Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28th, 2015: Niagara at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Damika Martinez poured in 34 points on her Senior Day as Iona handled Niagara 81-53. Joy Adams added 14 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. For Niagara, Meghan McGuinness notched 11 points and seven rebounds.

For so many feelings, balloons, shirts, small adorable children, terrifying mascots, ALL the Martinezes, team-colored flowers, unexpected emergences, and getting smacked right in the feels, join your intrepid and verklempt blogger after the jump.


The era of "right in the feels" continues this weekend. Iona only has one senior, but what a senior she is, and what a career she's had! Damika Martinez is one of the best pure scorers I've ever seen, and when she goes off, she's a joy to watch. This year, she broke pretty much every record that was available to be broken, starting with the Iona scoring record about two minutes into the season, through the MAAC career scoring record, and incidentally passing the Iona men's record just the other night. 2535 and counting, and the fascinating part is that with all the spotlight on her scoring, she's done more than ever to get her teammates involved, passing up bad shots she would have taken not so long ago to get them better shots.

I'll miss watching games with her partisan, passionate family, who make up a cheering section all on their own and can get a crowd going in a heartbeat. They love her, and she loves them, and it's this incredible surge of emotion and connection.

(I think she looked better with braids than this flat-top she's trying to rock, but y'know what, Mika? You're the undisputed MAAC momma, you can do whatever your heart desires.)

So this will be a hard goodbye against Niagara. A good part of why I care for Iona goes with Damika. But we're there for her. I hope and pray they pull it together in the MAAC tournament, because she deserves a chance to dance, and so does Joy Adams.

In honor of Damika, Iona's all rocking "Martinez 14" shirts. (Excellent idea, Cassidee.) Today's poster, of course, features her- all four years of her. I think a significant percentage of Meriden, Connecticut will be joining us for this game. Some have already arrived, in Iona #14 shirts with "Mika Day" on the back. The florist has done a very nice job of matching Iona's gold on the flowers, and the ribbons are the perfect maroon and gold. It's the proper home white jersey, not the pink-and-white St. John's likes to foist off on their seniors. (I am taking particularly close note of Senior Day prep for two reasons: first, to help St. John's get it right for Aliyyah and Danaejah, and second, because a certain reader has a particular interest, and this might get some of the chronicling pressure off my husband.)

Niagara has nice shirts too. Nike did a good job with them.

Iona did Senior Day right. There was a highlight video of some of her more significant and/or tricky shots, there were red roses and a lot of family, there was a listing of her accolades. Niagara got in on the action early- each Niagara senior received a purple rose with a purple ribbon. I think some of them were genuinely surprised.

And if Iona didn't get it right, Damika's family would have made sure that it was done right anyway. They brought posters. They brought giant heads. They brought balloons. They brought what appears to be most of Connecticut.

Iona's up 37-27 at halftime. Damika has 17, Joy Adams has 10 (off the bench, we suspect she's fighting either flu-like symptoms or "flu-like symptoms"). Meghan McGuinness has looked good for the Purple Eagles, with nine points and some tough boards. I have to give a shout-out to Karynda DuPree for starting to use her size in the lane. Get it, Karynda!

Shoutout to the little kid behind me who had the presence of mind to actually yell out "SHOT!" when Niagara put up a shot. I applaud her court awareness.

Damika Martinez needed 34 points, for whatever reason (we thought it was the MAAC scoring title, but she already beat the daylights out of that), and despite taking two hard hits that left her limping, she wasn't coming out of that game without 34 points. I think that was the last milestone she felt herself obligated to complete.

Niagara made it clear fairly early on that they were from hockey country. When you've already seen ten players in the game six minutes into it, you might be seeing a lot of substitutions. They showed flashes of nice ball movement, and a couple of their players showed a good nose for the ball on the glass, but overall I was unimpressed.

Emily Granruth made a splash in her brief second-half appearance, launching a three with such a high arc I was expecting it to bounce off the rafters. I haven't seen an arc like that since K.B. Sharp played for the Liberty. Kelyn Freedman and Jamie Sherburne both came on late in the game, when Kendra Faustin brought in the end of the bench and conceded the loss. Kaylee Stroemple saw big minutes off the bench in the post, and wasn't afraid to get physical (physical, physical) on the boards. Sylvia Maxwell brought a little bit of scoring pop in the lane. Gabby Baldasare came on strong near the end of the game, showing a little bit of aggression down low. I have no strong memories of Sam Lapszynski.

Kelly Van Leeuwen did not make a lot of friends in the city of New Rochelle when she knocked Damika Martinez to the floor and Damika was slow to get up. (She certainly did not make friends with Marina Lizarazu, who committed the deliberate foul to stop play with a fair amount of gusto.) I should remember more about Taylor McKay, but there's nothing ringing a bell with that number. Donisha Watson moved people around on the inside, but racked up fouls doing it. Victoria Rampado was all over the place, but not always effectively- I think a lot of the shots she missed were ones she should have hit. Meghan McGuinness impressed me most for Niagara- she has a good nose for the ball and a pretty stroke. She looked very good out there.

Everyone got to play for Iona! Okay, so with all the redshirts, "everyone" = nine players, but still.

Kristin Mahoney still looks terrified of collegiate basketball players, but I like her hustle. Aurellia Cammock saw time late in both halves and was not terribly assertive. Philecia Gilmore more than made up for it- she fired up shots without remorse and without regret and fired up the team off the bench. If you could bottle her passion on the floor and pass it around, you'd have one intense team. Joy Adams, as mentioned above, came off the bench and played slightly less than her usual minute load. You could tell that she didn't have her legs under her- she missed shots short and low and didn't elevate as much as she normally does. That didn't stop her from rebounding, because she's Joy Adams and she rebounds all the things.

Faithful readers of the Game Notes of Doom have seen several of my rants about Karynda DuPree. And she was not always as assertive as she could be. She still seemed too confident in the ability of shots to go down, and thus lackadaisical following shots. But today was the fiercest I've seen her on the inside and on the boards. She posted up several times, and it was glorious. Get it, girrrrrrrrrrrl! Use that big body of yours! Aaliyah Robinson was quiet, but played the passing lanes well and made a couple of great plays with Damika. I'm probably not allowed to admit this within the New Rochelle city limits, and certainly never in the vicinity of Meriden, but A-Rob is my favorite Gael. Marina Lizarazu brought out some of the fancy passes, and was hot in the early going. Cassidee Ranger fought in the high post and came up with two of her sweet three-point goals. Damika Martinez shook off the pressure, or fed on the emotion, or something, and turned in one of her high-usage, high-volume, high-scoring, shows. She drove the lane for impossible shots, hit threes, hit midrange jumpers, and fought hard on defense.

Interesting officiating dynamic: the female referee (Feck, according to the box score) seemed to be a bit of a control freak, insisting on the last word. I don't think she was the crew chief- the male refs both seemed older, and one of them I know was more experienced. There was the usual array of bad calls and missed calls. Travels were not much called today.

This was what a Senior Day should be. (Except for Damika falling down a lot.) And this will almost certainly be the last time I see Iona this year.

Thank you, Damika. It's been a privilege.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22nd, 2015: Georgetown at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's surged out to a big lead, then held off the dogged Hoyas to win 75-61 in their home finale. Aliyyah Handford led the way with 27 points and seven assists, while Danaejah Grant had 26, 14 in the second half. Dominique Vitalis led Georgetown with 17 points, with Dorothy Adomako adding 16.

For a shot to the feels, a lack of sentiment, guard play, sparkly bows, hustle at all the wrong times, coaching advice, and much love, join your intrepid and verklempt blogger after the jump.

So it's that time of year again. The season starts to wind down, the last this, the last that, until there's only one ticket left. Senior Days always get me right in the gut- or, to borrow internet parlance, right in the feels. I can go to a team's game for the first time all year and get verklempt for their seniors, so you can only imagine how it is with my own team.

For the first time, though, we have a senior that I really don't know well. What can you say about a player you've only had for one year and who's spent a recent chunk of that time injured? I'll miss Kyra Dunn's shot-blocking, and her uncanny ability to find a teammate to tap the ball out to when she can't get hold of the rebound. But I don't have a strong enough sense of who she is in real life to miss the person she is. But with a Cal undergraduate degree in her back pocket, I know she'll succeed wherever she goes and whatever she does. Which may be another year here, since she wasn't part of Senior Day.

Selina Archer made me root for a different team. I think I told this story both when it happened (appropriately enough, against Georgetown) and in the game that resulted, but I'll tell it again. So we're sitting in our usual seats, and we notice a whole bunch of people in St. Francis Red Flash gear sitting in our section, and they're cheering like crazy for Selina. Seems kind of random, since Selina's from Florida and St. Francis is from Pennsylvania. Turns out that Selina's sister Corissa plays for St. Francis. We get to chatting with them, and I sort of end up promising to hit LIU for their game. Fast-forward to LIU, and there I am in a red shirt and my ever-present St. John's scarf, cheering for the Red Flash and saying hi to Selina. At the end of the game, three or four St. Francis players come up to me, thank you for coming, and hug me. And then the coaching staff takes a shine to us. But anyway. Injuries have really messed up Selina's time with us, and I'm sorry I didn't get to see more of her clearing out the lane and causing opponents to suffer. She's a sweetheart, and I wish her all the best.

While you were reading this sentence, Amber Thompson rebounded something. She's always been solid on the boards and on the block, but she's taken it to another level this year. In a draft like this, maybe that'll be enough for her to get a look. I love how expressive she is, whether it's her death glare right before a shot ends up out of bounds, her 8-O face when she gets called for a bad foul, her 'oh God stop' look of despair when her mom's embarrassing her, and her big huge enormous giant smile when she's happy (said big huge enormous giant smile is on the poster across from me, and it lights up her face like you wouldn't believe). I'm going to miss her interactions with her ridiculously proud mom, who loves and adores her even when Amber might really not want her to. (I don't know if it's a complicated play they put on for outsiders, or if Amber is really that uncomfortable with public affection, but they're adorable.) No one holds it down in the paint like Amber does. She's grown and matured as a Johnnie, and I hope to see her again in the summer.

