Saturday, March 17, 2018

March 16th, 2018: Harvard at Fordham (WNIT)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Bre Cavanaugh scored 19 of her 26 points in the second half to power Fordham to a 65-47 comeback win over Harvard in the first round of the WNIT. G'mrice Davis added 12 points and 12 rebounds. Taylor Rooks had 18 to lead the Crimson, but she was the only Harvard player to break double figures.

For traveling in the Bronx at rush hour, traveling in the Bronx after rush hour, hotshot freshmen, loud fans, free food, and the important questions in life, join your intrepid and hoops-satiated blogger after the jump.

All right, now the Big Dance is upon us. But no one's playing nearby, so I don't care. Instead, it's off to Fordham for their first-round WNIT match-up with Harvard. If yesterday's example is anything to judge by, we should be in for some fun from the Harvard band.

Fortunately, the police action at Tremont Road didn't hold us up for too long. Still made it around quarter past six.

Bre Cavanaugh's hair is still normal. I'm sort of disappointed. She must be planning something spectacular for deep into the postseason. The longer she keeps color out of it, the more epic I expect it to be when she does go for it.

Harvard seems to have traveled some fans, but I don't even see Fordham's band, much less Harvard's. I guess the husband and I will have to provide all the noise. We're used to that sort of thing.

At halftime it's 33-24 Harvard, and that's honestly an improvement. Harvard's passing has been phenomenal, faster and more accurate than our defense has been able to hang with. We're not fast and we're not deep, and without Zara Jillings in the first half we have as much depth as a tabloid headline. Taylor Rooks put up 10 in the first quarter and 12 overall to lead Harvard. Fordham seems unwilling to shoot the ball- we already have two shot clock violations and another couple of possessions that have been dangerously close. Bre Cavanaugh's seven points is the team high.

Well, Bre Cavanaugh looked at that halftime deficit and basically went, "Nope. Nope, nope, nope." Cold-blooded assassin that she is, she took over the game in the third quarter and turned the tide in Fordham's favor. More people need to be talking about her nationally. She does not get the love or respect that she deserves.

Nota bene: no matter how much time pressure you're under, no matter how good of an idea it seems at the time, attempting to type on a laptop while racing along the Bruckner on the Q44 bus will result mostly in friction burns, motion sickness, and putting the A's in Cavanaugh in all the wrong places. It is not a good plan.

So, Harvard. When they took jump shots, their offense did not look terrible. Their passing was crisp and quick, outpacing the defense. But anything that wasn't a jump shot seemed to be a risky floater in the lane or a wild heave that hit anything and everything except the bottom of the net. Glass, rim, side of the backboard- that ball was going all over the place. Late in the game, they broke out a chaotic backcourt defense that might have rewarded them with turnovers at a different point of the game, instead of the cheap foul calls they got under the assumption that they were trying to foul.

Jadyn Bush got the unenviable job of defending the interior against G'mrice Davis (and to a lesser extent, Johanna Klug and Mary Goulding, plus whoever was inclined to drive). She ended up fouling out, and I'm not terribly surprised. I wasn't impressed with her positioning on the floor. I wouldn't have believed Nani Redford played 10 minutes if I didn't see it in the box score, so you can tell how impressed with her I was. Sydney Skinner played most of the game- it looked almost like senior privilege was invoked on this starting lineup, but that would be a fatalistic approach to take in a single-elimination tournament. Skinner's sort of a tweener- big body and isn't afraid to knock people over, but also likes to shoot from the outside. If I remember her year correctly, she's not a senior, so she's going to be big for them next season.

Someone else at the game compared Katie Benzan to Leilani Mitchell, and I can sort of see where they were going with this. She's very tiny (I'm not used to people being shorter than Lauren Holden) and very fast. Her jumper's pretty nice and she pulls up in the lane. But I don't see the same kind of passing eye from her on the break that I did from Mitchell. Benzan seems more ball dominant than Mitchell. I wouldn't be surprised if she considered Becky Hammon a role model. Taylor Rooks did a great job of getting open and staying open- we switched an awful lot to try and keep up with their passing. She's another odd-sized tweener, but she's got a nice jumper.

Kirby Porter didn't play much, and since she was inserted back into the game at the end when Fordham made the line change, I'm going to assume she started out of courtesy. Senior privilege is a thing. I think she was part of the frenetic end-game defense Harvard threw up as in desperation. I will save you all the bad graphic design/printing industry puns about rastering versus vector artwork, and merely say that Madeline Raster shoots well and had a solid all-around game. Jeannie Boehm was big on the inside, but had trouble handling passes.

I'm starting to think Harvard is used to getting the foul calls when they throw up those wild shots at the rim. There's no other reason for players as smart as Harvard students should be to do such stupid things on the floor.

Fordham got the chance to clear the bench in the final twenty seconds, to the point where one of the subs got delayed because you can't sub for the free throw shooter. The deep bench didn't get much of a chance to shine in those twenty seconds or so, so no, you're not getting individualized analyses, guys. Sorry. I don't know what Zara Jillings did to get benched in the first half, during a stretch when we could have used her defense, but I trust Coach Gaitley's judgment. She had a gorgeous pass to G'mrice on the inside, just when we thought she needed to shoot the damn ball. Kendell Heremaia made a nifty defensive play to recover a loose ball, then really started feeling her oats and launched a three. (Poor Kenny. Had to clean up all the balls from shootaround, and G kept firing them at her.)

Why, yes, I am worried about the fact that our starters played such heavy minutes that I can sum up the contributions of our bench in one not-huge paragraph.

I love the hustle Mary Goulding brings to the floor. She had one putback that I can only describe as utterly ridiculous, but if I did attempt to describe it, might sound something like "so the ball bounced off the rim, and Mary and another player were going up for it, and I think there were three hands on the ball and two of them were Mary's, and it sort of ended up being set into the basket". She brought a lot of grit on the glass, so I can forgive some of the moments I can only describe as derpy. I've never heard G'mrice Davis be so loud demanding the ball before- she was letting out the kind of whoops I usually make when the other team is at the free throw line. She went hard to the rack and met with heavy opposition, so she was putting up a lot of contested shots. She was bound and determined to get those rebounds, though. Johanna Klug looked slow all night. I think she ran into the freshman wall and never did figure out how to climb over it- when the offseason hits, she needs to get her act together.

I'm not used to Lauren Holden being taller than anyone on the floor, but she was bigger and taller than Benzan. She does tend to argue fouls, even when it's obvious she's pushing. There were a couple of moments when I thought she was starting to indulge her propensity to start chucking deep threes for the fun of it, but she restrained herself and ran more clock. I still have no idea how she managed to set an illegal screen, though. Not used to itty bitty guards setting screens. And then there was Bre Cavanaugh, who showed once again that the blood in her veins is as cold as ice. She took the game over in the third quarter, driving the lane and draining threes, and she was the one who put the game away at the end of the fourth. She saw that everyone was terrified to shoot and decided that she was going to take over. I just love what she already brings to the floor- and she's only a freshman, folks. Redshirt, but a freshman nevertheless.

I know Fordham likes to run a very deliberate offense, but there comes a point when you do have to shoot, and we lost sight of that in the second quarter. G'mrice getting caught with the ball to draw a shot clock violation right after she had a putback disallowed on not beating the buzzer was... yes, well, that summed up much of our offense at that point. And just when we got some momentum near the end of the second quarter, Harvard clamped down on defense and we started losing the ball. I really thought we were goners. But then Bre.

I think Fordham definitely got the benefit of the doubt from the officials, who were not good at procedural calls and let an awful lot of contact go.

Shoutout to the family in front of us, who led cheers with glorious enthusiasm (and later totally tried to pin the yelling on their kids). We needed them, and they answered the bell.

There was free pizza and apple pie, but the apple pie was from McDonalds, so I'm glad I passed. (Also, the new wraps at Subway are delicious.)

If Robert Morris had beaten Drexel, I'd have had an impetus to get these notes done sooner, because Fordham would have hosted the Colonials. But Drexel gets the homecourt advantage against the Rams, and I just don't have it in me to head to Philadelphia this weekend.

If this was the last time I ever got to see G'mrice Davis, then it was worth it. I hope it isn't, of course; I hope we beat the scales off Drexel and get homecourt advantage in the next round. But I love what we showed in this game, and I think it'll be important to carry forward both through the WNIT and into next year.


Friday, March 16, 2018

March 15th, 2018: Marist at St. John's (WNIT)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's started strong and never looked back in their 68-47 win over Marist in the first round of the WNIT. Andrayah Adams had 14 points off the bench to lead five Johnnies in double figures, with both Imani Littleton (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Maya Singleton (12 points, 11 rebounds) notching double-doubles. Maura Fitzpatrick of Marist led all scorers with 20 points.

For color coordination, a jump to the left, calling glass, offensive rebounding, and the little details on the floor, join your intrepid and soon to be freshly laundered blogger after the jump.

Good evening! The Big Dance has yet to begin, but the WNIT is upon us. St. John's has first-round hosting rights, and tonight we have Marist in the house.

Then again, Marist brought two busloads of fans and then some, so I'm really not sure we're using our host-rights to full advantage here. We've enticed students with ice cream, but they've been fairly quiet. Fortunately, band and a handful of students have stepped up.

Marist's band does an excellent rendition of the Time Warp. Of course, because I am petty and Iona is still one of my teams, I may have asked something along the lines of, "What, to when you were good and Quinnipiac wasn't eating your lunch?"

It's 37-22 St. John's at halftime. Imani Littleton started the game like her hair was on fire and she was taking the presence of every single Marist fan as a personal affront. Our offensive rebounding inside has been fantastic. Other than not being able to keep track of Alana Gilmer, and Maura Fitzpatrick's uncanny communion with the glass, we've been great on defense. Marist is doing a lot of little things well, in regards to floor positioning.

