Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty took over the game in the third quarter and beat the Connecticut Sun 78-67. New York committed 21 turnovers, but shot 51.6% from the field. The Liberty were led by 14 points from Cappie Pondexter, while rookie post Kelsey Bone added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Ashley Walker was the only Connecticut player in double figures, with 12 points.
For track work, painful confessions, hats, kicking it old-school, the soul train, defensive posterizations, taking advantage of opportunities, and familiarity, join your intrepid and shorn blogger after the jump.
It's not quite home, but it'll do. I've always maintained that my biggest issue with the Prudential Center is that it has the misfortune to be located in Newark (don't tell Nadirah, or Amber, or Aliyyah, that I said that). But it's a nice arena, and the hockey boards are so very useful for autograph gathering.
Of course, both the MTA and PATH were doing track work, so everything was slowed up. We get no respect.
Only Teresa Weatherspoon can pull off a breast-cancer-pink button-down shirt. I love watching her work the room.
Whoever sang the anthem needs to be retained and used often. The way she sings the anthem is the way Kym Hampton thinks she's singing the anthem.
Spotted several members of the St. John's staff. For some reason they recognized us. I think it might have been the volume. And we do tend to yell the same sort of things at players no matter what season it is.
At halftime, the Liberty are up in in a game that's been very sloppy, but the shots have gone down when they've gone up. Both teams are fumbling a lot and throwing strange passes. (Shenneika. I am looking at you. Like, seriously. THAT WAS YOUR BREAK.) Ashley Walker is playing out of her mind (someone wants to make sure there's a summer income for the family, I guess).
Starters: Griffin, Lawson, Hightower, Charles, and Greene for the Sun; Mitchell, Young, Carson, Pondexter, and Braxton for the Liberty. Yes, that lineup has Toni Young back at the 4. I think Laimbeer is enjoying all the opportunities he has to mind-screw people.
I approve of the name and number tees being black. I'm not so sure how I feel about it being first name and number. In that scenario, the only one I'd buy is Essence Carson, only because she has a really cool first name.
Biasedly, I'm worried about Shenneika. Leilani is playing better, and Neika looks lost. Like, almost go down the wrong tunnel lost. She does tend to fold under expectations...
Kelley Cain did not dress. Well, she dressed (in a darling blue sun dress and her hair out), but not in uniform. I think she's just waiting for the paperwork to clear. Cheryl Ford and Plenette Pierson are also in street clothes. Cheryl is going with the pastels. Plenette's flowered pants are an abomination unto the Lord and ought to be burned at the stake.
Unsurprisingly, attendance is a bit sparse. I think there are 3 Sun fans here. Donovan got a pretty big hand from the audience, such as it is.
I like the VIP card concept. Discounts make me happy. And I do wonder if it's a step towards tickets on cards, which I think would be ace. (I'd probably never have the "forgot my tickets" dream for W season again.)
The standardization of the font annoys me. I want my block letters back. I feel like we're fighting harder and harder for less and less individuality.
78-67 is the final for the Liberty, and they look improved by leaps and bounds from last week. If only I could say the same for the front office... but that's a rant for a later part of this round of GNoD.
Kelly Faris does exist! Anne Donovan only put her into the game very late in the fourth quarter, and I think that might just have been to make sure that her foot wasn't going to shatter into a thousand pieces if she put any weight on it. Her defense looked okay, but it's hard to get a read on a player in the last four minutes of a foregone conclusion. Latoya Williams really looked undisciplined out there, and missing half her free throws probably didn't endear her to Donovan. Ashley Walker had it going on on offense, bringing the versatility that Donovan had lauded in a couple of newspaper articles. She might have spent a little too much time beyond the arc, though. If you want to establish yourself as a reserve post, you might want to play a bit in the post. Natasha Lacy did a lot less shooting than she did last week, and somehow she ended up on the boards. I don't remember how, but she isn't afraid to mix things up. Tan White showed off her speed and a bit of her veteran craftiness (oh gods I'm getting old). She was all up in everyone's business on defense. Mistie Bass got the job done down low, making plays happen around the basket. Renee Montgomery jacked threes and flopped once or twice. Johannah Leedham kept doing that thing where she was all over the ball and kept ending up with it when it was Liberty possession. She deked Shenneika Smith pretty hard. It was not pretty from where I was sitting, though you would disagree with me if you were a Sun fan, or a British women's basketball fan. Or from Franklin Pierce College, I suppose. Are there a lot of you reading this blog?
The original plan for the Liberty appeared to be letting Tina Charles take jumpers. This fell apart later in the game. She still seemed to be imposing her will on the game. Kelsey Griffin sets a mean pick and follows her shot like nobody's business, but she misses too many point-blank shots for my liking. If, of course, I were a Sun fan. Which I mostly am not. I don't know if they need both Bass and Griffin. Allison Hightower kept trying to call glass and failing miserably. She didn't play a lot, though. I think Donovan already knows what she has in her and needed to test out the players auditioning for the last role or two. Kara Lawson got her shot pretty much whenever she wanted it. If she had looked for it more, the Sun might have won the game. Kalana Greene was not much of a factor, but she continues to be an awesome human being. We miss you, Kalana. Come back to New York someday! We know how to pronounce your name, no matter what the PA announcer does!
Yeah, Shenneika Smith is the last cut. No hesitation here. The only way she makes it is if Laimbeer deals someone for a pick or something bizarre happens. I don't know if she was under orders not to shoot or she was desperate to prove that she could be something other than a shooter, but she passed up easy, easy shots- and then when she got more offensive-minded, Ashley Walker posterized her. She did have a couple of nice defensive plays once she figured out the scheme, and it only took three possessions for her to figure out that Tan White is not Johannah Leedham and cannot be defended as such. Alex Montgomery is still on fire. I love the way she's developed. She came in knowing that she had an opportunity and needed to show her stuff, and she proved out. Katie Smith is still a step slow, but if you give her space she'll knock down the shot. She's the kind of player you can't cut, but at the same time, can you afford to keep her on the roster if the one thing she can do is hit open jumpers? Laurie Koehn's probably cheaper, in that regard. Kamiko Williams was not the offensive star she was in Connecticut last week, but her defense picked up, and she was all up on the loose balls. You like making me eat my words, don't you, Kamiko? It's okay, I like having to eat my words when a player is better than I expected. Kelsey Bone was much improved from the last game. She still needs to work on following her shot and getting on the boards (there was one play where I think she was expecting Leilani to magically box out Tina Charles), but she was more aggressive and looked more pro-ready.
Toni, follow your shot! We did a lot of yelling at Toni Young today. She played four at the start of the game and still didn't look comfortable. I'm not exactly thrilled about her getting owned by Kelsey Griffin two different times. (Though you could argue there are parallels between them.) She's incredibly athletic, but she needs to catch up to the speed of her body and the speed of the game. I think she'll be okay, but it's going to take longer than we thought. Kara Braxton was much more aggressive on the boards than I remembered, though that's always an intermittent thing with her. Depends on how much of the fear of Bill has been put into her on any given day, I guess. Cappie Pondexter was Cappie Pondexter. The fall-away was working like crazy. She looked like she was in another gear. Leilani Mitchell was solid. I still don't think Bill plans on keeping her for the long term, because that requires him re-jiggering all his lineup plans, but I think she's safe for now, even if that does make me want to set things on fire. She was fearless today. Maybe she'll be all right if she can keep up that level of metaphorical cojones. Essence Carson's offense was so-so, but her defense was really good. Going for a jump ball against Charles is a plan that's not usually going to succeed, but I'm okay with the effort.
It's the preseason, so saying that they need to tighten up the passing and ballhandling is no surprise. I think every team goes through that. I will say that Laimbeer needs to figure out who he's going to play at the point and how long he's going to play them there, and needs to figure it out in a hurry. If he keeps Leilani, he can't use Cappie at the 1 unless he brings Leilani off the bench and then Kamiko is screwed, and I don't want Kamiko to be screwed.
Officiating was all right, for the most part. Let it be said that I hate the defensive three-seconds rule, and will continue to hate it until such time as it stops bringing the game to a grinding halt and confusing the daylights out of everyone in the audience who's trying to figure out what this technical nonsense is about. It got a little chippy at times, and I'll be happy if/when Latoya Williams gets cut for that flying arm that landed damn near Shenneika's neck.
Maddie sinking the halfcourt shot backwards in only three tries was pretty awesome. I like this version of Maddie. Very enthusiastic- almost to a fault, he ran onto the court to protest a call in the first half. (Yes, I'm still pretty sure Maddie is a guy. We all know what a female dog is...)
Yes, I got a haircut, thank you for noticing. :P I do love the sense of community among the fan base. (Then again, going from nearly waist-length hair to a pixie cut is a bit of a noticeable change.)
And then there was the post-game autograph session. Good idea. Baaaaaaaad execution. If you know you're on a tight schedule, don't spend a third of that time organizing. Get your organization in order in a hurry. Then stick to your plan. Don't decide you're going to cycle fans, then cycle players, then go back to cycling fans. And if you're going to have long, looping lines, figure out how to organize them so that people aren't jumping the line or being shepherded to the wrong end of the line and confusing everyone. I like the concept, but it could have gone a lot better. (And really, what's wrong with having one long table for the players and one smaller table for the coaches and having everyone move through that way?) Got most of the team, but still need to get Kelsey- we missed out on her group because the Liberty reps decided that "if you got an autograph already, you have to leave". It was taking longer to tell people they couldn't than to send people through and have done with it. My eyes, they are rolling. Maybe if you hadn't funneled me into a picture line I wasn't interested in, I wouldn't be here 'til 7 and getting all up in your business.
Spoon looks good. Whitmore does not. Taj is flawless.
I don't know what the Sun are going to do with their last cuts. I think it'll be Lacy and Williams, though I don't know if the dynamic with Walker would be weird. Williams is more of a post and would be more of a straight swap if Gruda comes back; Walker is more versatile, but then how are you in the post? I'm not sure what position Griffin is.
And next week we play the Sun again. At this rate, I'll be looking forward to Princess Twitter, Dizzy Miss Lizzie, and the Tulsa Shock just because they aren't Connecticut.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty took over the game in the third quarter and beat the Connecticut Sun 78-67. New York committed 21 turnovers, but shot 51.6% from the field. The Liberty were led by 14 points from Cappie Pondexter, while rookie post Kelsey Bone added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Ashley Walker was the only Connecticut player in double figures, with 12 points.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Connecticut Sun controlled from start to finish in an 83-74 preseason win over the New York Liberty, leading by as much as 25 before a second half surge by the Liberty. Allison Hightower led Connecticut with 12 first-half points, while Kara Lawson and Latoya Williams each chipped in 10. New York was led by Alex Montgomery, Plenette Pierson, and Kamiko Williams, each with 12.