So, Senior Day. The schedule posters, with Amber and Selina and Joe, were out in force, but there were no proper scorecards. The ceremony was very bare-bones and brief, and Amber still started tearing up by the end. There was a brief intro for each player and her family, a white-and-pink jersey, flowers, and photographs. I would have liked a little more time spent on each player's accomplishments- Selina's intro didn't even mention that she had been at another school. It seemed like they were trying to get it out of the way in a hurry.

Georgetown is not a good team. Not yet. They have height, and they have potential, but they are (to borrow a phrase from Clay Kallam) raw as a side of beef. They committed a lot of sloppy turnovers, traveling almost constantly and getting dinged for three seconds plenty of times. Natasha Adair seemed unnaturally calm on the sidelines, almost to the point where I thought she might be on medication. She had her foot in a boot, so maybe that's why she didn't get up very often. They used their length well in the passing lanes.

Yasmine Belk brought a lot of physicality and size off the bench. Katie McCormick hit a three as part of Georgetown's run, but mostly demonstrated that at some point in her life either she played, or she should have played, softball- she executed a perfect take-out slide. Justyce Swango is very tiny, but is very aggressive on defense- there was one possession where she was stuck to Amber Thompson like a burr, to the point where no one on St. John's felt comfortable passing to Amber despite the gross size mismatch. Brittany Horne hit an early three and moved with grace. I didn't even realize Jade Martin played, so I apologize to her.

I'm not sure how DiDi Burton ended up pronouncing her name Dada, but that's how the announcer said it all day, and no one from Georgetown attempted to kill him, so whatever makes you happy. She brought the ball up, but I don't think they really had a defined point guard, someone to take the reins and make the team answer to her. Faith Woodard found her offense in the second half, getting into the paint- but then usually traveling. Logan Battle also found her shot in the second half, but also had a case of happy feet. There were a lot of travels today. Somewhere, Bonita Spence is nodding in approval. Dominique Vitalis sliced us up inside, going in on St. John's defenders all day. She had Kyra Dunn for lunch and even had her way with Amber Thompson. But having Jade Walker come in on the double did the trick. Dorothy Adomako is the real deal. She's a volume shooter, but she's got size and perhaps not all the moves, but more than a freshman's fair share of said moves.

St. John's keeps slowing down the offense, and I don't know why. You have players who play best when they're running. You have a super-fast point guard. Why pound the dribble for 15 seconds? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY GOD WHY?

Imani Littleton sighting! She needs to improve her court awareness, but she did decently enough on the boards. I'd like to see her be more assertive. Tonoia Wade got some time in the second half, but did little with it, but it wasn't a lot of time. Crystal Simmons took a couple of hits and missed some easy opportunities. Kyra Dunn was tentative on defense, but pulled down one wicked rebound. Tamesha Alexander gave Aaliyah Lewis a little break.

(As an aside: three players on St. John's were wearing unusual socks, and none of them were the kid nicknamed Sox for her unusual socks in high school?)

There were a couple of early attempts to force feed Amber Thompson on this her Senior Day, but ultimately, we should have all known her first basket would come on an offensive rebound and putback. She killed it on the boards, because that's who she is and what she does. She was impractical with her elbows- no matter how much a Hoya annoys you, you can't chuck an elbow into her chest after the play, away from the ball, in front of the ref. Jade Walker got her some buckets, and as questionable as her defense might have been in the first half, she came up with big boards and big stops down low late. I love it when a big girl decides she's going to make someone's life miserable down low. Aaliyah Lewis played tight defense and came up with some pretty passes. Danaejah Grant did that thing where she shuts down on defense, as opposed to shutting down her assignment, but she got buckets, especially in the second half. She did work getting to the line and hitting smooth jumpers. Aliyyah Handford did everything, because that's how Liyyah rolls. She hit jumpers. She hit lay-ups. She found her teammates. She got rebounds. She took a ridiculous amount of contact. She caused mild officiating errors. She's awesome and adorable and thank God she's only a junior.

Play of the game for Georgetown: Aaliyah Lewis goes up for a jumper. Katie McCormick channels her inner Ewing, Mutombo, and Mourning and smacks the living daylights out of the shot.

Play of the game for St. John's: Tamesha's sweet pass to Aliyyah for the bucket.

“Y U NO?!” moment of the game: Jade Walker is on one of the Georgetown forwards, I think Vitalis. Joe is screaming, “LEFT SHOULDER! LEFT SHOULDER!” at Jade. Jade is not listening. Vitalis goes over the left shoulder. Swish.

Not Top Ten moment: Late in the first half, Aliyyah Handford is at the line. She misses the first free throw and charges after it immediately to try and put it back up. Why is this a Not Top Ten moment? Because Georgetown by this point in the game was up to their 13th foul and St. John's was in the double bonus. It was a dead ball. The really bizarre thing? Somehow, the officials' decision on the matter was to forfeit the second free throw and have St. John's inbound on the baseline under the basket. Of course, then Danaejah committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over, because that's how we roll.

I think the refs were watching Rutgers-Michigan State in the first half and Seton Hall-Villanova in the second half. The foul splits in both halves were obscene. 13-3 Georgetown in the first half, 13-9 St. John's in the second half, with a stretch in the second where it was 5-0, and another 7-3. Inconsistency in officiating is going to get someone hurt one of these days.

Use the window, children in shooting contests!

It was Women in Sports Day, which meant pregame clinics, which meant Kym Hampton and Teresa Weatherspoon sitting in the courtside VIP seats for the first half. I sort of envied Kym's daughter A'riel, because it looked like Spoon was talking basketball with her and coaching her up through the game, and oh my gosh wouldn't that be awesome?

Shoutout to the kid from Queensborough I ran into at the bus stop.

I'm thrilled for Amber (and for poor lonely Selina in her sweatsuit on the bench) that we pulled out the win on Senior Day. It's off to the Northwest Territory (not the Canadian one) for Xavier, Butler, and the Big East's Little Dance. Go St. John's! Make us proud!

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 20th, 2015: Villanova at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm came up with the right boards at the right time to seal a 56-51 win over visiting Villanova. Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 25 points, adding eight rebounds. Emily Leer led Villanova with 13 points, 11 in the first half.

For pink, bid sniping, more pink, symbolic roses, even more pink, laptop cases, did I mention pink, ill-fitting jerseys, yet more pink and dear God so much pink, join your intrepid and insomniac blogger after the jump.



Good evening, fellow travelers! It's Pink Zone at Carnesecca Arena tonight, and the Red Storm have gone pink to fight breast cancer. Villanova has echoed the theme in their accessories and coaching gear However, the Red Storm's warmup shirts are a shade of pink that clashes horribly with their pink jerseys. Everything is pink. I feel like I've been dyed in Pepto-Bismol and left in a bin of Valentine's Day clearance merchandise.

We just had a little halftime ceremony with survivors standing in the shape of a pink ribbon.

There's also a silent auction going on up front, and ducks being sold to benefit the American Cancer Society. Mallory, Jillian, Bombay, Cathrine, Darkwing, Giggy, Greg, Wildwing, Joey, Jenny, Marcus, and Teemu, among others of their flock, say hello.

Anthem started off strong, but ended up all over the place. Not bad, but not great.

Villanova's up one at the half, 28-27, on the strength of a Holeman bucket with about two seconds left in the half. Emily Leer leads the way early for the Wildcats with 11. Aliyyah Handford is once again too awesome for mortal minds to comprehend, with 12 for the Johnnies.

Kyra Dunn and Crystal Simmons are both rocking pigtails. Crystal pulls it off slightly better than Kyra does, and we have thus dubbed her Sailor Madrid for this game. Kyra can't be Sailor Berkeley, though- that's already Gennifer Brandon.

Random aside: Kyra resembles Raina from “Agents of SHIELD” entirely too much for my liking. (Or, at least Raina as she was before the midseason finale; I understand she's gone spiky since then. Kyra is not spiky.)

Like any proper Villanova game, the pace was slow and painful, and both teams fell into that slow, steady trap. Villanova was obviously more comfortable than we were (well, the “we” in the stands; Joe seems pretty okay with it) but they were missing a lot of easy shots in the second half, shots that they were hitting in the first half.

I actually feel a little bad for Kendall Burton- her only purpose in the game was to commit fouls late in the second half when Nova needed to foul in a hurry to get into the one-and-one. It was clear that was why she was brought in for the first time. Kavunaa Edwards's shot was badly off all night. There's missing jumpers, and then there's missing jumpers ugly. I don't think Jordan Dillard played in the second half, and I don't recall much of anything she did in the first. Alex Louin gave some strong minutes in the second half, both inside and out- she was surprisingly physical for a guard (though this is Villanova, and guards and forwards are fluid there). Taylor Holeman played her usual starter's minutes, and actually started the second half in place of Emily Leer. She worked hard on the boards and gave Villanova a different look inside, but she missed a lot of shots, both close-in ones that she should have made and longer ones that just looked bad.

Emily Leer started the game more or less on fire, exploiting the mismatch on the perimeter- our post players were simply neither prepared nor inclined to guard her out that far. The defense improved in the second half, and she became less of a factor. I get the feeling she might be a player who needs to get off to a good start fast to have a good game- once she cools down, she's cold. Caroline Coyer, whose jersey didn't quite match her teammates', does all the big things on the floor- she had a really nifty defensive play down low in the first half. Katherine Coyer does the little things- she set screens, hustled for loose balls, and made good passes. Interesting sisterly dynamic there, huh? Lauren Burford spaced the floor with threes, as your daily reminder that everyone except maybe Harry shoots threes for the Wildcats. Samantha Wilkes took the opening tip, and she helped clump up the defense in the paint- like most teams that are competently coached, Villanova concentrated on taking away our penetration by collapsing in the lane.

What sealed the game for St. John's was as much bad decision-making and unexpected missed shots by Villanova as it was defensive pressure by St. John's. At 54-50, Caroline Coyer drove the lane for two when Nova would have been far better served for three. Blowing the lay-up was icing on the cake. Harry Perretta pulled her aside for a prolonged teaching moment after that.