That awkward moment when one of your teams is coached by a fan/alumna of the opponent one of your other teams is playing. Hi, Stephanie, but go Red Storm, not Red Foxes.

That got a little dicey for a moment when Akina Wellere committed her fourth foul and had to come out of the game, but we hit a couple of big shots and put the Red Foxes away. My throat still hurts. You have to go hard when you're outnumbered in your own house. (You also get salty as Lot's wife, because, c'mon, people.)

I'm not used to Marist being this disorganized. Their passing game was... not good. Their shooting was ridiculously streaky- either the shot went in or it was a bad miss, no real in-between. There are a lot of little things they still do very well- no one draws charges better than Marist, no one tests the boundaries better than Marist. But the youth and inexperience of these players shines through, and I don't know if they know who their leader is, at least from what I saw in this game.

Kendall Baab came in at the end of the game, which was the best indicator to us that the game was over- give the senior one last hurrah before her career ends. She was marked pretty closely in her brief minutes, and she had trouble handling the passes her teammates sent her. We were almost hoping she would get a basket, but Imani Littleton was bound and determined that that wasn't going to happen. Gabi Redden saw a few minutes at the end of the game, and in the first half in relief of Alana Gilmer after Gilmer picked up the third foul. Big body, but way too tentative. Hasn't quite figured out that "play with your head" does not mean "deflect the pass meant for your teammate with your face".

Lovisa Henningsdóttir brings a different dimension off the Marist bench, and I think once she's fully settled into the Marist offense they'll be a lot better off. She gives them good height on the inside and on the glass while still providing the three-point offense they rely on. Allie Best played the bulk of the minutes off the bench at guard- smaller than most of the other players they put out on the floor, she ball-hawked more than the rest of her teammates.

I don't know what unholy spells Maura Fitzpatrick worked on the glass, but she had some of the best puck luck I've ever seen- two shots off the glass and one that danced all over the rim before dropping in. Granted, she also had some of the worst puck luck I've ever seen, with shots popping up out of the cylinder. She's a strange one. She did do a good job of driving the lane and drawing contact, usually off Akina Wellere, who didn't quite have the foot speed to keep up with her when she slipped screens. Rebekah Hand shoots pretty well, not surprisingly, but she also had some terrible shots that hit nothing. After her first airball, I was tempted to tell her she was embarrassing our shared, albeit differently spelled, name. I think she was the one who completely blew a gorgeous screen from one of her teammates and bricked the jumper.

Alana Gilmer started off red hot, even with her unconventional over-the-head jumper. She showed impressive evasiveness for a woman of her frame, getting Maya Singleton (one of our better defenders) turned around in the early going. We switched defenses on her a couple of times, and got better results both from the length of Imani Littleton and the speed of our guards. Three fouls in the first half didn't help her either, and I think she tightened up in the second half. Willow Duffell brings them height, but right now I don't know what else she's giving them. Most of what I remember of her on the floor were mistakes- fouls, bad passes, airballs, and such. I get the sense that she was pressed into service before she was fully ready. Grace Vander Weide swung between positions a lot, and swung from extremes of shooting multiple terrible airballs to making big steals in the passing lanes. Hers was the screen referred to earlier.

There are things Marist still does very well. They rebounded off their missed free throws like they planned it all along. They still set up position outside the circle like someone built a tiny wall along its curve. They adapt their defense well. But I don't know if they planned to fiddle around in the backcourt for seven seconds almost every possession, or if they let our defense pressure them into that. Their shooting was unusually inconsistent, and their communication was off. They got looks, and either they went down or they most emphatically did not.

I'm glad Tamesha Alexander and Shamachya Duncan got to close the game out. I'm less glad neither of them got a shot off, though Sox did have a chance and promptly passed it off, because that's who Sox is and that's how she rolls. They're good kids. I'm passing fond of them. Kayla Charles has got to hang on to rebounds instead of tapping them around. Unless we have some tall people coming in next year's class that I don't know about, she's pretty much going to be the only post on the floor. She doesn't necessarily have anyone to tap the ball to.

Andrayah Adams did a lot of scoring in the fourth quarter, but I don't know if she was calling her own number or if there was some other perverse reason she was taking all the shots even when the deep bench was in the game. She spent way too much time driving one-on-everybody. She had better luck with her jumper, but even then it looked like she was just firing it off without thinking about the play sometimes. I feel like I'm being unreasonably hard on her, since we did win and she did lead us in scoring, but this was an unusually selfish game for her, and that's not necessarily a habit I want her to develop. Qadashah Hoppie hit a big three and did a good job of getting to the line, but I was most impressed with her defensive work. She stayed in front of the Marist guards and for the most part was successful in cutting off their drives.

Tiana England's hesitancy drove us a little bit crazy, but in a game like this where controlling the pace allowed us to milk the lead, it wasn't terrible. I wish her drives had gone down more often- she had a fantastic fast break off an interception that she just couldn't finish. But that inside pass to Imani Littleton was sweet- reminded me of some of the Liberty's interior passing under Laimbeer. Moments like those make me think she'll turn out all right at the point after all. Alisha Kebbe's so tough. I think her Philly is showing. She goes hard after loose balls, and the shots she comes up with seem to be at all the right times. She's got to work on her overall accuracy, but I'll take her toughness any day of the week. Akina Wellere had the three-ball working, and did some good work inside, but lost her mind on defense in the fourth quarter, committing three straight fouls, two of which were utterly unnecessary. We don't roll deep, 'Kina, we can't afford blatant reach-in fouls at the midcourt line. (I did enjoy her defense of her fourth foul, though; I think she was either arguing that the offensive player performed an illegal spin move or earnestly explaining to the ref that she needs a new dryer.)

I don't know how I feel about Maya Singleton's face-up game, but watching her own the shot clock like a boss on the one jump shot was pretty sweet. She was beasting on the glass. It was also very satisfying to watch her hit all of her free throws with the Marist band disconcerting her. But the player of the game was Imani Littleton, and what a time for her to shine. She took over on the inside, getting offensive rebounds and converting more of her opportunities than usual. She was assertive defensively, to the point of running herself out of plays. In every way she could, she made it abundantly clear that this was her game, her house, and her night, and she wasn't letting her career end here and now. I'm inordinately proud of how she played, and I hope we can keep seeing this through the WNIT.

Officiating was a bit ticky-tack for stretches, with stricter construction of the traveling rule than I've seen in a while (which made Akina's claim that the refs missed one even funnier).

I don't know who resents our spirit squads, but both cheer and dance had people knocked in the head with flying basketballs- cheer while in play, dance because someone's kid was messing around in the third deck without supervision. I am not okay with unsupervised children, by the way.

Perhaps we should minimize the use of our red-and-white chants when playing a team that shares our colors.

Too many Marist fans and not enough St. John's fans, but that's to be expected. Marist travels well and stays loyal. I remember some of those fans from my visits to McCann. And St. John's is not very good at expanding the fan base. Survive and advance. That's all that matters.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

March 2nd, 2018: Bryant at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: LIU raced out to a 21-4 first quarter lead, then held on tight in the fourth quarter to preserve a 69-61 win over Bryant. Denisha Petty-Evans had 22 points and five steals to power the Blackbirds, with DeAngelique Waithe adding 20 points and four blocks. Sydney Holloway had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead Bryant.

For reluctant farewells, seniors with traveling families, defensive stops, unexpected offense, people who are in the wrong section, gyrations, and no small amount of pride, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and of course our well-mannered folks who defy and deny the gender binary! We're not quite the post office, but we're not going to let anything like a nor'easter keep us from a game. Your intrepid blogger comes to you as one of the eight people currently in the stands at LIU as they take on Bryant.

Believe me, I'd rather have skipped this game and gone Sunday for Senior Day, but of course that's the day the Liberty are doing their select-a-seat event up in White Plains, and there's no way we can do both.

For God's sake, Stylz, put a shirt on, you're making me cold just looking at you. Granted, the new t-shirts are reasonably pointless and I can understand not wanting to wear them, but still.

Denisha Petty-Evans just blocked a pass with her face, I'm starting to think this is going to be a long night.

Literally the entire sections behind and in front of the visiting bench are empty, why have the Bryant fans decided to park in the section across from the home bench? I hope Nish's family shows up and gives them whatfor. Come on, man. You literally have to walk past the visiting bench and the sections near it to sit over here.

Seneca Richards always looks like she's running on two hours less sleep than she actually needs, but now there's an enormous shiner under her left eye, and her right's not looking all that great either.

Drew Winter's still hurt, Paris Jones is hurt again, and Destoni Willock's been getting taped up for half of warm-ups. Injuries are really starting to take their toll. I mean, it's the end of the season, we have, at best, two more games left, so there are worse times, but it's rough, man. It's rough. (Actually, looking closer at Destoni, she also looks a little dinged up around the eyes. Who's been throwing 'bows in practice?)

I have no idea what this song is, but they just namedropped Pinky and the Brain, so hello new favorite artist. Now, if the DJ could turn the volume down so that it's not vibrating through my feet, preferably before my ears start bleeding, that would be great.

I've never had occasion to use this in the positive sense, but what even is happening?! It's 42-19 at the half. 42-19 LIU. Hands up, everyone who expected that. Bryant is shooting like they've never seen a basketball hoop before. Denisha Petty-Evans has 13 points and a ridiculous number of steals to lead both the Blackbird offense and defense. Haley Connors has 5 off the bench to lead the scattershot Bryant offense.

I don't know if we can keep this up in the second half. We're short-handed, after all; eventually the energy spent on defense is going to come back to haunt us. We just need to hold on to enough of it.

We held on to enough of it. Bryant made a big run in the fourth quarter, but they made their move too soon, and we were able to recover defensively to hold the line. I love what this team brings on defense so much. We are so terrible on offense and so determined on defense that it makes my teeth hurt sometimes.