For bad passes, good interceptions, old friends, new rivals, haircuts, a tug-of-war, streaky shooting, and bringing the roof to ground, join your intrepid and renewed blogger after the jump.
So the season started with a bang- or, more precisely, a thud. Your intrepid blogger's notes may be a bit blurrier than usual because my bathroom ceiling caved in at quarter to five on Saturday morning. So that was exciting, and don't worry, we're both fine, we just don't have access to a bathroom right now and we're a bit sleep-deprived.
I don't know if it's paranoia after some of the crackdowns on other buses, or if the economy is just that bad, or if today was just an off day, but the bus I take out of Flushing was barely half-full. I have a row to myself to write notes, which means that I can actually write notes while the Chinese edition of "America's Got Talent" plays on the screen above me. (I still can't believe the middle-aged women dancing badly in the short skirts got more votes than the troupe of guys doing slam dunks on springs while wearing matching Jeremy Lin jerseys.)
No free tickets, but we got a pretty good deal in the endcourt on the visiting side, where we could visit our usual blend of criticism and love on our team. And we do love them. Spoon and Whitmore were behind the bench, both wearing all black- not sure if that was old-school Lib black, dignified and stylish black, or Japanese stagehand "don't look at me" black. I think the entire team was singing along in bits and pieces to "I Gotta Feeling".
So the Sun have basically the entire Liberty staff from the Donovan era, and the Liberty have half the Detroit Shock franchise? This is going to be confusing for a while. It feels like a shuffle game. The ball is under cup number 2! (Also, have fun, Sun fans- if Lisa White is involved with your training staff, watch out for stress fractures and shin splints. There's a reason we called her the Bone Collector...)
Loree Moore's fantastically overbuilt shoulders have been reduced to mere mortal levels. That makes me sad. She looked several steps slow, but heady. I wonder if she's showcasing herself not for a regular roster spot, but either to be a standby replacement player (someone who at least knows part of the system and can fill in in a hurry) or as an assistant somewhere. There are a couple of schools in the New York area looking for staffs, after all. Leilani Mitchell looked competent, but out of place. She played well with the veterans, but she knows a lot of these players- that's her only advantage over the rookies and Loree. That's not going to last. Alex Montgomery looked very tight at the start of the game. She was pressing, like she knew her job was probably on the line. Her second tour of duty, she looked much better and much more under control on the offensive end of the floor. Her defense was solid most of the night. Toni Young froze under pressure. She didn't look like she was ready for WNBA competition. I'm reminded of Clay Kallam's remarks about Laura Harper when she was drafted- "raw as a side of beef". Hopefully Bill can develop her into something. Kelley Cain pretty much just took up space- one of Plenette Pierson's shots was basically because Kelley blew the catch on the inbounds pass and Plenette was there to catch the tip. Kara Braxton is not as decorative as she thinks she is- I would appreciate if she would stop standing around just above the paint, and actually move her butt towards the ball. Her block in the third quarter was pretty sweet, though. Plenette Pierson looked like she was working off a little rust- I think she'll be fine, though she's slower than I remembered from last season. I know Father Time wins all battles, but he's not usually this efficient about it. She and Kelley both got burned badly by Chatilla van Grinsven. We all know I'm hopelessly biased when it comes to St. John's, but I think Shenneika Smith played well, once she got her head into the game- the first foul that was called on her (which I thought was on Kelley) threw her off- she was arguing with the ref, then looking to Essence to back her up. I suspect Essence told her to build a bridge and get over it, or words to that effect, because she was much better in the second half. She was cutting to the lane, she was going hard for rebounds, she was good on defense.
Kelsey Bone showed flashes of potential, but not much more. She needs to get more assertive and a little more aggressive. Then again, if she can't learn how to throw her weight around from Barbara Farris, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Cheryl Ford, Plenette Pierson, Kara Braxton, and Tamika Whitmore, there is no helping the child. Essence Carson looked great- she appears to be eschewing the goggles somewhat, and I think it's helping her shooting. She was also solid on the boards and on defense. The only thing that worries me is that she spent a lot of her time on the bench stretching out her back. Back injuries always make me nervous. Katie Smith looked several steps slow, especially on defense. Kalana Greene abused her to the point where it was almost criminal. There may be no substitute for her experience in crunch time, but I don't know if the flesh is able anymore. Cheryl Ford looks fabulous. It'll take a little more time for her to mesh with the non-Detroit players, but she'll get there, and she looks like she'll be back in the W groove the same way any veteran returning from overseas would.
Kamiko Williams, keep this up and I'm going to spend most of this summer apologizing to you for doubting you. She looked really good- I had no idea she had such ups, but she saved a couple of high passes from going out of bounds. I don't know what her position's going to be- whether she'll be a one or a two or she'll swing from guard spot to guard spot as necessary- but if she can stay at the level she was at today, she's a keeper.
Sigh, UConn fans. Kelly Faris hasn't even played in a Sun uniform yet and you cheer her louder than half your rotation. (And then you wonder why your non-UConn players want to leave.) Renee Montgomery was Renee Montgomery, fast and wild and occasionally very lucky. Natasha Lacy's streak shooting was ice cold. She would make a good defensive play, then blow the lay-up. Unsurprisingly, she has good on-court chemistry with Ashley Walker- one of them found the other with a blind pass, but then the shot was missed. Walker appeared to be unsure as to the operation of tearaway pants, but once she was on the floor, she looked all right- not great, but all right. She shoots free throws like a Golden Bear, though. Johannah Leedham kept finding her way into the passing lane and snagging steals. Stop throwing Johannah Leedham the ball, Libs, she doesn't play for our team. Mistie Bass (who I think now holds the undisputed record for name changes, to the point where even wnba.com and the PA announcer haven't caught up) bodied up and threw her weight around. She's a dirty work player, and in some ways, that makes her the perfect complement to Tina Charles. Someone's gotta work over defenders, after all. Where did Latoya Williams pop up from? She's got an interesting game, though I don't know if it's going to translate well to the W. She showed range with the long ball, but she committed a lot of stupid fouls. If Donovan can work with her, she'll be a find. But I don't know if Donovan can work with her. Chatilla van Grinsven, whose name is tricky to type, but wonderful to say, had a couple of very nice moves around Liberty defenders to get work done in the paint. I don't know if she can do it consistently at the W level, but she's showing me more than she did when I saw her against Fordham.
Kalana Greene, you've been hanging out with Essence Carson and Monique Currie too much. At least half the shots she took were two-pointers because her foot was on the line. It's the stupidest shot in basketball. It's so stupid that I had to try and type stupidest three times before I could get it right. She was better off when she was cutting to the lane and scooping shots up on Katie Smith. I like Kalana, even if she's a Husky playing for the Sun and therefore part of the occasionally cult-like atmosphere around UConn players. Tina Charles got the start, but barely played; I guess Donovan figures that she knows what she's getting from Charles. She looked good in those few minutes, though. Allison Hightower was bombing shots in the first half like nobody's business. I'm terrified of the idea of her developing a consistent offense to go with her lockdown defense. Like, absolutely petrified. That makes her a dangerous complementary part. Kelsey Griffin proved that she could be physical, but I'm not sure what else she supplied for the Sun. She was all right defensively, but not spectacular, and she didn't contribute on the offensive end. She needs to get it together in a hurry, because Bass is much better at doing the dirty work, and that's all she seems suited to doing right now. Kara Lawson was brutally efficient on offense. It's like, hey, guys, she might be known for this a little bit, you could perhaps get a hand in her face.
Nice ball movement by Connecticut, on both sides of the ball. Spectacularly dumb passing by the Liberty. I mean, really. How tall did y'all think Essence was?
Words cannot sufficiently express how much I loathe the defensive 3-seconds rule, and certainly not words that are suitable for a family show. It slows the game down, it confuses all parties involved, it makes the officials an even bigger part of the game than they already are... no. Make it stop. Kill it with fire. I don't care how terrified you are of the prospect of Brittney Griner camping out under the basket. I don't care if she camps out so long she can make s'mores for the first three rows. It is a stupid bloody rule and I detest it with every fiber of my substantial being. There were three in the game, and they all seemed to take forever to handle.
The officiating started out tight, then degenerated into lack of interest by the fourth quarter. Both the gentleman behind me and I were shouting at the officials to make some calls. It was about the only thing that the gentleman in the Kelsey Griffin jersey and I agreed on, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. But when I can see hands pulling the back of Kara Braxton's jersey, it might be time to make a holding call. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
Ran into a whole passel of Shenneika's family in the next section over from us. We didn't realize they were there until Shenneika checked in for the first time and we weren't the only ones cheering like crazy people.
I love Superjudy's Mardi Gras themed wig. It has flair.
Apparently there is a new person in the suit for Blaze, and she's still getting her feet under her- Blaze was a bit less outgoing than usual. She'll learn. As long as her name's not Carol, I can deal with her. But I think a Blaze named Carol might be a bit... sketchy.
Not sure if coincidence or plotting by the Sun that a very loud and passionate group of season ticket holders sit right near the visiting bench. It's certainly a rather intimidating atmosphere if you're paying attention to it.
We have basketball. I am well pleased. Now, does anyone know a good contractor for that bathroom?
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: The first five minutes were competitive, but UConn pulled away fast and hard to cruise to their eighth title, crushing Louisville 93-60. Breanna Stewart's 23 points led five Huskies in double figures; she also had nine rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. The Huskies shot 53% from the field overall and hit half of the 26 three-pointers they took. Sara Hammond had 15 points for Louisville.
For the end of the road, badly timed congestion, dramatic debuts, and suitable finishes, join your intrepid and airborne blogger after the jump.
Adding to the list from yesterday and today: Santa Barbara, San Jose State, Army, several Washington players (real Huskies wear purple, woof!), Phoenix Mercury, Drury, Nevada, Bowling Green, Green Bay, South Florida, Evansville, Kansas, USC-Aiken, Pepperdine, Liberty, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Towson, Southeastern Louisiana, Dillard, Montebello, Northwestern, UNO, Butler, CCNY. (And at the very last, Cincinnati. I'm 70% sure the woman in the airport with the Cincy backpack was Jamelle Elliott.)