Kyra Dunn was our post player off the bench. She seemed even more timid than usual, moving slowly and awkwardly. She did have a nice defensive sequence in the first half where she played with a little fire. Crystal Simmons was our guard off the bench, and she was mostly a non-factor. That's not necessarily a bad thing- if a freshman is coming in and not making mistakes, I'll take that.

Tonoia Wade did not play, but still managed to make a terrible mistake on the court. If you're going to give one of your teammates a comradely smack on the posterior, don't do it hard enough to make her turn around and give you the stink-eye. On the flip side, Selina Archer did not dress, but #54 still scored- she and Sandie Udobi both had pink jerseys made up, though they were both hurt, so those uniforms were used for the dress and dribble contest, and the girl we dubbed mini-Selina won.

Jade Walker is going to make me tear my hair out one of these days. She gets buckets, there's no denying that. And she's good at that. And sometimes she gets on the boards brilliantly. But she's constantly a step slow on defense and she loves to watch her jumper, and those are things that make me incoherently angry. But she seems to be a good kid and she gets buckets, so I can't dislike her. Danaejah Grant's shoulder is probably bothering her more than she'll admit- something looks wrong about her shot, her rebounding isn't as strong (though she pretty much saved the game with her last one), and her defense is lacking. Whatever it is, I hope she has a chance to have it taken care of over the summer. Aaliyah Lewis is so very fast. She wasn't statistically impactful, but I do love her defense and to watch her go. Amber Thompson crashed the boards, including her 1000th rebound, which is a lot of rebounds, but that's because Amber's kind of awesome. Aliyyah Handford took on the scoring responsibility, as usual, and was awesome, as usual. There really are only so many ways I can describe to you the incredible vertical and kick of Aliyyah's jumper, or the way she can slice through a defense like a hot knife through butter. Eventually, you're just going to have to see her for yourself.

Officiating was mostly unremarkable, though Amber's fourth foul was kind of weak. We thought Louin had initiated contact.

Villanova had an obnoxious habit of trying to take inbounds that they had no right to. They did it twice, and also tried to claim a wrong spot.

We needed this one. The NCAA tournament's probably out of reach, but the WNIT's not, and a team can learn a lot from the WNIT.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15th, 2015: Siena at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Siena started rough, then came back in the second half, but Iona came away with the 57-50 win. Damika Martinez scored 20 to lead the Gaels, with Aaliyah Robinson contributing 115 points and Joy Adams notching 11 rebounds. Meghan Donohue of Siena led all scorers with 21 points, while Margot Hetzke had 16.

For drawn-out agonies, coming so close, frustration, awkward moments, and bone-chilling cold, join your intrepid and technically challenged blogger after the jump, but don't let her near any laptops.

Good afternoon, everyone We're coming to you from the frozen tundra of New Rochelle, hoping to witness history at Iona College. The oft-mentioned-in-these-GNoD Damika Martinez is 23 points away from breaking the MAAC scoring record, and it seems like a pretty good bet she'll do it against Siena.

Today is both Girl Scout Day and Play4Kay day, just in case we didn't have all our WBB-emphasis-on-the-W bases covered. The pink shirts really, really do not go with the green and yellow of Siena.

Good to see Ashley Murray back in something resembling uniform, and Casey Wortley off the crutches.

Siena's Under Armour sneakers might be standard issue, but they're pretty awesome standard issue.

Shoutout to IC tech and the sekrit password. I saw nothing!

That may have been the longest national anthem in American history. It may have been 1824 by the time she was done torturing every line.

At halftime it is 27-16 Iona, and it has been slightly uglier than Medusa staring down a gargoyle. For a very long time it was 10-4. Siena's only dressing seven, which doesn't help. The officiating has been awful, too. Like, really bad.

I'm not sure, but I think the mysteriously disappeared (nah, she just transferred to Pace) Christina Rubin appears to have resurfaced for this game. Everyone wants to see Mika hit that 23. She's at 10 right now, which is a game-high.

I cannot with some of this cluster today, and St. John's is not helping me over in Fox Sports land.

Have you ever wondered what the basketball equivalent of Chinese water torture might be? This game was the perfect example. This was all kinds of ugly. A team with players meant to run should be doing a lot more running against a squad that only has seven players and is essentially only running two plays. I think Damika going for the milestone might have gotten to people's heads a little bit- there were a lot of forced shots and hurried shots, a lot of pressing and mistakes born of haste.

Symone Kelly brought a little bit of scoring punch, which might be why she started the second half over Kollyns Scarbrough. She was one of the few players who could find the bottom of the basket for Siena. Emia Willingham played sparingly in the second half, which is actually pretty spectacular give how short Siena's rotation was out of necessity. Since I don't remember her dong much in the first half, that might be why.

Ida Krogh's shot was all over the place. I think she doesn't know what her role's supposed to be in this offense, whether she's playing point guard or forward, and it's messing with her a little bit. Tehresa Coles impressed me on the defensive end, intercepting passes like a boss and deflecting the ones she couldn't catch. She came up with a couple of nice baskets in the second half, albeit jumpers with an unconventional release. I'm trying to remember Kollyns Scarbrough on the floor, but I'm not coming up with anything, which might be why she got sent to the bench for the second half. Or Kelly's the normal starter but did something stupid. I don't know. Siena's second most successful and common play was “give it to Margot Hetzke in the lane, profit”. She made a living around the basket on the offensive end, going in over and over again, ad nauseaum et ad infinitum. Siena's most successful play was “give the ball to Meghan Donohue in the lane, profit”. She used her height very well against Iona, even though Iona had taller players to throw at her. She got on the boards well, too- even if she wasn't pulling down the board, she was tapping it out.

Siena played very determined defense. They, and everyone else in the universe, knew that the ball was going to Damika frequently and often, and they sent bigger defenders at her, forcing her to pass out because she didn't have enough space to shoot. That had to be exhausting, but they were yeomen (yeowomen?) about it. Gotta give them credit. Tehresa Coles was especially impressive on defense.

Philecia Gilmore brought a little offense in the second half, getting hot in a hurry- almost to a fault. Not that I normally disapprove of bench players going on hot runs, but I think everyone just wanted to get the damn record over with already, and here's Damika feeding the hot hand instead of being the hot hand. Cassidee Ranger came in briefly, hit a three, and rode off into the sunset. That's how she rolls. There's a reason we call her the Lone Ranger, and it's not just because she tends to be left alone in that corner. Aurellia Cammock brought a little bit of rebounding, but really needs to improve her positioning and her grip Getting the ball means diddly-squat if you can't hold on to it.

Karynda DuPree was even more passive than usual. She only jacked one stupid three, but of course, merely stared at it as it went off the rim. She didn't even try to get inside on either end of the floor, except for one block early. Use your height, Karynda! You have a BCS body- Y U NO USE IT?! Marina Lizarazu got some nifty little lay-ups and was throwing behind the back flip passes all day like she thought she was Ticha. She got careless sometimes, but she's still fun to watch when she's passing like that. Joy Adams hit the boards hard, but I'm a little worried about the number of falls she took today. They weren't necessarily hard falls, but if one of my players keeps hitting the floor for no good reason I'm going to worry about her. Check the sneakers or something. I don't know. Damika Martinez looked like she was hurting all day. I imagine that after this one she wanted to lock herself in the trainer's room and have intimate communion with an ice tub. I think the wear of the season's getting to her. She looks frustrated, and not happy, and it makes me sad. That's just the grind of it when you're chasing your own level of the big time, but I think she's lost some of her love for the game. She did her best to keep her teammates involved today, almost to her detriment- all of us in the stands were rooting for her to bring on the scoring onslaught- and she passed the ball. She passed well, and she rebounded well, and I like that for her future prospects somewhere, but at the same time, I come to Iona games mostly to watch her score. Just Here For Damika, as it were. That all being said, while Joy has her athletic freak of nature moments and Damika can score in all the ways, I think my favorite Gael has become Aaliyah Robinson. I love her toughness and tenacity, her willingness to rebound no matter who she's up against, her astonishing vertical, and her threes from the corner. If she were a little bit bigger I think she'd be at a BCS school and you would have heard a lot about her.

If Iona's going to shift to the Villanova-Creighton style of “shoot everything from behind the arc” and the Villanova-Rutgers style of “pound the ball for a while and run off the clock until people's eyes start to bleed”, I'm going to have to reconsider my interest in this team. Stupid threes do not a successful offense make. Much like any superweapon, the three must be deployed at the proper time.

The officials today were a hot mess, and that's all I'm going to say about that, because I'm sure they're perfectly nice people in their ordinary lives.

Today was Girl Scout Day, as mentioned above, so there was an autograph session open to the Scouts in attendance. This is the first autograph session I've seen for Iona in, like, ever, and I was a little irked that it was supposed to be for Scouts only. Now, your intrepid blogger did have one loophole to leap through: you never stop being a Scout, after all, and I spent three years in Troop 4839 selling cookies, camping on weekends, earning merit badges, and learning important life skills such as laundry and putting down racist suburban girls. So we eventually steeled ourselves to join the mobscene on the court, since this was not the most organized session in the world. No tables, no lines, just wandering up to players who wielded Sharpies. The Gaels seemed nice enough, and Marina was tolerant of my conversational Spanish (fortunately, we didn't go much past “hi, how are you, thank you, good luck”, because then I have to think about it). She took charge of organizing her teammates to make sure everyone got everyone. Joy messed with me a little bit. Yes, Joy, you're right, it's for the kids, but I did my time with the green sash. That's where I learned to be prepared, and why my clipboard always contains extras of everything.

Of course, by the end of the night, the poster was already torn, but that's what happens when you use flimsy paper.

That awkward moment when you make a joke about Karynda DuPree being photographed on the poster posting up, and it's the one time in the history of ever, and then someone starts repeating the joke to her teammates. I wanted to sink through the floor omg.

At least they won, but that was all kinds of ugly. No child should have had to witness that game. It's on to the McCann Center, and if Damika can't notch three points there, Iona might have bigger problems to deal with.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

February 8th, 2015: Providence at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford notched a double-double with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds, as St. John's bounced back to beat Providence 70-49. Danaejah Grant added 18 points off the bench, while Amber Thompson added 10 points and 13 rebounds. Alison Lewis led Providence with 11 points.

