Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14th, 2014: NJIT at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 12-0 run in the first half put St. John's in control, and the Red Storm cruised to a 66-42 win over NJIT. Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 17 points. Leah Horton led the Highlanders with 13 points, 11 in the second half.

For reserves, charming the locals, dodging amusing typos, Girl Scouts, cookies, DESPN, the personal touch, side notes, and glee, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Game day! We'll be coming to you on delay from Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's University in Queens, New York, as the Red Storm take on the Highlanders of NJIT. It is my devout pregame hope that NJIT is not sufficiently inspired by their men's victory over Michigan to take down St. John's.

The dead red bird at the bus stop is probably not a good omen. We aren't Cardinals or Redbirds or even Robins, but it's probably still not a good omen.

There were precisely three other people seated when I came in, and one of them has since gotten up. I think I made it in early this time 'round.

Danaejah Grant has her shoulder wrapped, and has already had to fuss with the straps twice, including one time where she had Sandra Udobi helping her adjust them. I don't blame her for being uncomfortable, though. That strap cuts right down the middle of her chest. Ow.

Also, Sandie looks really nice today. She usually dresses well, but I really like this outfit. Can't tell from here if it's a dress or a blouse/vest/skirt combo, but she's working it.

Well, crud. They're doing extra work stretching out Aliyyah Handford. Not good if Aliyyah and Danaejah are both at half-speed. Okay, we're playing NJIT, but I bet that's what Michigan thought too. (And this is why we try to put some trust in the bench, Joe. They may be young and slightly stupid sometimes, but we need them.)

No, large troop of strangers, you can't sit in the band section. Eleven sections in this place and you want to sit in the band section?

Oh, I love that navy blue skyline in the red stripes on the sweatpants. And of course, the skyline socks, which I still want some of somehow.

At halftime it's 33-17 St. John's, and it looks like Aliyyah's quad has eased up. She's got 11 and Danaejah's got 14. Alana Dudley has eight for the Highlanders (who have really ugly uniforms, I'm sorry).

We have Girl Scouts! We don't seem to have cookies, though. Then again, I made the most gorgeous chocolate chip cookies I've ever baked yesterday, so this isn't too much of a loss.

The halftime kids got game! Not the most skilled in the world, but they have nice fundamentals and run a better break than most kids their age.

Autograph day! Get the freshmen and Kyra on the flag, get a new poster for the house... life is good. I think the trip up to Yale endeared us to them- the freshmen were all very outgoing, and even the upperclassmen seemed to have warmed up to us. (This may also be because Amber was busy being moderately embarrassed by her mother, who pulled out the dreaded Full Name Ultimatum, which Aliyyah proceeded to tease her about.) So we're planning another road trip.

(Side note: this is one thing I've noticed about women's basketball- show a team a little love and they'll reciprocate tenfold. I've seen it over and over again in my life as a fan of non-top-10 teams. It might not be that way with the elitest of the elite teams, but you show a little interest and they'll love you. It can lead to awkward situations, and possibly hugging.)

NJIT played everyone who was in uniform. Lots of minutes to go around. Bianca Picard is only a freshman, but the Trekkie in me hopes that she develops leadership skills so she can be Captain Picard. Ruta Vetra got her minutes late in both halves and hit a three against the subs. Olivia Dudley was last off the bench in both halves, as far as I could tell, and I think her team was rooting for her to do well. Ronni Grandison gave good monutes in the high post. Martina Matejcikova was a bit of a mismatch. I like her shooting, even fi her shots didn't go down. Camerin Spahn had a nice play in the second half for her basket.

Nicole Maticka is very tall, and used her height with some effectiveness against us, pulling rebounds out over players' heads. She went out in the second half with what looked like a painful neck injury- she was crumpled on the court for some time, with the trainer on his knees trying to talk her through the pain. Pinched nerve or something like that, I think- not spinal or anything like that, thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus. Leah Horton isn't afraid to use her size down low on both ends of the floor- I think she intimidated our reserves into giving her space for baskets in the second half. (We wondered if she's related to Mauri Horton, who played at Rutgers about fifteen years ago oh God I'm getting old.) Alyssa Albanese, despite her small size, drove the lane fearlessly- she had a pretty finger roll in the first half. Alana Dudley carried the offensive load in the first half, as one of the only players who could get a shot to go down for NJIT. The offense ran more through Horton in the second half, due to match-ups, and she didn't play as much, either. I remember very little about Kim Tullis except her look of disbelief when she was called for a foul on the fast break in the second half.

I don't know who the memorial patch on NJIT's uniforms is for- didn't get a good look.

Play ALL the reserves! Even walk-on Kimberly Spruill got into the game and pulled down a board. So happy for her! We wanted her and Crystal Simmons to get points so badly, you have no idea. Crystal was solid, if unremarkable. I think she needs to have a better idea of where she's supposed to be on the floor on defense. Imani Littleton rebounded well, but could not hold on to the ball. Go up strong, Imani! Don't bring that back down where the guards can get back at it! Love her potential. Tamesha Alexander ran a solid, steady offense, though she was firing a lot of her passes high, especially to Danaejah Grant and Kyra Dunn. Would have loved to see her hit that three- the bench was all set to explode for her. Selina Archer set screens and bodied up on Horton. Kyra Dunn continued tapping out balls and pulled down a couple of rebounds herself. I'm actually amazed she never played volleyball. She's got the build, the fingertip skills (if that's even a thing), and the shorts (she appears to have had them hemmed, and they fit her much less saddle-baggy). Tonoia Wade had a couple of baskets in quick succession, and if she can hit threes with any consistency, I am all in favor of that. Heaven knows we need a three-point specialist.

Amber Thompson was a rock on the inside. Amber rebounds all the things. She didn't have a rebound in the second half, but she played less than a minute, so I guess I can cut her some slack. Jade Walker showed both her inside and her outside game, and did not! get called for any stupid fouls, which is a minor miracle. Danaejah Grant had the jumper working today, though not the three-point shot. The rim was not always kind to her. Aaliyah Lewis facilitated, not always directly, and I think she had a deflection on one of Albanese's shots (one of the few times Aaliyah will have a height advantage on an opponent). Aliyyah Handford had lanes all day and used them freely. Her quad might have been bothering her before the game, but playing and scoring sure loosened it up.

The starters barely played in the second half. It was glorious. Not that we played super-double-plus great, but with Big East season coming up, games where our key players only play seven or eight second half minutes are fine by me. Rest 'em up.

Officiating was unremarkable. Interesting interaction near the end of the game where one official signaled to make it a short timeout for subs, and another indicated that it was the under-4.

There were no Girl Scout cookies, but I seem to have gotten a Girl Scout business card. Troop 4839, Greater New York Council, for life, yo.

NJIT doesn't prove much, but it's good to see the kids get extended minutes. Auburn will be more of a challenge. Rest up, Johnnies. We'll be there.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11th, 2014: UCF at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford scored nine of her 15 points in the game's first five minutes, and Danaejah Grant had 14 of her 20 in the second half to bookend a 62-48 win over UCF. Aaliyah Lewis (12) and Jade Walker (11) also finished in doubles for the Red Storm. Aliyah Gregory led UCF with 19 points, 17 in the second half; Zykira Lewis added 15, 13 in the first half.

For bookends, bad halfcourt shots, tiny guards, Brooklyn rage, exuberance, so many ways of spelling Aaliyah, fellow travelers, and freshman mistakes, join your intrepid and cold-nosed blogger after the jump.

Good evening! Well, if you have been subjected to the tender mercies of the MTA, you might not think it's such a good evening, but there's basketball to watch and good company to be had, so there are worse ways to spend an evening than at Carnesecca Arena to watch St. John's take on UCF. (I will let you know if Tari Phillips miraculously materializes.)

There has so far been no Tari, but there have been a slew of transit delays; only the fact that there were scoreboard issues that led to the game's start being delayed allowed me to get in in time for tip. And I know it was bad, because Amber's mom was just as late as I was, and Amber's mom takes games seriously.

So far the moment of the game is Zykira Lewis Parkouring her way up the wall and grabbing the railing after overrunning a defensive play. Other than that, it has not been a particularly pretty game. Aliyyah Handford had the first nine points and two quick fouls for St. John's, and it's been a trial by fire for the freshmen ever since. Aaliyah Lewis has nine points as well, including the last three of the half on a trio of free throws. Zykira Lewis has 13 for UCF.

I love my team, but we're playing like idiots tonight, we really are. Fortunately, having Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford makes up for a lot of stupid mistakes.

UCF made a lot of subs, though I wonder if it's all relative- compared to St. John's, I imagine most people make a lot of substitutions. They're tall, long, and fast, but they lack a bit of finesse.

Yanique Gordon rebounded hard, with elbows out. Bryeasha Blair was mostly in situational free throw situations. Stephanie Taylor brought height and length that she used defensively. Jordan Jackson almost seemed to sneak into games, given that I think I only heard her name announced once. Andrea Hines crashed the lane hard for a guard of her size.

Fifi Ndour has nice instincts on the boards and handles the ball very well for a player of her height. Her shot needs a little work... a lot of work... but she's a freshman, this is what you expect from freshmen. Zykira Lewis was fast. I like her game. Plus, there's that whole parkour thing. At least I think it was her. I was still settling onto my bleacher when it happened, and I got the vague impression of a guard with a blonde streak in dark hair. Aliyah Gregory took over the offense in the second half, with her jumper falling and the occasional drive down the lane. She's another long, lean, tall player that UCF can build on if she continues to develop. Brittni Montgomery was tall and noticeable, but not statistical. I suspect she was boxing out. We ended up calling Erica Juarbe "Brooklyn Rage" for most of the game after she got into a mild disagreement with Danaejah Grant on a contested ball. I think I would like her ferocity if I were a UCF fan.

We saw a lot of the freshmen guard-type people with the foul trouble Aliyyah Handford dealt with. The results were mixed, to say the least. I like Tonoia Wade's approach on defense when she's playing it- like many a freshman before her, she's not always sure where she's supposed to be. And the makeup bothers me a little bit (or if she's not wearing makeup, someone hit a genetic lottery of some kind). Crystal Simmons played at both guard positions, missing her shots badly and looking lost on defense. Tamesha Alexander ran point for a short while, and I think I would have liked to see her be more assertive on offense in that time. Kyra Dunn pulled down rebounds! (instead of tapping all of them out) She's got to finish on the inside when she gets golden looks, though.

In general, we need the bench to step up. I know they're all newcomers, and in time they might be a cohesive unit, but they have to learn first.