We've made our choice and picked our side. We're in the lobby of the Sheraton New Orleans, where Louisville fans are already starting to gather for the pep rally in an hour. Some uncomfortably lost UConn fans have wandered through. (I may be a St. John's fan, but I'm not lost. I'm wearing red and white.) The woman next to us is hoarse from cheering in Atlanta. The guy across from us is completely sacked out. There's a woman with a Louisville pocketbook, which is awesome. Looks like the rest of the band came in from Atlanta. This is going to be good. And it was amazing. Got some side-eyes from Louisville fans for my St. John's gear, but it's amazing how quickly they became friendly when the magic words "anyone but UConn" were uttered. Shelby Harper came down and mixed with the fans for a while. Two different people had Louisville bottle cozies.
Two different security people had issues with the laptop that I got in on Saturday and Sunday with no issues, but they called a supervisor, so there was no need to get angry, because no one likes me when I'm angry.
Seriously, this coaching milestones video is all the awesome. Some amazing coaches up there.
We got our seats upgraded for the final through a friend who had to leave town after the semis. It's awesome.
The all-time Final Four coaches video is very cool, especially when they go back into the history.
Dear NCAA, why did you have to inflict Kym Hampton on us? It's bad enough Lib fans have to hear her increasingly cracked rendition of the anthem every year, but come on. Can't you go find Tari Phillips?
It was 11-7 Louisville at one point. It's 48-29 UConn at the half. Breanna Stewart has been fantastic. Louisville has been extremely disorganized.
They're doing a fantastic presentation on the AIAW at the half, with some true legends out there. I'm so glad the NCAA has decided to acknowledge the AIAW history (now can we acknowledge the AIAW records, maybe?). I have yet to detect a flaw in Lynette Woodard.
If you want to beat UConn, you have to come at them without fear but with discipline. You can't let them run out ahead and expect to come back. You can't throw up fast, wild shots; you can't slack on defense; you can't let UConn have open threes. I mean, really, how many times can you leave Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis or Kelly Faris beyond the arc and expect to not get your butt handed to you?
Shelby Harper was sort of a spaghetti move in the first half, briefly coming in and jacking a three before going back to the bench. She returned when the game was utterly out of hand. That's pretty much when Megan Deines got her time, too. Monique Reid played like an idiot. On back to back possessions she didn't bother following her shot, then slapped Stefanie Dolson in the face. Or maybe that was the stupid foul when Stewart hit the three-pointer. I forget which bout of idiocy that was. Jude Schimmel kept committing stupid fouls, though she got her shot together in the second half when UConn got less intense on defense.
Sara Hammond played like one of the only Cardinals who actually wanted to win the game. You can't miss the open shots that she did, but she was going hard in the paint and fighting for rebounds. Antonita Slaughter was covered pretty closely, but she also got the job done. She's going to be the steal of the 2014 draft. Sheronne Vails hit one off a pretty feed from Bria Smith, but that's about all I remember her doing- that, and being the recipient of a lot of feeds underneath because the UConn defense wasn't interested in her. Smith made a lot of stupid mistakes regarding the dimensions of the court and the position of the UConn defenders when she got into her passing game. I like her aggression, but not her judgment. Shoni Schimmel played out of control. She's always wild, but that seemed more prevalent than usual. I think they needed her to show a little more judgment.
The biggest cheer from the UConn fans (and a few non-affiliated fans like your intrepid blogger) came when Heather Buck got the steal and the fast break lay-up; my memory is that it turned out to be the last basket for UConn, which is appropriate. Kiah Stokes also got in near the end of the game, but I think she missed her opportunity to score when UConn was milking the clock near the end. I'm really starting to think Morgan Tuck intentionally takes that one bad three per game just to remind everyone what number she wears. I still like her physicality, though. Moriah Jefferson showed off her speed a fair bit in the second half. She's a lot of fun to watch. Bria Hartley was all right- not great, with some dumb mistakes, but efficient when she wasn't making mistakes.
It's a good thing this was Caroline Doty's last game, because it's become clear that she's terrified of making a move. She dodged taking at least two shots that were within her game. She was okay, defensively, though. Kelly Faris was all over the place, and she did a great job getting open beyond the arc, both off the dribble and with help from her teammates screening for her. Stefanie Dolson looked more for her shot in the second half, but was always on the boards and looking to help her teammates get in position. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was rock-solid. She's blossoming into the superstar she was expected to be. And so is Breanna Stewart. I wasn't impressed with her at the start of the season, and I'll happily get in line to admit that I was wrong, that the Stewart I was seeing in the first part of the season wasn't the Stewart that Geno recruited. She has such beautiful touch beyond the arc, yet can get inside and hit tough shots in the lane with a gawky sort of grace (it makes sense in context, I swear). She needs to get a little tougher about taking contact, but she's a freshman, she's got three more years to learn that, one of which will likely be spent getting smacked by Dolson in practice and all of which will probably include Tuck getting physical with her.
It took the officials enough time to call the elbow by Doty, but they did do it. Of course the UConn contingent objected to it, but if an elbow connects to a face, a foul is likely to be called, so they're just going to have to deal with it. Other than that, the refereeing was unremarkable. I think the crew showed great restraint in not calling the technical on Jeff Walz that he so dearly seemed to be asking for in the second half after Reid's idiotic foul on Dolson. You could almost imagine Denise Brooks telling Walz that they didn't want to humiliate him any further.
The UConn band was really loud. We were hearing them better than the Louisville band in front of us. (Though it was a relief not to be behind the UConn band for the first time in six possible chances.) The Louisville fans tried to get their chants going during some of the UConn musical segments; of course, the UConn fans got their call and response going at pretty much every opportunity.
Credit to the UConn fan with the ever-changing collection of signs on neon paper. I don't know how many of them she had, but they were plentiful.
We didn't stay for the official outdoor trophy presentation. Not for nothing, but I've been to more than my share of UConn love-ins. I think I'll pass.
UConn threw the haymaker early, and Louisville was unable to recoer. They beat Louisville at the game that had gotten Louisville into the championship game, while Louisville seemed to have been doing the bulk of their preparation by studying Cal's defense on them. How many times can you sag off Kelly Faris before you realize she might be having a good shooting night? Louisville did't know how to prepare and they should have known how to prepare.
But congrats to UConn. They played a phenomenal game, and got what they needed when they needed it.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: Louisville came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Cal 64-57. Antonita Slaughter had 18 points on 6-10 3-point shooting, while Bria Smith added 17 points and six rebounds. Layshia Clarendon led Cal with 17 points.
For bricks, pride, tiny banners, and total exhaustion, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
Teams spotted today: Akron, Louisiana-Lafayette, Ohio State, West Virginia, Duquesne, Montana, Central Florida, Spelman, Pittsburgh, Iowa, Mississippi State, Prairie View, Oregon State, Vermont, TCU, Marshall, Oklahoma, South Dakota State, Sacramento Monarchs, Atlanta Dream, Arkansas State, St. Francis (PA), Princeton, Clemson, Georgia, Carson-Newman, UTEP, UCLA, Purdue, Yale, Miami, Murray State, James Madison. Lots more Baylor fans today. Gotta shout them out.
The pitch of the arena makes our seats better than you would expect. The anthem was done by a local artist. She was okay, but not great.
At halftime, it's 37-27 Cal, and it could be more if Cal would stop throwing the ball out of bounds and if they could hit their free throws. They're 1-6 from the line. But they're owning the boards, and Louisville isn't hitting their threes. Monique Reid took a very hard tumble on a Cal drive, and she hasn't come back into the game yet. She did later in the second half, though, which is kind of reassuring.
What a heartbreaker- well, if you were rooting for Cal like I was. To see them come so far and then lose it all I think I'd be even more disappointed if Cal hadn't been so clearly outcoached in the second half of the second half.
It's a lot harder to see the fine detail from up here, so I apologize in advance if the notes are not as doomy as usual. Megan Deines played briefly in the first half and came in right at the end of the second to help give the stars their curtain call. Jude Schimmel complemented her sister well off the bench (though from up here, it's kind of hard to tell 21, 22, and 23 apart). Monique Reid got a lot of run in the first half, but much less in the second half. We'll see how available she is for the championship game.
Would someone please guard Antonita Slaughter at some point in the near future? You would think a coach from Brown and a team of players smart enough to go to Cal would have figured out that guarding the woman who hit three threes in the first half would be a plan for success. Instead, they let her get three more open threes. You do not sag off someone who has hit five threes. Honestly. Shoni Schimmel was distributing well in the first half, then got her shot going a little in the second half. That pass to her sister was a thing of beauty. Sara Hammond continued to be tough in the post. I don't necessarily like her, but she got the job done down low, especially in the second half. Sheronne Vails got the start, but with Louisville sometimes I get the sense that Jeff Walz picks a name out of a hat for that fifth starter spot. Bria Smith was very efficient and absolutely ruthless. She broke a pretty little fast break that got the crowd going.
Lots and lots and lots of red in the stands, in groups and singles.
Eliza Pierre's defense is scary. She was all up in her player's business (usually Shoni Schimmel) and gave them no room to operate. I love to watch that kind of thing. Mikayla Lyles played very late, when Cal was sort of throwing spaghetti at the wall. Reshanda Gray had an up-and-down game, and tended to make stupid mistakes right after making good plays. She needs to be more consistent.
Layshia Clarendon is amazing, and East Coast bias can do anatomically impossible things to its metaphorical self that I haven't seen her before this year. Stupid Pac-12 Network and its stupid disagreement with stupid DirecTV. She had ice water in her veins during the attempt to come back. And she has awesome hair. Talia Caldwell muscled up well in the post. Brittany Boyd made a couple of great plays- when she hit the three, I thought they had a shot. Afure Jemerigbe gave the announcer a lot of chances to get her name right with points and fouls. Gennifer Brandon rebounds like she has springs in her legs (and from overhead looks a little like a gazelle when running), but that shot... almost too strong for an offensive rebounder.
Cal seemed to get flustered in the second half. The perils of not having been there before, perhaps- they started throwing up bad shots and bad passes. The exceedingly nosy guy next to me (no, sir, you cannot borrow my computer, please stop staring at my screen) kept complaining that Cal wasn't dribbling the ball up. He had a little bit of a point, since Cal's passing was not sharp, but I don't think dribbling into the traps would have helped much.
The woman all the way at the end of our row hooked us up with nifty Cal cheering stuff. It was really nice of her. Signs! Tiny banners! A streamer for Moooose!
I'm very surprised that Cal doesn't seem to have done anything to address their abysmal free throw shooting. That was painful to watch.
