Rams with 12 points, adding 10 boards, while Samantha Clark had a game-high 12 rebounds. Alexandra Long and Dakota Dukes each had 13 to pace Davidson.

For travel issues, tight hugs, disjointed play, unmarketable skills, free food, FEELINGS, and word of one hot minute, join your intrepid and bedraggled blogger after the jump.

We conclude our session of getting smacked repeatedly in the feels at beautiful, historic Rose Hill Gymnasium, where Fordham honors their four seniors against Davidson.

There appears to be a minion theme to the shirts Fordham is wearing for their seniors. It's weirdly adorable. "One in a minion", apparently. Which I don't know makes sense when you have four seniors, but this isn't my job. THE MINIONS ARE WEARING TINY JERSEYS. <3 <3 <3 Reasons I love New York: six kids and a dragon performing one last New Year's celebration as we pass a corner in Flushing. Reasons I side-eye New York sometimes: pretty sure there is nothing innocent about a guy squeezing lotion on one hand, then covering himself from head to knee with his coat. We were trying so hard not to make alcohol references for Emily Tapio's senior day poster... and then the band plays "Tequila". They're paging the parents. Senior Day is about to get started. Lots of flowers. Someone forgot to bleach the Ram on the tablecloth- it looks like it's being used for PinkZone. Poor Taryn Durant. :( Her family was supposed to be at the Senior Day ceremony, but they no-showed. Her teammates walked her out, but you could tell that she was disappointed. Her face was pretty much :-[ the whole time, and everyone made a point of giving her an extra hug. (And Stephanie Gaitley does not believe in senior=starter on Senior Day- she came off the bench.) (I think it was travel difficulty- folks showed up fairly late in the game, and I think that was her family.) Nice enough Senior Day- flowers, framed photographs, highlight reels and accolades. Nice touch for the senior manager- his framed picture is of him cutting down the net at the A-10 tournament. Fordham is up 31-21 at the half, but it's been disjointed and ugly. Neither team looks like they know what they're doing. The news from Indianapolis will make this second half easier to watch, methinks. So did a vast, vast improvement in play. We've been invited to the post-game reception, so your intrepid blogger is typing some GNoD from Dagger John's, a couple of flights down in the McGinley Center. Smells like cafeteria pizza, to be honest. Davidson is... not a good team. There's really no way to sugarcoat it. They have dubious fundamentals, play undisciplined physical defense, don't pass well, and don't take care of the ball all that well. This game should not have been as close as it was, but Fordham broke down on both ends of the floor. Mellissa Giegerich cleared space on the inside in the first half, and hit a basket almost as soon as she entered the game, so it's a little unclear to me why she didn't play in the second half, unless she did and she was just far less effective. If I'm unfamiliar with a foe, and they don't have names on their jerseys, it's a little harder for me to spot people. Lillian McCabe maintained poise and took outside shots. Kayla Seymour disrupted a lot of passes for both teams and pulled down some boards during the big second half run. Dakota Dukes has a shot I haven't seen in decades. She shoots the one-handed set/push shot like back in the olden days. And weirdly enough she hit a lot of them. I thought Fordham was doomed when Dukes hit a left-handed lay-up, because I figured that if she had learned how to use her other hand, she was going to break through to another level. Alexandra Long came up with offense in the lane and from the midrange. She was their primary scorer and one of the catalysts for their second half run. Saadia Timpton certainly has gumption- one does not challenge a tall, stocky post player like Samantha Clark when one is an eeny little guard without having gumption. But you have to temper that gumption with some common sense, and the foul trouble she got herself into in the second half did not help Davidson's cause. Mackenzie Latt showed flashes of promise on the boards and on defense- she missed shots that she should have hit in the post, and shots that she probably will hit later in her career. Hannah Early got good position on the boards, especially when Fordham got confident in their shots falling. Stephanie Gaitley is currently thanking all the people. It amuses me how little Hannah Missry appears to care- she's steadily working the buffet table like it ain't no thing. (Ahahah. One of Liz Milner's family members was apparently supposed to be on a flight to Arizona… which was canceled... so she decided to come to Liz's Senior Day instead. Emily Tapio: "I have kind of a crew, so bear with me." Taryn Durant: "It hasn't been an easy journey, but I made it to senior year... thank God.") The seniors each got scrapbooks, which was adorable. And there is a minion cake. (Dad, I know you're not reading this. But if you are, no, I'm not stealing it for you.) He's schmoozing, and I'm scribbling. That's how we roll. We did corral Asnate Fomina briefly, since she was standing right there. He's currently tracking down seniors to provide them with the tiny posters we make for all the seniors. As you can imagine, he was very busy in Photoshop with 12 seniors distributed among four teams. (He made one for Kyra, even if she wasn't part of Senior Day at St. John's.) Taryn Durant came up big at the end, pulling down a critical rebound to help secure the win for Fordham. She was tenacious, and seemed to have a little bit of a chip on her shoulder. Asnate Fomina came in for a little bit of shooting, but got few touches and generally seemed to be flailing on defense. Danielle Burns seemed to be taking shots that were outside her comfort zone. Some of them fell, but her role at Fordham might be better suited to something like Taylor Holeman's role at Villanova, the player in the system who doesn't play the system and thus provides a crucial mismatch when the system starts to break down, the driver who forces the defense to sag and creates space for the outside shooters. Danielle Padovano played a couple of stretches, but made no measurable impact. Emily Tapio missed a lot of shots that she should have hit right at the basket, and she knew she should have had them- you could tell by her demeanor. Early on, she was letting a lot of rebounds get by her. But when the chips were down, she woke up, crashing the glass and getting to the line. That's what I like about her. She'll find what her team needs and do it. Hannah Missry was one-dimensional, almost to the point where she seemed about ready to have a panic attack if she had the ball anywhere but beyond the arc in shooting position. Two of her shots were blocked back into her face. Her reaction time was really slow today, but I'm inclined to give her a pass because she's still a bit hurt (she came to the post-game reception with her left foot in a boot). Her shot is a thing of beauty when it's on, but she needs to be a little more than a three-point shooter. Tiffany Ruffin turned up the defense on Long in the second half, and that was a huge reason why Fordham was able to recover from Davidson taking the lead away from them. She ran through the backdoor for a couple of crucial lay-ups, too. G'mrice Davis, whose name I probably won't get right on a consistent basis until sometime in her junior year, was ferocious on the glass early. She's got to hone her shooting a little, as well as her defense, but if she does that, she'll be an absolute beast. (In the complimentary way.) I love her hustle and her rebounding ability. Samantha Clark hit the boards hard too- again, she had trouble finishing, and as the game went on, she had trouble keeping up with the pace. That is not a woman I would want to tangle with in a dark alley. That is a lot of very intense, very tough, woman. Fordham had a lot of communication issues on their passing and positioning- there was one play I remember in the second half where Clark was sort of wandering around the outside as if offering her skills as a freelance screener to anyone who wanted to take them. Davidson was disruptive, this is true, but Fordham let it get to them. They lacked focus. I don't know if their seed was locked, or if they were looking ahead to the A-10 tournament, or what, but they did just enough to survive. It was as if, in the last three minutes, the seniors decided, You know what? No. Everyone else can do what they want, but we're not losing on Senior Day.

Officials let them play early, tightened up later. The biggest issue I had was that I thought two of Tiffany Ruffin's fouls were on other players. Not a gamechanger, but annoying.

It's not a skill that has any application in the real world, but the kid who won one of the timeout contests has a real knack for the hippity-hop.

No. I am not allowed to get attached to another team. No. Fordham has to wait until I'm done with Iona, this is entirely too silly.