Oh, Jade Walker. I think Jade is adorable, inasmuch as a broad-shouldered six-foot-tall woman can be adorable, but she's remarkable at getting into foul trouble. She commits stupid fouls, I will give the officials out, but sometimes I think they see her on the play and instantly assume she committed a foul, even if it was a clean play, even if it was a foul by a teammate. She stepped up on offense in the second half with long jumpers and a pretty finger roll off a lookaway pass from Danaejah Grant. Aaliyah Lewis ran the offense in the first half like she had left her brain in Tampa, throwing dumb passes into the long-armed coverage of the Knights' defense or throwing passes to places her teammates were not. On the flip side, it looked like a lot of people were out of position on offense; Jade and Danaejah each had a play where Aaliyah threw a pass where they were supposed to be, and they weren't. But tiny Aaliyah came up with big threes and drew two shooting fouls on three-point shots, plus a filthy crossover to get herself a clear lane for a lay-up. This game showcased one of her liabilities as a PG, though. Amber Thompson was not quite as ferocious as we've been used to her being, but she was still tough on the inside and seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Aliyyah Handford started off hot for St. John's, got in foul trouble, and was off and on throughout the second half thanks to more fouls. In a way, that's good; Liyyah needs all the rest she can get, since she's not going to get much of it from Coach. Danaejah Grant rebounded like a beast in the first half, then brought the offense along the baseline for the second half. We needed her.

I'm going to take a moment and marvel at the sheer joy Aliyyah plays with. She's got a sile on the court, and she's just as happy when she gets the sweet pass to her teammate for a basket as she is when she coes up with the basket herself. I can't believe I never noticed before. I hope she keeps on keeping on like that. (And also, on the topic of Aliyyah doing awesome things, she hit her 1,000th point tonight.)

The officiating was much more inconsistent than I would have expected from this crew. I've seen all these refs before, and though I expect very little from Fatou Cissoko-Stephens, I expect better from Kathleen Lynch and Bryan Brunette. (Also, Cissoko-Stephens needs to sharpen her hand signals- she's not very clear when it's a shooting foul versus an offensive foul.)

Sigma Chi Beta got in late, but they got there. Love the support they're showing. 6th Man made some noise tonight too. When they're in, they're in.

Intense halftime game today.

As long as we have Aliyyah and Danaejah, we're going to pull out games against lesser opponents, or at least have them provide the base and have the other starters fill in around it. But we're going to need more than that come Big East season. January 2nd is no joke. (It's all kinds of awkward, but it's no joke.)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December 3rd, 2014: Xavier at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Danaejah Grant put up 23 points, and St. John's came on strong in the second half to put away Xavier 65-42. Amber Thompson added six points, 14 rebounds, and six blocks. Briana Glover led Xavier with 10 points.

For palming, distractions, crazy eyes, crowd noise, relay races, free swag, duck puns, and contentment, join your intrepid and cleaned blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and readers of all ages! We're coming to you in surround sound from the cozy confines of Carnesecca Arena, where St. John's is opening their conference slate with a tilt against Xavier. (Which, I suppose, also counts as the opener for Xavier's conference season, but I really don't care about Xavier.)

Fundraiser tonight for Lauren Hill- I think that's happening wherever Xavier plays. So we bought ducks. Jillian, Marcus, Quizz, Giggy, Teemu, Bombay, Louie, Tanya, Mallory, Drake, Adam, Cathrine, and Shaquala quack hi.

St. John's is up 28-25 at half. I'm worried about a couple of things, though. Danaejah Grant was grabbing her shoulder early and took a tumble in the middle of the first half, and she's been in and out all game, switching with Crystal Simmons. There's been virtually no post rotation, either; Coach only went to Kyra Dunn late in the first half after Jade Walker got her second (stupid) foul.

The European tour jerseys are boss. So are the #22 patches on the warm-up shirts for Lauren Hill. The shorts are resisting all Kyra's attempts to roll them up. She's trying nobly, though. Not that that's a good thing. (Okay, the jerseys were boss until Amber's #2 fell off the front. Then they were less boss, though the outline made an interesting effect. It's still not appropriate to drop a number 2 on the court.)

Xavier made a lot of hockey-style substitutions, especially early in the game, almost as if the coach were trying to determine what players and combinations were working well. Made it a little hard to keep track of everyone, especially with Xavier's lack of names on the jerseys. I was really bummed that Maddison Blackwell got hurt, especially since it looked pretty bad- foot or ankle, and she couldn't put weight on it. She mixed it up well on the boards. Anniina Äijänen hit a couple of late free throws, but was mostly playing mop-pup minutes. Maleeka Kynard drove the lane and was one of the guards who was all up in Aaliyah Lewis's business. I expected more, or at lest something, out of Aliyah Zantt, after her performance against us last year, but she seemed quiet. Kindell Fincher took over a lot of the offense in the second half, forcing contact and getting to the line.

Marquia Turner is a very small guard, and yet she still needed to find someone her own size to pick on- she kept knocking over poor tiny Aaliyah Lewis. Foul trouble kept her off the floor for stretches in both halves, and I'm pretty sure one of Zantt's fouls was a pass foul from her fifth. Briana Glover intrigues me as a very smooth, graceful forward- but her shots were just not going down. She rebounds nicely. Jenna Crittendon made some nifty defensive plays, poking the ball out and picking pockets. I genuinely do not remember Leah Schafer or Raeshaun Gaffney.

Xavier packed the lane against the drivig guards of St. John's, and did cause a lot more hesitation and passing around the perimeter. Other teams are likely paying attention to this. They also occasionally seemed to be playing sports that weren't basketball, such as football (tackling), hockey (checking), wrestling (leg whips), and volleyball (setting).

Oh, hey, it's time for the kids! Tonoia Wade showed off some defense in her end-game minutes- she did that Sugar Rodgers quick step to suddenly be all up in the ballhandler's face like a hyperactive puppy. Crystal Simmons was called upon to play big minutes in the first half, with Danaejah Grant having limited availability, and while she was not a factor, neither was she a liability, which is what you're asking for from a freshman being asked to replace a superstar. Kyra Dunn is going to spent the rest of this year frustrating me, but at the same time being strangel fascinating. She can't hold on to the ball- but she has remarkable recognition of where her teammates are so she can tap it out to them. She's got pretty good synergy with Aaliyah Lewis on that especially. And she has an intriguing underhand hitch in her free throw motion, as if she's debating whether this will be the shot where she goes Rick Barry on the line. Imani Littleton got up on the boards. Tamesha Alexander looks like she's working well with her classmates, which is a good sign.

Amber Thompson blocks all the things, and those things she doesn't block, she rebounds, up to and including an opponent's head. (I think that was an accident, though.) She also did nicely dishing off when the guards drove the lane. Danaejah Grant, despite the shoulder armor and despite the early pain, came through in the second half with jumpers and defensive plays. I know she's gotta be hurting- her arm got hooked a couple of times. Aliyyah Handford wasn't getting her jumper to fall- it's still a work in progress- and was quiet until deep into the second half, when she seemed to awaken and take over the game for a short stretch to put it out of reach. Aaliyah Lewis continues to be a steady hand, and she took a lot of contact in this one. I like her more and more with every game. Jade Walker... I do like watchin gher, and I think she's adorable, but this was a "love with a 2x4" kind of game- bad shots, bad decisions, bad fouls. Not that Jade wno't get called for a foul at any given opportunity no matter how bad a call it is, but she opened herself up to a lot of opportunities tonight.

I have to admit, the game flow did not go the way I was expecting. I thought Xavier had kept their players fresh enough to give us a fight in the second half, especially with the limited substitutions for St. John's. Instead, St. John's came out strong on both side sof the ball in the second half, and I don't think Xavier had a game plan beyond "get in the way".

RedZone showed out today, as did one of the frats. I think it was Sigma Chi Beta, but don't hold me to it. I'm only good with Greek letters when writing in Greek.

We got free glasses! They were very nice. They will be excellent additions to our fan cave.

This was a nice opening to conference play. Now let's see if we can keep it up for the rest of the non-conference slate.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30th, 2014: Stony Brook at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Damika Martinez's 2000th career point was among her game-high 29, spurring a 73-62 win over Stony Brook. Joy Adams added 14 points, eight boards, and three steals. Sabre Proctor had 17 to lead the Seawolves, with Jessica Ogunnorin adding 14 points and nine rebounds.

For hard choices, small children, flicking tiles, amazing names, pacing issues, hard bleachers, and smoking on the subway, join your intrepid and mildly ashamed blogger after the jump.

These are not the droids St. John's Game Notes of Doom you were looking for.

I've always been a fan of defensive basketball. The New York Liberty started me that way, the Miami Sol developed me further, and Rutgers finished the job. But every so often you have to stop and appreciate a scorer. The peril of following defensive teams, though, is that you rarely see a phenomenal scorer. I haven't had a college team with a 2,000 point scorer since I was a Rutgers fan back in the day and Cappie Pondexter scored all the points.

But that was then, and this is now, and at 1:25 PM before the Iona-Stony Brook tip, Damika Martinez is sitting on 1,994 points. And I want to see her do it. So St. John's plays Wagner at 2, and Iona plays Stony Brook at 2, and I'm in New Rochelle.

Graphics team is already ready for Mik2K, but it's bad luck to keep it up quite so long.

I wish you could see this roster card. Typesetting, you're doing it so wrong, and possibly drunkenly.

Even the toughest basketball players love small kids. Damika and one of (I think) her little cousins were just too adorable.

Mik2K has been achieved. Damika has 14 at the half, and Iona is holding on to a 31-25 lead over Stony Brook. Only three Seawolves have even scored, led by 11 from Sabre Proctor. But I do not like the pace. All our guards are capable of running- so why are they slowing down the pace and pounding the dribble like it's a Rutgers-Villanova-Utah round-robin? "Don't think too much- you'll hurt the ballclub."

That game had the odd feeling of both feeling like it was closer than it should have been and not as close as it should have been. Does that make any sense? I felt like Iona should have been pressing more on offense- but Stony Brook had a lot more makeable shots and looks at the basket, and the margin sort of ballooned during a second half run and with Damika getting free throws (which, hey, cool, freebies as she winds toward 2467!)

Kristie Costantino had a couple of fantastic defensive plays, especially one in the second half where she flew in to deflect a ball that would have been a sure fast break lay-up. Kim Hanlon committed pretty much all the fouls. She looked taller than she's listed, though that might have been in comparison to shorter teammates. I'm also considering the possibility that the roster listed on Iona's scorecard is inaccurate. Alyssa Coiro was tall and got inside well, though she took it kind of personally when Aaliyah Robinson got her hard on the inside (to be fair, it should have been a foul on Aaliyah) and checked her from behind. I think Stony Brook does have hockey, but playing hockey in the middle of a basketball game is uncalled for. Christy Scognamiglio managed to sneak in for offensive rebounds.

I know it's petty, but Sabre Proctor pronouncing her name "sa-BREE" makes me sad. Your name is a sword! You have an Awesome McCoolname, and you make it mundane? Okay, fine. She was solid for the Seawolves, hitting jumpers and holding down the fort in the first half. Brittany Snow is tall, and Stony Brook used her size well early, setting her up on the inside for easy, easy lay-ups. She was also active on the boards, using her height against smaller Gaels. (Which would be most of them.) Miranda Jenkins really didn't make much of an impact- Stony Brook went a little larger off the bench, and she was the odd woman out. Jessica Ogunnorin was pretty impressive, and would have been even more impressive if a lot of those pretty jumpers had gone in. She was a mismatch on both sides of the floor, getting to the basket with some speed on offense and guarding Damika Martinez on defense, making sure Damika had a lot of trouble getting the ball. Kori Bayne-Walker, possessor of another Awesome McCoolname (no, seriously, whenever I see Stony Brook, I am possessed with an urge to write a fantasy series called "Banewalker"), ran the offense- she's a very wide guard, hard to put most guards on, and she started finding her threes in the second half.