I was rooting for Cal, but I wanted whoever won this game to take the title, so on Tuesday I'll be in red and white and cheering for Louisville. Anything to avoid another UConn coronation.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: UConn ended the first half on an 14-3 run to break open a close game and maintained control through the second half in their 83-65 win over Notre Dame. Breanna Stewart had 29 points, five rebounds, and four blocks for the Huskies. Kayla McBride led the Irish with 16 points, but on 5-20 shooting. Notre Dame shot 29.7% as a team.
For bricks, flurries of offensive rebounds, competitive spirit, quick exchanges, and Breanna Stewart's debutante party, join your intrepid and sore blogger after the jump. (Mama may need a chiropractor after this one.)
The second game is now settling in. The UConn and Notre Dame fans have deigned to join us for this one. They took their sweet time showing up for the first game, which is one of the things I detest about both fan bases- they both tend to make double-headers look really bad. I do love the coaching milestones they're showing here.
At halftime, UConn is up 10, and you would pretty much have to be a Boneyarder to have expected this. UConn put on a burst near the end of the first half that was reminiscent of what they did to Kentucky and Maryland. This halftime video about Louisianans giving back to the community is nice, but it's sort of funny when you realize Barbara Farris just left that high school. (But I love Barb. Anyone who considers not having an absentee ballot to be sufficient emergency to use frequent flier miles to go home and vote is awesome in my book.)
Okay, seriously, if you expected this, you are a passionate UConn fan and I salute you. UConn brought it. Bria Hartley was a little shaky, but she looked better than she had for most of the season, and she seemed to gain confidence from her teammates. Moriah Jefferson gave decent minutes, but not quite what she had been doing in the regional rounds. Morgan Tuck does seem to be possessed by the memory of Tiffany Hayes once a game, and I like her physicality in the lane. Heather Buck was the official victory cigar, along with Kiah Stokes. I was surprised that she didn't play more, but maybe her back was flaring up.
Caroline Doty got the start, but that's about it. Hartley played the starter's minutes. Stefanie Dolson got in the middle and made herself an encumbrance to the Notre Dame offense, but a lot of passes went off her hands- I think she got tagged with more than she deserved, looking at the box score. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was solid, in more ways than one- I've mentioned this before, but she seems to have taken it to heart that people were just tagging her as a three-point shooter and has whipped out a whole arsenal of offensive tricks. I continue to be impressed by her development (or is it re-development?). And Breanna Stewart seems to have decided that she doesn't want to be considered overrated or anything like that. She just took over all over the court. And she looked like she was enjoying herself, which is always nice to see.
Geno got mad at a couple of dumb mistakes- blown assignments, bad passes (at one point it was pretty clear how he wanted Dolson to inbound the ball, and then she blew the inbounds pass), that kind of thing. It's sort of hilarious to watch him blow his top.
A lot of Notre Dame players went into the game in the last couple of minutes, when Muffet McGraw wanted to give her star players their curtain calls. I don't remember who most of them were. Madison Cable got a lot of run in the first half, with a little offense and an eye for the three-ball (even if she didn't hit it), but she looked a little like she was in over her head. Markeisha Wright was solid off the bench, including one pretty make on a feed from Natalie Achonwa. Kaila Turner got some first half minutes, but the rotation tightened up in the second half until it was clear-the-bench time.
Kayla McBride really looked like she was pressing, as if she felt she had to live up to that tournament average she'd been putting up. Nothing was falling for her. Jewell Loyd had slightly better luck, but not much. Ariel Braker pretty much tried to sit on a UConn player's legs in the first half, and she ended up fouling out- oh, dear, I wonder why. Natalie Achonwa was solid but unremarkable. She was okay on the boards, though. Skylar Diggins couldn't get her shot to fall, but she had some beautiful passes to set her teammates up. I like how she goes after loose balls, but she needs to follow her shot more often.
Notre Dame, would you please stop with the lime green? The Cal fan on my left looked at you all when you ran out of the tunnel and said, "I'm cheering against the green team." It is an unpleasant color, it really is.
The officiating got interesting, but it got interesting on both sides, so it's hard to complain. Notre Dame got the free throws in the first half; UConn got more calls in the second half. The game got very physical at points, because these two teams don't like each other much and they know it was likely the last time they were going to play each other.
Both fan bases showed out for their game- just not the first game. The chants came thick and fast, on each other's heels, over each other's music and All-American highlights. I really don't think these teams and their fans like each other for some reason.
Right at the end of the first half, UConn went on a tear that I think was the end of the game for Notre Dame. It's the kind of haymaker that took all the air out of Kentucky, and I didn't expect Notre Dame to fall prey to the same very UConn tactic. If the Huskies are on this kind of roll, it's hard to imagine anyone but UConn cutting down the nets on Tuesday.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Your intrepid and verbose blogger hits New Orleans, and New Orleans hits back.
I'm not used to things opening an hour and a half before things are supposed to start. The gates opened at 9:30, and it's quarter past ten, and I'm expecting things to be happening already.
The UConn autograph line is already packed, and UConn doesn't sign until after 12. Good Lord, people. Cal's line is pretty much empty.
Teams spotted so far: Monmouth, Texas, Southern Miss, Wyoming, Southern, Louisiana Tech, Drew, New Hampshire, Texas Southern, Marquette, San Diego State, UConn (of course), Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, North Carolina State, North Carolina (and I think she might have been Charlotte Smith, but we're currently having a philosophical debate as to whether known affiliation allows for a double count for Elon), Oakland, Cal State Dominiguez Hills, Sam Houston State, East Carolina (though they were here for the combine, so maybe that doesn't count?), Boston College, LSU, Ole Miss, Allegany, Moravian, West Chester, Vermont, Washington, VCU, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Memphis, Cal (of course), Tulane, Louisville (of course), Notre Dame (eventually, of course), Michigan, Colorado State, Maryland (who are really showing out- fear the Turtle!), Wichita State, Baruch (CUNY up in here!), Arizona State, Oregon, NYU, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Richmond, Rutgers, Stanford, Detroit Mercy, Regis, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Texas A&M, Cal State Northridge, Baylor, St. John's (not us), Buffalo, Minnesota, Michigan State, Duke, Missouri State, Syracuse, DePaul, Delaware, Navy, Tulsa, Alabama, Nebraska, Illinois State, Marist, Temple, Middle Tennessee, Texas Tech, Florida State, Rock Valley, Harvard, Wisconsin, Emory, Maryville, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, one very nifty Canberra Caps Ardossi jersey, Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx, and Connecticut Sun.
I love marching bands! I love traveling fans! I love the tournament atmosphere! Boom de yada! Boom de yada!
I think ESPN is doing a piece on Shoni and Angel, because, well, Angel just wandered through, hair all slicked back and pretty.
The trophy is in the building. I got a picture. I have taken many pictures. I will take many more pictures.
The Golden Bears have rolled out, and so far the practice seems fairly serious, at least until the band starts up and the tuba stands alone. They're pretty loose, though. I'm not sure what my favorite part about Cal being in the Final Four is, the pleasant surprise or the Straw Hat Band. But this is so much fun, and they have more beads! Shiny things! The Cal players were really hyped about seeing their fans- I think some of the people behind us may be serious boosters.
Louisville's band is AWOL, presumably in Atlanta with the boys, so they're borrowing part of the Tulane band. They're doing basic stretching first, and Monique Reid is biking to nowhere. Seriously, someday someone's going to hook a generator to those bikes and reduce energy bills in arenas by something like 5%. The Dark Angel herself appears to be the Cards' special guest for this. I guess she's supposed to inspire them or something. Louisville is taking this practice dead serious- one of the grad assistants is handing out a practice schedule. Good Lord, that's neurotic. And the band came out late, so they are here. A bit disorganized, but here. And rocking the heck out of "Stayin' Alive" and the Ghostbusters theme. Louisville players are helping throw the beads now. Shelby Harper has no arm. Cortnee Walton does.
WBCA All-American team about to be announced. Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Stefanie Dolson, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Kayla McBride, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Chiney Ogwumike, Odyssey Sims, Alyssa Thomas. Delle Donne gave a little speech. Pictures were taken. Plugs were made. Alyssa Thomas immediately went to find the Maryland staff and Laura Harper (who just ran off to glomp someone)
Notre Dame's turn to practice. They have names even on their practice jerseys. They are really committed to that gods awful lime green. :( Niele Ivey is gorgeous, though. Absolutely breathtaking. Jewell Loyd had a fantastic tip-in from a very defensive drill. The band started taunting declaring their intent to beat UConn. And then Diggins and McBride danced with pom-poms.
Capital One is sponsoring a contest in which all the shots have to be banked in, which is a little ridiculous, but both of the contestants managed it, which is awesome.
UConn's open practice was mostly three-shooting. I took pictures, but that's about it.
Battle of the Bands needs to stop being decided on crowd noise, because UConn fans would cheer for their band if they just farted in a vague sense of rhythm. Notre Dame's male cheerleaders did a remarkable worm stunt six deep. Cal was musically the best. Louisville was outmanned and stood no chance, though the flip on top of the pyramid was awesome. UConn's band took direct aim at Notre Dame- both of them played "When the Saints Go Marching in". UConn's was technically better, but they lost me when they decided to throw in "Who dat say dey gon' beat dem Huskies?" You do not steal the "who dat". And then they decided to take an encore they weren't entitled to. That stuff gets you thrown out of band competitions in some places. Musically, I think it was close between UConn and Cal, but Notre Dame was good and had great stunts. But UConn fans... sorry, guys, but stop with the blind loyalty and get some musical taste.
High-schoolers have taken the floor. Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash are the honorary(?) coaches. What is with the neon green on ALL the things this year? Seriously. I recognize a few more of the high schoolers this year.
Tulane band was very disappointing. I assume that's not the whole band, but they hit several sour notes.
Purple starters: Jessica Washington, Saniya Chong, Jessica Jackson, Diamond DeShields, Stephanie Mauvinga. Black starters: Kaela Davis, Alexis Brown, Kendall Cooper, Mercedes Russell, a young lady named Harper whose first name I didn't catch. (Linnae?)
I didn't really follow the game, because I wasn't interested, but it looks like Arkansas got a nice little shooter in Jackson, and maybe Rutgers fans have reason to be excited about Scaife.
Coda: after we adventured on Bourbon Street and found it not to our liking, we wound our way back to Canal and public transit through a side street. Suddenly I hear "Rebecca!" We turn around, and there's Shenneika Smith. Of all the places, and all the people, and all the times... it put a wonderful capper on the day. We chatted about Jeopardy! and the WBCA team, and it was good.
