Monday, November 12, 2018

November 11th, 2018: UT San Antonio at Seton Hall (Tip-Off tournament)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall came on strong and never faltered in a 84-53 win over the Roadrunners of UTSA. Shadeen Samuels had 23 points to lead the Pirates. Marie Benson had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Roadrunners.

For long days, fantastic passing, hard bleachers, cleaning up the place, slashing, and orange things, join your intrepid and backwards blogger after the jump.

On we go, because basketball never stops, and also, it would be very silly not to see the Seton Hall game when we're, y'know, at Seton Hall. And while I can be very silly, especially when sleep deprived, I'm not silly in this regard.

UTSA is very orange. Our gear is all-white everything. Looks like Kimi Evans is sitting out this game again.

That awkward moment when your co-worker realizes that the keys on the bleacher are, in fact, yours. You know that face. The gritted teeth. The wince. (Sorry I didn't say anything earlier, D.)

At halftime, Seton Hall is up big on UTSA, 55-23. Everyone's scoring. Femi Funeus looks really good, and Shadeen Samuels is doing quite a number of Shadeen things. Marie Benson has been the Roadrunners' lone bright spot, and even she's been hampered by foul trouble.

I just got a look at the all-tournament trophies. They are cheap and hideous.

Brief pregame ceremony honoring Ela Mukosiej, who's an assistant at UTSA and a Seton Hall alumna (which explains why they're here, I would think). Explains why Phyllis Mangina is here, too, since she was the coach at that time.

Guys, you might want to do a better job of cleaning out the bleachers. I killed a pen on Tuesday and found part of it here on Sunday.

Lemons into lemonade: Inja Butina got knocked to the floor with no call on a defensive stand, which put her in perfect position to grab the rebound when it hit the floor.

Once again, the competition wasn't exactly lighting up the court, but Seton Hall certainly looked good. That frontcourt is going to be something special.

The Roadrunners used everyone that they used for pretty much about the same amount of time. I don't know if that was because of the margin, because of Marie Benson's early foul trouble, or because that's how they roll in San Antonio.

I liked what I saw out of Timea Tóth on defense- she's got good length and she seems to know how to use it to deflect and rebound. Mandi Cooks came in and got her offensive rebound pretty quickly. Kourtney Kekec did some really good work on the boards, scoring on a putback, and got stronger as the game went on.

I don't remember if Deja Cousin was the one who kept shooting the airballs, but she wasn't hitting the long balls she took. I think by the end of the game I was seriously flaking on the scorecards- cut me some slack? I'm really wiped. I don't even remember Charlotte Ellmore coming off the bench in the first half, but she clearly must have done, because she played 20 munutes and didn't start. I don't think she made much of an impression, in that case.

For a long time, Marie Benson was the only UTSA player who could score at all. She did a nice job getting inside and putting up layups, but she had a propensity to foul, and getting the charge early in the second quarter for her third foul killed anything that might have vaguely resembled momentum. Barbara Benson's goggles and choice of hairdo have the unfortunate, and presumably unintended, effect of making her look like the nerdy younger sister. She did most of her work in the fourth quarter, when Seton Hall was sagging off the defense. Tija Hawkins came off as herky-jerky- long limbs and height, but not the world's greatest amount of coordination for either. She threw up some shots in the fourth, but I'm pretty sure a lot of those were from when Femi Funeus had four fouls and had to back off on defense.

Ryann Stearns had a really nice deflection to break up a sure fast break for Seton Hall. She's feisty. I like that in a player. I honestly don't remember any impact Karrington Donald had on the game. I'm sure she must have done something, but she didn't do enough to make her memorable. (And that's harder when your team doesn't have names on the back of their jerseys. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.)

The end times are upon us, WNBA fans. Danielle Robinson hit a three. Wait, no, not that one, we're okay. Sorry, Pirate Danielle, you're in for a long four years of this. She's definitely the most froshy of our three freshmen, but I can see the flexibility and the strength she might be able to give us if she develops over the next few years. Diandra DaRosa seemed to take more pleasure in getting good passes than in scoring buckets, which is perfectly acceptable. Frustrating when you want the team to light the tree, but acceptable. At least she got one to go down. Kaity Healy canned a couple of back-to-back threes that got the crowd roaring. I'm still disappointed in her newfound tendency to commit stupid fouls, though. Kaela Hilaire found the in-between gear she was missing the other day against Wagner, and there was a great play where she made the extra pass (to Desiree, I think, but don't hold me to it) that I don't think she would have made on the break last year.

The more I see of Desiree Elmore, the more I like her. I think some time on the bench getting used to the system will do her a lot of good, and then she'll be an amazing complement to Shadeen Samuels once our guard logjam graduates. (I'm really starting to wonder if Tony thought that part of the plan through, to be honest.) I'd like her to do a better job of finishing at the rack, but that might just be an off day. Selena Philoxy got called for a lot of fouls that I, naturally, disagreed with. She's tough, and she's physical, and she killed it on the offensive glass. I love what she brings to the floor, and I love the joy she brings off it. Femi Funeus looks very promising, except for her hands. She's got to do a better job of catching passes and holding on to the ball. But in pretty much every other way, she looks far more advanced than a freshman. The idea of her and Kimi and Shadeen in the frontcourt is glorious and terrifying at the same time.

Whitney Howell played scared for much of the game, or at least that's what it looked like. She was tentative and got caught looking at the ball more than once. The rim didn't like her- she should have had at least three points, except for puck luck. Shadeen Samuels got a couple of early threes to go down, which might have encouraged her to take the ones in the second half that didn't go down. She's amazing as a slasher, and so quick on defense. I wish she'd play, or be played, more to her strengths, instead of to the fads of her position.

Victoria Cardaci's shot wasn't going down, but she made up for it with defense. If she can do that on a regular basis, I'll be okay with her starting. I'm just not enthusiastic about starting her if she doesn't. Inja Butina was a little more hesitant than I would have liked, but brought hustle on both ends of the floor. It's hard to argue with someone who's rebounding while down on the ground.

I love the speed of our offense, and the ball movement was amazing. There were some plays that made you yearn for the hockey-style assist to be tabulated- the sequence with Kaela, Desiree, and Victoria comes to mind. And the defense looks good too. We'll face bigger tests than this, but it's good to see the chemistry working so well so fast, with as many new players to integrate into the scheme as we have.

It looked like we had one experienced ref and a couple of rookies. That seems to be a trend in the early going this season. I guess there are worse times to let the rookies get their sea legs. I'm still not sure how running into a screen is a foul on the player doing the running, but I guess that's why I'm not an official.

Shoutout to the folks who showed up to back the Roadrunners. It's a long trip from San Antonio.

I know we play our tougher competition on the road, or at least at neutral sites, but I'm still looking forward to seeing us against stronger competition to see if we're really all we're cracked up to be.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 10th, 2018: Manhattan at St. Francis

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. Francis surged in the fourth quarter to win 73-65 over Manhattan. Jade Johnson had 20 points to lead four Terriers in double figures. D'Yona Davis had a team-high 13 points for the Jaspers in the loss.

For unexpected wrestling terminology, facility shortcomings, NOT GETTING DEFENSIVE REBOUNDS DAMNIT, coaching the kids up, unexpected hugs, undesired selfies, and easing into a new team, join your intrepid and adventurous blogger after the jump.

We go from Iona's heel turn yesterday to a face turn today. Since John Thurston- he with the astonishing talent for finding dishwater blondes across the world yet overlooking most of the talent in his own city- has departed St. Francis College, it's a lot easier to root for them. It's even easier when we know the new coach. So we're on our way to Remsen Street to cheer on, instead of cheer against, the Terriers for the first time in I don't know how many years, as they take on Manhattan.

The in-game notes may be a little spotty. It's Pokémon Go's monthly Community Day, which is why we're in Brooklyn Heights instead of South Orange, so I have shinies to chase and stardust to collect. But you'll get your postgame notes, hopefully with the coherency and snark you've come to expect.

Well, St. Francis has a nice new floor, and the mural is still pretty boss, but every time I come here, I am reminded just how subpar a facility the Terriers have. The more I think about it, the more I think it's not a good look to have the half-closed bleachers be the side behind the bench (where cameras, such as they are, usually face).

St. Francis has gone heavily to the Brooklyn branding, especially on the warm-up shirts.

There were small children dancing at halftime and having their pictures taken. One of them seemed really freaked out by the mascot, but ended up hugging him in the end, so that all worked out.

I remembered Manhattan as a second-half team, so I was pleasantly surprised that St. Francis was able to pull off the comeback in the fourth quarter. But our defensive rebounding was atrocious. Between the freshmen and the returners, there are a lot of bad habits to be unlearned, but I think Coach Cimino is on the case in that regard.

Manhattan went pretty deep into their bench, though some players only got a couple of minutes. Nyala Pendergrass came in very late, very briefly. Kania Pollard got off some corner threes, but couldn't get them to go down. Pamela Miceus showed some moves in the post and had a nice block, though they don't seem to have credited her for it.

Lizahya Morgan was unafraid to launch from deep, and some of them came at critical moments. She's a quick little guard. Sini Mäkelä did some work on the glass. Tuuli Menna picked up a lot of minutes in the second half and did a lot of good stuff inside. (Good stuff. This is the kind of incisive commentary all nine of you come to the Game Notes of Doom for.)

I still very much enjoy watching Gabby Cajou play, even if it's usually in frustration because her team is never my team, and even if she wasn’t quite as show-stopping as she was the last time I saw her. She was one of the few players for either team who was willing to shoot at the end of the shot clock. D'Yona Davis was also putting up some big shots. She looks good for a freshman. Candela Abejón didn't play that much, and I don't remember her very clearly.

Their inside players did a really good job of getting offensive rebounds. Julie Høier and Courtney Warley both used their height to full advantage, both in getting position and in getting reboudns even when they were out of position. There were multiple possessions with multiple Jasper offensive rebounds. Warley was throwing some elbows on her screens. She's a tough player. I think I could respect her more if she set better screens. Høier was very efficient. I was quietly impressed with her.

Manhattan fell apart in the fourth quarter, in ways I wasn't expecting. We were coming up with the 50/50 balls that they were getting in the first half. I'm glad we were able to buckle down at the end.