Stony Brook has better size than I remembered, and a better idea of how to use that size. I'm interested in how that low post game is going to work out against Albany- yes, Albany lost Craig, but they still have strong forwards.

Kristin Mahoney still looks like a freshman out there- and worse than a freshman. Maybe it was intentional (though I certainly hope not), but she was constantly moving to the ball instead of staying with a specific assignment on defense. That's high school gym class instincts there. Philecia Gilmore gave good minutes in the backcourt, though I was surprised that we didn't try to use her to defend Bayne-Walker and give our shooters a little more space to move comfortably. I like her instincts on the court. Cassidee Ranger tried to defend at the four (she's more of a three, IMO) and fired off one of her sweet threes from the corner. Aurellia Cammock took a little while to get her groove, but got her feet under her in the second half to pull down rebounds and defend down low. She's starting to show me something this year, and I like it.

I still think Marina Lizarazu is a capable point guard, but I'm starting to be less enamored of her style. She seems to be a slow-it-down, pound-the-dribble guard, or at least that's the system she's being told to run, and it's frustrating when you know how good the transition game can be with this team. Maybe it's a trust issue early in the season, and maybe it'll change. She had some beautiful passes when the game sped up, including a wrap-around pass to Joy Adams for a basket down low that got the crowd going. The aforementioned Joy got off to a slow start in the first half, but her teammates were able to find her more in the second half, and she really took off. She was badly out of position often at the defensive end, though. I thought one of her teammates was going to drag her into place at one point in the first half. Karynda DuPree had a gorgeous block and pulled down a couple of boards, but she needs to be more assertive on offense- there was one play where Damika rifled her a pass inside in perfect position for a lay-up- and she threw the ball back out to Marina so unexpectedly that Marina stood there and stared as the pass went out of bounds. (Bad play by both of them.) Aaliyah Robinson put up threes and didn't make too many mistakes- a lot of the time that's what Aaliyah's there for, to hold down the fort and keep everyone's keel even. Damika Martinez was hurting- she had an enormous bandage wrapped around her ribs in the pregame, and seemed to be moving stiffly. She went for three quickly, then went cold for a while, then started popping threes. She seemed to loosen up more in the second half, and padded her totals with cheap free throws at the end. I am okay with this.

Officiating was interesting. It always is. Tight, for the most part, but there was a fair amount of contact late that they let go.

I still worry about Iona, but I'm happy for Damika. 444 points to go..


Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29th, 2014: St. Joseph's at St. Francis (Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. Joseph's pulled away in the second half with size and strength, claiming a 64-42 win over St. Francis of Brooklyn. Natasha Cloud led the Hawks with 16 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Adashia Franklyn added 11 rebounds off the bench, helping the Hawks to a 46-25 rebounding edge. Eilidh Simpson led St. Francis with 12 points.

For family affairs, torturous Christmas music, magic feathers, taunting, the vagaries of fate, all the colors, and uncomfortable implications, join your intrepid and numb blogger after the jump.

On to game 2, and we've decided that we're rooting for whichever team has Seton Hall's bench. It's easier than moving. Early indications suggest that we've ended up rooting for St. Francis, which I'm okay with. I know it's probably better for Seton Hall's RPI, SOS, and other TLAs that they play St. Joseph's tomorrow, but sometimes I get tired of considering the big picture and just want to cheer for a team.

Pretty much everyone who's not here for the second two teams has cleared out. Seton Hall men are at the Prudential Center at 4 and volleyball is going for the Big East title at 5, so the Pirate people have mostly left. A couple of the usual suspects are still here, though. And there are Simmonses(eseseseses) everywhere. They will not relinquish Daisha and Ka-Deidre.

St. Joseph's brought a Hawk. Because, as we all know, the Hawk will never die. Unfortunately, the head doesn't fit tightly and the shade of maroon is a little off, so it looks like they brought their own turkey. This is a comment on the quality of this specific costume, not on the idea of the Hawk in general, please don't shoot me.

A couple of latecomers just sat next to me, not realizing that the start times had been swapped and Seton Hall had played at noon. And that, ladies and germs, is why you always come for both games of a doubleheader. Why wouldn't you? Free basketball is free! (And just to make my point, once they realized that Seton Hall had already played, they left. Why? WHY?!)

I should probably be disconcerted that a team from Brooklyn has no New Yorkers on it, right? Or that a team from Brooklyn has precisely one black player? I'm not crazy to be bothered by that, right?

At halftime, St. Joseph's is up 33-28. It's been sloppy for both teams. Eilidh Simpson is keeping St. Francis in it with 10 points, while the load is more balanced for St. Joseph's.

What is with the Christmas music, SHU? Stoppitomg.

It's okay, y'all. I can take the loneliness. Leave me here alone in these impossibly hard bleachers. That's all right. Just leave me here. You can all go. Just leave me here alone.

Signs your bleachers might be uncomfortable: your coach and his family would rather perch on a wooden box than sit in the bleachers.

This is going to sound weird and maybe a little unfortunate, but St. Joseph's looked much more like a Division I basketball team than St. Francis did, especially down the stretch. Their conditioning was way better, as was their form.

I hope Jordan Strode is all right after taking that hit to her braced right knee. She looked like she was in a lot of pain. Adashia Franklyn made some noise down low, going hard after offensive rebounds and blocking shots. I was very impressed with her. Chelsea Woods played a lot of the guard minutes off the bench in the second half with the absence of Strode, and comported herself well. Jessica Pongonis filled space in the middle.

Ashley Robinson (no, not that one) was all up on the offensie boards, following her shot. She definitely had some moments that were reminiscent of the professional Ashley Robinson. Kathleen Fitzpatrick sunk the dagger late in the second half with a long, high, arcing three that splashed through the net from somewhere in the vicinity of Cherry Hill. Her teammates occasionally had trouble spotting her. That might be because she's tiny. Sarah Fairbanks took advantage of the baseline all night- baseline and more height. She made a difference down low for the Hawks. Natasha Cloud did pretty much all the things, whether it was finding her teammates at the right time with the ball, pulling down long rebounds, or hitting shots from the outside. Ciara Andrews did a lot of her scoring in the second half.

I thought it was smart of Coach Griffin to conserve Cloud for a long stretch of the second half. They're going to need her tomorrow, and they didn't need her against St. Francis. (Also, if they go to stall ball, and she's holding it, does that mean the Hawks are utilizing Cloud storage?)

(...I'll show myself out.)

The Terriers' bench is very inexperienced. I think all of them are freshmen, and they showed it. Alex Delaney shows promise, but I don't know if I'd have a player with her build hanging out around the three-point arc as much as she does. Cassidy Derda looked a little lost out there, though she made some decent plays setting screens for her teammates. Blair Arthur is just adorably tiny. In general, though, they were not a memorable bunch. I hope they develop- you know how much I like seeing good basketball in the city. (Though see above caveat regarding the makeup of a team- if they aren't representing my city, they can't count as a city team.)

Jaymee Veney missed one ill-advised three pointer badly, and the St. Joe's fan section never let her live it down- the "airball, airball" chant came up every time she touched the ball. I think it got into her head, too. She didn't hit a shot afterwards, and she seemed disconcerted whenever they started up. That might also have been the defense, because they keyed on her pretty quickly. Leah Fechko had her moments of hustle, but then there was the play where she lost her balance and decided to literally sit the play out. Eilidh Simpson scored the first seven for the Terriers, but wasn't able to get the ball afterwards, as St. Joe's was able to adjust and change the passing lanes. I like the leadership of Katie Fox, both on and off the floor. She made a lot of good, smart plays. I think I expected more out of Sarah Benedetti, and she had moments where she looked like a solid senior, but she looked overmatched for most of the game, more than most of her teammates.

The St. Francis bench kept yelling to their players to box out. I don't think it really hit them that as hard as they were trying, St. Joseph's was bigger, stronger, and taller than they were, and no matter how much St. Francis threw their bodies in front of players, they weren't going to successfully keep St. Joseph's off the boards.

Officiating was unmemorable, so mediocre but otherwise survivable.

It took us a while to get out after the game, so we got to see one of the Hawks (I think Fairbanks, but don't hold me to this) use a volleyball to play soccer with a small child. D'awww.

Also, the Hawk will never die, but it will sometimes shed. I now have a Hawk feather in my coat pocket, because why not?

Props to the St. Joe's students who kept the noise up all through the game. I may not have been rooting for their team, and I may not root for their team tomorrow, but making the trip for women's basketball makes you a star in my book.

Odd note about this game- both teams wore their colors, St. Francis in bright blue, St. Joseph's in maroon. Hopefully either St. Francis or St. Peter's brought white.


November 29th, 2014: St. Peter's at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall dominated start to finish against St. Peter's in a 75-45 win. Daisha Simmons led all scorers with 30 points on 12-19 shooting, adding four steals. Bra'Shey Ali notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds; Janee Johnson was scoreless, but had the game-high with 11 rebounds. Alyssa Velles led St. Peter's off the bench with 17 points; no other Peacock had more than six.

For drab colors, old hatreds, a lack of pressure, brain farts, forgotten post players, free throw issues, and multitasking, join your intrepid and fortunate blogger after the jump.

It's entirely too early for this, though part of it has to do with the amount of transit time required. Part two of your intrepid blogger's "weekend? What weekend?" basketball extravaganza is the first day of the Seton Hall Thanksgiving tournament, otherwise known as the Seton Hall coaching alumni reunion. Seton Hall goes up against St. Peter's (with former Pirate coach Phyllis Mangina and favored GNoD target Pat Coyle), while St. Francis (with Pirate alum John Thurston at the helm) faces off with St. Joseph's (not sure how they ended up on board the Pirate ship, though).

It's cold. That hill is even longer when it's cold.

It's taking every ounce of strength I have not to tell Mangina off right now. "Gosh, it's fun watching Seton Hall recover from the ashes you burned it down to," or words to that effect. I think I should be applauded for my remarkable restraint there, given that I remember how much talent she managed to squander in those years. (How Noteisha Womack never ended up on someone's radar is beyond me.)

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 34-18 against a really, really bad St. Peter's team. I mean, really bad. I mean, come on, guys. Daisha Simmons has 16 for the Hall, punctuated with a spinning scoop to end the half. Bra'Shey Ali has 10 and what feels like all the rebounds. She's been reading the peculiarities of the road-side rim well. Alyssa Velles has nine of the Peacocks' 18 points on some late shooting.

Your early contender for brain fart of the day: Bra'Shey Ali inbounding the ball to the ref. Ref's response: "I'm not on your team."

The intensity was not what the coaching staff was looking for, but it's kind of hard to be intense when your opponent is that far below you in skill. We got to see some extended minutes for the reserves, which is always my favorite part of a blowout.