Brooke Bjelko did some work on putbacks right at the basket, but also missed a bunny down there. She's got good height, but she still needs a little work. She's only a freshman. She'll learn, I'm sure. Kathleen Everson was the belle of the ball for the people behind us, who were her family and extremely proud of her. I would be more appreciative of their appreciating her if her dad didn't do that ear-piercing whistle thing. She set a beautiful screen to set up one of the threes for Stephanie Lesko. I'm pretty sure she got multiple offensive rebounds on the same possession- there was one sequence where Bryant had three or four cracks at the basket before getting it to go down.

When I put together the roster card/score card for this game, I spent entirely too much time trying to figure out whether Stephanie Lesko was related to Tori Lesko at Iona. I probably should have waited until gametime, because while I love Tori, she does not have a jump shot, and this Lesko definitely has a jump shot. She came up big for Bryant in the fourth quarter. Haley Connors had a spurt of offense from the right wing in the first half, enough that we knew we couldn't leave her open. Kandis Taylor tended to be on the defensive end of the offense-defense substitutions. She's pretty stocky, and wasn't afraid to body up on anyone (I'm pretty sure she ended up entangled with at least one of our posts at least once).

Sydney Holloway plays like she wanted to play for Mike Carey and his physical West Virginia teams. (Yes, if you're from Morgantown and every foul you commit involves checking someone into the boards, you will get Mountaineer references, put your sunglasses on and deal with it.) She was able to draw a lot of fouls on paint penetration, and credit where credit is due, she converted on them. That's an incredibly important and underappreciated skill. I was impressed with her hustle, even when it cost her team (she was so enthusiastic about following up on a free throw that she committed a lane violation and negated a made shot). The people who shouted "HOLLA!" when she hit shots were simultaneously annoying but appreciated. Despite my "get off my lawn" tendencies, I like passionate opposing fans. They just need to not be on my lawn. Hannah Scanlan showed touch at the basket in the third quarter, but I think Bryant was happier with what they were getting from Everson than from Scanlan.

Naomi Ashley was really tough. She made a lot of plays happen low to the ground, whether it was wrestling the ball out of our guards' hands or getting an offensive board on the baseline. She went hard in the paint and on the glass, and she got rewarded for it. She made a lot of good things happen for Bryant on both ends of the floor. I kept thinking Kierra Palmer didn't play much, and then I looked at the box score and saw that she played over half the game. That probably doesn't say a lot of good things about her. The box score tells me that she threw up a lot of threes, but I don't remember seeing Bryant put up a lot of threes. Most of the bad shots I remember them putting up were random heaves in the paint at the basket. Masey Zegarowski had a pretty, pretty pass to set up Bjelko for an outside jumper, and a steal in the fourth quarter- I'm trying to remember if she or Ashley was the one who brute forced the ball out of Denisha's hands.

I have to give Bryant credit- they figured out who they were in the second half. They got outside shots to fall from their shooters, and converted better on the inside against our tired defense. They adjusted. I'm glad they didn't adjust enough to win, though.

Destoni Willock is going to be the death of me, if she's not the death of Coach Del Preore. You can't fault her hustle. You can fault her occasional urges to play for the Maple Leafs, or her occasional inability to recognize her teammates, or her lack of a shot. She'd be less dangerous to us and more dangerous to the opponent if she could consistently control her physicality. I was surprised not to see more of Ella Vaatanen in the second half- I thought she brought good energy on defense and decent size to cover on the perimeter. Jeydah Johnson hit big shots in the second half, but I'm not sure whether she was paying attention to what the play call was supposed to be. Sometimes it worked out. Sometimes it didn't. She had to play out of position a lot thanks to our short bench, and I don't think it affected her game positively.

Tia Montagne had probably the most freshman game that it is possible for a freshman to freshman. She made a whole lot of horrific passes that had no business attempting to go where she was attempting them. (Although, to be fair to Tia, the worst passing situation of the night came from our grad student.) She looked like a freshman trying to spearhead an offense that isn't exactly much of a spear to start with. She also had a monster block on Zegarowski, played frenetic defense on the ball, and sank two clutch free throws late in the game. Up and down, with moments of facepalm and moments of glory- if that's not the definition of a freshman, I don't know what is. Denisha Petty-Evans slowed down, or was slowed down, in the second half, but came up with two huge threes to help ice it in the fourth. Sometimes I question her shot selection, but someone on this team has to shoot and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be Tia. That being said, when they say to hit your teammate with the pass, they don't mean it literally. This isn't dodgeball. (Also, I love Angel to pieces, but she should have had enough court awareness to, y'know, not literally get hit with the basketball.) Seneca Richards continues to impress me with her clock awareness, though that might be because no one else on this team seems to really have it. I look forward to seeing how she develops next year.

Solid, solid game from Stylz Sanders. That's the best word that comes to mind for her. She hit the shots she needed to hit on the inside, especially in the first quarter. She made the defensive stops she needed to make, save those that would have involved her needing to be several inches taller. She boxed out well and rebounded well. She spoke up for her teammates when the refs were being, well, NEC refs who probably weren't looking forward to going home in the teeth of a nor'easter. I've grown to admire her leadership this season, taking the kids in hand. DeAngelique Waithe had herself a day on the inside, though there was a stretch in the third quarter where it looked like the coffee wore off and she was completely tuned out of the game. A particularly emphatic teaching moment ensued, and Angel got her head on straight once more, making a big defensive stop down the stretch and finishing with a bang on the fast break lay-up. I love to watch her defend. I enjoy watching her take good shots in the paint, too, but I really love to watch those long arms in action.

I knew we couldn't sustain the offensive pace we were putting out in the first half. I was worried about the collapse in the fourth quarter, because Bryant is good enough, and we're mostly young enough, that it might have gone all the way down. But I should have remembered that our seniors and our grad student weren't going to let that happen. Nish made buckets, and Angel made stops, and we held the line.

Granted, this may also have been because the players were getting tired, but we went from a total of six fouls in the first half to something like fifteen fouls in the third quarter. It wasn't like it was dangerously physical in the first half and needed to be reined in, either. The refs just seemed to remember that there were whistles around their necks and wanted to take full advantage of them. And then Bryant didn't get called for a foul until midway through the fourth quarter. It looked a little fishy, but we got through it.

The halftime scrimmage involved unusually small Brooklyn Bulldogs. They didn't look old enough to be in college, but you know how kids are starting their education younger and younger these days. (The joke here is that Brooklyn College's teams are called the Bulldogs.)

Dance team has been working on their moves. Spines don't work that way!

We got to say goodbye to Denisha's mom and grandma after the game, and then to DeAngelique herself when she came out to say hi to her family. Man, I am so bummed I'm going to miss this Senior Day. This senior class has been so clutch for us.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 27th, 2018: Rhode Island at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fordham dealt with Rhode Island in the first round of the A-10 tournament, 75-53. G'mrice Davis had 23 points and 16 rebounds to pace Fordham. Elemy Colome's 15 points off the bench led Rhode Island.

For many flocks of Rams, the sound of one hand slapping, holding your teammates accountable, messing with the kid, tripping, clipping, and slick passing, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

The postseason is upon us! Your intrepid blogger is at Fordham for the first round of the A-10 tournament, as the Rams host... er, the Rams. The ones from Rhode Island, that is.

Protip: do not take buses in the Bronx anytime near rush hour. I didn't get to the game until quarter to seven. (On the plus side, I caught a shiny event Pikachu!)

I'm not used to seeing Bre Cavanaugh's hair this color- she's completely washed out the dye. I think she also freshened up the sides. She looks very sharp.

Fantastic choral anthem. I mean, I should expect Catholic schools to have good choirs, but they were especially good.

It is 41-14 Fordham at halftime. G'mrice Davis already has a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, along with some of the best facial expressions of disbelief I have ever seen. (Jalissa Ross wanted to start something with her, and her reaction was truly something to behold. I missed what Ross said, but it earned her a technical.) The hot passing under the basket has been great for Fordham. We're playing at a speed they can't keep up with.

Well, we gave back more of the lead than I would have liked, but much of that was on the backs of the deep reserves, who are deep reserves for a reason. I think this Fordham team is ready for Richmond, and I don't know if Richmond is ready for them.

We saw Gabrielle Green very briefly in the first half, and she did not nothing of note. Kasey Gagan had a tendency to sneak into games after timeouts, which was very confusing. It's like, c'mon, I already don't know you people from a hole in the wall, don't confuse me like that. Ednaija Lassiter, who was going by a shorter form of her first name that I didn't fully catch from the PA guy, got extended run in the first half, but I don't think we saw her again in the second half. I wasn't impressed with what I saw of her. I'm trying to remember which terrible three-point miss was hers- Rhode Island missed a lot of three-pointers badly.

Laura Perez saw a good amount of time in the second half. I think she was running point, but I won't swear to it; if nothing else, observation has shown that point guards aren't even a thing anymore. Elemy Colome got the second half start in place of Jalissa Ross, possibly so Ross would have a little time to calm down after the shenanigans with G'mrice Davis. She's feisty. She drove hard to the basket. I don't think I like her on defense, though. She seemed awfully fond of playing way too low, going after knees and laying out trips. I realize some of the falls may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, but there was a particularly blatant one that Lauren Holden suffered that she was trying to play off. Dina Motrechuk got most of her points in the fourth quarter, scoring on our subs. That's not to say anything against her turnaround, mind you. She was physical, and called on for perhaps more time than she was expecting with the foul trouble that Jorgensen got into.

Maia Moffitt's a New Yorker, and she had family at the game, so part of me is glad she got a couple of buckets to go down. She's scrappy on the boards- she chased down a couple of loose balls in impressive fashion. I think she did actually wrestle one away in the first half. Her freshman-ness shows a bit in her offensive positioning. Abby Streeter was the designated three-point shooter- there was one possession where she was wide open in the corner and her teammates managed to miss her. It ended up in a Rhode Island basket anyway, I believe, but I was astonished someone could be so open and be so ignored. Marta Vargas was a playmaker, but only in spurts. I think she was one of the many players from whom G'mrice drew charges.