Coach Cimino was pretty quick with the hook whenever her players were making stupid mistakes, and there were plenty of stupid mistakes to go around. So she was doing a lot of subbing. Kate Bauhof is definitely still working out her way into college shape, both physically and in terms of fitting into the system. Alex Tudor got a couple of minutes in the first half, but I think they may have been to give someone else a Teaching Moment. Abby Anderson got her run in the second half and did a nice job of being a sparkplug on the boards (which we sorely needed).

Ebony Horton made a fantastic first impression. I can see where she needs work, how she can sharpen her passing and work on her shot selection. Coach was especially not pleased with her getting trapped on the sideline on one occasion, since is forced a timeout. But I love her driving ability, and when she can get the passes off, they're great. Ally Lassen hit free throws down the stretch and came away with offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, when we hadn't been getting them all game. Appreciate the hustle.

Good Lord, Amy O'Neill. She wasn't the star of the game, but she certainly had some of the flashiest plays, with dipsy-do lay-ups and long passes to get the fast break going. She goes hard for the ball, even if she doesn't get it. Mia Ehling hit the free throws when it counted to seal the game. Jade Johnson was hitting threes early, but she spent an awful lot of time flat-footed on the glass. I don't want to blame her for all of our rebounding woes, but it sure seemed like she could have been doing a lot more than she did in that regard.

Dominique Ward brings good size, but I was expecting somewhat better ball thought from her on the floor, given that she's a grad transfer. Maybe today was just an off game for her. Maria Palarino did well getting fouled on the glass. I'd have to do a closer reading of the play-by-play to determine this, and I'm too tired and I have two more games to write up today, but I think she did the best job of taking advantage of those times when Manhattan was in the penalty.

I know we were outsized, but we still gave up way too many rebounds. Too many times, we had a player in position and Manhattan just reached over her. Too many times, we stood and watched the ball as Manhattan charged for it. This is not okay. This is never okay. We have to be more assertive.

There was an enthusiastic rookie ref making a lot of calls on the floor. At one point Coach was pointing that out and telling her team that the official was calling every handcheck, that if someone fell down there'd be a foul called. It wasn't completely accurate, but it was a good benchmark. Not nearly as bad as the crew at the Iona game, but there were definitely some dubious calls. At least these ladies could count.

I'm interested in the development of St. Francis. I think, though I am biased, that they got in a great coach for a rebuild. Pointing out strengths and weaknesses seems to be a strength of hers, and I have faith in her ability to teach the game.


Friday, November 9, 2018

November 9th, 2018: St. John's at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Kadaja Bailey's double-double in her first game powered the Red Storm to a 61-35 win over Iona. Bailey had 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench for St. John's. Morgan Rachu had 16 points in her debut to lead the Gaels.

For admittedly biased remarks, a new eatery, pressing defense, road trips, and thinking ahead, join your intrepid and pensive blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow basketball fans! We're coming to you live and in every possible cliché from Hynes Gymnasium on the campus of Iona College, as the Gaels host the Red Storm of St. John's.

So, yeah. This is our first Iona game since dropping Iona from our stable of teams. (We decided we were going to stick around through Alexis Lewis and Treyanna Clay's senior year. Then both of them transferred. So yeah. That happened.) It's an unpleasant experience, coming into an arena that used to be home, that part of me feels should still be home, and coming in road colors. But my first team will be St. John's until I move or until they do something truly unforgiveable. And as far as I'm concerned, Billi Chambers can take a very long walk off a very short pier.

Ran into some of Kadaja Bailey's family at the ticket line. Technical difficulties.

Sure, Iona, start off the season with a poster of #14. Damika or GTFO in that regard. The fact that that number still hasn't been retired for the incredible career Damika had galls me. Okay, I'm going to get off this train of thought or else I'm going to start swearing, and we're still forty minutes out from gametime.

Kathy, don't get me wrong, that's a very nice outfit. I'm just saying that one of the highest ranking athletic administrators at St. John's shouldn't be wearing something very close to Iona maroon to a game against Iona. Clearly the squad agrees, because she had to grab a spare warm-up jacket.

At halftime, St. John's is up 30-17, but I can understand if Coach is doing a whole lot of yelling in the locker room. Both teams came out very amped up, shooting and missing long. St. John's has brought an intense press in the backcourt for stretches, but I don't know if it's one we can keep up when we're only carrying nine eligible players. We've forced three shot clock violations from the Gaels, but they've drawn four charges on us.

Am I the only one uncomfortable with the "Iona dance team" versus the "Iona black student union dance team" branding?

Pretty good turnout for the Johnnies. Q and Machi's family showed up, as did Kadaja's. From the cheering behind me, we may also have folks here for Tiana England. Imani Littleton is in the row in front of us, sitting with someone I feel like I should recognize and will probably punch myself in the face for not knowing.

Iona is performing a lot of embarrassing flops, and that makes me sad. It's not that I'm still rooting for them, but I want things to be better. I don't know these kids, but it doesn't mean that they don't deserve better.

I'll give Chambers credit for one thing: she doesn't bar her players from kneeling for the anthem. Ashley Martin still does, and she's been joined by a teammate. Watching their teammates navigate the logistics of keeping the line linked was somehow very amusing. I think the teammate is Monica Barefield, but I don't know the Gaels well enough to recognize anyone other than the few returners from last season.

I realize that it's early and I shouldn't be judging a team that's almost completely turned over on one game against a higher-caliber opponent, but good grief, Iona looks like a hot mess. No discipline. No ball thought. Minimal court awareness. Terrible clock awareness. They look like a team of leftovers and afterthoughts coached by someone who doesn't actually know how to coach people. Okay, the zone defense is actually pretty good, so props to whoever's in charge of that.

Gabrielle Joseph played just about long enough for me to wonder about the pronunciation of her name, though that was an ongoing issue with the PA guy. The only sub that got extended minutes was Shyan Mwai, and if I had faith in this coaching staff, I'd be interested to see how she develops. She reminds me a little bit of a very young Damika, but much less disciplined and much less sure of her handle. I'd also appreciate it if she would not throw forearms into her defender. That would be great.

If Monica Barefield can get her handle under control, she'd be fantastic as a point guard. She's got speed, and she's got some moves, but she's all speed and no sense so far. Shayla Middlebrooks can miss me with all the unnecessary shoulder blocks and forearm shivers. She's got a decent shot, and she can muscle her way around in the paint as a guard with her big body. But there's a difference between being physical and being dirty, and if she didn't cross the line, she sidled right up to it. Morgan Rachu is never going to be my favorite, for reasons that are completely not her fault. She's got a nice shot and she hustles well. If I had any faith in the coaching staff, I could see her developing into a nice little shooting guard by her senior year. But I have no faith in this staff.

Tori Lesko looks like she's lost a fair bit of confidence after her injury. From everything I've heard about Iona, I can't say I'm surprised. Maybe it's seeing her as an opposing player for the first time, but she hits people a lot more than I remember her doing last year. It's almost like she's trying to substitute physicality for skill, and I know Tori's better than that. She's still hustling after every loose ball, going to the floor and sacrificing her body, but there's a dramatic element to her charge-taking now that wasn't there before. Jodi-Marie Ramil gave the Gaels some okay physical play inside, though I'm not thrilled about her taunting on an and-1. She'll be useful for them.

Iona Faels Moment of the night: Kadaja Bailey is called for a dubious foul on a Middlebrooks three-point attempt. Middlebrooks goes to the line for three. She bricks all three. Lesko pulls down the offensive board and is fouled on the putback. She misses both. St. John's pulls down the defensive rebound. Second place is probably the play where Jasmine Sina- all 5-5 of her- leaped clear over Lesko to tap the ball to Kadaja.

No one on this team seems willing to shoot with the clock running down. No one seems aware of the concept that the clock can run down. There's no sense of urgency. Well done, Billi.

We got our first look at Jasmine Sina in Storm red. She had an unremarkable game- her three-point shot was off, but at least she held down the fort. While she got a good bit of run in the first half, she didn't come back until very late in the fourth quarter. Same for Shamachya Duncan. I'm a little bit worried about this, but I have faith in Machi and Mooch to step up when needed, and for the rest of the guards to do so if not.

Kadaja Bailey certainly made a splash in her first game, didn't she? She was ferocious on the glass and deadly on the drive. I'm not necessarily thrilled about the three-point attempts, but I recognize that it's an important part of a small forward's game and she needs to be able to stretch the defense. She reminds me so much of Shenneika Smith that it's crazy, and I'm so glad that the actual Shenneika is on the staff right now to mentor her. She has the potential to be something truly special. Kayla Charles didn't play in the first half, but then soaked up most of the third quarter minutes until she hurt her foot at the end of the quarter. She came back, but she was hurting for a while. (FYI, assistant coach, when a player is grimacing in pain as the trainer tapes her foot back into some semblance of shape, she is probably not terribly receptive to your advice on how to box out.) She had a very solid outing. She looked like the player I thought she could be for stretches last year, and I hope she's building on this.

Tiana England threw up some dubious shots in the paint (it is probably not a good sign when a guard is tossing up a sky hook). Even her own family was questioning her shot selection. She did have a gorgeous pass to Kadaja for a big finish that got our part of the crowd going. Alisha Kebbe was going hard after every loose ball- she hit the deck quite a few times, and I'm pretty sure she and Lesko were about ready to spontaneously sponsor NCAA women's wrestling. (The grappling kind. Not the WWE kind.) Like most of the squad, her jumper was AWOL, which is going to be a problem going forward, but her defense was on point. Sometimes I get the feeling she would be extremely happy pressing all the time. Qadashah Hoppie bombed threes at the right time, but seemed rather eager to go for them, even at moments we didn't need them, such as when Middlebrooks cut the lead under single digits. She knows how to light up the scoreboard, I'll say that.

Akina Wellere had good open looks from deep, and they just wouldn't go down. Live by the three, survive a lousy team by the three, I guess. We're not going to be able to get away with some of this stuff against Big East competition; I'm not even sure we can get away with it against Yale or Delaware State. I am definitely not a fan of her at the four. Or the five. This is a bad plan, Joe. Curteeona Brelove still has some work to do before I stop grumbling about her choice of number. She gives us a big body in the middle, but I need her to be more assertive. And I'm not thrilled with her rebounding, either. Maybe she just had an off game, but I was not impressed, and I was expecting to be impressed.