For friendly rolls, unfriendly rolls, royalty, shooting contests, overpriced sodas, a difference in pace, relief, and Aliyyah Handford being awesome, join your intrepid and displaced blogger after the jump.


So, on top of everything else that could possibly go wrong after that benighted Creighton game, my beloved Jocelyn got tinfoil stuck in her power jack, and now she won't charge. (Jocelyn is my much abused but loved nevertheless HP laptop.) So I have to borrow my husband's laptop for Game Notes of Doom. Just the cherry on top.

We're playing Providence today, and I hope they're inspired to do better than they did on Friday.

Most of our post depth is still out of uniform. Sandra Udobi and Selina Archer are in sweats, while Kyra Dunn is in street clothes. She looks really nice today. Still not sure I agree with her shoe selections, but today that's a minor quibble instead of a general questioning of sanity.

There are free hats today so we no longer have to fight about who gets to wear the St. John's hat! Suspect there will be plenty of hats to go around. The hat does not fit well on top of another hat.

Overdramatic anthem but that's the way they like 'em at St. John's.

Aliyah Miller, don't hate because Aliyyah Handford is a better A*liy*ah than you are. No reason to hit her in the face.

It's 37-23 St John's at halftime. Aliyyah Handford is best A*liy*ah, with 17 points. Danaejah Grant did not take kindly to her benching, and she has 12, all pretty much rapid-fire. We keep throwing the ball to Providence, which is a bit annoying

I think Kia Wright might be a couple of rows down from me, but I'm not sure, and she's shown no signs of recognition, so it might just be someone who looks like her around the eyes Then again, they're doing that St. John's HOF thing with her, so might be her, though she probably wouldn't be wearing denim if that were the case. And it was Kia! Hi, Kia! (Now I definitely have to check out an Adelphi game.)

Kym Hampton was also at the game, but in the capacity of A'riel's mom, not in the capacity of an employee of the New York Liberty. Still, maybe she was able to recommend Amber Thompson as a third-round draft pick. Hope springs eternal, what can I say?

That was satisfying, and exactly what we needed. Everyone played, everyone did something good. That clears the palate after that debacle on Friday.

Providence seems to have a curious taste for long, lanky forwards and stocky guards. It's an unusual mix.

Miranda Simpson played the passing lanes like a corner, picking off lazy passes, and there were a lot of bad passes for her to pick off. Brianna Frias intrigued me, making defensive plays with her height on the inside. Aliyah Miller brought some physicality, occasionally too much. She had a strong stretch in the late first half where she looked like an A*liy*ah, but that was her best stretch. Alison Lewis was quietly efficient, never really noticeable, and occasionally mistaken for Simpson (very similar hairstyles), but she found the points for Providence. Looking at the minute counts and guessing the usage, I wonder if she's usually a starter.

Allegra Botteghi has a stocky build, and may need to hit the weight room to get into condition with it. She seemed a little tentative, though she got her feet under her a little more in the second half. Chanise Baldwin positioned herself well on the glass, boxing out Amber Thompson pretty well (some days you can't stop Amber on the boards, you can only contain her, and Baldwin contained her at times). Karin Robinson drove the lane without fear. Her shot selection left something to be desired, but I admire her nerve. Alexis Harris barely played- I recall an impression of height and shot-missing, but there was a lot of that from the Providence forwards in general, so that might not have been her I got the impression from. Evi Iiskola had a nice defensive play in the first half, but that's about all I remember from her.

Providence is not a good team. Not yet. But I love the defensive instincts on Simpson, and she's only a sophomore. I also really like the potential for Frias, and she's only a freshman. That's one of the things I love about the Big East this year- there's room for teams to grow and stretch, and I've seen a lot of great, great freshmen making plays.

Kimberly Spruill got to play, yay! You should have heard the roar when our walk-on came into the game, and the “awwwwww” when she missed a three-point shot. Everyone wanted her to hit it except for the people who were rooting for the Friars. Imani Littleton made some good plays in the paint, hitting a couple of baskets and crashing the boards, and I like that Amber Thompson appears to have taken her under her wing That's a good person to learn post play from. And like a true Johnnie post, she can't hit a free throw to save her life. Tamesha Alexander came in to give Aaliyah Lewis a break before the Great Bench Emptying Of The Blowout, and was unremarkable. The offense slowed down somewhat when she was in, but the offense tended to get bogged down anyway, so that doesn't really prove anything. Tonoia Wade was off her timing for most of the game- good hustle, but at the wrong moment.

Danaejah Grant did not start the game, presumably because she was awful last game and gave the coach attitude after being awful. She seemed inspired, or just angry. Whatever works to get points out of her. After we let Providence get back in it, at 22-17, she pretty much said, “aw hell naw to this” and started bombing threes, putting up 10 of our 12 points in one stretch. Her hands were active on defense, which is a blessed change- defense is usually her Achilles heel. She brought the distance shot and even some of her rebounding. Crystal Simmons got the start, and I'd still like to see her be a little less tentative on offense. She moves very stiffly, and that's a shame. She'll be a great player if she stops being terrified of the prospect. Jade Walker was her usual up and down self- hit some beautiful shots, committed some dumb fouls (though the call that took her out of the game was a bad, bad call), and alternated between being immensely frustrating and wonderful. Amber Thompson looked to have recovered some of her swagger, pulling down boards and blocking with authority- she had a great one in the second half that she snatched up and recovered (of course, we then turned it over, because that's how we roll). Aaliyah Lewis found her teammates on the break and looked good- her shooting is still a little off, but that's not necessarily what we need her for. She's also become my mom's favorite player (yes, the Queen Mother has been taking in games, it's quite refreshing)- she loves her speed and ferocity. Aliyyah Handford found her mojo again, and Aliyyah Handford with mojo is a beautiful thing to see. What intrigues me is that she's getting a lot of her points off jumpers- not that she's not riving and getting points in the paint, but she's getting a lot of midrange points, and I love that she's developing her midrange game.

Officials mostly let a lot of stuff go, which is all right, but Tiara Cruse seemed addicted to calling travels in the first. In the second half, calls tightened up on both ends, but there were far fewer procedural calls. The fifth foul on Jade Walker was a bad call- you're going to call a player for a foul for receiving an elbow to the throat, and not penalize the player who owns the elbow? There were a few 'bows thrown by Providence. Aliyyah was not amused after getting up holding her throat.

I don't follow men's basketball very closely, and I don't get particularly emotional about it, but I love that D'Angelo Harrison has been showing up and getting involved at women's games. There was a moment where the camera was on him and he ducked and tried to roll under the bleacher to hide.

Shoutout to DESPN, hitting three out of the four shots in the shootout and getting love from the students (and D'Angelo). He pretty much is the student section most games, and he's awesome.

It's off to the Midwest now, and visiting DePaul isn't going to be easy. And after that Creighton game, taking Marquette for granted at Milwaukee would be a bad idea too.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

February 6th, 2015: Creighton at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Creighton surged out to a 22-4 lead and never looked back as they throttled St. John's, 75-50. Alexis Akin-Otiko led five Bluejays in double figures with 16 points, while Brianna Rollerson added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Crystal Simmons was the only St. John's player to notch double figures, leading the way with 11 points off the bench.

For despair, a lack of alcohol, hugs needed, three-pointers, Mark Jackson references, frustration piled on frustration, and generally not good things, join your intrepid and achy blogger after the jump.

Hopefully the shooting tonight won't be as cold as the air outside, but with the Creighton Bluejays in town to visit the Red Storm, I somehow doubt it. I just hope ours is just a little bit better!

Aaaaand so much for that. At halftime, Creighton is up 39-21, with eight triples to their credit, including five in the first five minutes. They run beautiful screens and we look like we have seen neither a screen, nor a three-point arc, nor a rebound before in our collective lives.

I don't know what Aaliyah Lewis did, but she has not played in this one. She's in uniform and shooting around, but not yet active. Kyra Dunn is in street clothes. I like the jacket, but I am not feeling the plum-colored platform shoes, or the copious eyeshadow.

Stop shooting, Jade, or I am going to admire and respect you with a two-by-four. Danaejah, hold on to the ball, or it's two-by-four time for you.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand so much for that. That second half was, if at all possible, even more of a hot mess for St. John's than the first half, and I didn't even think that was possible. I don't leave games early- if nothing else, because of my little scorecards- but this is the kind of game I would not lambaste anyone for leaving early from. Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Creighton played every active player on their roster. Their team was really excited when Tessa Leytem hit her three in the second half. Bailey Norby brought some size inside and out. Kylie Brown had a pretty little jumper in the second half and mixed it up well on the boards. Lauren Works, which is a really phenomenal last name, put in that work on the defensive end. Jade Owens played a lot of time off the bench and facilitated the offense. I like the way she moves on the floor and the way she handles her team. What do you mean she's only a freshman?

The only flaw I can detect in Marissa Janning is her fondness for the finger roll, even in situations where it isn't called for. She threw up three or four of them, and I think only one of them went in. But she's a solid player with a killer shot. She didn't take a lot of shots in the second half, and the ones she did take fell short, but then, her team didn't need her. MC McGrory hit a couple of shots near the end of the clock. Briana Rollerson was really impressive, setting screens in the first half and becoming more proactive offensively as the game went on. She's a big body, and when she's not afraid to use it, she adds a dangerous dimension to Creighton's offense. She boxed out well, too. Alexis Akin-Otiko set up her teammates in the first half with strong screens, then started going to the rack in the second half. She also threw her weight around. Sydney Lamberty is another great shooter in the long line of great Creighton shooters.

Creighton shoots threes. They're really good at it. Perhaps getting out around screens would be conducive to not allowing them to hit five threes before the first media timeout. But what do I know? I just buy the tickets. To be fair, Creighton does set a lot of good screens- but that just means you have to call them out!