I have absolutely no idea what got under Jalissa Ross's skin or why she fouled G'mrice so hard and then proceeded to try and stare her down. There may also have been words. I didn't hear them. As mentioned earlier, I was a wee bit distracted by G's facial expressions. I didn't think it was possible to pull off the "don't you make me take my earrings off" look without actually wearing earrings. Ross had a nice block, though I didn't correctly notate who she smooshed, and if this were football I think Moffitt would have gotten half-credit on it. I think we frustrated her by not letting her inside, and she lost her cool. Nicole Jorgensen is a load down low- if she can get the shot up, it's probably going in. She's got a little bit of outside touch, but she seemed to be at her best going to the basket. She had a big block on G'mrice in the third quarter. Foul trouble kept her off the floor a lot, and I don't think that exactly helped the other Rams.

I was impressed with Rhode Island's defensive intensity. They couldn't keep it up all game, and we were able to use some really crisp passing to get ahead of them and get open looks. If they had any ability to shoot from the outside, they might have given us more of a fight, but they just couldn't hit a jumper to save their lives for most of the night.

The deep bench for Fordham is not yet ready for prime time. Nice kids, good hustle, but definitely not ready a nice hustle play on the glass, though. Katie McLoughlin needs to get her to the weight room- she just doesn't have the strength to stop stronger guards from diving on her, and she gets knocked over way too easily. The foul on Kristen Ryan should in no way have been called excessive. Yes, she fell on the opponent, but it was not intentional and it was not unnecessary contact. It wasn't the kind of play that merited serious review with two minutes left in a 25-point game.

I was surpised to see Ralene Kwiatkowski playing alongside Lauren Holden for stretches in the third quarter- usually Ralene subs for Lauren. I don't think either of them was expecting it either, because the offense looked a little ragged with both of them out there. It was adorable to see everyone's reactions when Ralene hit the three, though- she's usually the one running up and down the bench to give out the high-fives. (That responsibility devolved to Kendell Heremaia while Ralene was on the court.) I do think she's got potential as a point guard, but I don't see her being able to play with Lauren Holden for long stretches, which could be a problem next year, unless Coach commits to Ralene as the backup point guard and Lauren and Bre as the starting backcourt. Zara Jillings continues to make heady plays on the floor, with the occasional unnecessary foul. She had a fantastic hot pass to G'mrice underneath, right near the end of the shot clock when we thought for sure she'd have to be the one to take the shot. I would still like to see her be a little more assertive offensively, but her passing has been fantastic, so there's only so much I can say about that. I'm not sure how I feel about Kendell Heremaia taking nothing but threes. She's strong enough that she might be able to get easy points on the inside, but I'd have to watch her drive to know for certain.

Mary Goulding makes so many plays happen by being in the right place at the right time. She looks incredibly awkward doing it, but somehow she always seemd to be able to come up with the loose ball or the steal. I don't know if I'd call the steal and lay-up a fast break, per se, but it was definitely a break. Johanna Klug picked up a couple of early fouls and never really seemed to be in the flow of the game- she stayed in with the deep bench at the end of the game, which was when she got most of her shots off. She'll be fine next year, IMO; sometimes the freshman wall just hits you that way. G'mrice Davis was on fire. Rhode Island was keying on her inside, very physically, and she still got buckets. She ripped down rebounds with her usual "this ball is mine, like it or not" ferocity and laid a block down on Lassiter that was resounding. Rhode Island knew she was the player to beat, proceeded to try to beat her up, and still couldn't stop her, because that's how G rolls.

Lauren Holden was launching from three, and while sometimes I questioned her shot selection (yes, it's possible to shoot too quickly in the Fordham offense) I can't deny that her three-pointers really broke Rhode Island's collective back. She's so quick, and she does a lot of smart things on the floor. Bre Cavanaugh is cold-blooded. She took over in the second quarter to really push the lead. This wasn't one of her superstar days, but it didn't need to be. She needed to be a threat, and she was, but this was G's night.

There were times when we were out of control on the speed, and I'll credit Rhode Island's defense for that. But there were more times when the interior passes worked, or when we were able to find the open player faster than they were able to react. I think we were on a mission after the loss to St. Joseph's- and now we get the rematch in Richmond. No, that's not going to have a tinge of revenge to it, not at all.

There was a stretch when I was convinced that Jeffrey Smith had the spread at under 30. That would, of course, be unethical, and I would never truly believe a game official would be betting on games. But there were some putrid game management calls in the fourth quarter that kept Rhode Island closer than they had any right to be. If the people in the stands can hear the slap of a hand against an arm, you should probably call the foul.

It's worth mentioning that this game was technically an A-10 tournament game, despite being hosted at Fordham, so certain tournament rules were in effect- introductions alternated between the teams, there was a generic A-10 video before introductions instead of Fordham's video, and all graphics were tournament-based instead of being Fordham's usual ones. However, Rhode Island brought neither band nor cheer, and I don't know if that was by choice, by lack of the appropriate spirit squads, or by tournament by-laws. It would be interesting to get reports from other sites.

Shoutout to the dude who won the timeout shooting contest, including the halfcourt shot. No shoutouts to the students who came, got their free food, played their contests, and fled as soon as they could. Support your school, man.

I miss the band's old arrangement of "Seven Nation Army" (which, given our international nature, should be our theme song of sorts) where one guitar picked out the lyric line while the rest of the band did the usual refrain. That's not to say that the dude whaling on the electric guitar wasn't good, but it was nice to have something different.

The Fordham cheerleaders actually led a cheer! Miracle of miracles! Seriously, I would be louder at Fordham games if I knew their specific cheers.

I think Fordham's on a mission, and I hope they do steal that A-10 title. It would be awesome.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

February 25th, 2018: Marquette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Marquette made a run in the second quarter and never looked back in a 76-57 win at St. John's to finish the regular season and claim a share of the Big East regular season title. Allazia Blockton's 19 points led four Golden Eagles in double figures. Andrayah Adams and Maya Singleton each had 11 points for the Red Storm.

For fond farewells, movie night, shooting your shot, secrets, terrible singing, joy for others, the long road trip, and looking forward, join your intrepid and serene blogger after the jump.

Are you ready to get punched right in the feels? I'm not, but Senior Day waits for no woman. (Much to my annoyance. Everyone needs to stop scheduling things on everyone's Senior Days.) St. John's is pretty much locked into the fifth seed, but Marquette has everything to play for, with the regular season conference title still in play.

As always, it's Girls and Women in Sports Day for Senior Day, so the place is filling up from the clinic kids. They have the little roller signs, and I'm a tiny bit jealous, but we have a flag, so their argument is invalid, or something like that.

Given who Sox reminds me of and what number she wears, it's appropriate that Sky Lindsay is working this game. She's not as sparkly as she was on Friday, but she still knows how to draw the eye.

I get the sense that our strength and conditioning coach was either a Tolkien dwarf in a previous life or secretly plays one in a D&D campaign.

Well, we know Maya's got family here, and suddenly the kid running around in Maryland gear makes a lot more sense.

Senior Day was as it ever was. Each of the three seniors, plus the senior manager, got a brief speech talking around and about their accomplishments for the program. Boy, did they drag out the clichés for Sox. At least this year they didn't use the BHA jerseys for the framed jersey. Small mercies. The two things I wish St. John's would do that I've seen other schools do is acknowledge the opponent's seniors (so in this case, Shantelle Valentine) and cut a short highlight reel for the seniors. I think you could pull together enough footage of even Sox for that short a ceremony.

At halftime it's 36-25 Marquette. They're killing us on the break. Steals lead to fast break points lead to your intrepid blogger tearing her hair out (and I'm starting to get to that age where it doesn't grow back as easily). Amani Wilborn has 10 to lead Marquette. Maya Singleton seems to be our offensive target today, with eight points.

Imani Littleton's family is sitting over by us. They seem cool. Louder than Imani is.

Wow, there are a lot of buckets being scored in this scrimmage.

The kid who did the obstacle course should be lucky Maya's uncle the Marine didn't look up at the weaksauce push-ups he was doing, or he might have had to do them again and again.

Alumnae reunion today. So far I've spotted Kendyl Nunn, Aaliyah Lewis, Jade Walker, and Danaejah Grant for sure, and possibly Kimberly Spruill and Sandra Udobi. (And obviously Shenneika Smith, Da'Shena Stevens, and Sky Lindsay are here but working in various capacities.) I don't know who all was there, because heaven forfend that they actually acknowledge alumnae by name instead of in one big "thanks for coming!" message.

I think Joe was looking ahead to Chicago; our seed was locked and Marquette was the team with everything to play for. We ran out of give-a-damn in the third quarter, and Marquette only got stronger. I suspect someone was scoreboard-watching for Marquette, either one of the support staff or one of the traveling fans, and they knew exactly what the stakes were, knew that DePaul had won and knew that Villanova was beating Creighton, knew that the regular season title and the top seed were theirs for the taking if they kept the pressure on. So congrats to the Golden Eagles- they deserve this, and I know what this means to that program and the legacy of the class of 2019.

Altia Anderson and Sandra Dahling only came in at the very end of the game, when everything had been decided. Isabelle Spingola came in very briefly, mostly as a shooter, though the one she hit was, I think, a lay-up. Shantelle Valentine was so unprepared to come in that when she checked in, she forgot to take off her warm-up shirt. Given her class, I couldn't help but yell, "Having a senior moment?" Look, sometimes life hands you straight lines.