I realize you're looking at a 26-point margin and wondering why I sound so down on so much of the team. But let's be honest, we played a team that could best be described as a traveling trainwreck, one that only managed to win two games last year and promptly either graduated or caused to flee screaming pretty much the entire rotation. There were things we did really well- our press was great and our fast break offense looks really good. We held Iona to one field goal each in the first and fourth quarters. The chemistry is good. And it helps to see our flaws laid bare this early in the year, when they can't hurt us and can be corrected before the big guns come calling. But if we can't put a body on Ramil in the post, what's going to happen against Kiah Gillespie or Kimi Evans? And any long-term injury or illness is a disaster- we have to have a starter in the game at all times, literally, because otherwise we don't put enough players on the floor.

Officiating was a disaster. I honestly think the refs weren't sure which circle they should be using, and thus called everything a charge in the first half and a block in the second half. It also helps when you can count to ten- Iona got away with a blatant ten-second violation, on a possession that ended with a St. John's foul followed by Joe Tartamella letting the officials know exactly how he felt about the whole situation. He wasn't wrong, either. This is going to be a long year, isn't it? (Also, either Neika played against Stephanie Barksdale, Barksdale reffed a lot of her games, or Neika needs to not flirt with the ref before the game.)

I don't know how I feel about being able to order concessions from your seat at Hynes, but I also don't know if the feature was active for this game.

Nice of you to show up after the game was done, Killian. It was a men's-women's doubleheader, but still. That means there are two games. Two games, Killian.

The pocket schedules are weaksauce. I get the feeling they were run off on an office printer.

We did find a really good barbeque joint a ways down North Avenue that had amazingly cooked ribs

It was good to see the squad, since we don't get them at home for another three weeks or so. It's going to be an interesting year, it's going to be a tough year, but I don't know if it's going to be a long year. (Except I think Seton Hall will sweep the Awkward Bowl, which is going to suck for me personally.)

On to the next one. See you next time, patient and loyal readers!


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November 6th, 2018: Wagner at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Victoria Cardaci stroked seven threes in the first half for a game-high 21 points, and Seton Hall was never threatened in a 95-40 pounding of Wagner. Shadeen Samuels added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Pirates. Emilija Krista Grava had 15 points and nine rebounds (seven offensive) to pace Wagner.

For exercising one's civic duty, terrible weather, terrible t-shirt aim, shooting touch, suaveness, and time concerns, join your intrepid and hyped blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, fellow travelers! It's the most wonderful day of the year! Election Day! (If you didn't vote, we aren't friends.)

Okay, it's also the most wonderful day of the year because the season is upon us! Your intrepid blogger is currently wringing herself out at Seton Hall, as the Pirates open the season against the Seahawks of Wagner.

After further review, I've decided that I don't, in fact, want to know why Harrison station stinks horribly of dead fish.

It's raining very heavily today, and South Orange has dubious drainage. I've never seen my sneakers this shade of black before.

There is a dude who was very enthusiastic about the gates opening. Dude. You are here for the doubleheader. If you're going to be here for five and a half hours, you can wait two minutes. (I am not going to be here for five and a half hours. It's Election Day. There are returns to watch.)

Welcomed Seton Hall's new DOBO, Danaejah Grant, to the Awkward Bowl. As long as she doesn't end up with anyone trying to sic security on her at the Big East tournament, she'll be ahead of the game.

It looks like we're not playing Kimi Evans, which is a shame because I was looking forward to seeing her- I hear she's made huge strides in the offseason. But I doubt we're going to need her against Wagner, and if she has any nagging issues it's better to rest her.

This zone defense drill is really intense. I love it.

Unsurprisingly, forty minutes before tip of an early afternoon game on a rainy day where people might have other obligations, there aren't a lot of people here. If the bathroom has a hand dryer, I might actually be able to get away with trying to blow dry my sneakers. The population of the arena has not appreciably increased since that point.

We appear to be getting a Michael Jackson medley for our halftime entertainment, and I am perfectly okay with this.

At halftime, SHU is up 52-27 on Wagner, which I wasn't necessarily expecting after we gave up a 6-point hole shot. Victoria Cardaci has decided to make a sterling first impression with seven three-pointers to lead the way with 21 points. I don't know if Coach is happy with the rotation on defense, though.

There are players I expect to commit stupid fouls that put the other team over the limit with twenty-three seconds left in the half. Kaity Healy is literally the last person on Seton Hall's roster I expect this of, and I am disappointed in this.

Cheer squad might want to work on their t-shirt tosses. One of them attempted to reach the upper deck and failed so miserably she managed to drop it on someone's head. Which is bad enough when the aforementioned head is not that of a Pirate alumna. (Hi, Chiz!)

We've managed to slow count Wagner into a shot clock violation and fast count them into a rushed shot. This pleases me.

It took six seconds to have our first clock malfunction of the season. I'd say "never change", but please, please change.

There was also some foofarol a the beginning of the game having to do with Alayshia Dailey's hair. I think she had some metal decorations in it or something. Coach DiPillo seemed to be bringing it to the refs' attention during the clock reset, thus giving us delayception.

Well, that certainly didn't prove anything, but it was fun to watch. Wagner was not ready for this level of defense, or for the length we were able to bring in the post, or for Nicole Jimenez in general. Coach Jacobs has a long way to go with this team, in terms of clock awareness/management, and in terms of chemistry. (Since two of my teams are in the NEC, I'm rubbing my hands together in glee.)

Enas Ngatu gave the Seahawks some height, but she also got them in trouble with two offensive fouls (though I'll be honest and say I'm not sure about that second one). I see now that she's a freshman, and that she is one of many freshmen on Wagner's roster, so I can see why the going might be rough. Jordan Hobson didn't play in the second half until the fourth quarter, which didn't stop the PA announcer from announcing Amanda Pollard's second and third fouls as being hers. By the second one, she had a spectacularly WTF face going. I wasn't expecting her to be a three-point shooter.

Amanda Pollard has very big hair (which is another reason I was surprised the PA guy mixed up her and Hobson- other than a similarity of numbers, they look nothing alike). Neither she nor Addie Masonius, the other guard off the bench, left enough of an impression to write anything about.

There's a lot more promise with the starters (which is probably why they're starters). Nakylia Carter made a couple of great defensive plays in the first quarter, including a disruption that broke up a fast break for the Pirates. Khaleah Edwards made herself a target inside- I recall more than one possession where she was defended by Nicole Jimenez, which is just not fair in terms of height. Emilija Krista Grava made a very good first impression with eight points in the first quarter. She was another big target inside for the Seahawks, and one who could finish both inside and out. I think she's going to be big for them.

Overall, Wagner has a long way to go. But I was impressed with their offensive rebounding. They anticipated well, at least early on.

Danielle Robinson is going to spend quite a long time confusing me, isn't she? Especially if she turns into a three-point shooter. She's still a work in progress- a couple of steps slow, not sure where she's supposed to be either offensively or defensively. But she's a freshman. I've been told this is a thing with freshmen. Kaity Healy was off her game- yes, she was hitting threes and getting a big pop from the miniscule crowd for them, but she made a couple of boneheaded plays that were really out of character for her. When you're team captain, you're going to get judged more harshly for things like that. Diandra DaRosa got nto the game much later than I was expecting in both halves. I don't know if she fits in this system yet, but it's early to tell. Kaela Hilaire had only one speed, and that was full throttle. She got a lot of assists on fullcourt passes and fast breaks. I don't think Coach was happy with her going for a quick basket up 40 with less than a minute to go, though.

Selena Philoxy didn't play in the first half, but in the second half, she did work. What I like about Selena is this sense of inevitability she carries with her when she's driving into the lane. It's like she's decided that what she's going to do is what's going to happen and reality is just going to have to accept it. She finished with style and power. Desiree Elmore is well-rounded, and I think she's going to be an important piece for us- I can see why Coach was so determined to get her immediately eligible. She's still a touch slow on the defensive help, but that's a chemistry thing. Femi Funeus made a really good first impression, Tina Thompson-esque lipstick and all. While I recognize that SHU wasn't playing against Big East-caliber competition, she seemed to settle right in on the floor. She had a lot of dropped passes, but those may have been as much on the guards as they were the posts, because the problem wasn't limited to her.

Speaking of freshman posts making a really good first impression, wow, did Whitney Howell look ready for primetime. Again, I realize that Wagner was not much of a challenge, and she'll probably have more problems against higher-level opponents, but she was strong on the inside. I wouldn't have guessed that she was a freshman if I didn't know Seton Hall's roster. Oh, man, a Big East team with a real frontcourt... that would be unstoppable in conference. And Shadeen Samuels is just so fun to watch. She has this ineffable air of smooth and cool around her, whether it's during shootaround or when she flicks away the ball and bounds down the court for the layup. Foul trouble might be her biggest Achilles heel, so if she can stay on the floor she's going to be terrifying in a wonderful way.

For the record, I'm not a big fan of this three-guard set, especially with our small guards. It worked in this game, and for all I know, it's only going to last until Kimi Evans is once more available. But I don't think that's the most effective way to use Victoria Cardaci, and I don't think it's the most effective way to use Inja Butina. Not that Victoria's shooting didn't create an instant positive first impression- she got the ball and the ball went up, just as simple as that. Wagner was able to get hands up in her face in the second half, which led to her not adding more threes to that mind-boggling seven from the first half. But that seems like the kind of weapon that would be more effective situationally, off the bench, instead of in the starting lineup. Inja Butina got going in the third quarter after a slow start where she looked a little hesitant. I'd like her to speed up her decision-making on the floor, but I don't know if that's going to happen at this point in her career. Nicole Jimenez continues to do things that it doesn't look like a person her height should be able to do. She gets up so high it's crazy. Maybe a little less mustard on the passes, because it looked like the posts weren't able to handle them.

I think we need to realize that there's more than one speed possible in a game. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy watching the Pirates zip up and down the floor on the break, but there are times when slowing down is the better approach, and it seems like we have a surfeit of guards who just aren't into that kind of thing. I can see this being a problem with a smaller lead- the last thing we need is to run ourselves into letting teams back into the game because we give them time to come back.

Band sounds sharp. Cheer's a little shaky.

Officiating was nothing to write home about. That's usually a good sign.

I'd say I'm looking forward to the Tip-Off Classic, but I'm not looking forward to getting out of the house that early.


Friday, October 12, 2018

October 12th, 2018: Red Storm Tip-Off

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It's also called being a St. John's women's basketball fan.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and of course our non-binary readers of all ages and qualities! College basketball is around the corner, which means that it's time for St. John's to put on their annual spectacle featuring music that is entirely too loud, an MC exhorting noise from indifferent students at every turn, the aforementioned students basically only coming for the free stuff, too much filler programming, and a passing pretense of caring about women's basketball.