Imani Littleton finally got into a game, after what felt like forever, and she looked rusty- not necessarily bad ideas, but a step slow on executing them. Crystal Simmons was first off the bench in the first half to relieve Tamesha Alexander, then resumed her normal place in the rotation in the second half. She looked like she'd lost some of her fear of shooting, and her shots went in, which is a blessed change from most of the times I've seen her this year. She still missed some easy ones, including her free throws ("¡Crystal, me matas!" I yelled once or twice. Having Spaniards on two of my teams has really encouraged me to practice.) Tonoia Wade hustled after rebounds, even if she wasn't always successful at getting them. She'll develop better positioning with time, one might hope. Aaliyah Lewis started the second half, but the change in speed between her and Sox was a non-factor in our death spiral in the second half. At least Joe actually punishes players for infractions, which is more than I can say for his men's counterpart.

Y U NO PUT KIMBERLY IN GAME, JOE?

The Creighton defense covered Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant tightly, leaving Jade Walker with plenty of long outside shots. She decided that taking those long outside shots would be a brilliant plan. There's a reason the defense is giving you those shots, Jade. That is because they are bad shots. Her rebounding was sketchy most of the night, too. I was not a happy camper. I don't know what Danaejah's problem was holding on to the ball, but she kept losing her handle as if it were one of those jury-rigged tape handles the cashier puts together for you on a large electronics box. I have no idea how she committed only four turnovers. Amber Thompson has suddenly gotten very tentative on the boards. I don't know if it's just that she's worn down from the strain of the season, but she's not the rebounding force of nature she was early on, and that makes me sad. She showed a little bit of her senior leadership at the end of the first half, with the back to back three-point play opportunities- but then, being a Johnnie and being Amber, she missed the free throw both times, because that's how we roll at St. John's. By the end of that first half, she looked like she needed either a hug or a shot of vodka. Tamesha Alexander was capable in her first start, but looked lost on defense. I liked seeing her shoot more, though. I think that'll help her confidence. Aliyyah Handford was a non-factor most of the night, both because Creighton played her very tough and because that defense led to the rest of the St. John's players not giving her touches. When she did get touches, her shots were contested.

"YOU UTTER IMBECILE!" moment of the game: so Aliyyah has made two great offensive plays in a row and keyed a defensive play. There's a little life in the team. Maybe they can make a run the way they did at Seton Hall. This is, of course, when Joe decides it would be a brilliant time to sub out Aliyyah. I am not making this up. Two quick Creighton baskets and a turnover later, Aliyyah was back in the game.

The refs were bad tonight, but they were blatantly bad in our favor, so I'll take it and be grateful. Pretty sure Jade Walker should have fouled out. It's a bad sign when the crew's making game management calls in the first half.

It's been a long time since I've seen a team quit this badly in the middle of a game. Too many lapses on defense. Too many mental errors. Stupid things, like stepping on the baseline. How do screens even work, right? The only saving grace was that the freshmen showed life. But I'm not holding out much hope for this year.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 1st, 2015: St. John's at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall rode a big first half from Daisha Simmons to a 24-point lead over St. John's, then retrenched behind Ka-Deidre Simmons to hold on 78-73. Ka-Deidre Simmons led the Hall with 22 points, 13 in the second half; Daisha Simmons had 21, 15 in the first half. The Red Storm's Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 26 points before fouling out, while Danaejah Grant had 23.

For SO MUCH AWKWARD, adorable tiny future Johnnies, bad calls, the laws of physics, family business, camaraderie on the court, elevating "Apache", old acquaintance renewed, and running headlong into the edge of open doors, join your intrepid and dehydrated blogger after the jump.

So it's that Sunday. The one I've been looking forward to and fearing for most of the season. The one where your intrepid blogger and her dashing husband find themselves at loggerheads. The big game. The one that could decide everything.

It's time for the second Awkward Bowl of the year. What, you thought I meant the Super Bowl? Aw naw, we're both rooting for the Seahawks and against the Patriots. I'm behind the visiting bench here at Walsh Gymnasium, wearing my St. John's red. He's behind the home bench, wearing his Seton Hall blue. And I don't know what the lady in the Rhode Island shirt is doing.

Stop looking at me like that, Tab. We've been through this before. I was a Johnnie long before you were ever a Pirate. If MTA fares go up exponentially, and if Joe Tartamella completely loses his mind, and if St. John's goes into a death spiral of fail and unwatchable offense, and if ticket prices get ridiculous, and if I think Team Jersey wouldn't hunt me down in the street for it, then we can talk about a palette swap. But all of that has to happen first for me to even consider it.

Road black today for the Red Storm. We really need to figure out if our third color is black or navy blue, because either would work, but you can't go with both. Black and navy blue clash.

Getting pretty full pretty fast- expected attendance is so far around 1100. No, I didn't slip a digit anywhere. RedZone is supposedly bringing a bus. We'll see about that. There's only one guy I trust to show up on the regular among the St. John's student section. Five or six if you count the guys from Sigma Chi Beta.

Okay, that was nice. The Seton Hall bench priest came over to welcome everyone behind the St. John's bench. He's a sweet guy with a good sense of humor.

Even with a butt pad, these bleachers are harder than the unyielding bedrock of the earth.

No halftime notes, because crowding.

That was an exciting second half! Shame that game turned into a ref show near the end. I shouldn't be petty about that, but a couple of calls can turn a game.

Tonoia Wade saw a fair amount of time when Jade Walker was in foul trouble, as inevitably happens. She had a lot of hustle, and she crashed the boards hard, but I think she had a little deer-in-the-headlights look to her at times- she should not have had the ball in the backcourt at any time, especially not when Seton Hall was trapping at halfcourt. Crystal Simmons spelled Aliyyah Handford when she was in foul trouble, but she was in over her head- afraid to shoot, almost as afraid to pass. The foul trouble was mostly intentional.

Danaejah Grant, I don't know what I'm going to do with you. On the one hand, when Nae gets hot on offense, you can't stop her, and she gives us an outside threat that we normally don't have. On the other hand, if you get half a step past her, she stops playing defense like you've slapped her off-switch. She did her best to finish the job Aliyyah Handford started in the second half run, but I think she ran out of gas at the end. Love the way she got to the line and converted today. Jade Walker, bless her heart. She got into foul trouble, including two calls that were highly questionable. (Ka-Deidre Simmons falling down after running into Jade isn't a foul, it's an application of physics.) She got off some good shots but couldn't get them down, but also got up some shots right at the rim that she should have hit. Solid game from her, but we needed more than solid. Aaliyah Lewis looked terrified by the press and the trap. The game slowed up when the ball was in her hands, much to the frustration of pretty much everyone wearing red. She played good defense on Tabatha Richardson-Smith, which is a tall order, literally. Amber Thompson brought the offense down low in the first half, and hit more free throws today than I think I've ever seen her hit in a single game. Don't mess with the big girl. You will get whooped. She wasn't quite as terrifying on the boards as usual, but only by a little bit, and honestly, I'd rather have a well-rounded game from her than one where she's pulling down a skillion rebounds and taking one shot.

Aliyyah Handford gets her own paragraph, because she's Aliyyah Handford and you're probably not. (Unless you are in fact Aliyyah Handford, in which case, hi, Liyyah, you're awesome.) She was getting defended hard for the first thirty minutes or so, doubled and basically shut down, and getting hit hard with no call while she was at it. It got to her. First, in the bad way: flat-out shoving Janee Johnson is not the world's greatest idea when you're a 5-9 guard of average build and JJ is a 6-0 stocky forward, especially when it becomes your fourth foul. Then, in the good way: she decided, perhaps not in these exact words, that she had had quite enough of this utter nonsense and was going to rectify it however she could. And 20 second-half points later, she came damn close to it. Geno had Diana and no one else did. We have Aliyyah and no one else does. I guess awesome power just comes with the number.

Joe, we need to talk about your control freak tendencies. It might not be necessary to call Aaliyah over to the sideline for every.single.play. Just a thought. Sometimes, you can just let Aliyyah or Danaejah free-lance.

I think Jordan Mosley only played, like, five seconds of game time. She came in to shoot free throws for Ka-Deidre Simmons when Didi went to the bench saying she was dizzy while doing the 'oh dear, I've lost a contact' dance. Tony is probably relieved at the free FT practice. Kathleen Egan came in to play a little bit of defense in the first half and was never seen again. Tara Inman hit a nice little corner three and ball-hawked. The SJU student section liked ragging on her. Tiffany Jones brought a different look in the post off the bench, extending the defense and creating more space for everyone to work. She's still a little too foul-happy for my liking (well, for my liking when I root for Seton Hall). Lubirdia Gordon got work done around the basket on both ends of the floor, shutting down the Red Storm's offense at the rack.

Chizoba Ekedigwe got the start, and I thought it was a bad sign when she actually took and hit a shot. But she wasn't as tough as Gordon and she wasn't as offensive-minded as Jones, so she got a little squeezed out. Janee Johnson got a little shot-happy, and I'm still a bit irked at her for her cheap shot on Aliyyah right in front of the St. John's bench. You're better than that, JJ. I know that. I know you. Tabatha Richardson-Smith was streaky from the field as always, and never got hot like I was afraid she would, but she more than made up for it on the boards. She worked her way into the crevices and cracks and ripped down those rebounds. Daisha Simmons ripped us apart in the first half, going down the lane like Moses parting the Red Sea, popping threes, the whole nine yards. She was quieter but still effective in the second half. But that was all right for Seton Hall, because Ka-Deidre Simmons took over in the second half. She decided that Seton Hall wasn't going to lose when the big run happened. She did her best to shut the door. She's so tough.

Play of the game: Amber Thompson pulls down the board off a Daisha Smmons miss, outlets to Aliyyah Handford, and it's off to the races. Fast break lay-up for Liyyah, right? Done it a thousand times before, right? She gets to the rim, and suddenly, BAM! from behind like the hand of an angry and righteous God comes the block from Daisha Simmons. Ball goes into the curtain over the stage, Daisha goes into the cheerleaders.

I can't give you the LOL of the game, because it's profane. Suffice it to say that someone normally soft-spoken expressed extreme displeasure with the officiating and believed that a specific call was comparable to bovine excrement.