Monday, April 1, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: It was a close game for nine minutes, then UConn outscored Kentucky 61-30 and won 83-53. Breanna Stewart led four Huskies in double figures with 21 points, and the Huskies forced 21 turnovers out of Kentucky. A'dia Mathies had 14 points for the Wildcats.
For blues, goosebumps, drives, fundamental flaws, and the shame of leaving early, join your intrepid and chilled blogger after the jump.
Don't worry, you've only got three more games of me after this, then you'll get a six-week break from long blocks of text, irrelevant parenthetical asides, and occasionally inaccurate analysis.
All things considered, there are a fair amount of people here so far, given that it's 6:19 and tip is around 7:30. The band and cheerleaders are getting ready to go- we're at UConn's end, which makes me a bit frustrated, but what can you do? Maybe we'll get enough elevation to see over the band pits.
This game was tied at 22. Heck, Kentucky had a 23-22 lead. And then UConn remembered that one of their other staples is stifling defense, and a UConn game broke out. Kentucky got scared, as if they'd suddenly forgotten how to play offense against stifling in-your-face defense, even though you'd think they practice against it every day. UConn broke loose down the lane. At least maybe I'll make the 9:38 train back to NY.
I decided I was making that 9:38 no matter what, so for the first time in close to five years, I left a game early. I don't enjoy doing that- I feel guilty, as if not getting my money's worth, but not getting my money's worth is not worth shivering my way through an hour on a Metro-North platform and getting home at 1 in the morning. It was the under-4 when I left, and I believe it was a 27-point game; the only frustrating part is that I don't have a personal complete box score.
Azia Bishop played briefly, but after a hard moving screen, she got sat down, and I don't think she went back. Mitchell didn't seem happy with her after that foul. Bria Goss got the same teaching moment treatment after a stupid foul. Though at least she was a little more effective in the first half. She got a lot of time because Kastine Evans was hesitating, Jennifer O'Neill was making some stupid mistakes, and A'dia Mathies was in foul trouble. Jelleah Sidney tried to get the defense on, but she got into foul trouble in the first half, and I don't think that helped Kentucky's cause. I know, understatement of the year, but I think that got into their heads a little too. I thought it was interesting she got more aggressive on offense- might be a good sign for them for the future. I don't remember Bernisha Pinkett doing anything of note other than committing a foul so egregious in the paint that even I could call it half-obscured by the stanchion. Janee Thompson gave decent minutes; they definitely could have been worse, all things considered.
The early fouls on A'dia Mathies could not have helped her confidence, but I think having to run around after Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis all night and having to be a key part of her team's offense didn't help. Kastine Evans wanted the ball, but as soon as she got it, she backed away from shots that she was taking against Delaware, even when she had space. You have to be aggressive against UConn. You can't let them get into your heads, or your shorts. You have to go at them like they're just another basketball team. They may not be, but you have to treat them as such. DeNesha Stallworth at least seemed interested in shooting the ball, though I do have to question some of her shot selection. I know she had decent luck with the midrange jumper, but I'm not sure if that was the best plan against UConn. They're pretty much okay with people shooting outside jumpers against them. Samarie Walker... I don't know if she wasn't looking for the ball or if she was defended too tightly to get the ball in her preferred spots, but 0-1 from the field and 2-2 from the line is not nearly sufficient when you want to knock out a team like UConn. She looked good on the boards, but she needed to be a bigger part of the game. Jennifer O'Neill's shot was on early, but she persisted in making stupid decisions with the ball- bad passes, over-dribbling, too much hesitation- and stagnated her team's offense.
Samarie... DeNesha... you are both fairly seasoned players starting at a top-notch SEC school. One of you came from UConn, the other from Cal, neither exactly what you would call bad or badly coached. Why am I seeing both of you have issues with taking and hitting lay-ups from the weak side?
Just in general, after Mathies hit the free throw that gave Kentucky the lead, and after UConn remembered that hey, they can play really good defense too, Kentucky seemed to forget how to play basketball, while UConn could smell blood in the water and brought everyone (well, except Heather Buck) to the feast.
I left the game before Buck got in, but I sincerely doubt she did anything. Morgan Tuck continues to impress me for a freshman, though I think the spirit of Tiffany Hayes possessed her through her jersey on that three-point shot. I like her build, and if the knee heels up so that she doesn't need the brace, she'll be a force to be reckoned with. And of course, you've got to love a big who can hit her free throws. Bria Hartley played a lot of minutes off the bench when KML had foul issues and for Caroline Doty in general, and she looked more like the player she once was, quick with her hands and breaking loose for lay-ups in transition. Moriah Jefferson put on the afterburners, and her block on Thompson had the crowd roaring in approval. She's adorable, yet terrifying in her ability to sneak under the dribble. Kiah Stokes got some good minutes; her lay-up in the paint got the crowd going.
Stefanie Dolson grabbed ALL the rebounds. Now, the placement of my seat meant that I couldn't see most of the action under the basket at either end, because the stanchion was in the way. But I remember seeing that big ol' 31 a lot. And then she bicycled her way to New Orleans- no, seriously, she was working the daylights out of that bike. Caroline Doty did pretty much the one or two things she's still capable of doing at a UConn level, then got out of the way. I didn't think she was able to go that fast anymore after all the knee injuries, but she had one zoom-zoom drive. Kelly Faris... if I have to have her on a New York team, can I draft her to the Jets instead? They need someone who can make interceptions in the open field and hard tackles like she did. She's a hard-nosed player, and I respect that, but I feel like I'm complaining about her tackling someone every time I see her play, and that's not necessarily a good thing. And she did not display that tendency not to make mistakes that so many people laud in her. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis continues to intrigue me with her increased willingness to be more than just a lethal three-point shooter- she's using that blocky build to get inside and body up on defenders. I'm starting to see a little Epiphanny Prince in her game- am I crazy in that regard? (I know better than to ask whether I'm crazy. I already know the answer to that one.) And then Breanna Stewart decided to be the player that everyone's been saying she could be, and it was kind of amazing. She made moves with both hands. She slapped the daylights out of shots. She went in. She went out. She did in fact shake it all about. She looked like she wanted to be the star.
UConn turned it up another gear. They made stupid mistakes (after one Faris pass, I thought Geno was going to flip out), but they didn't let those mistakes get to them. The difference between an Elite Eight team and a Final Four team, I guess.
Officiating could definitely have been worse, could definitely have been better, but though they let them play, it didn't go to the extremes we saw in Oklahoma City.
A rumor was going around the crowd that Kevin Ollie was in attendance, but I received no confirmation either way.
To the woman behind me, who complained twice that Kentucky wasn't letting UConn bring the ball up: that is, in fact, one of the core principles of their defense. You idiot.
I feel like I can't give a complete report, since I missed the last three minutes. On the other hand, we're on the third page of notes, so maybe I can.
See you in New Orleans, Huskies.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: 33 points from Elena Delle Donne and a fierce second-half comeback weren't enough for Delaware to come from behind, as Kentucky claimed the victory 69-62. Jennifer O'Neill led the Wildcats with 19 points, and A'dia Mathies added 16.
For honor, stuffed birds, inconvenient tubas, drives, and shades of blue, join your intrepid and mildly embarrassed blogger after the jump.
Your intrepid blogger was bound and determined to go to Bridgeport, whether or not her team made the trip, so here we are three rows back in the endcourt behind where the bands will be, watching as the arena starts to fill up in shades of blue. Unsurprisingly, the dominant groups are UConn and Delaware. Delaware brought at least three buses, and it pleases me that they're genuine Delaware...ites. Ians. Ers. Whatever one calls a person from Delaware. I'm pretty sure a couple of folks from the men's basketball team are here, and I saw someone in a jersey that wasn't 11.
There appears to be some sort of strategic alliance between some of the Delaware fans and the Maryland fans. I find that fascinating. I guess regional loyalty beats out the mutual tie of Delle Donne.
If someone behind me doesn't stop spreading pistachio shells around the section like an ill-mannered health-conscious baseball player, I'm going to have to go Noo Yawk on them. Really, people.
My husband and I are the only people wearing St. John's gear, and yes, we've gotten some peculiar looks, but I don't actually care. I'm going to represent my team even if they're not here.
Delaware band is in front of us. Love the guy with the YouDee on his trumpet. Will have to acquire a foam YouDee at some point to add to the souvenir collection. They did a good anthem with a very colonial feel to it (which makes sense, since they have the Revolutionary-era name history).
It's 41-27 Kentucky at halftime, and so far only Elena Delle Donne and Danielle Parker have looked capable of playing at Kentucky's level. I'm impressed at Delle Donne's speed and ability to absorb contact, something which she seems to have improved upon. Parker is rebounding like crazy. These may be the worst officials I have ever seen- at the beginning, everything was a jump ball, then everything was against Kentucky, then everything was against Delaware- and by everything I mean leg whips and forearms to the face. We're lucky no one got seriously hurt.
Kelsey Buchanan really mixed it up on the inside with the Kentucky posts, and then acted surprised when she got called for a foul. Aww, that's cute. Jaquetta May came off the bench first in the first half, and from what I can glean from the box score and my obstructed view from around the stanchion, she worked loose a lot of offensive boards (I think two or three of the were on a play near the end of the game, when Delaware had four chances at the basket and couldn’t come away with a basket). Trumae Lucas was an offensive catalyst in the second half, and had some great defensive plays too. Stephanie Leon's minutes were near the end of the first half- I think she was just there to fill time.
I loved watching Danielle Parker rebound. Loved it. She was tough. Couldn't shoot (though the rim in front of the Kentucky/Maryland bench wasn't kind to anyone), but I loved her rebounding. Lauren Carra got in foul trouble early, and though her three at the end of the first half was cold-blooded and key to keeping the Blue Hens in it, she didn't wake up until the second half. I think I remember Kayla Miller bringing up the ball every so often, but also that she didn't seem to be bringing it up as often as one would expect from a point guard- the responsibility for that seemed to fall to everyone else on the floor (Parker, Delle Donne, Carra, etc.). I think Delaware would have needed her to be more of a factor to survive. Same for Akeema Richards. I think she was in for her defense, but I'm not sure.
Elena Delle Donne took over the game for Delaware, for both good and ill. She was spectacular, and she's been working on the parts of her game that were weaknesses when she was younger. She'll always be a step slow on defense, but she's been improving on the offensive end, and when she decides she's going to get aggressive, no power on this earth is going to get in her way. She deserved every moment of the standing ovation she received, and I wish her all the best. She seems like a really sweet kid.