The old fart in line a few places behind us can kindly sod off with his Redmen sweatshirt and its racist caricature of a Native American.

Seriously, the kid in front of us thought tonight's event was a game and seemed shocked that it was just Tip-Off. My dude, read your ticket.

We're starting tonight's festivities with an alumni game. Unlike the last few, there are multiple women, and they're mostly actually involved in the offense. I mean, yeah, y'all did not Shenneika Smith was going to be shunted aside, right? She's bombing threes for the red team Sky Lindsay and Jennifer Blanding are out there for the white team, which is actually kind of nice, given that Big Love never did quite finish up properly. The game's at about the speed you'd expect from alumni, but it's still fun. It'd be a little more fun if the dude were announcing every basket so I'd know who the dudes are, but hey, whatever. Oh, hey there, we have another woman in the game, and yes, that's Nadirah McKenith! Got the gang back together!

Kadaja Bailey's family/friends/whoever are out here with custom #30 jerseys, and I think they might have just had names added to replica men's jerseys, which just makes me grin. Antagonizing MBB fans at St. John's is a secret (or not so secret, I guess) joy of mine. My family expresses love through passive-aggressive behavior.

The band already sounds pretty good. We'll see how much of this is alumni influence and what happens a the semester break, though. Recruiting is apparently a bit of a problem.

The dude who won the musical chairs shootout was named Jordan. I think on the Internet this is known as "username checks out".

Cheer looks like they're doing ambitious routines, but haven't gotten them down pat yet, which has pretty much been their MO.

They just showed a really cool all-athletics ad for St. John's. 'sup, DSPN?

Hi, Imani!

Swapping seats with the husband left me with less room for laptop, so you don't get any live shootaround or scrimmage notes. Physically, Kadaja Bailey reminds me so much of a younger Shenneika Smith that it's crazy. Alissa Alston looks like she wants to be Deanna Nolan when she grows up, which is a most laudable on-court goal and a terrible off-court life choice. I still don't know how to pronounce Curteeona, and I couldn't make out whether the PA guy was calling her Tee-Mo, Ree-Mo, or Mee-Mo. At least he's finally figured out how to pronounce Temecula. Justin Simon must be relieved.

'Kina, I do love you dearly, but you do not have mic skills. I realize that beating things into the ground is the STJ approach to talking to the fans, but stop trying to make fetch happen.

I should be worried that Coach Tartamella is aware of my... ah, concerns... about carrying insufficient players to actually have a full second unit. Then again, I reiterate the point that we have nine eligible scholarship players and this is not a good plan. I harp on the Southern Miss game, because the memory of being down to four players is quite indelible, at least to me. Yes, Joe, I know we won, but that would be because we built a 20-odd-point lead before our entire starting lineup went out injured and there were only about two and a half minutes left. No, Joe, I don't care that we made Sports Illustrated for it; I'd rather make it for things like Shenneika from the corner or Aliyyah in the lane or Briana from beyond the arc.

Somewhat fraught moment with Tiana regarding our split loyalties, but given the ambient background noise, we might have been misinterpreting each other's tones. Really glad we dumped Iona by the side of the road at this point.

I could write more, but let's be honest. It's the same nonsense year after year. I thought with Neika and Nana actually making plays in the alumni game, we might actually have something that resembled equality. But we get a shootaround, and the guys get a scrimmage, and the shooting contest was a hot mess. I don't know why I keep going to these things, except someone has to give a damn about St. John's and it might as well be us.


Friday, August 24, 2018

August 23rd, 2018: Phoenix at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Phoenix Mercury stepped their game up on the road in the fourth quarter, sealing a 96-86 win over the Connecticut Sun. Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi each had 27 points, and DeWanna Bonner added a monster double-double of 23 points and 18 rebounds, as the Mercury pulled away in the fourth quarter. Courtney Williams had a team-high 27 points and eight rebounds for the Sun.

For a size disadvantage, shameless pop culture references, mild frustration, and simple truths, join your intrepid and exhausted blogger after the jump. See y'all in November. Or maybe October.

This is probably a terrible idea. No, scratch the probably. As soon as I looked at the bus schedule, I realized this was a terrible idea, but I'm going through with it, because I am the victim of a basketball jones. And who needs sleep anyway?

See, the buses out of Flushing leave at 2:30 and 6:00. The tip is at 8:30, meaning the game will end slightly after 10:30. And the return times are 10:30 and 1:30. I am not expecting to leave this game early to make the 10:30. You may get these game notes faster than any in recorded history. They may also be utterly incoherent. Sleep deprivation- it's like being drunk, but for free!

Security got lax about my backpack. I probably shouldn't be admitting this, because someone's going to get in trouble and the hole will be patched. But I reserved an extra seat for it, so it all works out.

It's 44-40 Sun at the half. Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams each have 11 points. I'm really going to need Alyssa Thomas to get going. Diana Taurasi has 15 for the Mercury, and I am starting to take a deep and profound dislike to that woman.

Anthem from a former member of Celtic Woman, and was phenomenal. I do wish the gentleman in the next section hadn't tried to drown her out, though, especially since she was mic'd up.

No new video for the playoffs. Well, I mean, they have the pregame hype video, but that's new for every game. Different narrator this time. There was also a small pregame video featuring the women of the Mohegan Tribe staking out their territory and urging the Sun on. (Also, "Listen to the women" might be the most understated double-edged statement of the season.)

Thundersticks for all! They're fairly bland, but I haven't gotten a new set of Sun thundersticks in ages.

I'm tired of Taurasi getting more applause in intros than anyone on the Sun. I get that they turn on her as soon as the ball goes up, and the cheers for her first foul were just as loud as the cheers on her introduction, but guys, c'mon. Y'all know she finished almost fifteen years ago, right? Y'all can move on, right?

Already some dubious calls in this game. I need Brittney Griner to pick on people her own size and not double-hook Jasmine Thomas.

Oh, Sandy, no. She's wearing a bright, bright, bright pink jumpsuit. If the lights go out in the arena, we'll all know where she is.

The drum line was walking the concourse before the game, and also did a pregame bit.

All right. I admit it. I left the game early. It had just gone to 94 for Phoenix, and looking at the final stats, I don't seem to have missed much. It was worth making the bus and not, y'know, spending three hours at Mohegan Sun, growing steadily more tired and more frustrated. We had chances, especially in the first half. But they have Diana and we don't. I personally think it was more relevant that they have Brittney Griner and we don't, but we all know how the saying goes.

Short bench for the Mercury tonight. Part of me is surprised not to see Camille Little on the floor, but I don't know her injury status, and she probably would have played right into Connecticut's hands anyway. Size was the difference inside for the Merc, and she would take away that advantage. Angel Robinson certainly used that to get rebounds and buckets in the paint. And I imagine that Devereaux Peters is basically the human equivalent of "in case of emergency, break glass", which is good in this case because the number of times I can spell her name in my life is limited.

I have a very healthy respect for Yvonne Turner and the work she put in to get herself into the league. She was tenacious on both sides of the floor tonight, sticking close on defense and making herself an option on offense. It honestly seemed like she was more prolific on offense than the final stats indicate. Leilani Mitchell didn't play a lot, Brondello figuring that she could ride her horses until they dropped in a single elimination game. The biggest assist she would have had for the Mercury wasn't even acknowledged, as she was the only person near the floor to correctly spotrrhen Chiney Ogwumike stepped out of bounds on a drive. I'm pretty sure it ended up in a miss for Connecticut anyway, but Leilani tried.

I haven't seen Phoenix a lot this year, which makes it easy to forget how good a defender Briann January is when she's fully healthy. She's so good at taking away every ounce and inch of space you ever thought about having. And she hits a mean three-pointer, too. Also, she knows how to take a fall- there was one foul she took where she ended up doing a full back roll. I think that's what it's called, in any case. Very acrobatic of her. Diana Taurasi just goes out and murders people's hopes and dreams for funsies. You can't leave her open, but I'm pretty sure her percentage is actually better when someone's in her face. And you can't even call her a stone-cold killer, because there's nothing cold about her. She is inevitable. She is indomitable. I really need her not to shove people right at the whistle. Can that be arranged? But I have to say, how she swings from the one to the two as necessary is very impressive, and seems to have gotten better with time.

Stephanie Talbot did a lot of little things in this one, including hitting open shots at the right time. She's not spectacular, but she gets the job done. I could have sworn she was playing with a mask at one point, but she seemed to have shucked it by the end of the game. Was it precautionary, and she decided to get rid of it in the second half to improve her vision or something? I remember someone for the Liberty having those feelings about the mask. DeWanna Bonner's range is ridiculous, and her rebounding was amazing. She snatched that ball like she was snatching souls. She was able to take advantage of Brittney Griner flicking the ball out to the perimeter. Griner had a lot of plays like that, the kind I usually only see Jonquel Jones making, and I imagine it made life difficult for the official scorer, because she made the play, but her teammate came up with the ball. She did a number on the Sun's offense all by herself, between rotating into position and already being in position when certain people (*coughCourtneyM.Williamscough*) ran headlong into her. Do not ever run headlong into Brittney Griner. This is a terrible plan. Courtney.

Phoenix did a good job of challenging Connecticut to take perimeter shots, something that isn't necessarily our strength. I mean, I might actually be more of a three-point threat than Alyssa Thomas please don't hurt me AT. Yes, there were large swathes of paint that seemed open, but like Mr. Burns's sun-blocking machine, Griner would rotate into place and snuff out all light.

(I realize I'm being very hyperbolic in these notes. Shea Serrano is a dubious influence. But I'd like to think it's fun.)

Every time I think Rachel Banham has turned a corner, she puts out a game like this one or the one against LA, where she can't shoot, can't defend, and can't handle the ball. I want to like you, Rachel, I really do, but the Rachel Banham Experience is a little too much of a roller coaster for my liking. I would have liked to have seen more of Layshia Clarendon; it seemed like she was bringing some good steady, heady play to the table.

I love Morgan Tuck's defense. Her offense needed a little work tonight, but going up against Griner and Bonner right at the basket is a hard challenge for anyone who isn't a skyscraper. But her defense against that Mercury frontcourt was on point. She had one really fantastic stop against Talbot on a fast break that looked like a sure basket. Chiney Ogwumike was clearly not playing at full strength, and her attempts to guard Griner in the low post were extremely unsuccessful. She had better luck in the open floor, picking Griner's pocket more than once, but it was clear that she wasn't her old self, and I think that cost the Sun a lot.