Alumnae in the crowd. Nadirah McKenith came color-coordinated and everything, wearing her black St. John's jersey. Also got to see the awesome 3 before our current awesome 3, Da'Shena Stevens (and her adorable daughter, people younger than me are having adorable children, I am getting old argh). (For those of you new to the party: Da'Shena Stevens is awesome. Her class was the class that walked into Gampel and walked out winners.)

Very physical first half. Refs let 'em play a lot, but looking at the crew, Cissoko-Stephens is known for it. I thought we got robbed on a few calls, but at the same time, we started looking for calls before we were looking for shots. (Jade. I'm looking at you. Aliyyah. Looking at you too.) And then it all went to hell in a handbasket when Aliyyah was called for a fifth foul so egregiously bad that there were Seton Hall fans saying it was a bad call. Aliyyah's mom looked ready to storm the court on that one. I don't know if that ended it for SJU- Danaejah looked ready to take the mantle- but it definitely changed the course of the game. If Aliyyah's available for the last few minutes, I think we complete the comeback.

St. John's student section did show up, but I kind of regret it. Support your team, absolutely. Boo the anthem singer, taunt the cheerleaders, swear in front of kids, call the alma mater tradition stupid? We gon' fight. If I have to explain to you what a technical foul is, how many seconds there are on the shot clock, the fact that there's a halftime, and what a 1-and-1 is, why are you even here? Because you got a meal and a hoodie for five bucks, that's why. I'm being harsh, because for a good chunk of the game, they were as a group great and loud and fun to be with; I may also be more sensitive to trash talking the opponent when the opponent is one of my teams, and when I know how close the Johnnies and the Pirates are.

I love my team. I sometimes want to love them with a two-by-four, but I love them. I love what they are, and I love what they can be. This hurts, but we can get past it.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 31st, 2015: Marist at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tori Jarosz could not be stopped inside, leading the Red Foxes of Marist with 20 points and eight rebounds in their 63-58 win at Iona. Brittni Lai and Madeline Blais each had 12. Joy Adams led all players with 23 points and 24 rebounds, while Damika Martinez added 19 for the Gaels.

For self-inflicted wounds, being left out in the cold, Beast Mode, guard-post synergy, swarming Foxes, a lack of collective nouns, the need to apply MAD SCIENCE!, and post players, join your intrepid and not yet thawed blogger after the jump.



Good afternoon, loyal and disloyal readers alike! Your intrepid blogger comes to you today from the MAAC Game of the Week at the Hynes Athletic Center on the campus of Iona College, where the Gaels play host to the Red Foxes of Marist.

I'm worried it's going to be one of *those* days, given that we missed the last bus that would have gotten us there before the tip, so we had to take a cab. Then again, I'm almost certain it was the same cabby who took us to Iona the last time we had to resort to that.

Early yet, but already that familiar core of Marist fans and family has settled in behind the visiting bench. Today's a double-header with the men, but it appears to be separate admission, which is the worst of both worlds- you get all the agita that comes with a men's game, and none of the people. Fortunately, unlike last time, we have friends in useful places, and we're in our usual spot.

Judging from the shorts, I think one of the guys from Marist came to support the women's team. Given that they're the better basketball team in Poughkeepsie by far, I can't say I'm surprised.

Lost Marist tourist, Imma need you to stop wandering around behind our bench. You are being a creepy creeping creeper who creeps.

Oh, stop playing New York songs, Iona. You're in Westchester County, that's not New York City.

Seriously. Okay, we're at 20 minutes before tip, but there are seven people behind Iona's bench. And one of them is the student charged with making sure no one rushes the court ahem, Mama Martinez. We're up to ten now!

Okay, things have improved between now and then. The Iona folks have shown up, including Damika's incorrigible family (I don't know what we're gonna do next year without them to liven things up). Marist is up 32-30 behind 12 points from Tori Jarosz, who has been abusing Karynda DuPree down low. Joy Adams has 10 points and nine boards for Iona, who can't resist the urge to shoot themselves in the foot whenever possible. Officiating hasn't helped, but hasn't been as much of a factor as the partisans around us believe.

There are rally towels. They are bright yellow and screen printed. Student workers were originally trying to reserve them solely for the students, but yeah, that's not happening. Not when most of the ardent fans aren't students, and not when y'all start waving them around us.

Killian, you're a darling, and I really appreciate that you've been at more games this year, but could you not stand in front of us? Thanks.

Not that Damika rides the hell out of the bike, but it's still going a good thirty seconds after she jumped off.

So that fell apart at the end, and it's sad. I like Iona, I really do, but it's really hard to root for them sometimes. The dysfunction is real, and it's painful, and it's making y'all miss out on two phenomenal players.

Marist is not what Marist used to be. It's strange to say that, stranger still to see it with my own two eyes instead of intuiting it from box scores and W-L records. Brian Giorgis is still a fantastic coach, and if a game comes down to Xs and Os, or having the right player on the floor to be at the right place at the right time, that's a game Brian Giorgis's team is going to win. But he's not getting the players he got when they made their name over Ohio State. He doesn't have a Corielle Yarde, a Rachele Fitz. He has a lot of players who still seem to be finding their way.

Katharine Fogarty gave a big body in the middle, getting one decent-sized run in each half. I have a basket down for her, and I thought she was the one who hit a little turnaround over Karynda DuPree, but the official box score has no shots attempted for Miss Fogarty. I'm going to have to take a closer look at the numbers. Brittni Lai came in to run point and seemed to be playing a lot when the game was close in the first half. She had a nice steal in the second half that she turned into a fast break lay-up, and she was generally hitting shots, and why can't I remember her clearly? Payton Birchmeier, cursed at birth with a hopelessly preppy name, came in to relieve Toni Jarosz when Jarosz was tired of conquering everything in her path, and did a little work down low. Her three-point shot needs work, though I'm not sure how many of those her team really wants her to take. Just enough to keep a defense honest, I presume.

Sydney Coffey took a lot of shots, and seemed accustomed to taking and making a lot of shots, but I think her more important role in this one was locking down Damika Martinez. I can see the look on your face now, because I'm cursed with second sight: "How do you define locking down a player by letting her score 19 points?" And my answer is that 19 is below Damika's average and about four or five of those came when the game was in hand. So if I'm Marist, I sigh at the missed shots, but I take the defensive energy, and in a way that sort of defines the Red Foxes: if they're not beating you one way, they're beating you the other. I expected Madeline Blais to be a little more of a factor, so I was relieved when she got the two fouls early on, but other than hitting some late shots from the corner, I didn't see a lot from her. Natalie Gomez-Martinez seemed to be handling a fair amount of the play-calling, but was quiet overall. Allie Clement made a splash early, and with Marist, I have a healthy respect for a freshman who cracks their starting lineup. But the undisputed star of the game was Tori Jarosz, who bullied Iona down low. She came out of the SEC, and she played like a player who's dealt with the physicality of the SEC. Iona had no answer for her. I don't think Iona's had a player who could legitimately answer her since Martina Weber (though Sabrina Jeridore would have at least blocked some of those shots).

Marist looked pedestrian, and that's a word I've rarely used for the Red Foxes. But they get in your head if you've seen them often enough. Just look at the notes and how often this team is compared to the past. Now imagine you've lost to Marist over and over again. They're the boogeyman. You expect them to win even when they're losing. (I suspect part of Quinnipiac's early success in their new conference, along with talented players and their hockey-style system, is not having the boogeyman in their heads, not having the history and the subconscious expectations.)

Philecia Gilmore gave decent minutes off the bench when both Damika Martinez and Kristin Mahoney were in foul trouble. Aurellia Cammock at least fought inside, but she was out of her class with Jarosz, and didn't seem ready for the pressure of a big game. Cassidee Ranger can only score in threes, it appears- even when she takes twos. She had a basket in the lane and got an and-1 off it. I'm not sure she's being used as effectively as she could be, but they don't pay me the big bucks, so we'll just have to go with what we have.

I think half of Iona's problems would be solved if we could find a way for Karynda DuPree and Aaliyah Robinson to swap bodies. That way, the 6-4 forward with a strong body that every 6-0 power forward dreams of could contentedly stand on the perimeter and jack threes, while the 5-11 guard who crashes the boards without fear could really, really dominate. Honestly, though, Karynda makes me want to smack her with my clipboard. She shies away from contact inside, and she doesn't post up at ALL on offense. All her shots were long outside jumpers, and she backed down every play on defense. Aaliyah, meanwhile, had a couple of bad rolls and a few bad shots, but fought hard on the boards and on defense. (A Karynda-sized Aaliyah would be scary. Like, play for a top 10 school scary. I'm dead serious.) I'm glad Marina Lizarazu has recovered from her concussion, but I think she's still a little gun-shy- scared to drive, afraid to take contact, hesitant to hit the floor for loose balls she would normally pursue. On the other hand, she took far fewer stupid shots than she was taking before. That just sounds like I'm a horrible human being for seeing the silver lining in a concussion. Damika Martinez is learning the hard way more and more with every passing game that heavy lies the head that wears the scorer's crown. Marist doubled her every time she got the ball. And then they threw more defenders at her to increase the pressure until she inevitably coughed up the ball. Her ball security today was awful. Don't throw the ball to people on the other team. Joy Adams went into beast mode today. She owned the boards. She almost single-handedly outrebounded Marist (25 rebounds for Marist, 24 for Joy). She slithered through defenders like she was getting her Neo Anderson on.. She even threw up a desperation three near the end of the game and it went in perfectly. She had trouble hanging on to the ball, but that's because Marist will swarm the ballhandler if they see any signs of weakness, and heaven knows Iona will show signs of weakness.

I've compared Marist to piranhas before, but it's not quite appropriate. Driver ants, maybe? Bees? Hyenas?

There were some interesting non-calls on Marist (poor Damika) and some questionable procedural calls (pretty sure you can have your hand under the ball if you're catching it, but I could be wrong). The folks around us hated every call against Iona and wanted a call on every play against Marist, but they're partisans, they're allowed.

Your LOL of the day: when Damika Martinez crossed over Natalie Gomez-Martinez and blew by her, the cry went up from Damika's family: "Gotcha, fake Martinez!" (Not that I personally am impugning any claims to the name.)