Alyssa Velles supplied most of the scoring for St. Peter's, shooting sweet jumpers whenever she was given space- and she was given space too frequently for my liking. I know the scouting report probably focused on Mostafa and Bethea, but still. Sajanna Bethea has some potential, but right now she plays like someone who's accustomed to having a huge size advantage on everyone and hasn't learned how to play with anything that resembles finesse. She's big and reckless and has all the shooting skill of a CYO fifth grader. Teresa Corchado threw her body at a block and was very easily rattled when Seton Hall threw the press at her. Talah Hughes boxed out inside well enough, but I admit to being distracted by how fluffy her hair was. Fluffy! I was pleasantly surprised at how well Marcia Senatus ran the offense off the bench- nothing flashy, but she didn't make too many mistakes, either. Neechelle Ingram made a couple of plays in the middle- I'm surprised she fell to the back of the rotation. Or I would be if I hadn't suffered through years of Pat Coyle.

Hala Mostafa has really developed since her freshman year. Her shot is still a little weird, but not as awkward as it was early in her career, and she's developed a nice little spin move and quick first step. She had a couple of resounding blocks. Bridget Whitfield looked to have a little bit of a temper on her- got away with spiking the ball after she was called for a double dribble. Antonia Smith was quieter than I had expected- I thought she was going to be more of an offensive threat, but she was one of many Peacocks (I still want to call them Peahens, because biological accuracy was for the win!) taking really bad shots. So was Rebecca Sparks, which disappoints me because I always like to see Rebeccas do well. I'm an egoist, what can I say? Samantha Meier was a big body down low, but not an accurate shooter.

St. Peter's focused most of their defensive energy on clogging the lane- a Pirate, usually a Simmons, would drive and find herself covered in navy blue jerseys. They couldn't keep it up.

Nice to see Teresa Kucera on the floor again. She fell to the back of the rotation with the newcomers. Claire Lundberg had herself a nice little stretch in garbage time, though she seemed to be backing off her three-point shot. I'll take a pretty finger roll, though. Kat Egan was tough defensively. Love her hustle. She got tasked with guarding Mostafa for stretches in the second half, with mixed results- she had a lot of trouble hanging on the swift change in direction. Tara Inman brought the hustle. She shook a lot of balls loose on the ground. Lubirdia Gordon still can't catch a pass to save her life, but she's getting better at corralling rebounds and setting screens. Jordan Mosley ran a steady offense off the bench, but had some bad luck with the rim. We were rooting for her to get that basket.

Bra'Shey Ali grabs all the rebounds. I know I just said the same thing about Amber Thompson yesterday, but it's true. I love watching the way Shey reads an odd hop and scoops it up like a vacuum cleaner. She was fierce and tough and I love watching her work. Janee Johnson was much sneakier with her rebounding. I had no idea until I grabbed the final stats that she had the game-high. I was mostly caught up in the dumb mistakes she was making. I ride Janee on dumb mistakes harder than I do most players because if you have the brains for Duke, you should not be making quite so many dumb mistakes. It's a bass-ackwards form of respect. (I <3 Janee and her hustle.) Ka-Deidre Simmons didn't make much of an impact on the score, but she was making life miserable for the ballhandler and finding her teammates with the ball. (Except for that one time her assignment fired up a three while she was fixing her hair.) Tabatha Richardson-Smith found her offense in the second half, not so much her defense, but that's Tab. She'll give you all the offense in the world, but not so much the defense. She's tall and she can get in the way, but she's not going to hang defensively. It seems unfair to be harping on her after this game, but it means I'll lay off her later. Daisha Simmons put on a show, and seemed to be trying to put on a show- she had fancy moves on offense, she poke checked like she'd been hanging out at Devils games, and she made sure she had every shot she could get. I thought it was a little ridiculous that she was shooting when Seton Hall was up big and she was already at 25 points with scoreless players on the floor, but maybe she had her reasons for going for 30. Hitting people in the face is apparently no longer a foul, but other than that the officiating was fairly solid. Travels were mostly being allowed to slide, but I'll chalk that up to game management, given that it took almost nine minutes for St. Peter's to score and another three for them to get a field goal. Overall, it's hard not to be satisfied with a 30-point win, but at the same time, I feel like Seton Hall was aware of just how bad St. Peter's was and was willing to play down to them. They're not going to be able to do that against St. Joseph's. (Spoiler: St. Joseph's won the other semifinal.)


Friday, November 28, 2014

Noember 28th, 2014: Binghamton at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Bearcats came in feisty, but the guards stepped up for St. John's once more in a 67-51 win over Binghamton. Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant had 19 points each to pace the Red Storm; 15 of Handford's came in the first half, while 12 of Grant's came in the second. Jade Walker (11) and Amber Thompson (13) fueled a 51-26 edge on the boards. Jasmine Sina had 20 to lead Binghamton, with Imani Watkins adding 18.

For swag, turkey comas, mild worries, guards guards!, gearing up, and fan hypocrisies, join your intrepid and flushed blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen, and other sorts of loyal readers! Your intrepid blogger has done her Black Friday shopping here at Carnesecca Arena, and now awaits the St. John's-Binghamton game.

The jersey selection wasn't as good as in previous years, so we claimed our Pink Zone jersey (#15, Jennifer Blanding from the era) and a couple of shirts. Aliyyah Handford is awesome and I would love to wear her jersey, but she and Amber Thompson both only take medium, and my chest does not accept mediums.

Everyone was kvetching about having to wait outside for the gates to open, and most people found excuses to cajole their way into the building early. In a dose of irony/cruelty, the person who had the most trouble getting in was the pizza delivery guy. SMH. Whiny suburban moms can get in, but the guy with the food has to be cross-examined.

One peeve about the rummage sale: no socks. I want the Under Armour cityscape socks so badly and I still can't get them. I am willing to give people money for them. I'm not even asking for a freebie. I want to buy socks. Let me buy your socks!

Since the men are playing at the Garden, the band and cheer squads are split. The band is supplementing with alumni.

Dude in Seton Hall Paradise Jam shirt, you had a pretty awesome week, but you are just a wee tiny bit lost. Trust me on this one. I've learned to tell the difference. (As it turns out, Binghamton's lead guard is the sister of a Seton Hall men's player, so a bunch of people have turned out for her. I'm not taking any bets on any of these people showing up for the Thanksgiving tournament tomorrow at Walsh, though.)

It's 35-24 St. John's at halftime, after a first quarter that was closer than it needed to be. Jasmine Sina, the aforementioned Pirate sister, was hot to start for the Bearcats, but Aaliyah Lewis has stepped up the defense on her. Aliyyah Handford has 15 of the 35. Amber Thompson has pretty much all the rebounds. (No, really. Just looked at the box. Amber has 11. Binghamton has 10.)

St. John's turned it up in the second half to pull away, but I have to admire Binghamton's fight. When they got down, they didn't get emotionally down. They got angry, and they made a couple of little runs to keep the margin under twenty. I have to respect that.

Binghamton doesn't have a long roster anyway, and they were even shorter-handed than their roster would suggest; only nine players were in uniform, and only seven of them played. Our PA guy had a lot of trouble with Gintare Surdokaite's name, which makes me think someone forgot to get the pronunciation guide out in time. I think she played most of her minutes in the first half. I don't have many clear memories of her. Kylie Libby was first off the bench- I think she was mostly in the second half. I seem to remember her on the boards.

(By the way, this is why I prefer jerseys with names on them. It's a lot easier to remember who you are if your name is on your back. Otherwise, it's easy to mix you up with a player who wears a similar number and quite possibly has a similar build to you.)

Jasmine Sina lit us up from the outside in the early going. She's very small, but she's excellent for her size. Aaliyah Lewis locked her down on defense in the second quarter (as a shorter form of saying "in the latter stages of the first half", I'm well aware that college doesn't use the quarter system). As her teammates became more effective in the second half, and as the defense shifted in response, Sina was able to get open again for the long ball. She's a feisty little thing. Imani Watkins took advantage of the lane in the second half and really drove hard to the basket. Kristin Ross got whatever rebounds Amber didn't. She was the Bearcats' size not necessarily directly in the middle, but in the post. Kim Albrecht did a little bit of everything, and seemed to be doing a lot of the right things at the right time on the floor. (It's more of a hockey phrase- "doing something good with the puck"- but it can be adapted for basketball.) Sherae Swinson was mostly quiet, though there were some strong moments down low.

Play I was most impressed with: Sina's last three-pointer, high and sweet and perfect over the long arm of Amber Thompson.

You may add to my list of things that frustrate me about Kyra Dunn the inability to grasp a rebound once she's on the case. She tipped out a lot of balls. Teaming her up with Amber might be better than teaming her up with Jade- she can tip the balls and Amber can catch them, because Amber catches all the rebounds. Crystal Simmons played big, solid minutes with Aliyyah Handford out for much of the second half. That created some interesting backcourt dynamics with Aaliyah Lewis, with Aaliyah almost seeming to move to the two while Crystal handled more of the ballhandling. Imani Littleton got her time in the second half, and seemed strangely unbalanced, ending up on the floor a surprising amount of times. She lurked around the basket and got buckets. Tamesha Alexander ran point for stretches in both halves and seemed fairly steady, but as a placeholder, not as a playmaker. That last turnover on her was not a fair call- that should have been a trip on Binghamton.

Today we saw what happens to a two-player team when one of those players can't hit the broad side of a barn. Danaejah Grant was not getting good shots in the first half, and was taking bad ones. There were at least two occasions where she ignored a player calling for the ball and instead took and missed a shot. She got a little better in the second half- I think she realized that without Aliyyah in there she was going to have to be the primary scoring threat, and made better decisions. Amber Thompson backed off a little bit in the second half, but in the first half she took down everything that looked like it might even consider being a rebound, with phenomenal positioning and great ferocity. Jade Walker stepped up her offense in the second half, with soft midrange jumpers. She was as fierce on the boards in the second half as Amber was in the first. Aaliyah Lewis stepped her game up. I know I keep saying she's growing on me, and part of that may be my feeble, futile hope that she'll sprout a few extra inches somewhere along the line, but I'm impressed with how she's developed at the beginning of this season. Her passing vision still needs a little work, but that should come with time. Aliyyah Handford had a fantastic first half, including some long jumpers, and since I've been saying that she needs to develop her jump shot if she wants to be the next Johnnie in the WNBA, I'm happy with that. She took a hard hit near the end of the first half and spent much of the second half on the bench with a towel over her head like a Russian grandmother's shawl.

One of the Binghamton (or possibly "Binghamton" fans) in the next section over wouldn't stop riding the refs. Every. Single. Possession. Every single possession he was either complaining that there hadn't been a foul on Binghamton, that there had been a foul on St. John's, or that a violation of some sort had occurred. Not that I haven't had my share of disagreements with officiating, and not that Amber didn't get away with a couple of shoves, but you've got to know when to pick your battles. (Such as the travel called on Tamesha that should have been a trip. Or Aliyyah getting hit in the face.)

Player families, or at least the specific subset that I tend to call "Team Jersey", have started helpfully labeling themselves- Danaejah's family had t-shirts with her name and number on them, Aliyyah's mom had a sweatshirt, Amber's mom was rocking a nifty shirt.

I still think the prize for the shopping spree game should have been whatever the kids could get into the cart.