Courtney Williams is going to be the death of me one of these days. I love her jumper. I love her energy. I just wish she'd take contact once in a while. Her propensity to run away like brave Sir Robin as soon as a body comes into the lane was highlighted tonight, and not in a good way. You can only drive so deep so many times and throw the ball back out to the perimeter, or waste time circling around with the dribble, before the weakness becomes apparent even to someone who never played basketball. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that her offense kept us in the game most of the night. I just wish she'd go ahead and add that extra dimension. Jasmine Thomas had a big game, especially from the perimeter. She had trouble defensively, but I don't think there's anyone in the WNBA who doesn't have trouble with Diana Taurasi on defense. I mean, really. She's done an amazing job stepping up her scoring game, which she has the luxury of doing because the forwards are facilitating so much. (Also, I will never not be amused at her blocking DeWanna Bonner.)

Shekinna Stricklen hit a couple of clutch shots (yes, you can hit clutch shots even if you lose the game) and tried to get the crowd amped up after making a big defensive stop. Given that that was one of the possibly three times she actually played decent defense all night, I'm not sure how I feel about it. You're probably tired of hearing me say I think she can be so much more of a player, and I'm tired of saying it, so we're going to move on from that. I love watching Jonquel Jones make the extra pass, and I love when she snags the rebound. She did a better job on Griner than Ogwumike did, and I would have liked to see more of her down the stretch. I think that was an error on Miller's part; yes, Chiney is the player you went to war with for much of the season, but you've got to read what's going on right there and right then. Alyssa Thomas seemed a step slow, and her shots looked really weird. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that she was fighting more than just the shoulder injury, because the shoulder wouldn't fully explain her speed going down, or all of her lack of drive. She still got buckets, and in that regard it was one of the best games I've seen from her all year, but there's just something missing there.

Phoenix did a good job of exploiting our weaknesses, both structural and mental. We left points on the board in the first half, and I think those came back to haunt us. But we were beaten by a team we had no answers for in two crucial positions. What can you do when Griner's blocking everything in sight?

Dubious officiating the whole game through, on both sides. Fouls that should have been shooting fouls not called as such and vice versa. Out-of-bounds plays missed. Blatant pushes and hits to the face not being called anything. (I love you, Chiney, but please don't hit DeWanna in the face. I understand the urge, but we must all be better than that.)

The crowd really got into it, which was refreshing. Admittedly, they got a lot of urging, but even when the PA wasn't going, they were. In that regard, it's refreshing. I like it and wish it to continue into 2019.

I'm sorry the season ended like this, but it was a heck of a ride. Going to Sun games this year was everything that going to Liberty games wasn't. This Connecticut team reminded me of the joy the game can bring. Because in the end, that's all it is. It's a game. And it's something that should be fun. JJ, Court, Chiney, AT, Jas, Strick, Naj, Rach, Mo, Bri, Lexie, Layshia- they went out there and did something they love, and showed us all that they love it, and showed us why we should love it too. And their front and back offices backed them up, letting them showcase their skills on the world-class stage they deserve.


Monday, August 20, 2018

August 19th, 2018: Los Angeles at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Sparks mounted a second half comeback, but it was the Sun who rose victorious in their regular-season finale, coming away with the 89-86 win behind 27 points from Jasmine Thomas and a 17-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist game from Jonquel Jones. Candace Parker led five Sparks in double figures with 20 points, adding 10 rebounds.

For grinding out defense, inexplicable arrival times, terrible calls, making the extra pass, fighting through screens, and tiny Gopher pups, join your intrepid and conclusive blogger after the jump.

Barring a deep run in the playoffs by the Sun, these will likely be the last GNoD of the season, since the less said about the Liberty the better, and the Sun are in Providence for the play-in round. So I'm going to try to make them good.

Our lovely and helpful ticket rep, Lindsey, has arranged for us to be at a pregame event in one of the suites, where Amber Cox will be giving a State of the Team address (and of course encouraging people to buy season tickets for next year). Snacks seem good. I'm eyeing the outlet on the counter for my phone. I'm favorably impressed by the clarity of language in their season ticket agreement. Novel concept, they actually tell you when they're going to bill you! (yes, I may still harbor some resentment towards the Liberty rep who once screwed up our card so badly that we had to hand him cash every game)

Sorry for the laughter, Amber, but your contingency plan involves the Liberty beating Phoenix. I love her sense of humor.

(this is a really nerdy point, but I love the custom header on the PowerPoint slides) (oops, spotted the first typo)

So far it's basically Connecticut Sun 101, with the basics of the league, the team, and the personnel. aaaand there's the second typo, which is not good when it's a player's name. Sorry, Shekinna.

OH MY GOD TINY RACHEL BANHAM IN A LYNX JERSEY no, I get the point that this is about our players who grew up idolizing W players, and that the league is a goal to strive for even if you're not an athlete because there are management positions and whatnot, but TINY RACHEL BANHAM IN A LYNX JERSEY I IZ DED

The enticement to buy/renew season tickets is pretty good, and under beer circus stances I would allow myself to be lured. But a full plan is not workable for us, and I can't lay down money for a partial right now, no matter how nice the coasters are. Playoff tickets aren't enough of an inducement for a one-game round.

I was hoping for a little more inside baseball and a little less timeshare, but maybe we can buttonhole her later. There's still twenty minutes before the gates open. I mean, she does have to schmooze with the people who are laying down money today, and I do get that.

The “In the Paint” series concluded today with a poster of the entire team. Challenge accepted. Failed but accepted. On the plus side, the second and third posters are signed and ready for hanging on the wall. I think my favorite of the series is still the first; it captures both Jonquel Jones and the Sun's entire vibe best.

We are currently filling out an extremely detailed survey on the game day experience. The Sun are leaving no stone unturned.

Truth be told, I could put up with the Anthem a lot more if they did it as a singalong more often.

The fan appreciation messages from the team were good stuff. I thought it was interesting that both Layshia Clarendon and Chiney Ogwumike emphasized supporting the league almost as much as much as supporting the team.

It's 52-41 Sun at the half. Los Angeles has made the flashier plays, but Connecticut has answered with big shots every time.

If this whiny brat in the row in front of us doesn't turn around and pay attention to the game, I will not be responsible for my actions. Why drag the kid here when he clearly doesn't want to be here?

Nike really messed up the Sparks' gold. It's a bright, flat yellow.

To the family that came in five minutes into the fourth quarter, made a fuss about their seats, and left with about 1:30 left: why? It's not even like they went straight home- we saw them in line for the burger joint as we were leaving an hour after the game. I feel so bad for the kid in her Candace Parker jersey. Your folks can't get you there in time and they bail when the going gets tough?

That got closer than it had to be at the end, and there will be words to come about just why it got so close. But first will come the rest of the words.

I was surprised that Brian Agler decided to go to Karlie Samuelson so abruptly in the second half. (And to the autograph hounds working the rail behind me before the game: yes, she has a name. She's not just "Katie's sister". Not everything revolves around UConn.) She and Sydney Wiese, at different times in the game, were used to set up three-point shots, and that was pretty much it. Odyssey Sims got some good run in the second half, and she abused Rachel Banham driving the lane- she accelerated at will and hit the shot at the bucket.

Driving into Maria Vadeeva is not a smart life choice. If you throw a shot directly at her, she's going to block it. Her hands aren't great on passes, but she's a good big body inside. Essence Carson, the GNoD's favorite unique special unicorn, had herself a very nice offensive day, and kept up the defense, too. All things considered, I'm still happy for her. I like her and I wish her well, just not when she's playing one of my teams.

We didn't see a lot of Alana Beard. She had a really nifty offensive rebound in the third quarter, but LA was getting enough firepower from the bench with Carson and Sims that Agler decided to go heavy offense over heavy defense. I do remain impressed with Beard's tenacity, though. Chelsea Gray fired off some spectacular passes, and I'm grateful that her teammates missed the shots she set up for them on the behind-the-back passes. There's a tough, physical presence to her that gives the Sparks a lot of flexibility in the backcourt to create mismatches. Riquna Williams, I imagine, did not make a lot of friends today in the Nutmeg State. She was undercutting all day and not getting called for it; with the amount of times she blatantly reached in or tripped someone, she should have fouled out of the game. I take the kinds of plays where someone can get injured seriously. It seemed like beautiful perfect karma that she missed the wrong free throw and then banked in the one she was clearly trying to miss (you could see the over-compensation in her shooting form- she was definitely aiming long).

Longtime readers of the GNoD know that I loathe Ohio State institutionally (except for Jessica Davenport, and I guess I have to put up with Katie Smith) so I'm already not going to be the world's biggest Jantel Lavender fan. But that off-the-ball shot to Courtney Williams's midsection was dirty and cheap, and she should be ashamed of it. She was having herself quite the nice offensive day, even remembering where the three-point line was most of the time, so that kind of nonsense was completely unnecessary. She took advantage of more than one mismatch (like, seriously, why would Jasmine Thomas ever be on a post player?) and scored both insdie and out. Candace Parker looked frustrated much of the night; every time a shot didn't go in, she looked like she wanted to blame literally anyone but herself. I suspect La Leslie has been a bad influence in her on-court demeanor. It's a shame, because when she has her head fully in the game, she's a holy terror. She can make the ball look like an extension of herself, she moves with grace and fluidity, and she's got a full toolkit. She was killer on the offensive glass for LA; I think at least three of her baskets were on putbacks. She insinuated herself into spaces she shouldn't have been able to fit into.

I was impressed with the way LA used screens. There was a lot of motion to their offense, and it kept Connecticut running. Unfortunately for the Sparks, the Sun are good at that running bit.

We kind of had a sense that Chiney Ogwumike would not be available for the Sun not when she didn't start the game, but when Brionna Jones was the first sub off the bench in the first half. Brionna tries hard, but her reaction time was extremely slow. There were plays that it looked like her teammates were expecting her to make that she hesitated too long on, and they looked like plays other post players on the Sun roster would have made. But, wow, did Morgan Tuck ever step up. The three she hit at the end of the first almost brought the house down, but more importantly, she brought tough defense inside. I didn't know if she had it in her to be that good against someone as good as Parker, but she answered the bell. Game stories will talk about Jas's 27 points, or JJ flirting with the triple-double, but Morgan was the unsung hero of this game. Betnijah Laney was all over the place. She needs to work on her ballhandling, as long as she also keeps whatever skill/instinct I don't have the word for that allows her to realize exactly how bad the possession is going to get and somehow save it.