Azia Bishop gave some good minutes in the lane. Brittany Henderson got on the boards, and even if she didn't pull the rebounds down, she made room for her teammates to get them. Bria Goss was solid, especially on defense. For me, the real defensive star was Jelleah Sidney, who drew the unenviable task of having to guard Elena Delle Donne when Plan A didn't work. She was also a constant presence on the boards, especially on the offensive end. I remember seeing her under the basket a lot. They also got good if unremarkable minutes from Janee Thompson.
A'dia Mathies seems to have decided that she needs to take over for her team. This is both good and bad- good because they need her not to have a game like she had against Navy, bad because her judgment is not necessarily the greatest. Jennifer O'Neill missed her first three shots badly, I started swearing, and then she started hitting everything in sight, so I shut up. She was a little careless with the ball, but she was the offensive catalyst they needed her to be. It was great to see Kastine Evans starting to look more like herself. Her three at the end of the first half was cold-blooded, and she hit a second big one in the second half as well. Love it when a player's moments are choice. DeNesha Stallworth spent most of the game on the bench because of early foul trouble. When she was in the game, she mostly stuck to turnaround moves with limited success. But the foul trouble really got to her. Samarie Walker was fierce on the boards. She really went after it, though she came up oddly short on some of her shots.
The referees were... oh, let's just call them interesting and decide that they hope to stay home for Monday's game. The Delaware fans were complaining that they were biased towards Kentucky, the Kentucky bench was screaming at the differential, and I was screaming that maybe they should figure out how to call something other than a jump ball.
Really liked YouDee's performance. So far, he's the best mascot I've seen in the
and the redheaded guy who plays him is, like, way hot omg. Also seriously impressed by the biceps on the male cheerleaders for Delaware. Those three guys could probably in combination bench-press the team bus.
Lots of Delaware fans there, and I think most of them were actual-facts Delaware fans, not UConn fans flying false colors because OMG ELENAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. And they got loud. And I hope to God they stay loud without Delle Donne.
I think every man in the SEC is required to slick back his hair with industrial-grade gel unless physically impossible. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
Very surprised that Kentucky's defense wasn't more frenetic. They seem to have been sitting back more. They're going to need to ratchet it up against UConn.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart each had 17 points to lead Connecticut over Maryland, 76-50. Alyssa Thomas had 13 for the Terrapins, while Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech added 11 each.
For chanting, tricks, blood relatives, the wrath of Geno, accidental deflections, and bodies all around, join your intrepid and sleep-deprived blogger after the jump.
Being at a game in Connecticut is sort of like being in the middle of Beatlemania. It's intimidating, and not entirely pleasant. They don't understand why you'd root for any team but UConn. (I'm from Queens, this is how I roll, deal with it.)
Maryland, I love you, but really, this obsession with the state coat of arms has to stop before it leads you into any more bad fashion choices. However, bringing a state flag is cool.
UConn up 35-26 at the half, and I think UConn smells blood in the water. The officials have been a bit strict about travels and VERY loose about everything else. Geno got his T for arguing for a call on what looked like a body slam by Hawkins. And the crowd had his back all the way. That was a truly deplorable and dangerous non-call. Maryland's chucking a lot of shots. UConn's had some bad luck with the rim, but that'll change in the second half; that rim's been messed up all game.
I think Elena Delle Donne accidentally set a screen for Stefanie Dolson; while Dolson was down and hurt, Delle Donne got up and drew the attention and cheers of the crowd in the endcourt section, so they weren't staring at Dolson until she was up.
Malina Howard, if you're going to call and flail for the ball as if your very life depended on receiving the pass right that second, you don't immediately pass off the ball as if it grew spikes and stabbed you in the palms. It is very hard to take you seriously when you tend to disappear. Sequoia Austin got in at the very end of the game. Sparkly Brenda Frese mostly went with Howard and the starters.
Does Alicia DeVaughn always try to make with the three-pointers? I don't expect a tall, long-armed rebounder to decide that she's going to put up long shots when she doesn't to my knowledge do it all that frequently. She had her hands in on a lot of plays, but I think she went over the line on her physical play. Katie Rutan is automatic from those corners, and while she's not a great defender, she does work hard on defense. Tianna Hawkins consistently got on the boards, but also got beat to them by good Connecticut boxouts. She made her presence felt on defense, but not on offense. Chloe Pavlech looked like a freshman out there, though she got her long-range shot going in the second half. At times, it almost looked like Maryland was taking their cues from Delaware and making everything about Alyssa Thomas the way Delaware made everything about Delle Donne. Thomas has a decent handle for a woman of her build, and I understand the exigencies that led her to playing the point for the Terrapins, but I think Maryland would be better off with her not bringing the ball up as much and being able to get herself into position instead of having to bring the ball up, dish off, and then get in position. She played well, but she couldn't do it all herself no matter how hard she tried.
Maryland just didn't seem to know how to get out of the trouble they were in, but that might be because they were short-handed and because when UConn smells blood that's the end of the game.
Hello, Moriah Jefferson! You are tiny, but you are fast and sneaky and slice through the lane like a hot dagger through butter! She had one beautiful steal and fast-break lay-up (I think Thomas was the victim) in the second half that set off the crowd. She actually got the start in the second half, because she was playing that well. Morgan Tuck looked a little slowed up by her knee brace, but she bulled her way into the lane and along the backdoor cuts with great efficiency. Geno probably wants to see her get more comfortable with her off hand, though. Kiah Stokes got time near the end of the game and got in on the boards. Bria Hartley was... well, I think I understand why Geno exiled her to the bench.
Which I'm pretty sure is also the only reason why Caroline Doty was getting the start. I really don't remember her doing anything. Kelly Faris didn't necessarily make much of an impression, but at the same time, always just seemed to be there. Her two-pointer in the second half came off a gorgeous look-away pass from Jefferson. Breanna Stewart actually looked comfortable for the first time that I can remember when seeing her. If she's starting to settle into her height, it's going to be a long three years in the Big Metro American However Many. She was blocking shots not just on the perimeter but on the inside. Stefanie Dolson had a quiet night offensively, but she was a monster on the boards and in the paint. The final rebounding numbers don't reflect how hard Connecticut was working to seal off the glass. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was using that strong build of hers to create space in the first half, going closer to the basket before unleashing the jumpers in the second half. She was good.
There were flashes of that terrifying UConn tendency to immediately create offense from their defense- Stewart blocked a first-half shot, and two passes later she drained a three from the right side. Jefferson had a sweet steal and a lay-up. UConn basketball, in its purest form.
These officials were not particularly interested in calling fouls until the second half, and it did not make them popular with either team and either coach. A lot of bodies were hitting the floor with very few calls being made.
I'm impressed with the Maryland cheer squad's strength. It takes a lot for an all-girl team to pull off some of those stunts. And you've gotta love a band that uses the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme as an alternate fight song. Their version of "All of the Lights" pales in comparison to DePaul's, though.
Sitting low in the endcourt is a very bad combination, especially when coupled with barriers for the band sections. You see virtually nothing, between distance and the stanchion and the barriers. I have to remember that for next time.
If Kentucky is as lax as they were today, UConn will run all over them. If UConn takes their foot off the pedal as early as they did today, Kentucky will rip them to shreds.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: A'dia Mathies had 34 points, and Kentucky used a small first half run to take control of their second round NCAA tournament game, beating Dayton 84-70.
For MOAR hats, free drinks, bendy cheerleaders, redemption, and grabby hands, join your intrepid and clock-racing blogger after the jump.
Good evening, everyone! We're coming to you for the last time this season on the usual tape delay from Carnesecca Arena on the grounds of St. John's University, in some-yet-to-be-identified neighborhood of Queens, New York. Second-seeded Kentucky and seventh-seeded Dayton will be squaring off for the dubious pleasure of going to Bridgeport; on one hand, woo-hoo, it's the Sweet Sixteen, but on the other hand, it's Bridgeport. Hard to get excited about that city. (Sorry, Nutmeggers.)
The bands have officially opened battle. Dayton's band did "Crazy Train". Kentucky's band immediately followed up with "Crazy Train". The Dayton band did not look amused. Their version was better, anyway.
A fair amount of St. John's fans stuck around for this one. I'm impressed and pleased.
I also really want Ukari Figgs's shirt, but that's because I really like royal blue, though that is not why I am leaning towards Kentucky in this one.
At halftime, it's Kentucky, 40-31, and A'dia Mathies lives, with 15 points. They keep leaving her open in the corner, and she keeps hitting threes. Kentucky went on a huge run to bust open a14-all game, but Dayton's hanging tough. Andrea Hoover has 13 for the Flyers. Dayton is having a lot more trouble finding the open man than they did against us.
I think Kentucky missed the game tape from Dayton-St. John's on Sunday. They seemed inclined to let Dayton get back into it for a while, but then A'dia Mathies happened, as she did quite a bit that night.
Brittany Wilson played a little bit in the first half, but not again in the second, which surprised me; I would have thought Jabir would use her to bang with Stallworth and Walker a little bit and try to wear them out. Kelley Austria committed an exceptionally stupid foul and somehow missed the scouting report that getting trapped in the corner against Kentucky is a recipe for disaster. I did like the offensive rebound she sneaked out of the pack with on a Hoover miss, though. Olivia Applewhite at least brought good physical defense, even if she couldn't get her shots to fall. I like the way she plays, though she does have to work on her shooting.
Samantha MacKay, what are you even doing fouling a three-point shooter? This was not the greatest game she's ever played, to be polite about it. She was careless with the ball (which is never a good plan against Kentucky) and just threw up some very bad shots. Amber Deane looked like she was in a little over her head (which, since she's a freshman and Kentucky is kind of vicious, doesn't surprise me). She had one brilliant save on the baseline- she pulled off the "throw it off the opponent" move perfectly. Andrea Hoover did pretty much the same thing to Kentucky as she did to St. John's, only more inside the arc. Cassie Sant started off hot for Dayton, with midrange jumpers and moves on the baseline, but she got into a little bit of first half foul trouble, and I think that might have affected her confidence in the second half. Ally Malott was solid, but Dayton needed her to be more than solid if they wanted to spring the upset.
In general, Dayton looked rattled by the Kentucky defense, and hopeful when Kentucky overreached or slipped an assignment. Jabir was getting frustrated, too. "STOP FOULING!" he yelled at one point in the second half, when they went into the penalty.
Azia Bishop played very briefly, but I think she might have either gotten hurt during the game or been injured beforehand; she was holding her left arm tight against her body during the handshake line. Janee Thompson got minutes as part of the hockey-style line changes, but didn't make much of an impact. Jelleah Sidney mixed it up in the lane and got into a little bit of shoving with Dayton players. Brittany Henderson gave them some very good minutes off the bench as a tough, physical guard who boxed out well- if Pinkett had hit the three off that pretty pass she threw, the place would have gone off even more than it already was during that run. Bria Goss gave Kentucky the bulk of their bench minutes and was a spark on both ends of the floor.