I think Jade and Aaliyah proved in this gae that they have the capability to step up if one of our backcourt diarchy is out of the picture, whether that was Danaejah with the bad shooting in the first half or Aliyyah with the injury in the second half. That's bigger than any rough opening against a team that shouldn't have been a challenge for as long as they were.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20th: Florida at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Florida made up all of a 14-point halftime deficit, but the one-two punch of Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford was enough for St. John's to prevail 72-66. Handford finished with 27 points and Grant with 26. Carlie Needles led Florida with 16 points, adding eight rebounds.

For worrying trends, mass transportation woes, the possibility of getting into a cab with a stranger, conditioning issues, proper hydration, lack of focus, and repurposed ducks, join your intrepid and unfocused blogger after the jump.

I hate my job. I do not necessarily hate my job because of what it is and what I do, but because I work in the industrial armpit of Queens, which means that if a truck stalls out on either the Grand Avenue Bridge or the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, I end up waiting 40 minutes in the cold for a bus and thus missing most of the first half of the St. John's game.

At halftime, it's 40-26 St. John's over Florida. That's the good news for the Johnnies. The bad news is that it's the Danaejah Grant/Aliyyah Handford show, which is not sustainable in the long run. Aliyyah has 17 and Danaejah has 16. That leaves seven points scored by other players. That's not sustainable in the long run. From what I've seen, we've been moving very quickly on both ends of the floor.

It's Military Appreciation Night at St. John's, so we got swearing-in ceremonies at halftime and the team has "We Support Our Troops" shirts.

I did not enjoy the sloppiness and lackadaisical play in the second half that allowed Florida to come back and take brief leads, and I'm still not comfortable with everything being about two players, but the season is still young, younger than most of our roster.

I'm really not feeling the black road jerseys for Florida, though I'm not sure what they should be wearing instead. Maybe blue?

There was a fairly large contingent of Florida fans- maybe two rows' worth- behind the bench. Why in the name of all that is sweet and holy would you come to New York from Florida in mid-November? It's cold up here! I know it's been cold in Florida, but it is way colder up here, are you people crazy? In any case, they were loud, and one of our fraternities did work trying to drown them out.

January Miller moves pretty well for a guard of her build. She was all up in everyone's business on defense. I keep meaning to check whether Haley Lorenzen is any relation to Jared Lorenzen. One of those random connections my brain throws up sometimes. I feel like I should be remembering more of the bench, but I think they played the bulk of their minutes in the first half, when I wasn't there to see them; it felt like the starters were the key players in the second half.

Carlie Needles has a really obnoxious habit of yelling out assignments while on the lane for free throws. It's to the point where it's legitimately disconcerting to the shooter, and I'm surprised that none of the refs got on her case for it. She seems to run that team. Cassie Peoples launched threes from all over the floor and showed a fair amount of hustle. Ronni Williams took a nasty spill in the second half and twisted her ankle- she came off limping, but was well enough to come back and come up with some big plays late in the game. Antoinette Bannister pressured the ballhandler, and when someone less sure than Aaliyah Lewis had the ball, it did not end well for St. John's. Kayla Lewis mixed it up down low, aggressive for a player with a relatively slimb uild for her height. She was impressive. I could have done without some of the forearm shivers, though.

Oh, Kyra Dunn. I can already tell that you're going to be that player who makes me want to tear my hair out. I love her shot blocking, and we do need height, but height is not particularly effective if it runs away from anything and everything in sight. It also distresses me that she's not terribly fast for her size. Usually it's the big posts who lumber, but despite looking kind of like a stick insect, Kyra does not move very quickly. She was in and out as necessary. Imani Littleton played in spurts, but when she made freshman mistakes, she was sent back to the bench, same with Tonoia Wade. Tonoia's gotta hit shots on the break like that. More oomph is required. Minutes were brief for most of the bench players, which worries me for the rest of the season. We need a blowout so they can get extensive minutes so we can determine who they are and what they can do.

Amber Thompson remains a strong defensive force and a tough rebounder. I don't know if she's looking ofr her offense and not finding it, or if she's been told not to shoot, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with her only getting two shots. If she's not a credible threat, then there's more defense on Aliyyah and Danaejah. Jade Walker came up with big baskets down the stretch, and it's absolutely amazing that she didn't foul out of the game, since there were three calls after her fourth foul that I thought were going to be on her and were instead passed. At least she's trying. I'm not sure I like the outside jumpers, but as long as they're falling, I shouldn't complain. Aaliyah Lewis is growing into her own as a point guard- still a little unsure of herself, but growing in confidence both with her teammates and within herself. I just wish she weren't so tiny! Aliyyah Handford was hot in the first half, but cooled somewhat in the second, though I think Florida intensified the defense on her. She went down late in the game and scared the living daylights out of most of the people in the arena. She got back up, though. I think she came up with a steal right after that. Danaejah Grant was fantastic in the first half and again at the end of the second half. I think she was letting some of the foul calls get into her head- I'm not sure she was completely engaged. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm a little wiped out.

We got frustrated with the officiating, as always. But if they'd called everything we had seen, I'm pretty sure Amber would have fouled out, so there's something to be said for non-calls. I guess.

We got our first look at the new student section for St. John's, the 6th Man. I certainly hope they're involved for longer stretches of the game than this during men's games. Three rows of standees at center court are not going to be very popular if all they're doing is standing, not cheering. The guys from the baseball team, on the other hand, were pretty cool. (Yes, I'm demanding when it comes to fan participation.)

I'm not worried about Binghamton or Wagner. But I'm starting to worry about Auburn and Seton Hall.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16th, 2014: Sacred Heart at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona's two stars hit milestones, but Sacred Heart hit 12 threes to spoil the Gaels' home opener, 82-80. Kelcey Castro, Shelby Hickey, Hannah Kimmel, and Adaysha Williams each had 14 points to pace a balanced Pioneer attack. Damika Martinez poured in a game-high 37 points for Iona in the loss, while Joy Adams added 16 points and 12 rebounds.

For many trains, leaping bleachers in a single bound, not learning from mistakes, culinary disappointment, shiny screens, and lots of points, join your intrepid and strongly psyched blogger after the jump.

And here we are once more into the breach, or something like that, as your intrepid blogger finally gets to see a home game for one of her teams. Iona opens up at home against Sacred Heart.

I am a little disappointed in New Rochelle. I'd been jonesing for the last few days for blackout fries and a sandwich over at the Blackboard, only to discover that the Blackboard is under new ownership and is apparently now a pizza joint. Breaks my heart- that was some of the best pregame eats anywhere in my travels; the only ones who had them beat were LIU, and that's because if you go to an LIU game, you're a fool for not going to Junior's. We're going to investigate a couple of other places in that area, but I still want my blackout fries. :(

Speaking of boards, though, Iona has installed two huge, new, shiny boards, equipped with constant stats for all players on the roster. I approve this message so hard, you have no idea.

We're sitting with Damika's family, which promises to be loud and epic, since Damika is two points away from breaking the Iona scoring record, which is pretty much a certainty unless something unspeakably awful happens. Please don't let something unspeakably awful happen.

Someone on Sacred Heart's team, either an assistant or an injured player, is rocking a jacket straight out of the '80s Coaches' Collection. I think it's more Kim Mulkey, my husband thinks it's more Andy Landers. But it's a bilious green with a pattern that looks almost like camo. I do not approve in any way, shape, or form.

Sacred Heart, we need to have a talk about your roster and why at least three of your players are wearing jerseys that don't match the roster on your website. It's very confusing.

It's a day of milestones here at the Hynes Athletics Center, as Joy Adams joins the 1000 point club and Damika Martinez has made a club all of her own, taking over the Iona career scoring record. And given that she's at 1905 right now, the odds of her hitting 2000 are pretty good. But Iona's only up two at the half. Hannah Kimmel's been big for the Pioneers, and so have the four triples of Shelby Hickey.

Despite my love for the Syracuse zone as run by Jim Boeheim, I am really starting to develop a distaste for it, mostly because coaches that fall in love with it won't get out of it, no matter how badly they're getting sliced up. If you allow six threes in the first half because Sacred Heart is driving and dishing and getting open looks and hitting open looks, it might be time to reconsider your game plan. Instead, Iona stuck to the zone and gave up six more threes in the second half. Give up 12 triples in a game, and you're probably going to lose.

Lerae Ettienne makes quite the first impression- tall, broad-shouldered, copper-haired- and she did an excellent job of getting inside for the Pioneers. (I know that at least once in the game I yelled something along the lines of "How can you miss her?!" after she got the baseline and went up for a lay-up. Kelcey Castro brought offense off the bench, coming up with big threes in the second half. Tykera Carter and her giant pouf of hair got good looks from the outside, though she wasn't able to hit them, and I think she was also part of the roving defensive brigade on Damika Martinez. (Well, pretty much everyone defended Damika Martinez at one point or another. She's the Gaels' primary and secondary offensive options.) Katherine Haines was the first player in off the bench for Sacred Heart, but she didn't play much.

Katie Shepard is a nice little point guard- did more of her distributing in the first half, then started hitting shots in the second, when her team needed a little bit of an offensive boost. She was also pesky on defense. Hannah Kimmel did a little bit of everything- rebounding, inside lay-ups, outside jumpers, defense. I think the disconnect between her academic age and her calendar age- she's a redshirt sophomore who spent two seasons injured- is interesting, as she has a lot more experience and maturity than you would see from a regular sophomore, and that might be a big help to them in the next year or two. Shelby Hickey killed us in the first half beyond the arc, then she started taking the baseline too, just when everyone else was starting to set up outside. Adaysha Williams took a lot of shots. They were not all good shots. Alissa Tarsi seemed like a non-factor until the second half, when she was committing fouls- I think Ettienne got a lot of her minutes in the first half.

We got our first look at Ashley Murray in this one. I like her size, but like every freshman post before her, she has to learn to use her body without committing fouls. (Though she does apper to be of the school that if you're going to commit a foul, you might as well go for it with gusto- her second foul almost had her opponent in a half nelson.) Kristin Mahoney spelled Damika in the first half and seemed very nervous. There was no excuse other than nerves for that fumble. Karynda DuPree had a nice block in the first half, but was otherwise very passive, and she was parked on the bench for the second half. I like Philecia Gilmore's instincts, and I like her hustle, but she's got deplorable foot speed. I'm not going to harp on her conditioning in every set of game notes, because I am the last person who has any right to comment on that. I assume she's going to work on that at some point. Aaliyah Robinson found her shot again and was all over the boards. I love her heart and her hustle, and if Damika weren't a phenomenon, Aaliyah would be my favorite Gael.