Iona student section, I love your enthusiasm and your passion, but do not taunt happy fun Marist fans, that never ends well.

I feel like I've been waiting four years for Iona to take that next step. I'm starting to wonder if they ever will.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25th, 2015: St. John's at Villanova

Just the Facts, Ma'am: 24 assists on hot 61% shooting led Villanova to a 81-69 win over St. John's. Caroline Coyer led all scorers with 28 points on 11-18 shooting (6-10 on threes). Danaejah Grant led St. John's with 20 points, while Aliyyah Handford added 19.

For fudge, wet weather, the inability to get around a screen, joy in others' success, teaching moments, batons, changing up the music, and WHY ARE YOU NOT GUARDING CAROLINE COYER, join your intrepid and backwards-facing blogger after the jump.


And here we are again at the Pavilion at Villanova, this time for the Red Storm's visit to Philadelphi.

It's "We Back Pat" day here at Villanova, with the Wildcats wearing "We Back Pat" shirts and special socks from Nike- purple with a neon orange stripe down the back. Ancillary staff are also making attempts to wear purple or purple accessories. "We Back Pat" placards are placed across from the benches to form the phrase.

The road reds are fire and I really really want those socks. Someone find me a qay to buy those socks. I don't care if they're used and washed.

Danaejah Grant has attached braids to her 'hawk. This is going to end in someone getting whiplash, I know it.

Everyone knows Harry Perretta. He's currently perched on our bench chatting with Joe Pellicane. He looks deeply wrong in a long-sleeved t-shirt.

I don't see Kyra Dunn as of yet. Sandie Udobi and Selina Archer don't surprise me, since they're injured, but Kyra could theoretically be useful.

Gospel choir sang the anthem, but not particularly gospel-like.

At halftime we have baton twirlers. I'll give Villanova credit: they don't care what body type you have if you have the talent.

Villanova is up 41-35 at the half behind 14 points, including four threes, from Caroline Coyer. Aliyyah Handford has 10 for St. John's. We need to consider maybe we should guard the arc. Tonoia Wade is having herself a first half.

Tamesha Alexander, being a Philly kid, has a bunch of family here- they're in the row behind us. Some folks from Piscataway are here for Danaejah, too.

Hey, Villanova PA guy, Lauren Hill ain't dead yet. The game at Cintas wasn't even close to her final game.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHU(^*&^&*(@()(^(*&()*(&&*(!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAGH^&*((*&*!!!!!!!!!

What do you mean I have to be coherent? I don't want to be coherent, I want to run around and swear at things and possibly hit Jade Walker upside the head with my clipboard. But you expect better of me, and I should hold myself to a higher standard, so I'll ignore the idle games open in my browser and try to be coherent.

Tamesha Alexander- or Sox, which is her nickname and much shorter and more fitting- got some time in the first half and pressured the endless dribbling of Villanova. I'd have liked to see her and the rest of the reserves late in the second half, when the game was out of reach- getting some cheap pop from Sox's Philly people might have helped, and the frosh need all the experience they can get. Tonoia Wade was the designated post reserve today, and she played well. Her jumper isn't pretty, but hey, she hit one of 'em. More importantly, she brought the defense and she crashed the boards hard. She needs to work on her positioning, but that will come with time.

Imani Littleton didn't play, but I think she ended up hearing more from Joe than anyone else on the roster. You wonder if she eventually starts tuning him out because he keeps yelling in her direction. He did turn the volume down in the second half, but still. Kvetching at people who haven't done anything wrong, and who haven't gotten a chance to do anything wrong, is counterproductive.

Jade Walker had some pretty jumpers, but at the same time, she was soft defensively- she came out of the game after giving up a couple of bad plays in a row, Joe was about ready to blow his top, and Tonoia all but catapulted off the bench. Aliyyah Handford's handle was a little sloppier than usual, and she looked like she was running out of gas- you can see where she's trying to conserve energy as she comes up and down the court. She was still somewhat active in the passing lanes, and showed her vertical trying to block Nova threes. Aaliyah Lewis had trouble seeing over taller Villanova defenders, and there was a play in (I think) the second half where St. John's almost got burned- Aliyyah was open on the baseline, but Aaliyah couldn't see her, and the play needed a couple of close passes in the paint before we got a basket out of it. She was our long-range threat, but that's not saying very much, given our overall lack of three-point shooting. (Which in turn is not to denigrate Tiny Aaliyah's threes. She looked good- it's just that we take so few threes and Villanova takes ALL the threes.) Danaejah Grant looked more comfortable than I've seen her in a while with that enormous black brace hugging her shoulder like some sort of Borg thing. She missed a lot of makeable shots, but that feels like the story of my life as a Red Storm fan.

This was the kind of game that made it look like we've fallen a step behind the top teams in the conference, and a step behind of who we once were. There were defensive breakdowns, there were a lot of missed chippies, there were lazy pases and casual ballhandling. Those aren't the mistakes you make if you want to win a conference with the history of the Big East. Those aren't the mistakes you make if you want to get into the NCAA tournament, and certainly if you want to do more than put another year on the banner.

The boxscore says that Samantha Wilkes played, but I have no memory of anything that she did, and Nova's announcer is not good at announcing substitutions. Alex Louin changed things up with her height. I like the way she holds her hands on defense- bladed, like a runner minimizing drag or a judoka about to deliver a chop. Jordan Dillard brought some speed off the bench. Of course, no discussion of the Villanova reserves is complete without Taylor Holeman, the microwave player for their offense, the one player who doesn't seem to shoot threes. She hit soft midrange jumpers and shook every defender we tried to put on her. She's scary good. She should show up in a WNBA training camp, and she should have a good career in Europe if she wants it.

I don't like Katherine Coyer. Hitting Tiny Aaliyah in the face is uncalled for and uncouth. Pick on someone your own size, Katherine. She went off for her points in one fell swoop in the second half- I think it was between the first two media timeouts. Suddenly she was cutting into the lane and hitting easy lay-ups. I don't like Caroline Coyer either, but that's exclusively because she burned us like hydrochloric acid beyond the arc. Different flavor of distaste. She has a pretty stroke, and she gets it off quick enough- not necessarily super quick, but that's where screens help. Taylor Holeman freed her up for one in the first half, either her third or fourth of the game. I don't recall Lauren Burford strongly- she brought some height, then surprised us with three-pointers. Well, surprised the Red Storm players and coaches- no one taking a three on Villanova surprises me unless it's Harry himself. Kavunaa Edwards was the starter who didn't play the starter's minutes- she scored early and was tall, but other than that was not memorable. Then again, I'm writing these notes at seven o'clock on a northbound bus. Emily Leer hit one of those pretty pretty hook shots, and generally caused chaos and consternation among the defense- again, a size mismatch, and those don't end well when your post players don't get out to the arc, because then you're asking tiny guards to defend big forwards, and that doesn't work no matter how fierce the tiny guard is.

Villanova's ball movement, when the ball moved, was very crisp. They used screens well to get the shooters free. But when they built the big lead after a spurt in the second half, then it ground to a screeching, agonizing halt as the Nova offense turned into the Let's Watch Caroline Coyer Dribble The Ball For Twenty Seconds Show. Honestly. If the refs could count, they would have dinged her for five seconds (the closely guarded variety, not the throw-in variety). Their three-point tendencies were less evident in this one, thanks to the work of Holeman and Leer down low, and Katherine Coyer cutting through the defense in the lane.

Officials can't count, film at eleven.

Squee of the day, part one: as mentioned above, Sox had family, friends, and school buddies at the game. When she got ready to check in, naturally they cheered. Tonoia looked back at the sudden sound and smiled in a way that registered as "d'awwwwww".

Squee of the day, part two: The shootout contest had a little girl, whose mission was to hit a lay-up, free throw, and three-pointer in thirty seconds. Lay-up she got on the first try, free throw on the second. The first three missed short, so she did it as a run-up the way an adult takes a halfcourt shot. Missed the next two. One shot left... it bounced around and went in at the buzzer. The crowd went wild... and then one of the refs gave her a fist bump as she came off the court.

So two out of three ain't bad. Would still rather have gotten the win over Villanova for St. John's, but all in all, a good road trip for your intrepid blogger.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

January 24th, 2015: George Washington at La Salle

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 63-38 rebounding edge for George Washington overcame 27.5% shooting in the Colonials' 67-48 win at La Salle. Jonquel Jones led the way for George Washington with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Micahya Owens led La Salle with 12 points.

For ugly, definite articles, delayed reactions, buff and blue, stairs, questionable manners, and so very many missed shots, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.


Hey, y'all!

So we came down to Philadelphia to watch Seton Hall play Villanova yesterday, and to see St. John's play Villanova tomorrow. Today we needed a change of pace. Something different. Something new and fresh.

...so we went to a La Salle game instead.

Normally you would have gotten a lot more pregame blathering about the place and the pregame happenings. However, La Salle does not allow backpacks in their arena, and the security people they brought in were unusually strict about the matter. They were kinda rude about it, too. Fortunately, the ticket office was able to hold my backpack and its attendant computer. Unfortunately, that means my impressions will be a bit more vague than usual.

(Bonus points for that same security person being the ticket-taker and holding up the line a good five minutes because she went to the concession stand and bought herself nachos.)

Everything seemed a little bootleg for the non-game related portions of the program. The ticket office was really slow to react and was printing tickets on an individual basis. There was no band, and instead there were innumerable repetitions of the fight song, which has an unfortunate similarity to something you might hear on a Saturday morning cartoon. The side boards went wacky and showed distorted ad images, so they were eventually shut down, though I kind of want to know what Citizens Bane would be.

Beautiful video of Philly scenes during the playing of the anthem.

George Washington has a lot of very tall, very skinny players with questionable mechanics. The shooting was... it was awful, no two ways about it. This would probably have been a thirty-point margin if the Colonials could hit the broad side of a barn down low. Because the game was non-competitive for about 35 minutes, we got to see a lot of both teams' reserves, so these are going to be relatively long notes.