We saw more frequent substitutions from Kentucky tonight, both in quantity and frequency. And Matt Insell is probably going to be gone in no more than two years. He did a lot of the yelling on the sideline, to the point where I thought the officials were going to remind him of his role and tell him to sit down.
Another questionable game from Kastine Evans, though she was better on the defensive end than she was against Navy. She still seemed to be the target of most of Matthew Mitchell's criticism, though we caught a couple of other Wildcats being hollered at. Samarie Walker drove the lane well- except that any top-10-team level starter should be able to hit a lay-up from the left side. She blew one shot by forcing herself to go right and take the shot with her right hand. But she's a tough rebounder, and I guess I can give her a little bit of a pass, given what I later heard was the reason she had to switch into a throwback #22. (We didn't see her barfing, which I'm okay with, since seeing players barf at two games is more than enough for my history.) Jennifer O'Neill's passing was not particularly crisp, and she did seem to enjoy taking shots from somewhere in the vicinity of the Whitestone Bridge, but I still like how she runs her team. I'm sort of a sucker for floor generals who run their team with unmistakable authority, I don't know if you've noticed. And she did come up with a couple of big plays in the second half. DeNesha Stallworth was a stalwart in the post, plus she brought her jumper to this game.
And then there was A'dia Mathies, who seemed to have taken the lousy game from Sunday to heart and roared back to life with a vengeance, going down the lane for lay-ups and hitting three after three from the corner. She looked like the first round pick she has been touted to be. (Oh, and Bill Laimbeer was in the audience...)
The people around me who were cheering for Kentucky- both the Kentucky fan base and the St. John's fans who returned for the second round- were extremely upset at the officials for what they perceived to be unfair calls. The fact of the matter is that, yeah, Kentucky holds and reaches a lot as part of their defense, and if they get the wrong crew, they're going to be in a lot of trouble. The refs let everyone play in the first half, then tightened up in the second. (Not that there weren't bad calls against Kentucky; O'Neill has a case.)
Dayton added another hat to the band collection, a flight cap. Also, the band director's jacket was red and blue striped, with sequins and flashing lights. Seriously, Kim Mulkey would have thought it was over the top and a touch ostentatious.
Great fan support for Kentucky and from the Dayton band. I am all in favor of stomping on the bleachers.
Thank you for the free Diet Coke, person who got busted at the gate. I took it home with me afterwards.
On to Bridgeport!
Monday, March 25, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: DeNesha Stallworth had 18 points and 11 rebounds to help Kentucky win their first round game over Navy, 61-41. Jennifer O'Neill added 12 points, 9 in the second half, and five steals. Jade Geif and Alix Membreno each had 9 points for Navy.
For dancing, gyrations, dress uniforms, souvenirs, sloppiness, and many cerulean hues, join your intrepid and apologetic blogger after the jump.
Good morning, everyone! We're coming to you on tape delay from Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's University in Queens, New York, for first-round NCAA tournament action between the Patriot League champion Navy Midshipmen and SEC powerhouse Kentucky.
I'm in a chair-back seat. It's kind of disconcerting. I'm usually in the bleachers across from the home bench- I like being across from the bench so I can see a team's interaction. But here I am four rows from center court, facing everything except the logo. I'm so confused. All the advertising is covered up, since the NCAA has all the ad rights, so there are black squares where the bright ad lights used to be, and ribbons on the court where the sponsor logo once was.
Kentucky is very, very blue. It's intensely colored. Navy has a strong base here already, though we're not sure who the guy in the Army cap is cheering for. Kentucky has names on their jackets. I like them already. I have some idea of who they are!
Not buying the swag. $25 for a hat? $10 for a program? Forget it. If I'm buying anything it's going to be in Ne Orleans.
Navy appears to have brought foam goats. I'm going to go make a trade if I can. (I had to lie and say I wanted my husband's bracket to bust to get one.)
Kentucky band is coming in. Bands have been moved to what's normally the student section instead of the angled corner next to it where they usually are.
Mystics coaching staff is in attendance- Marianne Stanley and both Thibaults.
At halftime, Navy is up one on Kentucky, 26-25, but I don't think it's sustainable. Navy's been letting themselves get rattled by Kentucky's pressure, making bad passes and completely losing clock awareness in the last ten seconds- first not calling time to avert the five-second call, then not getting off a shot when they got the ball back after a really bad shot by Kastine Evans. Alix Membreno is playing really well for the Mids, with seven points and some great hustle. Jade Geif is rebounding all the things and bringing the body. For Kentucky, DeNesha Stallworth has started to get hot with her jumper, and they're killing the offensive boards.
There is a... gentleman... in a UConn shirt objecting to our discussion of our brackets. Sir, you are in a UConn shirt. You are lost. Be thou silent or GTFO.
Kentucky band did the anthem. They did a great job of it, but I do wonder why they didn't let the Naval band do it.)
Kentucky and Jennifer O'Neill opened up a can at the start of the second half, and it was pretty much downhill from there for Navy.
M.L. Morrison brought a little bit of offense off the bench in the first half, along with a body on the Kentucky posts, especially DeNesha Stallworth. Erin Meador committed some really stupid fouls, especially her third and fourth ones. The rest of the bench mostly played spot minutes, not really much of a factor in the game.
Audrey Bauer, I am not sure why you persisted in shooting threes from somewhere in the vicinity of Annapolis, but after the third or so miss, you should have realized that this was not a good plan and gone away from it. It's okay to take another step towards the line, not a step back. Chloe Stapleton picked up two quick fouls and then a third one near the end of the first half, so whatever it is she usually does for Navy, she didn't have much of a chance to do it. Jade Geif killed the boards in the first half, and I love how she was able to body up on the Kentucky posts, but she has got to hit her chippies. She had a lot of shots right at the rim that rolled off. She has to go up with more authority, though she did a better job of that in the second half. Alix Membreno played out of her mind in the first half- hitting shots, going for steals- but I think she ran out of gas. Kara Pollinger wasn't much of a factor. I remember her hitting a three, but that's about it.
Kentucky brought in a wave of reserves all at once very early in the first half, but went back to a more traditional substitution pattern for most of the game. Jelleah Sidney got away with quite a bit of shoving that I felt was quite uncouth; I don't care if your sister was a Johnny- she was epic fail, anyway- you don't get to do that at Carnesecca. Azia Bishop is one heck of a big body in the middle- surprised they didn't use her more. She got more time in the second half, because Stallworth was starting to wear down, and I think she helped wear at Navy's confidence by wearing them out in turn. Bernisha Pinkett gave them good defensive minutes off the bench. I remember seeing a lot of the back of her jersey on traps. Same for Bria Goss.
A'dia Mathies had one of the most awful games I've ever seen from her. She kept leaving her shots either short or off the side of the rim, she couldn't get on the boards- I think Navy's gameplan hinged on doubling and tripling her because they could, and in that regard, they were victorious. Granted, it was the only regard in which they were victorious, and there are no moral advances in the NCAA tournament. DeNesha Stallworth showed off a surprisingly pretty jumper from all over the floor, but she slowed up in the second half. I think stamina was getting to her. Samarie Walker attacked the rim in the second half with verve and vigor, cutting through the lane and the defense. Jennifer O'Neill was fairly quiet in the first half, and then the second half started and she was a firecracker- her points came in a fast spurt, along with a couple of nifty steals. She propelled Kentucky on to get their act together. Kastine Evans didn't play well- Mitchell was not happy with her.
Kentucky fans turned out in force; it truly was a sea of blue. I salute the cheerleader who carried blue and white streamers in his megaphone to hand out to fans- love the ingenuity. And I knew gymnastics was serious business in the SEC, but wow, the Kentucky male cheerleaders were spectacular with their flips and the fast spelling out of C-A-T-S.
I forget what the Navy band was playing- something aquatic-themed ("Sea Cruise", maybe?)- but the Kentucky band proceeded to do The Swim to it. I think the Johnnies in the corner were ROBL (rolling on the bleachers laughing).
I love that the first half was competitive; I wish the second half had been just as fierce by Navy.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's came back from a 13-point deficit with 5:18 to go and forced overtime, but ultimately Dayton came away with a 96-90 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Andrea Hoover had 24 points, 16 in the first half, to lead the Flyers; Kelley Austria had 14 of her 21 in the second half and overtime. Nadirah McKenith led St. John's with 22 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists.
For pride, hats, flags, red, and gutting it out, join your intrepid and serene blogger after the jump.
Why are there so many UConn fans here, omg. You guys had your own pod, stop stalking Samarie Walker already.
Dayton's band is hogging all the airtime. Come on, guys. Let our guys go.
Amber Thompson is probably going to kill her mother for the head-on-a-stick. Our Newark contingent has gone all out (they probably planned for that Trenton regional) with signs and ticket sales. And giant heads on sticks.
Okay, I'm enjoying Dayton's band, but I think I'd like them more if they weren't stepping on our time. I think our band is starting to get annoyed at them.
At halftime it's 43-30 Dayton, and if Joe Tartamella is not ripping his team several new ones based on their inability and/or unwillingness to guard the three-point line, I want his job because he's not doing it. Andrea Hoover has 16 for the Flyers. Shenneika Smith has 10. Dayton has done an excellent job of finding the open man when the double comes.
I'm not disappointed in the team, merely that I don't get to see them again. I'm not angry. I'm not ashamed. I'm sad, but that's it. You can't ask for more than everything, and they left everything on the floor. When I thought they didn't have enough left in the tank, they gutted it out of them somehow, and they never stopped fighting.
I do not know where Assertive, Aggressive Ashley Perez has been all season, but I would absolutely adore it if she stuck around for the next three years instead of Slightly Scared Mouse Ashley Perez. She hustled hard on defense, to somewhat more effect than usual- and then the shots started falling. Turns out the problem was that she was taking them too close to the line; once she took a couple of steps back and started hitting them from Nassau County, she was into her groove. She also was more willing to drive, though her shot selection was a little shakier there. She carried us through the second half and the first overtime, but in the latter part of the overtime, she started to falter. It's been a while since she's had to go that hard that long. She started heaving up panic shots that fell short. Still. Good to have her. Keylantra Langley was a step slow on defense and kept leaving her man open. Not good when one of your primary duties is to play defense. Would have liked to see her be a little more assertive on offense. Mary Nwachukwu played sparingly, just to give Amber Thompson some relief from foul trouble, and was not particularly effective. I'd yell at her that she needs to rebound the ball, but that was the last game of her senior year, so she doesn't have to rebound anything anymore.