But Damika Martinez is a phenomenon, a scoring force of nature the likes of which I have never had the chance to root for before, a near certainty to join the 2000-point club and making a good run at the MAAC career scoring record. She looked at the situation in the second half, where Iona wasn't scoring anything from anywhere, and basically took matters into her own hands, with 25 of her 37 in the second half. She wasn't asked to run point in this one, which she has occasionally been asked to do (this is not a good plan). I just wish she'd looked at the clock before taking the last shot after the buzzer. It didn't go in, but it's the point of the matter. Cassidee Ranger did a lot of running around to create screens and try to get looks, being more successful with the former than with the latter. Joy Adams missed makeable shots, but I love how she works on the boards. I'm just not sure what her position is. Marina Lizarazu moved the ball to the right people, but still seemed a little hesitant- we got luck on at least one play that should have been a five-second call. Aurellia Cammock had trouble holding on to rebounds- I'm pretty sure she would have had at least three more boards if she'd been able to maintain control. I love her hustle- she just needs to work on her hands. (And on getting people to spell her name correctly. She's been showing up as Auriella in some parts of the roster, and while Auriella is a beautiful name, it's not hers.)

Some bad calls in this game on both ends of the floor- I thought there was going to be an incident when Damika was called for her second foul on a bad, bad charge call, but in the second half, the scales were balanced with a bad fourth foul charge on Hannah Kimmel. I thought there was a key non-call late in the game when Joy went to the basket, but you can't put an entire game on that.

Defense matters. We can score all we want, but scoring 80 points doesn't matter if your opponent puts up 82. And looking at this team- maybe it's just early in the season, but no one on Iona seems really sure that they can trust each other. It's not reassuring.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15th, 2014: St. John's at Yale

Just the Facts, Ma'am: After a shaky start, St. John's settled down to a season-opening 61-50win at Yale. Danaejah Grant led the way for the Red Storm with 30 points, whiel Aliyyah Handford had 18 points and Amber Thompson added 14 rebounds. Sarah Halejian led Yale with 15 points.

For big performances, bad calls, creepier than usual graveyards, gorgeous architecture, lots of trains, and satisfied exhaustion, join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.

It took four trains and sixty-odd dollars, but here we are at Yale for the first game of the Red Storm's season, as St. John's visits Yale.

Payne Whitney Gymnasium is one of the most beautiful facilities I've ever had the privilege of visiting. It looks like a cathedral. We actually almost passed it because we thought it was the campus chapel, but no, it is just an exquisite piece of architecture... with automatic doors. In old-fashioned style, the aactual place where games occur is the John J. Lee Amphitheater within the building. It has high-back seats that demand proper posture, wooden seats that remind me of my elementary school auditorium. The windows are tall and narrow, like church windows. Most of the seats are elevated away from the court, so if something happens in front of the opposite bench, for example, I won't be able to see if from where I am behind the St. John's bench. This is the facility for basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics, and they have banners for each of those sports, one in each corner. It's been a while since women's basketball was even remotely relevant.

Yale has a pleasantly loud fan base- not necessarily large, but a solid mid-major fan base, and they care about their team. I'll give them that.

It was a slow start for St. John's, but when the game was tied at 17 we cam up with a 10-0 run to create a cushion. It's 31-21 at the half. Danaejah Grant leads the way with 16 points. Part of the challenge has been integrating the young players, and that's led to a fair amount of hesitation both for the frosh and the upperclassmen.

Kyra Dunn, I'm going to need you to pull your shorts down. Honestly. I shouldn't be aware that you have a tattoo that high up on your left leg, because that part of your leg should be covered by your shorts.

"The dead shall be raised"? What is wrong with you, New Haven? Why would you ever think that was an appropriate thing to put on the gate to a cemetery? Who raised the funds for that gate, Alester Crowley? (Yes, I know the real story behind it, because I'm a giant dork and I looked it up on Wikipedia, but these were the thoughts that passed through my head on the walk to the campus.)

So. Johnnies in reserve. They've still got a little adjusting to do. Most of them are freshmen, which is understandable. I like Kyra Dunn's shot-blocking, but if she's going to back off plays and not hold on to the ball and not rebound, we are not going to be friends. I think Coach agreed with my frustrations, since she didn't play at all in the second half. Tonoia Wade went in very briefly and did nothing of note, except that she was either wearing false eyelashes or has spectacular real ones, and I'd be concerned about a player who wore such long ones on the court if they're fake. Crystal Simmons was unremarkable, though I worry a little if her shooting motion today was what her shooting motion is actually like, as opposed to what happens when there's ridiculous amounts of contact being allowed and she pulls up lame. (The two aren't fully connected, and might not be at all. My brain is a little fuzzy.) She went off hobbling, but I think she's going to be okay. Tamesha Alexander was solid at the point, more defensive-minded than offensive-minded. The freshman who impressed me most out of our class was Imani Littleton. She committed some truly spectacular blunders (a pass smacking off her hands, having the ball plucked from her hands on a rebound), but she was great on the boards and looked aggressive offensively, which was a big deal given how tentative the offense was much of the time.

Aaliyah Lewis is growing on me. Now, if she could just grow a little bit, period, she would be fabulous. I don't think I ever noticed before how good her body control is- she was able to prevent herself from moving on catches that might have forced an extra step from other guards. She got bounced around like a pinball trying to run through Yale's screens. Give Tiny Aaliyah a break, would you, universe? Jade Walker already has a propensity to commit bad fouls. We know this; she still thinks defense is played with the hands and the body, not the feet. But she also has an unfortunate tendency to draw calls whenever there's a stoppage, whether she merits them or not. She threw up a lot of bad shots, including one where she had been dancing around in the backcourt as if she were Aliyyah Handford instead of Jade Walker, after which she was summoned to the bench for a teaching moment. She was a big part of the second-half answer to the Yale run, and we needed her to be big, and I think she can be a major player for us if she can stay on the court. Amber Thompson needs to go up strong instead of backing out, and she needs to hit her shots. These are all complaints I've made about her before, and I guess I shouldn't expect her to change from her freshman year in that regard, though I certain can hope she does. That being said, she was great on the boards and altered a lot of shots. Part of why I hope Jade and Imani develop is that it would free up Amber to be more of a defensive presence and we wouldn't have to rely on her for offense. Aliyyah Handford missed some makeable jumpers in the first half, and the Yale defense was all over her, but she seemed to find her stride in the second half. She played the passing lanes aggressively. And then there was Danaejah Grant, who was starting to look pretty tired by the end of the game, if only because she was carrying the team on her back. She went to the basket. She hit jumpers. She capped the scoring with a three, which was good, since I was almost out of room for two-point baskets. I wish she could get her free throws down, but that's the eternal complaint about this team that I love.

Yale rotated their bench pretty frequently, often bringing in two or three players at a time. Jen Berkowitz pulled down some good rebounds. Tamara Simpson drove to the basket nicely, though I thought she traveled on most of her drives. The other bench players were not memorable.

Sarah Halejian has a lot of heart and a nice jumper. She was the star of the show for Yale, both as a scorer and a leader. Meredith Boardman has a brilliant last name for a rebounder, and also showed a little range from the outside. Katie Werner seemed integral to Yale's second half surges, but I might just be crazy at this point. Meghan McIntyre popped a couple of threes in the first half.

The officiating in this game was extremely frustrating. If you're going to call a game in a certain way, that's fine. But call it on both ends. The same call, if it's a charge at one end, should be a charge on the other. If it's a shooting foul on one end, it should be a shooting foul on the other end. It seemed very unbalanced from where I was sitting, and I thought Joe was going to lose his cool at one point- except by the time he had reached that stage, it was too close for him to risk the technical free throws. It was very frustrating.

There's a lot of potential for St. John's, but I think it'll be a rougher year than we expected.


Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14th, 2014: Iona at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The one-two punch of Damika Martinez and Joy Adams was too much for Fordham to handle, as Iona took control early and never looked back in a 72-51 win on the road. Martinez had 27 points, 20 in the first half, to lead all scorers, adding four steals; Adams had 23 points, 12 rebounds, and five steals. Eily Tapio was the only Ram in double figures, leading the team with 19 points.

For maroon, internal rants, brilliant passing, spin moves, getting the gang back together, optimism, pessimism, road conditions, and sardine cans, join your intrepid and urban blogger after the jump.

And we are cleared for takeoff. I repeat, we are cleared for takeoff. The NCAA women's basketball season is underway. Your intrepid blogger is, of course, overdoing it a little bit, because that's how we roll here at Swish Appeal and the Game Notes of Doom. We'll be coming to you in surround sound and Smell-O-Vision from three different facilities in two different states and three different conferences.

First up, and I mean this about as literally as I can mean it without properly checking an NCAA schedule, is Iona at Fordham, at the unspeakable hour of 11:30 on a Friday morning. Fordham will be raising their A-10 conference championship banner, and I will be feeling supremely uncomfortable if no one else shows up for Iona (since Fordham has now introduced iself into the complex mesh of loyalties that is my basketball life).

It's 10:12 and we're crawling through the tunnels somewhere south of Dyckman. I don't think I'm going to make it to Fordham at 10:23 like HopStop claimed I would. Why do you lie to me, Internet? (Because once the A train gets north of Harlem, it crawls instead of speeding. I do not approve!)

Made it to the game. I forgot how beautiful a campus Fordham has. I am clearly not the only one who agrees with this assessment, since someone was filming something there while I was walking by.

Note to self: if you're going to come watch the banner-raising, sit on the opposite side from the banners, rocket scientist. I suspect the effect will be somewhat less impressive from the back.

Iona looks so tiny next to Fordham. Tiny guards, slight guards. Fordham has a lot of bulk to them. I barely know any of these people. It's disconcerting.

This 11:30 start time is really not working for Fordham, unless they're queuing up the annoying little kids outside, to break upon the seats like a tidal wave. I'm not taking bets on that, though. That would be against NCAA policies, rules, and general ethics.

A capella anthem from a campus singing group. I approve.

There was no banner ceremony, and I am sad. (I am also sad that this game is at buttcrack o'clock of the morning because the men have the night session for a game against a D-III school. Really, y'all?)

So. This is the halftime score I expected, except that I thought Fordham would have the 42 points and Iona would have the 24 points. But Iona has Damika Martinez, and Damika Martinez has 20 points, and Iona holds the 42-24 lead. Joy Adams, despite missing chippies in ways that make my head explode, is also solid for the Gaels, with 13 points and five boards.

Okay, DOT, can we talk about the potholes on the Cross Bronx and the service road thereof? Because this thing is rattling like a '70s jalopy and it's very hard to type when one hand is holding the computer on my lap and the other is holding the screen in place.

There were moments in the second half when Fordham looked like the defending A-10 champions that they were, looked like they were going to get back in control, looked like they were going to make this a game, looked like they were going to take advantage of Iona's mistakes and come back. But for the most part, they weren't ready for the fight, and Iona took it right to them.

Please, please, Iona, keep the killer instinct. Maybe this will be the year that I thought was going to be last year.

Kristin Mahoney was the late sub for Damika Martinez, and I liked her willingness to hustle. Philecia Gilmore gave spot inutes in both halves, and while her conditioning needs work, I like her ball instincts. She seems pretty vocal for a freshman, too. Always a good sign. Aaliyah Robinson couldn't get her shot to fall, but made up for it with defense, assists, and rebounding- she was the team's best rebounder on the inside from the bench. This is a bad sign for the tall center who came off the bench, Karynda DuPree. I want to like her. She's got a phenomenal basketball body. But there is no quicker way to make me dislike a player than to have her be diffident, be careless, be soft, be passive, be scared- especially when she's a post, and especially when she's a tall post who can be a gamechanger for her team if she finds some cojones. I can't stand seeing players give up a step or two early on a play, or stand around on the outside like decorative statuary in a garden and jack up bad threes. I feel like I'm being harsh on her, but when your star guard is waving you to come around and set the pick, and you don't move, you're going to end up with me (and Damika) being harsh on you.