Impressed with Selena Lott. She's still wearing off some of the freshman roughness, and still not always sure where she's supposed to be, but she's learning quickly and well. She had a nifty steal for a fast break lay-up, and a big block on Qadashah Hoppie to end a St. John's possession. She's sort in that tweener hole that Allazia Blockton is, without as much skill as Blockton- but she's also two years younger. Lauren Van Kleunen set good screens and was solid inside, with just enough perimeter offense to make her a threat.

Okay, I'm looking at the official box score now, and I don't understand how Natisha Hiedeman only has one steal. She was all over the passing lanes. It's really obvious where she's going. You can't pull off stealth mode with a giant blonde Afro that's a few shades too light to be proper Marquette gold. She missed some easy bunnies, but I'd be willing to bet that she still had a positive +/- just based on her defense. Amani Wilborn penetrated and drew fouls, and of course this was the day she was going to hit the threes that she doesn't usually knock down. She had a scary moment in the first half where she went down hard and play didn't stop for several possessions. That's on the refs for not stopping play. I'm glad she was able to get back into the game; there are times when I'm bloodthirsty, but I usually don't like seeing injuries. Danielle King is really the engine that makes the Golden Eagles fly. I'd love to see a breakdown of her +/-, because it seemed like what little second half momentum we had was when she was out of the game, and Marquette got back on track when she re-entered. She's so tiny, but she's quick and she's heady. I still don't know how she beat the shot clock on that one play. She's got game inside and out.

I swear Allazia Blockton's getting taller. This is not fair and it's ridiculous. She's already ridiculous. Not only does she have an outside shot and not only can she penetrate to score, now she's also blocking shots, boxing out, and rebounding like a true small forward. She is so good. She's ridiculous. If she doesn't have a pro career it's a shame. Erika Davenport rebounded hard and took advantage of our terrible passing. There were interior passes that we were not paying attention to that we should have been paying attention to. She's such a good option for them underneath. I have no idea why we were trying to throw guards on her. That is a terrible plan and we should feel terrible for attempting it.

I have no idea why Joe decided to throw Shamachya Duncan into the game in the third quarter. She gave up a basket and scored one just as quickly. She's got spunk, I'll give her that, but she's still not ready for prime time, and her usual schtick of getting the team and the crowd excited with threes doesn’t work if she doesn't take threes. Kayla Charles really needs to stop fighting her teammates for rebounds. Y'all are wearing the same uniform, it's kind of obvious y'all should be working together.

Andrayah Adams got going in the fourth quarter for some rapid-fire buckets, and had a really nifty rebound in the third quarter- I think that was one she pretty much stole from Marquette on a scrap. I guess she likes playing against Marquette or something. Qadashah Hoppie seemed to have decided that this was her weekend to take all the shots. There were possessions where she was the only St. John's player to touch the ball. I have a problem with this. I very much have a problem with this. Yes, Joe pulls her when she takes exceptionally bad shots, but there don't seem to be any lasting reprecussions from ballhogging. She's got to work on her defense- hand down, man down, everyone knows that. Even the family in the stands knows that. I know she's only a freshman, and there are tendencies that need to be coached out of her. I just don't know if Joe's that kind of coach, and if he has that kind of leverage. But it's too early to think about next year. Tiana England played well, although she was tentative initiating the offense. But that's the same as it ever was. She can't be that tentative when dealing with teams that like to jump the passing lanes- her passing was way too soft today and that led to Marquette steals and fast breaks.

Maya Singleton was the main offensive target today- we were feeding her early. Seniority hath its privileges, I suppose. I thought she relied too much on her jumper today, but if that's what she was getting, I understand it. She was getting boxed out more easily than I'm used to. Imani Littleton laid a monster block on Danielle King (though you get no degree of difficulty points on that) and did her best to rebound, but she was getting boxed out and getting very little help from her teammates. There were too many sequences where three or four blue jerseys surrounded one white jersey. And I'm still salty about that fantastic fast break she blew- if you get that steal, take it up, don't just throw it willy-nilly at the rim.

For once, Joe actually acknowledged senior privilege and gave Tamesha Alexander the ceremonial start in place of Tiana. We were all encouraging her to go get herself a bucket, since that's a thing that doesn't happen very often, but she got a rebound and an assist, and that seems to be the kind of thing she's happy with. Akina Wellere's three-point shot just wasn't going down. She had better luck going to the basket and getting free throws, and I really would like to see her do more of that. She's got the build for it, and sometimes the jumper just isn't working. Alisha Kebbe was inconsistent, though she picked up her offense briefly in the third quarter. On one possession she might lay a block on Wilborn; on another, she might literally have her back turned to her assignment. I love Alisha's hustle, but I wish she could bring it consistently.

Rebounding killed us- rather, the lack thereof. Or maybe it was the insistence on shooting threes. Or maybe it was the dicey passing. I don't know. It might simply have been that Marquette had everything to gain and we had nothing left to play for but pride. And I don't know if we're a team that thrives on pride and holding our ground.

I think the officials occasionally labored under the misapprehension that we all came to see them. We didn't.

Dance team finished strong. Man, they're good.

Let the record show that Akina can't sing. Let the record also show that Maya needs to expand her ice cream palate.

We didn't stay for the movie, but we did come through the autograph line to thank our seniors and wish the kids luck in Chicago. Sox now knows she's my favorite among this iteration of Johnnies. I told her not to tell the rest of the squad. Hopefully they won't read this. (Favorite person, I should clarify. Her energy is irresistible. Favorite player? Ah, that changes month by month sometimes.)

There were Girl Scouts. There were Girl Scout patches. Now I have to remember where I put my sash and get a sewing kit. I was never the best Scout, but I was a Scout with pride.

I very much want to love this team with a smack upside the head sometimes, because they frustrate me, but I do still love them and I think they have potential to grow. There will come a time when they're tested, and either they'll come out of it stronger or they'll break and we'll be in for another rough stretch. I'll be there either way.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

February 23rd, 2018: DePaul at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: DePaul used a scoring flurry at the beginning of the fourth quarter to put away a 67-54 win over St. John's. Kelly Campbell and Mart'e Grays each notched a double-double to power the Blue Demons, with Grays's 17 points and 10 rebounds leading the way. Tiana England had 21 points for St. John's to lead all scorers, with Maya Singleton adding a double-double of her own.

For frustration, very large numbers, shivering with anticipation, foul trouble, indecisive weather, music appreciation, and playing the wrong game, join your intrepid and mystical blogger after the jump.

Hello, everyone! It's a misty, drizzly, gray sort of day in New York City, as St. John's goes into the final weekend of the regular season. We end the conference season the same way we started it: against the top two teams in the conference. First up, DePaul.

Sky Lindsay is very sparkly tonight, possibly to the point where there are going to be refractions off her shirt. I know I'm getting distracted by the shiny object whenever I look down towards the court. So sparkly.

Would someone please explain to folks that you don't sit behind the visiting bench? Leave that for visiting fans. That way, they're with their people, and they're not pushed out into the main mass of fans. Well, such as both groups are. There's a knot of about ten DePaul fans and that's about twenty percent of the crowd. Okay, maybe ten percent. It's filling ever so slightly. And it's dreary weather and a work night. But still. It's DePaul. If any team in this conference has a women's basketball pedigree- at least one that outshines its men's basketball pedigree- it's DePaul.

Place has filled up a bit, but still not to my satisfaction.

At halftime, it's 29-25 DePaul. I don't think we're going to keep shooting this badly, but I also don't think we're going to keep turning over DePaul like this. Tiana England has 11 points to lead St. John's; Mart'e Grays has 10 to lead a very balanced DePaul attack.

Well, that could have ended better. We were actually doing pretty well, defensively, until the fourth quarter, but we couldn't buy enough buckets. Shooting 1-for-googol from beyond the arc doesn't help. (Yes, I know that's an exaggeration, but 1-20 gets to feel like like that eventually.) Neither does barely squeaking across 50% from the line, though I realize 5-9 from the line isn't going to make up a 13-point deficit. It's fascinating and frustrating to so visibly watch a team's give-a-damn-o-meter hit empty so quickly. It was like we decided that we knew it was coming and when it came we rolled under it.

Vinisha Sherrod is so adorably freshman that Doug Bruno had to yell at her to get her to check in at the scorer's table before subbing into the game. I get the feeling she's even newer at this than the rest of her classmates. Rachel McLimore is carrying around an enormous shoulder brace, and if that's the reason why she doesn't get a lot of minutes, I completely understand. Deja Cage actually got a couple of minutes in the first half, before joining the rest of the deep subs at the very end of the game (Bruno took his time going deep into the bench, and ended up burning two timeouts just for subs, but I guess you don't get to take them home with you, so you might as well). Dee Bekelja looks the most like she needs to hit the weight room for conditioning out of her class, though I don't know enough about her to know whether she's stocky or if she's in fact carrying extra weight. (I am, however, petty enough to observe that she's probably not going to be FOY the way she was predicted to be.)

There's a toughness about the way Tanita Allen carries herself that's a little scary. She makes it clear that you don't really want to mess with her. She matched up surprisingly well with Maya Singleton in her minutes. She draws the defense out to the perimeter, though that's a thing you can say about most DePaul players. Lauren Prochaska did a good job of boxing out and getting position on the boards. She uses her lower center of gravity well. I still wonder if she's related to the Lauren Prochaska who played at Bowling Green.

Remind me never to play pinball with Chante Stonewall. She had a knack for picking up loose change (or for flicking it to St. John's). She has a fantastic name for defense, and there were times when her long arms were definitely disruptive out on the perimeter. She and Maya Singleton are not in the same weight class, and I think she needs to figure that out before the BE tournament, if only for the sake of self-preservation. Maya took her two falls out of three. Mart'e Grays seemed to be throwing shots at the basket with no regard as to whether they went in or not. Her penetration skills were very impressive. She brings them a lot of toughness, as well as fantastic hair. The way she wears those two braids like a crown looks really nice.