This wasn't Rachel Banham's day. It was pretty clear early on when her first shot was way off target, but she had to take a long shift in the third quarter, and it showed. She couldn't keep up with Sims, and she couldn't answer on the offensive end the way we needed her to. She is still very adorable when tiny and wearing a Lynx jersey. (Yes, that PowerPoint slide killed me dead from cute and I am writing these notes from beyond the grave, that's why they're taking me so long.) Layshia Clarendon committed uncharacteristically stupid fouls, but still ran the offense with a steady hand. I would have liked to see more of her and less of Rach in this one, but I understand the necessity. As long as we don't talk about that floater in the lane. You're not Mark Jackson, Layshia. You'd be a better commentator than he is.

(As an aside, the husband and I have a difference of opinion on the "double-point" backcourt with Jas and Layshia. He thinks it causes confusion. I think that as long as Jas is raining threes, the roles are clear.)

Speaking of! Jasmine Thomas took advantage of the openings created for her and rained down threes and teardrops. She has her days when she's hot, and there have been a lot of them lately. So fun to watch. I think part of the trouble we got into in the second half had to do with her foul issues shortening the rotation. Courtney Williams was not quite the same after that shot from Lavender, but she adapted- after missing two jumpers badly, she started knifing through the lane and got two back-to-back buckets. She's so fun to watch. She's like someone brought a can of Red Bull to life, only without the smugness from the advertising campaign.

Shekinna Stricklen was usually the one hitting the big shot to quiet the Sparks' run. She also had a nice defensive play late in the game that got us going. I still feel like there's so much more she can be than a jump shooter, that there's so much more potential for her to unlock to be a more well-rounded player, but at some point I will have to accept that it's not happening. Alyssa Thomas threw the ball to a lot of Sparks. The one shot she hit was a beauty- she spun off Vadeeva like something out of a slow-motion martial arts movie. But the 'point forward' concept doesn't work as well against a tall team like Los Angeles, especially when they have on occasion deployed the maneuver themselves. (Hi, Candace.) I don't know what I enjoyed more about Jonquel Jones in this game: those incredible fingers controlling rebounds like a puppeteer, or her consistent ability to make the extra pass. I don't think those were passes she would have made four years ago. I don't know if those were passes she would have made last year. But she consistently saw a teammate in a better position, and almost always, those teammates rewarded her with the assist. Just a phenomenal demonstration of team play. (Admittedly, trying to make the extra pass on a 1-on-0 fast break was not a good plan, since Jas was about two feet behind the spot she was passing to.)

We have to learn to control our fouls better. It would help if we had better officiating. But there are things we can control, and reach-ins are one of them. Recognizing how things are being called is another. LA was forced to foul deliberately at the end and still ended up with more free throw attempts than we did. This bothers me to my soul.

You know what else bothers me to my soul? Kurt Walker and that nonsense call on JJ. JJ is standing there doing her best impression of a six-and-a-half-foot tall bright orange pole, and Riquna Williams leaps into her like someone with a death wish. Somehow this is a three-shot foul. I haven't been this upset about a three-shot foul since Nadirah McKenith got called for that one on Skylar Diggins. (Rest in peace, Bonita, and I never truly meant you any ill, but that was still a terrible call.) I don't think every single call went for LA and against Connecticut the way the crowd did, but there were some pretty awful ones, many of which seemed to involve Riquna Williams dive-bombing people's ankles.

(As an aside- "Riquina" is a new and exciting typo. Sunterns, I am disappointed in you.)

I felt the crowd could have been louder, but it was nice to hear spontaneous noise instead of just cued noise from the PA.

It was quite a lovely experience to actually feel happy leaving a basketball game. I had started to forget what it was like. I'm looking forward to the playoffs. Thanks for putting up with us, Sun fans.


Monday, August 13, 2018

August 12th, 2018: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A third-quarter run from Atlanta propelled the Dream to an 86-77 win over the Liberty. Renee Montgomery poured in 30 points, including eight treys, to lead Atlanta. Tina Charles had 26 points to lead New York.

For the same old story, same old song and dance, failed defensive rotations, giving up big runs, and the relief of a mercy kill, join your intrepid and somewhat shiny blogger after the jump.

I don't think I've ever been so relieved to see the end of a regular season. Yes, I know the Liberty end the season on a multi-game West Coast trip, because life is pain and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling something. But this is the last time this year we're going ot have to hike up to White Plains, which means I'm done with Westchester County until November, and I can't wait. You know what? Scratch relieved. I'm happy. I'm happy I don't have to keep watching this trainwreck of a season and hike two hours each way for the privilege. And that's with assistance from the team, which I suspect will not be available for the 2019 season.

We play the Dream today, and I'm sure it'll be a good game, with three, maybe four, starters between the two teams injured. Yes. This will be fabulous.

I'm also not thrilled about them rolling Faith and Family Night into Fan Appreciation Day. I'm a godless heathen and I like it that way, and if the God portions are not optional, then I'm leaving. It's the second half of Eevee Community Day and I need more shinies.

The team is bribing us with breakfast before the bus departure. One of my fellow fans is engaged in intense discussion with Kym Hampton. I don't think it's going well for Kym. There are also people intensely watching a Little League regional championship game with the same amount of enthusiasm they would normally give the Mets. Then again, one could argue the Little League team provides the better product.

It's halftime and we're up 48-37. I'm confused. I'm also confused as to how they can call this a sellout with rows and rows of empty seats. Tina Charles has gone off, and Atlanta can't hit. It won't last, I know, but it's fun.

Tina's dad has brought out his most magnificent jacket yet. He gleams. He was crossing the little street between the clock and the arena, and did so without the aid of the cop acting as crossing guard, and honestly if anyone didn't see him there's no excuse. Overheard en route: "Got so many things to do today, and I'm up here." So say we all, sir.

The faith group running the Faith and Family Night event (which was thankfully after the game and only advertised in general phrases delivered with the enthusiasm of a cocker spaniel hopped up on Four Loko) had greeters on the front steps, urging every single person in with "You're amazing!" and "Thank you for being alive!" Since I was waiting for 2PM to come so I could set some lures and catch some Eevee, they were quite annoying. I was not the only one annoyed. I asked the cop if he had to do anything if I "accidentally" projectile vomited on one of them, and he hesitated before saying "No." Managed to dodge them on the way in.

Bad anthem. Never a good sign. Apparently Kym Hampton did her traditional tunesmithing while I was hunting Eevee.

They announced a sellout. The rows of empty seats would beg to differ. And judging from the ushers' approach to general admission being "yeah, you can sit anywhere" as opposed to "you can sit anywhere in the GA sections", something tells me that there was a shifted effect and the people who were like, "naaaaaaah" weren't people with GA tickets. I mean, we got loud in stretches, but after that collapse in the third quarter, it was hard to keep mustering up enthusiasm.

Blake Dietrick got her minutes in early. She's very loud on the floor. I appreciate that out of a point guard. I think the kid in the shirt with Dietrick on the back also approved of this message. The rim did not approve of Alex Bentley's shots- she had a three spin in and out and in and out, and another shot not get the roll. I can't say I'm sorry for her.

Imani McGee-Stafford is so big in real life, especially in such a small arena. She was several steps slow on defense, though her wingspan and the inherent length of her stride made up for a lot of that. For much of the day she looked like she wanted to be a foot shorter and not have to deal with all this basketball nonsense. I did enjoy the jump ball with Kia Vaughn, though. I somehow imagine that iron grip on the ball being a technique perfected against her brother. Monique Billings crashed the boards in one fashion so spectacular it served to confirm her identity when I couldn't see who Atlanta had brought in.

Has anyone made the Liberty aware that Renee Montgomery can shoot threes a little bit? Because she went off in the third quarter and added a couple in the fourth to boot, and I'm not sure exactly where the disconnect happened. Was it in a lack of film study to recognize that that was her shot, or in the help defense not being able to rotate quickly enough to get in her face? Granted, she hit a couple of dramatic contested threes at the end of the shot clock, so I can't argue with those. But it just kept happening. It was ridiculous. She was cold early and then she got on the hot streak. She had a steal right off Tina, too. Brittney Sykes drove the lane hard and got rewarded with calls. Getting hit in the face is not fun and I hope she's okay from it. She's got a lot of ups, too. She took a rebound away from Kia Vaughn, jumped right over and around her. Tiffany Hayes is absolutely pants at following her own jumper because she'll stand there and admire it, but she's absolutely relentless in pursuit of every shot her teammates put up. I wonder if she's realized the hypocrisy there. Watching her on the floor every time she gets knocked down and crumbles like a sand castle, I think we have at long last found a new queen to take the throne of Mery Andrade and DeMya Walker. All hail the Drama Queen!

Has anyone made the Liberty aware that Jessica Breland can shot the midrange jumper a little bit? Because she went off in the third quarter and added one in the fourth to boot, and you've already heard this part, haven't you? She was mercilessly physical on Tina Charles inside, and probably should have been called for a lot more fouls than she already was. Then when Tina was beat up and exhausted, she took her outside for the jumper. She also had a beautiful feed inside to Elizabeth Williams for one of the few buckets Williams scored. Williams was a shot eraser inside- took one away from Kia Nurse with enough force to potentially cause an international incident, had another big one on Tina. She's an anchor for them, the fulcrum of the defense.

Because their defense swarmed. Seems appropriate for a team that plays, however temporarily, at Georgia Tech. They were able to move quickly on the perimeter to cover all our options, and then bring the pain down low when we inevitably threw it to Tina, because that's what we do. Atlanta is an unbelievably terrible match-up for us on a good day. And my understanding is that the last good day was January 20th, 1992.

Rebecca Allen continues to be a useful offensive weapon, though she would be more effective if she could consistently keep her feet behind the line instead of on it. Her defense doesn't work in this system, though, and it causes me to dread every repetition of the Rebecca Allen Experience, because I know things are going to go terribly wrong at some point. Kiah Stokes finally looks somewhat like her old self, but even that's not saying a lot. She had some nice finishes on the inside, but she's still a step slow and not entirely certain on offense. Bria Hartley hit big contested shots, especially in the second half, but committed stupid fouls on defense. (Yes, Bria, that was a foul on the three-point shot by Montgomery. You can't high-five people's wrists.)