I didn't realize until I looked at the roster that Marina Lizarazu had transferred to Iona, and I didn't realize until lineups were announced that she was immediately eligible. She's going to go a long way towards filling the gap that Haley D'Angelo's gradation left in the backcourt. She's not the perfect point guard- she's a little too hesitant, she takes too long to trigger the ball inbounds (I think she got dinged for two five-second calls), and she is way too reliant on her left hand. But she's good at getting the ball to where it needs to be (translation: to Joy and Damika) and she doesn't make too many other mistakes. She came up with some nice buckets to change the pace up from the one-two punch of Damika and Joy. I suspect Cassidee Ranger's position in the starting lineup is not 100% settled yet- she was splitting time with Karynda and Aaliyah. She didn't get a lot of looks, but she took advantage when she did. I'm just not sure there's a spot for her in the rotation, unless someone can convince Karynda she's not the player who should be taking threes. Aurellia Cammock did not impress me this year, but she came on in this game with a lot of heart, a lot of hustle, a lot of offensive rebounding, and an ability to take advantage of opportunities she was handed. Some players can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and today she was one of those players. I'm not sure if she's a full-time starter, either, since she was splitting minutes with Karynda and Aaliyah. (In terms of position, I suppose technically Cassidee was splitting time with Aaliyah and Aurellia was splitting time with Karynda, but the rotation usually started with Aaliyah going in for Aurellia, so.) Joy Adams kills me sometimes when she misses shots that she should be hitting- she had one beautiful fast break that fell apart when she put up a shot more fitting to a hammer thrower), and I don't think I like her handling the ball on the perimeter as much as she does, but she's such a phenomenal athlete and she rebounds so well. And then there was Damika Martinez, who did the things she does so well. She was hitting both her jumpers and her lay-ups, and her gambling on the passing lanes worked well. She needs to be a little more careful with her hands- she got called for a lot of fouls in the second half.

Fordham put a lot of bench players into the game, and that makes me wonder if Stephanie Gaitley was taking it as seriously as she should have. Khadjiah Gibson gave good minutes in garbage time, though one must consider that it was, in fact, garbage time. But I liked how she got to the basket. Asnate Fomina can shoot a little bit, but I'm not fond of her defense- she was a little more physical than I would have liked in a guard. Taryn Durant played big minutes off the bench, running the offense and being very vocal. She actually started the second half for (I think) Tiffany Ruffin. I don't have clear recollections of Aaliyah Jones or either of the Danielles (Burns and Padovano).

I'm not quite sure how to pronounce G'mrice, but I get the feeling that I'm going to have to, because I'm going to be hearing it a lot, because G'mrice Davis is pretty damn good. She has that freshman propensity to commit stupid fouls, but she's got a good body, she's got good ball instincts both on offense and rebounding, and she's got some moves. I like her. Emily Tapio was the star of the game for Fordham, getting inside for baskets and poking away rebounds. She's tough. She's one of those players you love to ittybitty pieces when she's on your team, but that sort of makes you want to punch things when she's playing against your team. Sort of like Plenette Pierson, but to a lesser extent. Samantha Clark filled up space on the inside, and pulled down some decent rebounds, but Iona shut her down pretty well. She was much less of a factor than I was expecting. Alina Gjerkes has a nice shot from the side of the arc. Tiffany Ruffin was solid all around- she brought the kind of experience and leadership that you expect from a graduate student.

Fordham seemed determined to take threes, despite missing one of their best shooters from last season in Hannah Missry. It wasn't doing much for them.

The officiating was uneven, especially in the second half (the worst was the blatant trip that Tapio got away with that led to one of her baskets). To be fair, I think Iona was getting the benefit of many of the procedural calls.

It's okay to sit Damika if you're up 20 with less than ten minutes to go in the second half, Coach. You can bring her back in if you're panicking, but when she got the fourth foul, I would have pulled her for good. (She did sit in the end, but about five minutes after I would have pulled her.)

Play of the day, and one that I attempted to nominate for the Sportscenter Top 10 Joy Adams rifles a hard pass to Aaliyah Robinson, Aaliyah touches it back, Joy goes to the hoop, gets hammered, gets the shot to fall, and gets the foul call. It really got the Iona portion of the crowd going.

I don't know if this play is sustainable for either team. I expect better from Fordham, and I don't know if Iona can keep doing this to their opponents. I hope Iona keeps this up; I hope Fordham doesn't.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8th, 2014: Philadelphia at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Ka-Deidre Simmons and Bra'Shey Ali each dropped a double-double and Seton Hall never trailed in their 86-64 win over D-II Philadelphia. Simmons led all scorers with 20 points, adding 10 assists, eight rebounds, and four steals. Ali had 12 points to go with 14 rebounds. Najah Jacobs had 17 to lead Philadelphia.

For long walks, missed free throws, lopsided foul counts, acting jobs, plush Pirates, new haircuts, and trying to remember where the butt pad went, join your intrepid and exhausted blogger after the jump.

Hello, internet! Did you miss me? You missed me, didn't you? Actually, it's all right if you didn't. But your intrepid blogger, like her or not, is back in action with a preseason tilt at Walsh Gymnasium, as the Seton Hall Pirates host the Philadelphia Rams.

Why are there so many people on this train? It's not even 9:30 on a Saturday morning, and it's standing room only. Go back to sleep! I want to be back in bed, but it's a noon tip, so.

That awkward moment when you wait twenty minutes in the lobby for the nice folks with the ticket table to come out, then realize that there aren't actually tickets for this game since it's a preseason game.

Why would you drive onto the campus of Seton Hall with a Rutgers R stuck to your car? They're magnetic. Take it off when you're in South Orange.

Seton Hall's season ticket shirts are absolutely awesome, and our homies at South Orange Juice need to find a way to hook me up. "If you can't see, stand up!" is the creed I live by as a sports fan, because if I'm standing, there's probably a reason. (It does take on a bit of dark humor when the first guy you see wearing it is in a wheelchair, though.)

I feel like some sort of perverse ninja. No one here seems to know me without my husband around. (Well, except Coach Bozzella, but he pretty much knows everyone. He's that kind of guy, which is how we got into this mess in the first place.)

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 47-32, after allowing a small Philadelphia run to close the half. Monica Schacker leads the Rams with 13 points. Ka-Deidre Simmons leads the Pirates with 12 points.

Philadelphia's coach seems to be a statement kind of guy, between the technical foul and the "I chose Division II shirt" he's wearing.

Janee Johnson going down on a drive by Bria Young is an early contender for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress of the 2014-15 season. There were a couple of early submissions, though I don't know if preseason games count towards those awards.

I don't know if saying I liked what I saw from Seton Hall would be the right turn of phrase, but I like the potential that I saw there.

Philadelphia sent in a big chunk of their reserves late in the game, so they didn't have much of an opportunity to make an impression. Erin Rafter's shot release was noticeably awkward, though. (Sorry.) Mary Newell played the majority of the bench minutes and was pretty solid down low. She was called upon to do what I thought was a surprising amount of ballhandling for a post player, and she had an equally surprisingly delicate touch with the ball at midcourt, so perhaps the ballhandling shouldn't have been a surprise. She seemed to disconnect from the game in the second half, when the ball was going to her less and the Rams were down big- her facial expressions were those of a young woman who didn't want to be where she was and didn't care who noticed.

Tori Arnao had a nice knack for finding the ball at the basket, and for finding space for herself down low as well. Bria Young reminds me of a smaller-scale Sky Lindsay, as if someone had taken Sky and gently compressed her so that she was a little bit smaller and her face was a little bit less long. She looked like she was often in the right place at the right time to make the play. The box score does not bear out my perception of Monica Schacker's stroke, as she looked like she had an utterly pure stroke and couldn't miss, but there are a lot of misses in that box score. She got open a lot and made Seton Hall regret it. She cooled off a bit in the second half, but I wasn't able to determine if it was because the Pirates improved their defense, if she was tired, or if her teammates were less able to get her the shots she preferred. Najah Jacobs had some very nice baskets on the fast break, including one spin move where even the ardent Seton Hall fans next to me basically said, "all right, you can have that one, we ain't even mad". She's a nice, solid player. Alex Heck took a hit to the face that awakened the wrath of Philadelphia's coach, but I don't remember what else she did on the floor.

I was impressed with Philadelphia. For a D-II school they hung well with a D-I team that's on the rise. I don't think they were going to be able to satisfy their coach's expectations on defense in this one- he seemed pretty intense about it.

Seton Hall put in a lot of players, so this part is going to be pretty thick, just to let you know.

Lubirdia Gordon has a solid build and sets a good screen, but she seems to have small hands for her size, and that worries me. She's still trying to find her place in the defense- she needed a lot of direction. Jordan Molyneaux was impressive in her short minutes, positioning herself well on the defensive end. Jordan Mosley rebounded well for a guard- she found ways to be in the right place at the right time. She needs to work on her shooting touch, though, which is a recurring theme with this team. There are some horrendous shooting motions there. Claire Lundberg has a pretty stroke from the corner, and so far it's clear that her role is to be a three-point specialist. She has height, and they're using her a little bit in the middle, but she still needs a lot of coaching to be more of a three. She also needs to get used to the college line. I think she was still ranging. Tara Inman looks determined to prove herself- she hustled right through a chair and into the bleachers at one point. I like her intensity. Teresa Kucera appears to have misplaced her shot, and I hope she finds it again soon, as that's been her strength for this team. Chizoba Ekedigwe got in and proceeded to pretty much flee contact at the slightest excuse. She was more interested in going inside on offense than on defense, but still backed out when Newell was in the game. She's got to learn to not be afraid of contact, or someone is going to end up tearing their hair out. Kathleen Egan hustled but otherwise left no impression.

I got the sense that Coach was using the bench players not so much because the exigencies of the situation called for them, but to see who they were in game action, what they would do in a game, and how they would react as compared to practice situations. There were a lot of bench minutes.

I love what Janee Johnson brings to this team. She's tough on both ends of the floor and loves to go after the ball. I don't know if she still has the shooting range she thinks she does, but she does create space with that jumper a little bit. Tabatha Richardson-Smith took a lot of threes. I mean a lot of threes. She got on a little run in the second half, but otherwise, her shots were going all over the place. I liked her work on the press. If she's going to play three in this lineup, I'd like to see her get some more rebounds (granted, Bra'Shey and Janee don't leave a lot of them for other forwards, but still). Speaking of Bra'Shey Ali, I think I was sitting behind her family, and I'm glad I was, because she had an awesome game. She was all over the boards, holding on to a lot of the balls that she was tipping out last year, or at least tapping them to teammates instead of opponents, and she was able to finish on a lot of shots close the basket. I do like her rather a lot. Daisha Simmons was hobbled by foul trouble early on, to the point where I was starting to wonder if any of the officials were Alabama alumni. She looked good, and she had fantastic synergy with Ka-Deidre Simmons. I can already imagine the mattress jokes. Ka-Deidre Simmons ran her team well and took over at key intervals. She makes this team go, and I think she knows it. Possibly to their detriment, so do her teammates. Much like sometimes happens with the Liberty, if she's playing well and their shots aren't falling, they expect her to pick them up, and she expects herself to pick them up. If they're going to go far in this conferene, or in the NCAA in general, they need to get over that.