Ashton Millender started to annoy me in the fourth quarter when her threes started dropping from the left wing. We get it, that's your spot. Well, at least I got it. Somehow our defense didn't seem to get it. DePaul is very good at shooting threes, and while Millender has evolved from the three-and-D player she was early in her career, that's still one of her strengths. Amarah Coleman seems to have migrated further and further outside the longer she's been at DePaul. I guess that makes sense, and it certainly drove our defense mad trying to stay with her on the perimeter. On the other hand, she had trouble staying with us on inside. She's long, but she's slim, and I don't know if she has the strength to bang with a true interior post player. Kelly Campbell's threes always seemed to be backbreakers, momentum-killers, tide-turners. She was brutal. She boxed out, and took advantage of her teammates' boxouts, to help force us into one-and-done situations.

What surprised me about DePaul was their lack of shot clock awareness. It was if everyone on the floor had completely forgotten that the clock doesn't reset if the shot doesn't hit the rim. We were able to force three shot clock violations, and nearly a fourth, from a team that's normally very disciplined in that regard. This is a younger team than DePaul usually has, but still.

Shamachya Duncan saw time far earlier in the game than we're used to. I hope it didn't actually have to do with today being her birthday, because giving out playing time as a birthday gift against the top team in the conference is a terrible idea. She brought a little bit of defense, but I think using her early in the game played into the concept that we were the three-point shooting team, and we're really not. I don't know if it was our own stupidity or DePaul's defense that forced us into it, but I don't like it. Tamesha Alexander continues to be small and adorable. Not as small as Machi, but adorable anyway. I might have given Kayla Charles a little more run instead of going with guard-heavy sets when our posts were in foul trouble, but given that she was battling her own teammates for rebounds, I might understand why Joe was reluctant to go to her. She got her lunch eaten by Coleman late in the game.

I don't know what was up with Andrayah Adams tonight, but it's not okay. She was a mess on defense and way in love with her jump shot. She looked like she didn't know what she was doing on the floor or where she was supposed to be. And that's still better on offense than Qadashah Hoppie managed. Now, I'll grant that she had a hell of a time in the first half, with shots rolling out all over the place, to the point where I directed some pointed questions Upstairs. (Yes, I argue with what I believe to be imaginary beings when one of my Catholic schools is playing.) But there comes a point when you just have to stop and realize things are not working. And Q just kept jacking shots. Eventually that erodes your teammates' confidence in you- there was a sequence where Q was wide open on the wing and I think it was Akina who missed her (though it might have been Tiana).

Akina Wellere looks very strange without her headband- it disappeared at some point in the second half, as if she were trying to channel the Skylar Diggins superstition. She got good looks from beyond the arc, and they didn't go down. She kept taking them. I'd have liked to see her penetrate more and try to create offense that way instead of continuing to do the same thing over and over. It gets frustrating after a while. Alisha Kebbe hustled on the glass, but couldn't get her offense going until the fourth quarter. Even then, she was mostly looking at corner threes instead of going with what was working for her. The only one in the backcourt who really seemed to come to play was Tiana England, who drove relentlessly into the lane for buckets. One of the support staff was yelling, "All day, T, all day!" at her, and he was right. . I don't know if DePaul overlooked her in the scouting report, or if she was just that good at cutting through their defense, but this was her night and it was glorious. And of course I was left wondering why she couldn't be this assertive all the time, instead of constantly backing out and running clock.

Maya Singleton started the game off like she was the one who wanted to win it single-handedly, but she started picking up fouls, and that took her out of the game, both in the sense of her being stuck on the bench and in the sense of taking away some of her defensive aggressiveness. We need her too much to be picking up cheap fouls, though I suppose we're also lucky she didn't face any consequences for Stonewall trying to go three falls out of five with her. Bruno certainly wanted a review on the first play. (I still can't believe Stonewall managed to pass concussion protocol after a hit that heavy. She went down hard.) Imani Littleton's mobility continues to be sporatic. I like her defensive instincts, but sometimes she just can't move the way she wants to, and it means she can't get to the spot and ends up fouling.

Three-point shooting is not our strength. I don't know why we played like it was. I don't know if that was DePaul's defense or our own idiocy. There were lanes, though not all the time, and DePaul did an okay job collapsing on them.

I think we actually got the benefit of more no-calls than DePaul did. And Bonita Spence was watching over us tonight, with the number of travels that were being called. There was a stretch of three or four possessions where three of them ended in travels. It was a little ridiculous.

Band was really off their game. I love the crew, but they need to get their act together in a hurry.

Why do people act like ravening savages for t-shirts?

We had to know going into this game it wouldn't be easy. And I think we were able to take advantage of DePaul's turnovers. But our passing needs to be crisper, and we need to play our own game, not the other team's game. And the road doesn't get easier, with Marquette to finish the regular season, with Marquette playing for the top seed and a regular season title. Marquette matches up even better with us. We have to be ready.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 17th, 2018: LIU at St. Francis NY

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A strong third quarter from St. Francis cemented their 64-54 win in the Battle of Brooklyn. Jade Johnson took game MVP honors with 23 points for the Terriers. Jeydah Johnson had 15 points to lead LIU.

For bad calls, possibly having the entire arena staring at you, literal-mindedness, dance teams, winning raffle tickets, dubious shot selection, and the fierce joy of rivalry, join your intrepid and emotionally exhausted blogger after the jump.

Basketball never stops. Neither do rivalries. We go from the Awkward Bowl to the Battle of Brooklyn, as LIU travels to St. Francis.

There's no nice way to say this: St. Francis plays in a dump. Except for permanent seating, the gym where my high school played its games was better (or at least better lit). Hell, the gym where we actually had gym class wasn't that much worse, and there were support columns in the middle. Pope is small, and not well laid out- you literally have to go through the cafeteria to get behind the benches. The lighting is bad. The red padding on the walls combines with the blue of the sidelines to turn them a purple closer to Albany or Hunter than any color SFC has ever warn. The bleachers are probably older than I am, and not well kept. It looks like the low-budget mid-major facility it is, with an added gloss of no damns given.

That being said, the graffiti-style mural on the wall is pretty cool.

I love everything about the design on the back of LIU's warmup shirts, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the milk crate.

Jeydah Johnson just ran up four rows bleachers to greet the folks behind us, so I'm going to guess that her family came out for this game. Didn't turn around to look (it's not polite to stare).

SFC is wearing Play4Kay warm-up shirts and LIU is wearing pink socks; if they've turned a rivalry game into a pink game I will be very annoyed.

Dance team just showed up, and I don't mean the Terriers'. I told y'all this was a rivalry. One of them has a kidlet in tow.

Aaaaaand Drew Winter's not warming up with the rest of the team. At least Autumn Ashe is off the crutches. Small mercies.

I don't applaud recorded anthems. Especially bad recordings.

At halftime it's 33-21 St. Francis, with a hearty amount of help from some of the worst officiating I've seen in years. Y'all thought Paris Jones fell down by herself? Nah. Meanwhile, we're getting hit at the other end with no call.

I don't know what god Coach put the fear of into the refs, but they weren't as awful in the second half. We had opportunities that we didn't capitalize on, and those are going to be the things that Coach Del Preore is going to hammer home in the next film review.

Destoni Willock got some run, mostly in the second half, and did very little with it. A reasonable chunk of it was spent subbing for players with four fouls. I'd really like to see something more out of her. I had lower expectations when I forgot that she was a junior college transfer. Stylz Sanders was actually switched to the bench for this game, but played a lot of minutes anyway. Her lack of size is becoming a more and more apparent problem, and I hate to say it, but it's a more or less self-correcting problem. She's a senior, after all.

Seneca Richards continues to improve, and that's been the bright spot in these losses. She's got a good head for what she needs to do on the floor at what time and score. Paris Jones, bless her heart, is so tiny and tries so hard, and she did hit a very nice three near the end of the game, but she's more than a step slow on defense. Going to her is desperation time, but these are the things you have to do when your starting point is injured.

DeAngelique Waithe picked up two quick fouls in the first two minutes, and that was it for her for the first half. When she came back in the second half, she looked a step slow and a whole lot confused. She shook it off in the fourth quarter, picking up boards and putbacks. I don't think she likes losing to St. Francis. I don’t think she likes losing, period, but she seemed to be taking this game even more seriously than most. Ella Vaatanen wasn't able to build on her success in the last game I saw the squad in, and she got benched pretty quickly, not to be seen again until it was time to give out fouls.

If Jeydah Johnson could consistently finish on those penetrations in the lane, we'd be in far better shape. She's also got to do a better job of being aware of time and score. If you're down three possessions with less than a minute to go and you have a shooter open in the corner, you don't go for the contested shot in the lane. I don't know if I should be riding her so hard, since her offense was part of how we were in this game, but her freshman tendencies came back to bite us late. I'm also not sure just how much she's listening when it comes to game strategy and how much she'd rather do what she thinks is the right thing to do, whether it actually is or not. Denisha Petty-Evans brought offense and quick steals, but came up hopping on a steal attempt. She shook it off. I'd love to know what the design on her sneakers was. It looked fun. We need someone like her, but a four-year player, someone we can build an offense around while everyone else defends. Tia Montagne shares the freshman affliction of timidity that plagues so many young point guards. She keeps looking for the perfect pass, the perfect shot, and she hasn't yet understood that she's not going to find it. When she drives, I'd like for her to be able to aim for the backboard and get it towards the basket instead of a wild heave.

Free throws win ball games, and we left too many points at the line. Given how few opportunities we had, not taking advantage of those stings quite a lot.