You may have noticed the entire bench is squeezed together in one paragraph, and that's because we had four players sitting out from injury or rest. Amanda Zahui B looked sharp and Marissa Coleman looked very pretty. Epiphanny Prince was in warm-up gear, and I couldn't see too much of Shavonte Zellous. Jacket and jeans, I think.

Sugar Rodgers's shot was off, which usually heralds a bad night for her. This was no exception. She was nowhere near being a factor. Brittany Boyd brought hustle and energy, but also recklessness and error-prone passing. I think she's in her own head right now, and it's messing her up. She's always been intense, and I can't imagine that apprenticing under T-Spoon is going to make her any less emotional or volatile on the floor. She needs tempering. Kia Nurse got off to a good start, but sort of seemed to disappear as the game went on. Bria was picking up a lot of her minutes. I'm worried that Katie's inexplicable rotations might be robbing our youngest Kia of her confidence.

Kia Vaughn, bless her heart. I did like the block she put on Williams, and the one finish (on an o-board, I think) in the paint. But her hands are terrible and guards were consistently outworking her for rebounds. It's no wonder Kiah was taking minutes from her. The only question was why Kiah wasn't giving Tina Charles some rest. Tina, of course, was fabulous, and in the early going looked like she was going to win us this game all by herself. But triple-teams have a way of weighing down a superstar, especially when no one else can hit a shot. She looked so tired. I hope she sits out the road trip. She deserves a break. Tina is, in fact, so tired, that I woke up this morning and the banner she signed had fallen off the wall. That's not an omen or anything, I'm sure.

Katie Smith is in so far over her head she can't see light. Her rotations are a mess, her clock management is a nightmare, she has no sense of when to use her timeouts, and the team seems to have tuned her out in record time. You can only say the same thing so many times before people stop listening. This is an absolutely untenable situation for a first-year coach. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, and Katie is far from that (even if she went to Ohio State). It's bad for both the team and the coach in question. Something's got to give. We lost an 11-point lead in something like four minutes. That's ridiculous. That's unacceptable.

Officiating didn't help anything (why yes, how dare Bec have her chest in a position where Hayes's arm might hit it?) but I don't think we can blame that for all our woes. I'd have liked to get a few more calls, especially on what seemed to be a pretty obvious clear path call on Montgomery. But it is what it is, so they say.

Any arena where stumbling out of bounds by the basket puts you halfway onto some excuse for a concourse and a third of the way towards the exit is not suitable for professional use, and I don't want to hear any arguments about the sideline space at Levien again in that regard.

The bus ride back was... interesting. Kym Hampton was our hostess, and she was taking questions the whole way back down, providing insight on player mentality and defensive rotations. I'm not sure I can believe everything she says from the business end, but there was enough I could corrorborate from other sources that I did some quiet freaking out. Story of the season, I suppose. Kym is very charming, and very sweet, and you have to be a particular idiot if you think she's flatout going to say she doesn't like anyone or there's anyone she would prefer to not have on the team. I hope I'm misreading between the lines, because if I'm not, we're going to make some terrible and short-sighted decisions for the 2019 roster.

I'm glad to be done with Westchester. I don't want to go back to that place, where the lighting is depressing, the sound system is unbalanced, the seats are terrible, the layout is nonsensical, the capacity is unacceptable, the staff is unprofessional (woo boy are there apparently some stories about the county employees), and everything about the experience is less than minor league. This is not how you treat a professional team. This is not how you treat the fans of a professional team.

I'm relieved. It's over for now. I don't want it to be over forever. But there's so much at stake. Heavy words, I know, but it's been a heavy season. It feels like we're desperately pretending everything's going to be fine, putting on a show to paper over a disaster scene. It breaks my heart.


Monday, August 6, 2018

August 6th, 2018: Seattle at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A fourth quarter collapse did the Liberty in once more, as Seattle ended the game on a big run to win 96-80. Breanna Stewart poured in 32 points, while Natasha Howard had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds and flirted with a quadruple-double with five assists and five steals. Tina Charles and Kia Nurse each had 20 points to pace the Liberty, with Amanda Zahui B adding 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

For being tired, so tired, jokes about Iowa, references to euthanasia, annoying children, forces of nature, and counting down the days, join your intrepid and ever-so-cheerful blogger after the jump.

Good morning from Madison Square Garden, the place that is truly our home, as the New York Liberty take on the Seattle Storm.

We don't even get to play on our own court. Our real court is at That Dump. There's no logo in the middle. What's Maddie going to stomp? (They brought out the Torch Patrol with the letter signs from "Gotta Get Up" and raised them as Maddie did the stomp.)

No Marissa Coleman for this one, though she warmed up and chatted with Crystal Langhorne. Goody. This probably means 25 minutes of the Rebecca Allen Experience. We're gonna get cheesed. We're gonna get aged-cheesed.

I just watched Jewell Loyd bounce a ball to Breanna Stewart for a tip-in. This is going to be fun to watch, even if there's going to be a lot of crysobbing going on.

Did everyone on Seattle forget to go to the bathroom before the game? I think I've seen three different players run off the floor and come back.

Very good mixed vocal and orchestral version of the anthem from a local music school; they're also doing the halftime show. I think I like their strings better than their vocals. And though I'm not a fan of performing "God Bless America" at games, the singer was very good.

We're not losing. I'm confused. It's tied at 44 at the half. I'm starting to think that this team might like playing in actual arenas as opposed to That Dump. Kia Nurse got the start for Marissa, and has 11 points. Gosh. You mean letting Kia Nurse play might give her confidence or something?

The groups in the upper deck must be looking at some of the swathes of empty seats in the lower deck and wondering why they can't be down there. Some of them have filled in, but it's not a good look.

Today is not BHA, but they're advertising it at the next game, and I think this is the first time I've noticed different teams doing their fundraisers for different- and local- charities. The Liberty are donating to a fund in honor of Clare Droesch.

You know who has not had enough vodka for this Liberty season? Me. It's me. I have not had enough vodka for the Liberty rolling over and dying in the fourth quarter after looking vaguely like a basketball team in the first three. Thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus I only have to put up with one more game of this season's dying throes before being able to switch completely to a team that seems to actually care about this basketball thing.

Mercedes Russell spent a minute and a half on the most tightly compressed revenge tour I've ever seen. She was brutal from the midrange. Courtney Paris got run in the first half, but not much in the second. That is a whole lot of woman, and running into her is a terrible idea. She snagged a ridiculous steal off (I think) Amanda, just plucked it out of the air. Crystal Langhorne seems to have adapted well to the bench, and to being a role player who can score a little and rebound a little as necessary.

Quiet game for Jordin Canada. The only play that stood out to me was the rookie foul she committed on the push-out. She'll learn. She's in the right place for it. Sami Whitcomb continues to be a Liberty-killer. She comes into the game, and we don't learn, and we leave her open, and she gets buckets on us. Like I said. We don't learn. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was not terribly useful, but she didn't have to be. I was surprised they didn't set her up more beyond the arc.

I think this is the first time I've gotten a good look at the new and Most Improved Natasha Howard this year. She's put all the pieces together. She goes up and over players with the greatest of ease, claiming rebound and putback in one motion. She is the player Crystal Langhorne would have been had Langhorne been blessed with Howard's talent. At least, that's the stylistic and effort-based match that made sense to me. Your mileage may, of course, vary. She had a massive two-handed block on Kia Nurse that hurt my soul. Breanna Stewart looks gawky until the moment she strikes, and then she's so ridiculously smooth that you know the shot's going in. It's more of a surprise when it doesn't. She wrecked Kia Vaughn on a block in the third quarter. Alysha Clark seemed thrown off by the two arcs on the floor, since I think both the pro and college arcs, or the men's and women's arcs, were on the court. She flashed back to her Belmont and Middle Tennessee days with her shooting, and it did not go well. Her defense was stronger- she had a fantastic steal that comes to mind immediately. She was better close to the basket.

Sue Bird continues to slay her enemies, rejoice in their lamentations, and drink their tears from beyond the arc. She hit that shot- you know the one I'm talking about- in the fourth quarter, and I knew we were dead beyond hope of a saving roll. She doesn't look like she's been in the league for 16 years. She looks fresh as a daisy. We're all doomed. Jewell Loyd needs approximately a nanosecond to get her shot off, whether it's on the run or on the drive. If you blink, she scores. If you blinked twice, then Breanna Stewart also scored. She's so quick and she gets up so far, and this is just not fair.

Seattle plays so smart. The stupid mistakes are minimal. The on-court communication is great. And you have to credit those point guards for that. And it's nice to see Dan Hughes let them run after how slow a system he ran in Cleveland and San Antonio. Good coaches adapt to their personnel. This is a hint, Katie.

Ugh, where do I even start? I don't want to start. At least we were short-handed enough that these will be brief.

I'm pretty sure Kiah Stokes has been spending her off-hours learning how to operate a Sherman, because she is driving the tank most excellently whenever she comes into the game. I don't know what's up with her, but she has found the cliff and leaped off it with as much élan and glee as an Iowan can show by state law. She looks terrible and looks like she doesn't care. Maybe this is a pod person and we need to stage a rescue of the Seventh Avenue Block Party. At least we still have Amanda Zahui B, who is on a mission to prove that she belongs on this team and in this league. She fought for rebounds among two and three Storm players. Her midrange game was on fire, and her confidence was sky-high. This is the player who came out early in 2015 and was expected to set the league on fire, and I hope that this version of Amanda comes back for 2019. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Rebecca Allen, bless her heart. She did have a glorious block on KML, and hit a three when she got open, but she was in over her head, having to essentially sub for both Marissa Coleman and Shavonte Zellous. She's not good defensively and she's mediocre offensively. All the Rebecca are belong to us, but I'm ready to give up on this experiment now. Bria Hartley missed shots she should have made and took shots she shouldn't have taken. She's not the answer at point right now. She may never be. She seemed to be getting into it with many of her fellow Huskies as well; I think they took offense to her hitting Natasha Howard in the face, however accidental it was.