I was disappointed in the officiating in the second half. It's not that there were a lot of blatant no-calls and missed calls, but there were a couple of block/charges that seemed inconsistent, and Jordan Molyneaux got all ball on that second foul. But when the differential is at 10-1, it does tend to cause a fan to raise an eyebrow or two. The total fouls were even in the first half, so I suspect that the Philly coach's T might have played into the officiating in the second half.

Seton Hall has very odd rims. Lots and lots of shots rimming out for both teams.

I think they've switched from Pepsi to Coke. Point in their favor.

That hike to and from South Orange station is a doozy, especially alone.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Seton Hall develops this year. You should be too.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17th, 2014: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty finished their 2014 campaign on a high note, with a 73-61 win over Indiana. Plenette Pierson put in 15 to lead New York. Maggie Lucas led Indiana with 17 points.

For comparisons, farewells, getting the gang together, the Sound of Music, lots of bench minutes, distracting Tamika Catchings, and pictures, join your intrepid and resigned blogger after the jump.

So this is it. This is the end of the line. This is the last game of 2014 for the Liberty, and the last WNBA game of the season for your intrepid blogger (barring a conveniently timed Finals match-up between the Mystics and the Lynx, and even then that might be pricey).

I'm not used to our fate being decided so suddenly and so swiftly. Usually the last game is relevant even if our fate is no longer in our hands. But this is a meaningless game with no relevance to the Liberty and limited relevance to the Fever (someone may have to correct me on that, as I am completely lost when it comes to the tie-break situation at this point). It's going to be hard for anyone to muster up a give-a-darn, even if it's Fan Appreciation Night.

Look, all I want is a complete team set for 2014. Why are Swin and Natasha so hard to get? Why? But no, every game it's the same few people out. :(

I'm going to take a few moments and just let it soak in what Lin Dunn has done for women's basketball. She's a legend, a pioneer, a trail blazer, and a part of the game's history. She's a builder. She's an amazing woman. I know her journey isn't quite done yet, but this is the last time she's coming to New York, and I wish her all the best. I look forward to seeing what she does when she's off the bench- I know she'll keep beating down barriers and improving the game. I'll miss seeing her white pouf on the sidelines, and miss hearing her wit in that inimitable drawl. (I think my favorite was when someone asked her if she was on or going on a diet. "The only carbs I eat are in my beer.") The Liberty gave her recognition and a little send-off, which was nice.

Again, I'm pretty sure that watching this dance routine is illegal in several states and would add me to the registry.

Our regular PA guy bailed. I haz a sad.

The shirts for Fan Appreciation Night are nice, but they only come in large, and I need at least XXL. I haz another sad.

Our poor unlucky wretch. Not only has she had to put up with us all year, but they put her on dunk tank duty for the fanfest. (We love you, Melissa. You put up with us. Good luck on your travels and in your new job!)

Okay, the Bollywood troupe is better, more dressed, and I don't feel horribly perverted staring at them. This is a plus.

So far they do not appear to have opened up the upper deck, despite the fact that there are lots of people here. (And lots of rude people. There's a line, stop shoving past it. And at least one stupid person, who doesn't understand why "everyone's rushing if they're going to different seats", I'm not making this up.)

Whichever genius put the kid in the Catchings jersey and his dad on the baseline by the Liberty bench really needs a talking to. I'm pretty sure their special experience would have been more special by the Fever bench. (And I think it was. Dude sure got comfortable in those seats, though.)

I really wish the team would be able to track down Tari Phillips. Kym has pretty much lost her voice and is trying to make up for it with dramatics. Loud public speaking will wreck a person's voice, and she's done a lot of that for us.

I am not feeling Shanece McKinney's short cut. And I am still not feeling Lynetta Kizer's blue dreadlocks.

Indiana's bench, and Indiana's hustle, is the season for them. There have been very few clean rebounds for the Liberty- there always seems to be a hand or a slap. The end of the half had a very bad call on Plenette Pierson that I really thought should have been on Lynetta Kizer.

Post-game season subscriber perfect attendance photo op. We are currently dealing with fan-issued awards. Perhaps not the most adept spokeswoman. (Alex is our MIP, Plenette our MVP, so that for star power. New York appreciates hustle and heart more than anything else.)

Which is why it's easy to appreciate Indiana, to be honest. That is a hard-working team, all the way down to position 12. They will fight you. They will scrap with you. They will throw you out of the way if they have to. But they're not going to stop working you. They may occasionally get sloppy, and their reserves are in dire need of a lay-up line or two, but they're never going to give up.

DNP-CDs for Tamika Catchings, Briann January, and Erlana Larkins. Look at all the bothers Lin Dunn gave about this game.

Maggie Lucas is kind of lethal from outside, in case you haven't noticed. We sort o didn't notice for much of the game, and there was a point very late in the fourth quarter where I thought she was going to Reggie Miller Indiana right back into the game. She hit one that was from well outside. She's kind of sneaky as a distributor- I never see her making the pass, but she gets the assists. Sydney Carter is small and fast, though speedy might be a more appropriate word- as a player she's fast, but as a point guard, she spent a lot of time hesitating. (There was one point where she, Clarendon, and Lucas were all on the floor at the same time, which I think technically made Lucas a three. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dance of the Sugarplum IDGAF Fairy!) Krystal Thomas was able to muscle her opponent- usually Shanece McKinney- out of position under the basket easily, and used height to smoosh many attempts at the basket, especially late in the game- only the one on Essence Carson was really emphatic, but they all prevented easy makes. She has to finish at the basket, which you may have noticed as a trend among the Indiana posts. She got decent looks and has to hit them if Indiana is going to make any long-term use of her. Karima Christmas had a nice sideline play to save a possession, but was otherwise quiet- she spent a lot of her time on offense floating around the three-point line. It's a weapon she has, and knowing the Indiana coaching staff, I'm assuming they decided to have her practice that shot this game.

Natasha Howard reminds me of a young Sancho Lyttle or Rebekkah Brunson- at the basket, she's more of a Brunson, further away she's more of a Lyttle. She doesn't yet have the defensive acumen of either of them. But she rebounded on the offensive glass beautifully today. She had a lot of trouble finishing at the basket, but I like the moves she has. Lynetta Kizer was phenomenal on defense, physical and determined never to let anyone she was guarding at the basket. She has the little foul-line/foul-line extended jumper that reminds me of Tamika Whitmore or Ruth Riley, though she's not as automatic with it as Riley was (or at least as Riley was against us). She never stopped woring. Shavonte Zellous was quietly efficient, though she missed some shots she should have hit. I'm not used to her being so willing to give up the ball, but I guess Lin Dunn can teach an old ballhog some new tricks. Layshia Clarendon seemed more hesitant than I would have liked running the offense, and she should have finished a lot of the shots she missed. On the other hand, I should have realized it would be a rough shooting night for her all the way through when her shots in warm-ups consistently fell short. I'm starting to wonder if she either has a low pain tolerance or a very touchy back, because every time I've seen her it looks like she's either caught a cramp or had her back seize up (although to be fair, if Swin Cash got me with one of those bony hips, I'd probably feel back pain too). Marissa Coleman hit her first three, and had plenty of opportunities, but really didn't play a lot, and really didn't have much impact on the game. She seems like the one player who philosophically doesn't fit with this team and their style.

Good Lord, Stephanie White's pants were bright. So was Sylvia Crawley's dress.

Shanece McKinney. Shanece. We were all in your corner coming out of training camp. We thought you got screwed and we were glad to see you back. But you have got to hit a dang lay-up if you want to be a professional basketball player. She got good looks from her teammates and didn't put enough oomph on them, or hesitated long enough for Krystal Thomas to lay the hammer down. Hit your shots, Shanece. Natasha Lacy ran a nice offense- I would have liked to see her call her own number a lot sooner, since she was the last Liberty player to score, and heaven knows that Shanece and Avery weren't helping her assist numbers. She's fast. I like her. Can we keep her? Essence Carson came in for defense, and I honestly don't remember her attempting to do much offensively. Sugar Rodgers looked like she was in preseason mode- that's usually when the team suddenly starts giving up shots under the basket to make quick little passes to other players under the basket. (In that case, it happened to work out.) She started a little slow, but found her groove in the second quarter. Plenette Pierson used all her veteran craftiness to get to the line, and she hit her shots when she got there. She was all up in the paint's business. Alex Montgomery was unmemorable. Last off the bench in the first half, but started the second. This is the logic of the IDGAF Bowl. Chardé Houston has more colors in her hair than I realized. She took a lot of shots, hit some when we needed them, and startled Cappie Pondexter by attempting to pass her the ball. I don't think Cappie expected Chardé to pass. I don't think Cappie has ever expected Chardé to pass.

Tina Charles started the game, played most of the first quarter, then retired permanently to the bench. We didn't expect much more than that from her. Cappie Pondexter played limited minutes, and I don't think any of them were in the fourth quarter. She looked a little out of sync, but that might have been the oddness of the number of reserves getting time- the lineups were not the usual lineups. Anna Cruz kept up the defensive intensity and cut well to the basket. I do like to see her being aggressive offensively! Avery Warley-Talbert, by this point in the season, seems to have been conditioned to believe that if a whistle is being blown while she's on the floor, there's a foul on her- she had quite the WTF face while Swin Cash was being called for a defensive three seconds. Granted, Avery is usually correct that the foul is being called on her, whether she's earned it or not. She had a nice lay-up inside from a Swin pass. Swin Cash was passing well tonight- she had the previously mentioned look to Avery, plus she got Natasha her basket right before the shot clock expired to make sure everyone scored. She also brought some defense and some rebounding. I don't know if she's worth inviting back next season, but she showed quality today.

I expected better from a Denise Brooks crew than fouls that were essentially coin tosses, long discussions where a linesman seemed to be trying to overrule a crew chief, and an inability to count steps. (Also, officiating pet peeve: if the player with the ball runs around a screen so that her defender is scraped against the screen like a bug on a windshield, why is it a foul on the defender? What else is she supposed to do?)

One of the timeouts had an awesome dunk contest- real players on real baskets, instead of the kiddie contests we usually get. Much better. Tamika Catchings kept trying to look past the huddle to get a view.

Props to the guy who hit the three for a grand. It was the only three the Liberty hit all day.

I'll miss the Garden for a few months. I'll miss the Usual Suspects. We're both going to miss our neighbor Dan, who's moving to California. (Good luck in Cali, Dan!) I'll miss slipping on my black jersey and heading down to the rail. (And I never did get Swin and Natasha on the hat.) This is it. Lights are out, Garden is deconstructed, stanchions are down. Season's over in New York. Time to regroup, get healthy, figure out the situation, and possibly learn some crowd management skills.