Y'all are undoubtedly tired of hearing me complain about not being able to tell St. Francis players apart (I mean, come on, can one of you at least wear a French braid or something?) so I'm going to keep it to a minimum. At least I'll try. That being said, shoutout to Dana DiRenzo for her headband and bun to differentiate her from the rest of her teammates. She didn't do a lot on the floor, but at least I can refer to her as something other than "the one with the ponytail". St. Francis didn't really go on the perimeter for their subs, for the most part; Mia Ehling was the only other guard to get off the bench, and she didn't play a lot. I think she hit her free throws at the end of the game during the foul derby.

Abby Anderson's not ready for prime time. Gotta hit the free throws, or else the opponent is going to just keep targeting you. Samantha Keltos was able to take advantage of defensive lapses to get close to the basket for easy buckets. She's a big girl and makes herself an easy target. Casey Carangelo played very briefly. She's tall, and she might be useful for them at some point.

The way the PA guy says Maria Palarino's name is so annoying that I was screaming for us to stop her just so I wouldn't have to hear it anymore. She brought a good amount of hustle to the floor. Lorraine Hickman did a good job of cutting to the basket and making herself available for passes and putbacks. Alex Delaney still thinks she has a three-point shot, and admittedly the one shot she did hit was a trey, but she's still at her best throwing her weight around in the lane. I admire her toughness and I'm glad she's managed to get some of the chippiness out of her game in the last couple of years.

Amy O'Neill has an odd hitch in her shot, but it works for her. She sliced through the lane like a hot knife through butter. Very quick. Very annoying. Jade Johnson decided this would be a lovely day to demonstrate that she can in fact hit shots while standing in one of the cabs on the Wonder Wheel. She was unstoppable, not that we seemed to be doing much to try to stop her. Beautiful jumper. It's no wonder she was the game MVP, and no one else really had any business being considered.

Too many three-pointers. Cannot cope. Too much second half rebounding. Cannot cope.

These notes aren't as detailed as I would like them to be because I was being very fannish for much of the game, screaming at the top of my lungs, cheering every possession, riding and dying with my team. Rivalries can do that. It's glorious and cathartic and enraging all at the same time. And I certainly have my reasons for disliking Thurston. (The rest of St. Francis I don't really have an issue with.)

St. Francis has a step team. They're not that good, but they bring good spirit on the sidelines. I miss our spirit squad.

Our dance team kicked their team's butts. Then again, either SFC has a really small team or they were short-handed, so that's not much to crow about.

There was an actual-facts Franciscan brother in the stands, in the brown robe and everything.

I'm sorry we lost, but I think we gave as good an accounting of ourselves as we could. I look forward to next year's Battle.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

February 16th, 2018: Seton Hall at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's started strong and was never threatened in a 75-56 win over Seton Hall. Alisha Kebbe had 20 points to lead four Johnnies in double figures. Nicole Jimenez led the Pirates with 17 points.

For orange ribbons, surprising concern, endless shoelaces, mugging for the camera, three-pointers, and the happy kind of tired, join your intrepid and quickly turning around blogger after the jump.

Awkward Bowl, round 2, FIGHT!

They brought out the big guns for this game- LaChina Robinson is on the call and Madame Commissioner herself is in the house.

It's '90s night, and someone in graphic design has had a lot of fun adapting the wordmarks into various '90s franchises. If there is a merciful god, neither of these teams will live up to the theme.

Who dunked Jayla Jones-Pack's head in the Kool-Aid? She knows SHU is doing their BHA night next week, right?

Supposedly Seton Hall is bringing two busloads, which may be why Tony was okay with my husband chilling on the red side of the force.

Substitute announcer. Maybe this one will announce subs.

Overly stylized anthem. Dude did not have the voice to carry it off. It works sometimes, but not when you don't have the voice.

I don't know how good a plan it is to publicly and brightly burn bridges, but you do you.

At halftime, it's 40-23 St. John's, and I think Seton Hall's lack of depth, at least as compared to the start of the season, is starting to get to them. Inja Butina looks like someone peed in her Cheerios. I'm not sure if she thinks it was Alisha Kebbe or not. St. John's is shooting well and defending well, a deadly combination.

Our halftime entertainment was the student section playing NBA Jam. (Well, I'm exaggerating. It was only two thirds of the student section.) That explained the Drexler and Duncan jerseys.

I may or may not have loudly screamed "WE'RE DOOMED! WE'RE ALL DOOMED!" when I saw Brian Enterline emerge as one of the refs for this game. I will neither confirm nor deny these allegations. (I did not realize that Denise Brooks was the female ref. She looks like hell.)

So I think St. John's may have taken that loss at Walsh a little hard. And I think Seton Hall's loss of depth has caught up with them- not that they're shallower than we are, but they don't have players they were used to having; while some of the people may not be missed, their skills are.

The flurry late in the game for Deja Winters, where she was pressing and getting easy lay-ups off steals, should give her confidence going into the final round of games next week. I really hope so; she's one of my favorites. She's had more trouble than I'm used to getting off the bench. Kaity Healy came on late in both halves, either for defensive purposes or just because to heck with it, the game was over. I think Kaela Hilaire has taken her "no personal space allowed" philosophy to the next level and is now working on making sure her assigned player has no space in her own head. She was messing with us all night. The only other question I have is whether that is in fact a spider shaved into her hair, and if so, why there is a spider shaved into her hair.

Jayla Jones-Pack and her mostly pink hair got a couple of minutes in the first half, matching up against Kayla Charles. They were not effective minutes, and I think it says a lot about the way she played that even in the waning minutes of a game concluded in all but time she didn't get back on the floor. Selena Philoxy brought a lot of hustle. I want desperately to say moxie, but I think I only get to make that pun a set number of times in her career and I'd like to save them for her senior year. She dove at passes and either got the steal or lost the gamble and found herself out of position. She dropped the hammer on Andrayah Adams on a monster block. I really love the way she's developing. (Queens represent!) Now, if she could hit a shot, or at least set for a shot instead of throwing the ball in the general direction of the rim, she might just be all right.

Credit where credit is due: Nicole Jimenez got three fouls in the first quarter and managed not to get called for any more over the rest of the game. (There were a couple I thought could have been called, but this is a rivalry game. Certain liberties are expected to be taken.) She fired up shallow threes and nailed them, and used her size advantageously to get into the passing lanes. But there were stretches where that same lack of size became a pronounced disadvantage, when having a far taller and larger defender on her cut down her options substantially. Inja Butina drove to the basket well, but got frustrated whenever the whistles went against her, whether it was calls she wanted to get on offense or calls on plays she made defensively. You could see it written on her face, to the point where I thought something was genuinely up with her. JaQuan Jackson had pretty much every perimeter player on St. John's defending her at some point or another. Sometimes it worked out for her, like when she crossed the daylights out of Qadashah Hoppie on a drive. Much of the time it didn't, and she was frustrated or denied. She didn't even score until the second half, and the game was such that I barely even realized until I heard the PA guy say her name.

Kimi Evans deos so much to facilitate the Seton Hall offense that it's not even funny. She's a formidable presence in the middle, of course, and makes a big target when the penetrators realize they might have dug too deep. But she's also surprisingly mobile for her size and almost constantly sets screens to get her teammates open (she had a particularly nice one on 'Cole's third or fourth trey). She plays a role for them similar to the one Carolyn Swords once played for the Liberty- it's not glamorous, it's not statistical, it's not sexy, but it's integral to the team's success. Shadeen Samuels looks like she's recovered from the knee issues she seemed to be going through earlier in the year- not to any great effect, mind you, but her athleticism was on display in her moves in the paint. She had some very nice drop passes to Kimi.

We were really able to hassle them on passes. When they got the press working, though, our guards weren't always ready to handle it.

Our bench loves Shamachya Duncan so much. It's adorable. If all she ever does is hit three-pointers late in games that have already been decided, she'll still be getting big pop from her teammates. Tamesha Alexander almost single-handedly gave Deja Winters back her confidence with terrible passing decisions out of the trap. Sox, I love you dearly, but good gracious that was a hot mess. Kayla Charles actually got some good run tonight. We're debating whether her hair counts as part of her height or not. She scored on putbacks and held on to some rebounds instead of letting them hit off her hands.

Andrayah Adams had a rough night. Most of it was spent staring in disbelief at the officials for calling her for fouls. I've mentioned how not fond I am of Andrayah-at-the-four lineups, right? Because we went small to counter Seton Hall going small, and sometimes I'm not sure that's the best plan. When it works, it works because her offense is still flowing. It wasn't tonight. Tiana England was up and down- superior enough defensively that she got the second half start ahead of Qadashah Hoppie, but still too tentative on offense. Sometimes I can't shake the feeling that she's trying to be a player she's not, a methodical point guard instead of a free-flowing offensive player.

Qadashah Hoppie had her shot working, especially beyond the arc. She was careless enough on defense to lose the start for the second half, but she more than made up for it with her threes. When she's on, she's so much fun to watch. It's when she thinks she's on and she's not that we end up with problems. Akina Wellere was also hot from outside, and her size on defense gave Seton Hall problems- she usually plays more of a three in our lineup, but she was defending out on the perimeter against the fun-size guards, and that match-up was definitely in our favor. She's not the fastest, and she's nto the most agile, but she gets the job done.

I think Alisha Kebbe has been dipping into whatever mojo the Eagles used to win the Super Bowl, because she was on fire. Her shot was going down, and she brought in loose balls with fantastic ferocity. She was all over the place and it was glorious. The best part might have been when she blocked the much taller Kimi Evans. I'm a sucker for guards blocking posts. Imani Littleton did all the non-glamorous stuff on defense that doesn't get in the box score but definitely makes things happen for the team. Maya Singleton brought the rebounding. I'm not sure how I feel about her taking that many jumpers, but they were clearly working for her, so there's only so much arguing I can do with them. She seemed to pick up strength as the game went on.

We got some really good looks- there was one play where (I think) Akina was so naked on the wing that it was practically indecent exposure. Lots of good looks, lots of good shots. I don't think Seton Hall was ready for the initial onslaught, and I don't think they knew how to recover except against our bench.