See, this was a game where the criticism Brittany Boyd got on Saturday was warranted. She was throwing shots at the rim like she couldn't think of anything better to do with the ball. Her passes were hard, and fast, and sometimes desperate. You went to Cal, Brittany; I know you're smart enough to think of good alternatives. She did well driving the lane early, but somehow couldn't adjust to the concept of Seattle defense adjusting and pasting her to the stanchion on subsequent attempts. Sugar Rodgers's confidence in her shot was unwarranted today. You can't stand there and watch it. She did a better job rebounding other people's shots. She also committed stupid fouls on people who had already either taken shots or taken themselves out of the play, and I am extremely annoyed at this on general principles.

Kia Vaughn, bless her heart. Things were going well when she got buckets at the rim, but she missed more than she hit, and she was consistently outworked on the glass. That's partly on her teammates, because Kia Vaughn can't box out and rebound at the same time, but she seemed to give up the position she got all too easily when pressed. At least she didn't get hurt this time, which is a relief, because while Kia Vaughn is a trainwreck on the floor, she seems like a lovely human being and I wish her no harm. Kia Nurse had herself a day; shockingly, when Katie gives her her head, she runs with it. She looked strong, and she looked confident. Her defense was a little shaky, but she ran into a couple of forces of nature. I can't say I'm surprised. Tina Charles is who she always is. She gets things done, even when she's double and triple-teamed, because that's what opposing defenses do to Tina. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Kia Nurse seemed to be using "This or That" to remind everyone that she's Canadian, both in referencing linguistic differences (see: flip-flops v. sandals) and musical taste. ("What kind of question is this? I'm Canadian. Of course it's Drake.") Look, if you're practically going to bleed maple syrup, check opponents into the boards that we don't have because this is a basketball game, and wrap yourself in the Canadian flag, I'm going to spend the rest of your career making Canadian jokes. I hope you understand this, youngest of the Kias.

Some of the kids behind us were cheering for Seattle for no good reason. They received death glares. (The family in front of us, with the daughter in her Storm shirt and the dad in his UCLA gear, of course did not get death glares, because we don't do that to actual-facts fans.)

Game got physical in stretches, and when even Storm fans are saying Howard should have been called for a push, it might have been a foul. And the clock kept malfunctioning, which drew the agony out longer than it needed to be drawn out. It wouldn't stop when it was supposed to stop and wouldn't start when it was supposed to start.

And of course they're still hawking season ticket renewals. Said it before and I'll say it again: I won't be fooled again. Y'all took my money and set me up on automatic renewal last year, whereupon y'all moved us to That Dump in Westchester. And y'all think anyone with a lick of common sense is going to sign up for that again? At least before we didn't know how bad it was.

I think everyone wants the season to be over. It's a mercy kill, really. Play for lottery balls and whatever tattered excuse for pride anyone has left, and let it end. I'm ready.


August 5th, 2018: Las Vegas at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Connecticut went up big and never looked back in a 109-88 win over the Las Vegas Aces, shooting almost 60% from the field in the process. Jasmine Thomas dropped a game-high 30 points on 12-15 shooting from the field. A'ja Wilson led Las Vegas with 24 points, with Kelsey Plum adding 21.

For interminable bus rides, a study in contrasts, playing for a reason, a lot of pink, getting buckets, artwork, and scoring a lot, join your intrepid and exhausted blogger after the jump.

Basketball, as we all know, never stops, and we go from That Dump in White Plains to the 7-time Arena of the Year at Mohegan Sun, as Connecticut plays host to the Las Vegas Aces.

Today is BHA day, branded as "Rock the Pink". Third scorecard in the special series came out. So far the second one is my favorite.

The Rock and Roll Chorus did what I thought of as the "game in 60" version of the anthem, and what the husband described as the "Rent" edition. It was... interesting. They're doing the halftime performance as well. I am underwhelmed.

It is 64-49 Sun at the half. Refs all but swallowed their whistles after the first few minutes. They're really letting them play. It seems like someone's going to get hurt if this goes on.

STH and kids get to shoot foul shots on the court after the game, which is cool.

These soulless BHA jerseys have to go. Team colors have to be on them somewhere next year. And Vegas's leftover San Antonio jerseys are hideous. I don't expect to see those again next year.

So that's what offense looks like! I had almost forgotten. It's been so long. If you didn't think there would be petty shots at the sorry state of the Liberty in here, what blog have you been reading? But this also says a lot about the growth of the league. There was a time you could score 49 in a game and be in position to win, or even win outright. Vegas put up 49 in the first half and was down big.

Honestly, I'm bummed for Lindsay Allen. I'd like to think she knew going in that she was basically Fauxriah Jefferson and once Jefferson was back, she was going to the end of the bench, and that she was okay with it, but she seems like the kind of player who just needs a little playing time to develop and contribute. Moriah Jefferson is very tiny and very fast. I would be freaking out if I were the ballhandler and she were coming at me. Nia Coffey still continues to confound me. She doesn't seem to have a position, and some days it works, but some days it most emphatically does not. This was one of the days where it didn't work.

Given how much defense JiSu Park has provided all year, I was surprised how little time she got. She's got good size and she has nice midrange touch. Kelsey Bone got lively boos from a portion of the crowd every time she committed a foul, which happened with regularity. (She still kneels for the anthem, and I applaud the courage of her convictions, fight me if you want to.) She brings a big, physical presence to the floor, and if she had better positioning she might have been more effective. Jaime Nared played at the very end of the game, coming in later than I would have thought. I don't know how she managed to snag all those rebounds she has in the box score. She's sneaky, I guess.

Carolyn Swords is such an important part of this team that it's not even funny. She brings leadership and steadiness that the younger players need. She gives out direction even from the center position, making sure people go where they need to be. One of the most deceptive non-lines I've ever seen. A'ja Wilson is the truth and she has ascended past the rookie wall. She plays like a seasoned professional, with grace, fluidity, and exceptional positioning. I can't wait to see her with even more veteran savvy and experience. Tamera Young's shot still looks weird and still manages to go in.

Almost forgot the guards, which is embarrassing, because Kelsey Plum had a game where she looked like she was back at UW (well, okay, except that that floater in the lane that fell a little short) and attempting to play all sports at once- karate chops and soccer kicks are inappropriate in basketball, Kelsey. But she was on fire. I don't know if that's necessarily what Vegas needs out of their point guard, but we'll see about that in the offseason. Kayla McBride could probably do with a little less flopping, because one of these days she's going to get caught and she's going to get fined. Her game is dangerous enough, especially on the offensive end, without the falling over quite so much.

If this is what Vegas looks like after getting proper rest and traveling without event, I'd hate to have seen what they would have looked like against Washington. Of course, on the other hand, they could have gotten a second wind like Indiana. And that's all I have to say about that.

Lexie Brown is so tiny and looks so young. Someone's got to have mistaken her for a ballgirl at some point. I love the way she forced the travel against Allen. I'm not sure how I feel about Rachel Banham running point, especially with the aforementioned Brown on the roster. Seems like that's the kind of experience Brown should be getting, and Banham would be better as a shooting guard/three-point specialist. Layshia Clarendon brings a different dimension to the Sun when she's on the floor. She controls the game so well. She's really found a good spot. She doesn't get statistical credit for it, because this isn't hockey, but she set up Alyssa Thomas for a fantastic finish to Shekinna Stricklen.

Betnijah Laney got a lot of run, and brought a lot of energy to the floor with it. She still needs to do a lot of work on her ballhandling, but she's adapted around it, if that makes any sense- she seems to know when she's going to lose the ball and dives appropriately, or is able to successfully back out of the play before something terrible can happen. She's found a place where she belongs, and I love it. Morgan Tuck was fantastic on the glass, getting a putback off a strong o-board. I'm not thrilled with her as a three-point shooter, though. Jonquel Jones looked like she'd had Red Bull injected into her veins before the game, bouncing off her teammates like the world's skinniest pinball, and it showed on the floor. She had a monster block on Park that was a virtual repudiation of her opponent's very existence. It's taken the entire year, but if she's back in form for the playoffs, suddenly Connecticut is a much more dangerous team.

Chiney Ogwumike gave a master class in this game on how to get around someone who's taller and wider than you are. Swords was on her much of the time, and Chiney's footwork to get around her was exquisite (and mostly legal). There was a play on the baseline where she was able to take one big step to stay inbounds, then reestablished her dribble and got the bucket. There's a joy about her game, a feeling that comes across to me as contagious satisfaction at having completed a tricky thing that you really wanted to do and weren't quite sure you could pull off, like a golfer's little fist pump personified. Alyssa Thomas's minutes were limited because somehow, in a game where far fewer calls were made than could have been, she picked up two fouls in the first quarter trying to defend A'ja Wilson. I can only imagine how intense the onslaught would have been if she'd been in the entire game. Quiet game from Shekinna Stricklen, but again, enormous contributions from her weren't necessarily required. Someday I'd like to see her rebound more reliably, though.

Courtney Williams needs to not go anywhere near a shooter that's already launched a three-pointer, especially when said shooter is a member of the acclaimed Notre Dame diving team. And I'd like to see her take it to the basket when she drives that deep into the paint. But I can't argue with her jumper. It's not an argument I'm going to win. She's so quick and so energetic and so fun! And, of course, Jasmine Thomas was the woman of the match and the star of the show. Everything she touched turned to gold, whether it was the three-pointers (except for the one she took from somewhere in the vicinity of Bridgeport because she was feeling herself) or the amazing floaters that took all kinds of angles off the glass and dropped softly in. She was in control of this game from start to finish and it was amazing. You could tell how much this game, this day, meant to her.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, because I'll probably have to say it again: when Connecticut can keep themselves from doing stupid things, they're unstoppable. It's when they can't keep their hands off the offensive player that they start having problems.

It got physical in a hurry, which I should have expected in a game where Fatou Cissoko-Stephens was a ref. (No, ma'am, I haven't forgotten Tanisha Washington, Southern Miss, and being knocked down to four players, and I never will.) They called it pretty loose, which I'm sort of okay with. On the other hand, missing a blatant offensive kick that led to a Plum three was a little bit irritating.

To the people sitting all around us: players are relevant for more than going to UConn. Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck are more than just a mutter of "UConn player" to the person next to you. And if you aren't paying attention to non-UConn players, boy are you missing out.

The parachute t-shirts from the catwalk are not as effective when the air conditioning blows half of them into the lower bowl.

I think Connecticut wanted to prove something. They were going hard for buckets even after they went up big. I mean, it's not hard to loathe Bill Laimbeer, and I think he welcomes it. It wouldn't surprise me if this were a gambit to create a new version of the Bad Girls so the league would have a new villain.