Briana Brown kept getting out of position on defense. This was not a good match-up for her, and I think it affected her offensive confidence as well as her defensive confidence. She went to the floor for loose balls as always, though. She's tough. She'll rebound. Aliyyah Handford had some issues with her handle, but when she went hard to the paint, no one was stopping her. If that tip-in had gone in at the end of the first overtime... but it didn't. She played hard. She tried to keep us in it during the second overtime. Amber Thompson had a lackluster first half and then exploded in the second half and overtime. Suddenly the easy shots she'd missed were going in. Suddenly she was pulling down rebounds with authority. She took over in the second half. That's the Amber I know and appreciate and look forward to two years of.
The seniors get their own paragraph, because they were awesome and I'm not going to be able to write about them again, and that makes me incredibly sad. Shenneika Smith put on a show to open the game, countering on seemingly every Dayton run. She was slashing, she was taking jumpers, she was being the star that we knew she could be. Her hands were up and active and moving. And then Nadirah McKenith pretty much took the team on her shoulders. Scoring, rebounding, dishing, stealing, hustling, defense... Nadirah did everything and anything she could to pull St. John's through. When she fouled out on the charge (which was a call I couldn't argue with, though many around me did), she was inconsolable, head buried in her jersey, shoulders shaking, needing to be pulled out of her chair to join the huddle at the next timeout. My heart broke for her. She's been such a rock for us... it hurts when she's hurting. We chanted her name when she went out of the game, and I know it wasn't enough, but maybe she'll n the huddle at the next timeout
Okay, I guess I should talk about Dayton, because they played just as hard and were even better than we were. But it's hard, because they're not my team and I don't know them as well because I didn't have a roster, and I'm still entirely too proud of my team to talk about the team that beat them. But seriously, Dayton and their fans and their band were fantastic, and I look forward to their eventual inclusion in the Big East.
Olivia Applewhite killed us on the boards, and that bucket in the second overtime was a backbreaker. I was very impressed with her, although she's got to be more careful about staying on the bench when she's not in the game. I like her toughness. Kelley Austria was a steady consistent offensive force for the Flyers off the bench, getting the job done on backdoor cuts and drives down the lane. She owned the show in the second overtime. Brittany Wilson was a tank- I still don't know why she set that screen on Nadirah away from the play, but whatever. I wouldn't have expected her to swish that three, though.
We could not get a body on Andrea Hoover for the entire first half. She just kept slipping loose and getting open on the right side. It was exceedingly frustrating. She was less of a factor later in the game, but by then Samantha MacKay was stepping it up. Amber Deane looked like a player with a lot of potential, but I'm not sure if she felt like she was ever in the game. She was steady, but she didn't leave much of an impression. I think the scouting report keyed heavily on Ally Malott, because she didn't get a lot of opportunities. Cassie Sant didn't hit a lot of shots, but the ones she hit were well timed.
It's hard to get a handle on Dayton because of the lack of names on either jerseys or roster. (I need to whip up a scorecard one of these days, for games when a program is $10 and I have no idea who half of these people are.) In general, their passing was sharp and crisp and they were great at finding lanes. Just a very solid team that's run well.
Officiating was interesting. Not necessarily in a good way. To be fair, I thought Dayton got the short end of the stick in regulation (except for getting the timeout granted the second time they tied it up), but I was really not happy with the charge that fouled Nadirah out of the game. Neither was the crowd. But ultimately, the refs didn't decide the game.
The crowd atmosphere was amazing. I wish I could have bottled it and saved it for next year, because it was the kind of cheering we so rarely get at Carnesecca for a women's game. Stomping, cheering, chanting, screaming... can we carry it through without Shenneika and Nadirah?
The Dayton band has a ridiculous number of hats. At least four. We tried to trade with them, but they didn't have any extras. :( I think my favorite was the one with the giant airplane on top. They use the same cheer cadence as Villanova, which is very confusing.
The second half, I thought we were done. Dayton was up 13 at the half, and for most of the half, we'd score a basket, then let Dayton take it right back, then cut it to 6 or 7, then Dayton would pull it back out to 13, wash, rinse, repeat. The last couple of minutes happened in what seemed like a blink.
I'm so incredibly proud of my team and the year they pulled out. It would have been easy to strike the tents after Gina tore her ACL, but we surged back in Big East play. Our young players have gotten valuable experience, and we'll be back.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. Joseph's overcame an eight-point halftime deficit, turning up the defense and heating up the offense to take the Atlantic-10 title over Fordham, 47-45. Natasha Cloud had 15 points and six assists for the Hawks, and Chatilla van Grinsven had eight points and 10 rebounds. Marah Strickland had 16 to pace the Rams.
For tight squeezes, forgotten souvenirs, horned helmets, hard picks, and pivotal moments, join your intrepid and congested blogger after the jump.
Good evening, everyone! We're coming to you on tape delay from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, host of the A-10 tournament final between Fordham and St. Joseph's.
The A-10 did a pretty good job turning around as fast as they did between the men's semis and the women's final- the men's semis ended about forty minutes before the scheduled tip of the women's game. I think they're encouraging people to stay to make the crowd look bigger- we've already been asked once if we wanted to move down. No, thank you, I like being able to see the big screen and to see the plays as they develop.
So far Fordham's showing great support, which doesn't surprise me, since all you have to do to get here is get on the D and keep going. And I like the arena. There's an abruptness to it that's very New York- once you're through the lines, BANG, the court's right there, so you can get caught up as soon as you walk in the building (though I'm sure that security is a touch more thorough at Nets games).
Great anthem to open things up. The crowd has been loud for both teams. Great atmosphere. Fordham got a 12-0 hole shot on the Hawks, and they're up 24-16 at the half, but I'm worried about the way they ended the half, and the way they've been running the clock down over and over again- Griffin is a good enough coach that I can see her team taking advantage of that in the second half.
Ilze Gotfrida got physical in the post. Surprising from a Euro. I don't remember much of Mireia Vila did other than the one foul.. Cindy Griffin really relied on her starters.
Ashley Robinson started the second half; I don't remember if she started the first half. She was a long-armed defensive presence who flicked away rebounds and affected shots. I wasn't terribly surprised when the one foul she committed was a stupid one; it does sort of come with the territory of the name. Erin Shields's shots looked good coming off her hands all the time, but she didn’t always get the roll, though sometimes she did. She reminds me a lot of her sister around the face. I think Ashley Prim let the one bad foul call early in the game get into her head a little bit. She still stayed active on defense, though. Chatilla van Grinsven got stopped up by Fordham switches, but on the other end she was a defensive mis-match for pretty much anyone she was up against- they had her on Erin Rooney or Arielle Collins, and you could tell that the extra height was affecting the Rams' view of the court. She's good. She's probably kicking herself about the missed free throws, though. Natasha Cloud ran the offense well, finding her teammates and going for loose balls.
St. Joe's adapted very well in the second half. I think in the first half they remembered they were no longer playing on their home floor and were in fact playing in New York. In the second half, they held it together and made the big plays that their team needed.
Charlotte Stoddart was great on the boards. I like her hustle. I don't know if she was the player on the bench who was getting the defense chant started, but if she was, then I like her even more, because the Fordham bench was really loud. The Rams leaned heavily on their starters- I think Christina Gaskin and Emily Tapio only came in when Arielle Collins and Samantha Clark fouled out.
Erin Rooney had some very good drives that didn't end the way they should have- one rolled off the rim, one got blocked- either of those could have been the difference. I like her instincts but I'm not sure if she's an A-10 player. I really like Samantha Clark, though; she's only a freshman, but there's something in her build and her style of play that reminds me of Erin Buescher. She needs to hit her chippies and stop thinking so much about the three-point line, but it's rare to see a mid-major player be as physical as she is; usually a big player like her ends up at a mid-major because she won't bang. Arielle Collins and Abigail Corning were both very active on defense, with Collins also drawing the duty of pounding the ball for fifteen seconds until Fordham started their offense. Marah Strickland started the game off hot, then drew a lot more defensive attention and started taking some bad shots.
I really don't know what to think about Fordham's offense. It reminds me unpleasantly of Villanova's offense, except that they don't have the three-point shooters that Villanova has. It reminds me just as unpleasantly of Rutgers's offense, but they don't have players who can create their own shots like Rutgers once did. Time of possession does matter in basketball, but not if you don't do anything with the ball after you control it.
The officiating in this game was decidedly interesting. When it starts out with the kind of arm hooking that would make Plenette Pierson blush and ends with an offensive foul called off the ball from across the court, that's the only word I can think of. Both coaches yelled at the refs a bit, and I don't blame them.
People around us kept running away for some reason. Look, I know I'm not in Fordham gear, and I know I'm loud, but I'm going to go hard for my city. Ne York has to represent, especially when dealing with Philadelphia.
A-10 legends honored at halftime, which was cool, followed by Drums of Thunder, which was very cool. I miss those kids.
Got to meet some Butler fans and welcome them to the Big East; should have done the same to the guy in the Xavier cap.
I still don't know what the offensive foul call was on Samantha Clark, but it essentially decided the game, especially when Fordham hesitated on the intentional foul. How you make the call from the other side of the floor, I will never know.
We're watching the awards ceremony now. St. Joe's is running around with their hats and shirts. All-championship team includes a kid from Temple, Rooney and Strickland from Fordham, and van Grinsven and Cloud from St. Joe's. Rooney looks like she wants no part whatsoever of her little trophy. Cloud is MOP of the A-10 tournament. That is a really shiny championship trophy. They announce each member of the winning team, then get their rings. Huh, I didn't think rings were that soon.
Okay, that's the one classy thing the St. Joe's band and students have done all day- they're chanting Cindy Griffin's name as she gets her ring.
And there goes the net, to a chant of "The Hawk Will Never Die!" I think the students are going to chant each player's name as she gets her cut. But we didn't stay for the whole thing, because the first person to go up didn't quite know how to cut the net- she started from the bottom and tried to cut vertically as her team shrieked directions at her.
The rolls in this game were truly bizarre for both teams. I guess you can expect that when two Jesuit schools play shortly after the selection of the first Jesuit pope. Shots were halfway down and went out, shots were all over the rim and in- it was crazy. And it was for both teams evenly, as if God wanted to prove that He didn't play favorites.
It wasn't the prettiest of games, but it was a solid game and worthy of a championship.