I've said a lot of bad things about Bryan Enterline as a ref, and I undoubtedly will continue to do so. That being said, I appreciate his concern for injured players. He was very solicitous of both Selena Philoxy and Kayla Charles when they took hard hits. That doesn't mean I don't think he's a bad ref, but he's at least a decent person.

There was, of course, a moment of silence for the latest tragedy in our gun-saturated country, but if I get too much into that I'm either going to start swearing or the gun nuts will show up in my comments and I don't have time for that.

To the little girls in the front row of my section: yes, we get it, you can see yourselves on the jumbotron. Turning your back to the game so you can wave at yourselves on the screen for the entire fourth quarter just might be overkill.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

February 12th, 2018: St. Francis PA at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Flash of St. Francis University got off to a hot start and never looked back in their 85-54 win over LIU. Maya Wynn had 18 points to lead the Red Flash, who shot just over 55% from the field. Denisha Petty-Evans led LIU with 18 points, including five triples.

For moments of playing the wrong sport, loads of expired soda, Mario Karting, timidity, temerity, and crankiness, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

It's the Red Flash. It's the Blackbirds. It's basketball in Brooklyn. What's not to like?

I'm currently killing a little time before the game in a nearby Starbucks, it being the nearest place with both a place where I can charge my tablet and things I can drink but not eat (husband is buying dinner, it would be tacky to eat right before). Their taste in music is great, but these ladies need another person or two behind the counter. Possibly an octopus.

I guess tonight is BHA? LIU is wearing eye-searingly pink warm-up shirts, and Autumn Ashe has bright pink wraps on her crutches. Ugh, please don't tell me we're going to be watching the Pinkbirds or the Pink Flash.

I should pick up more LIU gear. Don't have nearly enough LIU shirts, so I've had to settle for dressing like a beatnik and wearing a silly hat.

There are way too many people in St. Francis gear here. I mean, I know one of their kids is from Brooklyn, and I know they travel, but c'mon, man. We're going to need Denisha's family in force.

St. Francis has their numbers on their shorts. I'm not sure what to think about this, other than that it's unusual. At least these are their actual uniforms. No one seems to be wearing excessive amounts of pink. Small mercies. Maybe BHA was Saturday?

At halftime, it's 42-23 St. Francis, and quite frankly, things could be worse. Our offense is offensive and we can't hold on to the ball for love nor money. The graduate students are dueling; Denisha Petty-Evans has 14 for LIU, while Ace Harrison has 11 for the Red Flash. Only difference is that Jessica Kovatch and Maya Wynn each have seven in support of Harrison, while only two other Blackbirds have scored, period.

Most teams have players come out one by one for intros and do whatever rituals they've chosen with the team's hype person, for lack of a better word. (It's Shavonte Zellous for the Liberty, for example, and Tamesha Alexander for the Red Storm.) St. Francis walked out with the five starters arm in arm.

One of the refs (Aldrich, I think?) got distracted by a small child before the game. It was cute.

Our halftime entertainment is Girl Scouts playing Knockout. *throws up Scout salute*

Well, I guess it could have been worse. At least we didn't have to play UConn, I guess. And if the defensive game plan was to shut down Jessica Kovatch, then that's the part of the plan that worked. It's just that we didn't manage to shut down anyone else.

Look, PA guy, the answer to my complaints about inconsistent announcing of the opposing subs is not to stop announcing them at all. When the other team doesn't wear names on their jerseys, I need a trained professional to indicate when new people without names on their jerseys have entered the game.

Jenna Mastellone is not ready for prime time. That's about the nicest way I can put it. I realize she's a freshman, and buried so deep on SFU's bench that she might even be a walk-on. But her ballhandling is bad and her defensive positioning is bad, and we're just going to pretend that the free throw that whispered against the very bottom of the net didn't happen. Caitlin Carroll sneaked in a three-pointer near the end of the game, and I can't begrudge her that, though I can certainly question the excessive celebration from her teammates for going up 30+. Karson Swogger has an interesting curve/spin to her three-point shot that got it to curl back towards the basket. (I am also probably a terrible person for thinking her name sounds like a position one plays in Calvinball.) Leah Morrow comes at you like a cannonball, which occasionally meant turnovers and at least one charge. But it also results in steals and fast breaks for the Red Flash, and given how much they like to run, that does a lot for them.

So many tall, skinny people. Cannot cope. Can't shake feelings of mild jealousy. I'm trying to remember who had the nifty turn over her shoulder for a basket. I think that was Courtney Zezza, who did a nice job of finishing near the rim and taking advantage of being overlooked. Jill Falvey made some stops on the defensive end. Haley Thomas was the last post off the bench, and she seems to have embraced the Red Flash's offensive strategy of "shoot ALL the threes", though she hasn't quite mastered the art of where or when.

I am starting to take a bit of a dislike to Jessica Kovatch. It's not the one born of reluctant respect, either. It's the one born of a player complaining to the ref at every single call she doesn't like, except for the times when her teammates get to her first and wrap her up before she can say or do anything. The most generous reading would suggest that she was frustrated at the defensive pressure she faced and the shots she couldn't hit. But we lost by 30, so I'm not exactly inclined to be generous. She's got game, but I don't believe the hype. The Red Flash got really good minutes out of Caitlin Kroll, who did a lot of everything. She was at her best taking advantage of LIU's mistakes, hitting the deck for loose balls and disrupting the ballhandler- SFU threw a press at us that we were not equipped to handle with a freshman point guard. But she did everything for the Red Flash. I think we overlooked her a bit.

It's somewhat less explicable how we managed to overlook Ace Harrison, because she's very tall, very strong, and at least in this game was wearing bright green sneakers. She hit back to back threes to open the game, and was a nightmare match-up for us all night because of her perimeter game. We tried to match her with DeAngelique Waithe, but Angel is not at her best as a perimeter defender, to put it lightly. So that didn't go well. Harrison defends like a guard and is built like a forward, and these are not good things for us. Maya Wynn still has one of the best names in women's basketball. Her game is a strange hybrid at times. She took over in the second quarter with seven points, going deep and driving the lane with equal skill. Kyasia Duling got into foul trouble in the first quarter, and I think it says a lot about her and the trust her coach has in her that she played most of the first half, even when she picked up the third foul late in the second quarter. I do think that the foul trouble took away from her ability to defend inside- there were possessions later in the game where LIU was able to get a little leverage close to the basket, and I think she was one of the defenders in those scenarios.

Life comes at you fast, and so does St. Francis. They like to run on offense and press on defense, and it's not easy to prepare for that onslaught, especially since they send in so many players that their squad is usually fresh.

I get the feeling it's going to be an interesting year next year with Destoni Willock as our primary low post player. She's fantastically disruptive to the other team's offense... it's just that she's almost as disruptive to her own team's offense as well. She deflected a lot of passes and chased down a lot of loose balls, but she had trouble holding on to the ball and minding her footwork. Ella Vaatanen's shot is improving, though I don't know if that step forward is legal or not. I'm glad she's worked on her strength in that regard. She showed some good hustle today.

The player who surprised me in a good way in this game was Seneca Richards. I figured she'd be a good match-up against St. Francis, since she's a tall player with perimeter skills, and thus some comfort on the perimeter defensively. She was very aggressive and very disruptive, going after the ballhandler with wild abandon. I think it affected her offense, but I'll take the defense in that situation. Paris Jones needs to not foul the damn shooter- she did that twice, including on a three at the end of the first quarter that really did a number on the game's momentum. She knows how to use her lack of size to her advantage, getting low to steal rebounds and get loose balls, but there are times when I just want to dope slap her.

I don't know why Jeydah Johnson couldn't hold on to the ball, but it was bad. She played like she had turned her hands to stone and then smeared butter all over them. It looked like she was overshooting the ball, too; her shots were way too strong, going over the basket instead of at it or in it. Not her night, to put it mildly. DeAngelique Waithe did what she could on the boards and in the paint, but the St. Francis defense collapsed on her when she started to drive, and there's only so much you can do when two or three tall people are coming at you at once. And while she's a solid defender in the post, she's at a loss on the perimeter, which led to Harrison opening the scoring with two triples. Stylz Sanders chased down rebounds, but as undersized as she is, she was outmatched and outgunned.

Denisha Petty-Evans lit it up from beyond the arc, but sometimes it seemed like she was the only Blackbird on the floor who was actually willing to shoot the ball. If this is going to be as defensive-minded a squad as I think Coach Del Preore wants it to be, it still needs someone who's going to be a shooter. Nish fills that, er, niche, for this year, but what about next year? Near the end of the game, there were moments where she looked like she was super frustrated, and I can't say I blame her. Tia Montagne played like a scared freshman, especially when the Red Flash's defense pressured her. There was a play where she had to inbound the ball, couldn't find anyone, couldn't get a look, and clearly panicked by throwing it at DeAngelique Waithe right before the five-second violation would have kicked in. Attempting to lob a weak pass over Ace Harrison is a terrible plan. Tia spent most of the night looking like she was in over her head. This was not a game we could have afforded to be without Drew Winter for (and I have no idea what's up with her, though to be fair we weren't winning that game even with a full roster).

Someone other than Nish needs to be willing to shoot. And everyone needs to get them to a shooting coach. This, perhaps, cuts to the quick of what LIU's problems are. I love this team, but sometimes they play way too scared.

She was wearing black, not blue, but does it count as a real live Mario Kart moment if a Maryland alumna shoots an offensive player out of the air?

Refs missed at least one out of bounds call and a few fouls, but all things considered, it's hard to get too upset at them. They're not why we lost the game.

If nothing else, this game showed us the difference between the top of the conference and everyone else. In a one-bid conference, sometimes being the most balanced team on the floor is enough to seize the day.