I'm not sure why Aaliyah Brown shoved the ballhandler out of bounds late in the second half, but it was pointless. Lauren Chase ignited the offense in the first half with jumpers and a nice and-1 in the lane. Alexis Chandler reminds me of a former Johnnie, Greeba Barlow, around the face. That's where the resemblance ends. Chandler took a lot of shots, some better than others, and always seemed to be looking for her shot, no matter what. Dalacy Anderson gave good minutes in the post. Mia Farmer- a Philly kid we'd heard about on the ride home last night- took corner threes, and the third time was the charm (though that first one should have gone down- it was halfway around). Jada Matthews brought some nice size, but not so much touch. Brianna Cummings had some really good minutes- always active, with some good plays on offense. Kelli Prange was the least awkward of GW's tall, awkward players, but not by much. She made some nice little plays in the middle.

I was looking forward to seeing Jonquel Jones- I'd heard a lot about her, and as a Johnnie I'm familiar with the talents of Clemson transfers. But I was very disappointed. Her shot was a hot mess. She rebounded well, but you've got to hit the chippies down low and you've got to hang on to the ball. GW ran a lot of alley-oops early for her and Caira Washington, and none of them were successful. Washington looked like she was still trying to find her feet. She needs to muscle up. She was getting moved around very easily, and La Salle didn't have that much more size. Hannah Schaible didn't look to score, though I think her teammates wanted her to score when they had stretched the lead out and it was time to distribute the points. Shannon Cranshaw was tough from three- she's got a pretty stroke, which is more than I can say for most Colonials today. Chakecia Miller ran the offense well and seemed just comfortable enough calling her own number to balance the duties of the offense well.

So many easy shots. So many missed shots. Ugh.

Oh, La Salle. The passing was horrible. The ball security was virtually non-existent. When the shots missed, they were ugly. They never gave up on plays, but that's the most I can say about them as a group.

Amy Griffin's skill set intrigues me. She has the build of a forward, but she handles like a guard. She's a little reckless, and a little careless, but she's only a freshman. If she gets coaching, she might be special for La Salle. They brought a lot of size off the bench with Indigo Dickens and Ashanti Freeland, neither of whom played a lot, but who both crashed the paint. Jordan Williams handled the ball near the end of the game. Ebony Wells was, I think, physical, but we're getting to the time of night when my memory for mid-rotation bench players starts to fail me.

Micahya Owens was high usage, especially in the first half. She made a lot of defensive plays, disrupting the dribble and playing the passing lanes. Alicia Cropper came up with threes in the second half, as well as some tough plays. Jasmine Alston handled herself like a point guard who runs a good offense. I like her demeanor. Lisa Mintzer, the token local girl, blocked a lot of shots when GW thought they had a size advantage. They did not shoot very intelligently. Siobhan Beslow was the player of the day on the poster, but she seemed irrelevant today.

When La Salle was able to get a shot off, they got decent shots. But they really didn't have a lot of good ball movement and were sloppy with the ball.

Officiating was inconsistent, and it got to the point where you could tell the refs just wanted to get home. I am also not sure which ref she was, but there was referee who needed to visit my favorite corsetorium- by the end of the game, she had, er, lost some of her structural support.

GW has a really loud staff. Everyone seemed to be yelling. (They're also the only team I've heard use something other than the standard "DE-FENSE!" chant- they call and and respond "D UP!"

Worth the trip... but George Washington isn't quite back yet.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd, 2015: Seton Hall at Villanova

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Villanova could never quite overcome a strong start by Seton Hall, and the Pirates claimed a 59-56 victory at the Pavilion. Daisha Simmons led the way with 19 points and 13 rebounds, getting help on the scoreboard from Ka-Deidre Simmons (15) and Tabatha Richardson-Smith (11) and on the backboard from Janee Johnson (12 rebounds). Villanova put four in doubles in the loss, led by 15 points from Emily Leer.

For digging the long ball, road tripping with favorite allies, decorating Moooose, parenthetical asides, ride mooching, rocking out, placards, and purple hair, join your intrepid and traveling blogger after the jump.


Hey, everybody!

Your intrepid blogger has decided she doesn't like working Fridays, so we've decided to swing down to Philly for the NY metro teams' road trip to Villanova. Seton Hall is first up, on this cold-but-hey-it-could-be-worse Friday. As I tap these words out on my trusty laptop Jocelyn, we're sitting outside the Pavilion two hours before tip (we, ah, slightly miscalculated how far across campus we were going, and the bookstore's on the other side of campus, so we can't even kill time and buy tchochkes there).

(Also, Jocelyn isn't particularly trusty, but I love her anyway.)

(Ironically, we're staying right off Drexel's campus and among Penn's academic buildings, but neither of those teams is home on Saturday. But we did stop by Drexel's bookstore and buy a souvenir for Moooose.)

The Villanova men are passing us by on their way to a team expedition to a Sixers game. No, I don't know what they did to spark Jay Wright's ire either, but that's just cruel and unusual punishment there.

We mistook Nova's bus for the SHU bus, but I think the Pirates are coming now. Woo! Go Seton Hall! I should probably put gloves on. Poor Jocelyn is frozen. Literally- I think part of her screen got damaged from the cold.

Villanova's band rocks hockey jerseys, which is pretty awesome. I'm pretty sure one of them is also a Queenie. And 55 is a number high on my list. (5 is my favorite number and Vickie Johnson is one of my all-time favorites.)

The Pavilion is a fascinating blend of the old and the new- shiny video boards across from hard wooden bleachers, a slick track-cam sliding past the peculiar contours of the building's roof, retro-styled banners honoring players recent and not so recent. Not sure what to think about all the Wildcat women shown with the t-shirt jerseys, as I'm pretty sure that they weren't wearing the t-shirts in 2003.

Many of the usual suspects have come up from Jersey for this one, and there are rumors of buses yet to come. Serious business, yo.

Child in UNC shirt, you are ridiculously lost. I guess the shade of blue is right.

Good Lord. The Nova player in this ad has eyes that are Villanova blue. Either they need to lay off the filters or that is taking team colors TOO FAR.

Wonderful acappella anthem. I do love a good vocal group.

You may have noticed there were no halftime notes, and that's because your intrepid blogger needed refreshments after screaming her head off in the first half. I never thought I would see the day where Seton Hall had fans energized enough to organize a bus down to Villanova. I never thought I'd hear a group chanting and cheering and clapping the way the Seton Hall travel crew did. I never dreamed that the second time I saw a team's cheer and dance squads follow them on the road and cheer from the stands would be for Seton Hall. But Seton Hall sent a bus, and that bus had cheer and dance, and they had their signs and pom-poms, and we couldn't NOT get loud. It was exhausting and exhilarating and glorious. It's also a little harder to focus on individual performances, especially for the opponent, when you're screaming your head off like a crazy person, but I'll do what I can.

The bench didn't necessarily play a lot, and they didn't necessarily rack up the numbers, but they did their jobs and shone in brief spurts. Lubirdia Gordon saw time in the first half and had a couple of nice baskets down low. Jordan Mosley had a nifty steal and a couple of strong boards. Kathleen Egan provided a little defense down low, but when Villanova gets low, they get very rough, so she was outmassed. Tiffany Jones played the bulk of the center minutes for her more polished offensive game- she was a bit awkward defensively, and only a pass foul kept her in the game. But she came up with big shots and big boards.

I swear Daisha Simmons gets taller every time I see her. She drove the lane without fear and occasionally without sense, throwing up shots at the slightest hint of contact, whether getting the call was a realistic expectation or not. She tore it up on the boards, both at the rim and reading outside. Tabatha Richardson-Smith got hot early, then cooled down (the looooooooong three attempt that went wild was, IMO, the beginning of the end). Chizoba Ekedigwe contributed defensively, though she was a bit reluctant to come out to the arc (which you cannot be against Villanova). Janee Johnson killed it on the boards today. I'd like to see her take fewer long shots, but if they go down, I won't protest too much. Ka-Deidre Simmons took over in the latter portion of the game. She was solid throughout, but when it got tight and Villanova looked like they were ready to do that thing where they win the tight game because that's how Harry Perretta rolls, Didi decided that wasn't happening. She and Daisha made the hustle plays. She got hit in the head and kicked in the stomach on two different plays (only one of which was called a foul) and still made the right play at the right time.

There were a couple of stretches, at the end of the first half and in the middle of the second half, where it seemed like the Pirates were content to play at Villanova's pace, stalling the ball and taking jumpers. Can't let that happen.

Villanova's rotations seemed inconsistent from half to half, but I'm not sure if that's a Villanova thing, or a me not noticing thing, or a Perretta changing things up thing. I liked what I saw out of Samantha Wilkes, both on the boards and on the pretty pass to Taylor Holeman for the soft finger roll. I have a block down for Jordan Dillard, but I think I accidentally credited her with one of Katherine Coyer's plays, so I got nothing for her, or for Brandi Teague. Alex Louin is tall for a guard, and needs to pick on people her own size. Taylor Holeman brought the offense, but she always has; she makes sure that the pace doesn't fall off when the bench comes into the game. She had a stronger midrange than long-range game this time around, with some odd hitches in her shot.

Katherine Coyer crushed a big block in the first half on a corner three. Killed it. She's longer than her sister. Caroline Coyer did a little bit of everything, and thus was not easily remembered for any one thing. She hit a lot of threes. That was annoying. Kavunaa Edwards was hot very early, but we remembered to close on her eventually. We were not so clever with Emily Leer. She hit threes, she established space down low, and I wish to do unprintable things with her beautiful hook shot. (I have a thing for hook shots. Not the players who take them, per se, but the shots themselves.) Her foul trouble was helpful for us. I do not remember Lauren Burford doing anything of note.

Villanova had really nice ball movement, and they can shoot- but some of them look like they were taught to shoot the exact same way Shelley Pennefather shot the ball... except that Pennefather was double-jointed in her wrists. Doesn't quite work as well. You see some very strange exaggerated motion in their shots.

I expected nothing good out of an officiating crew that included both Maj Forsberg and Joseph Vaszily, and I was right. There were a lot of ticky-tack calls for the home team, but what really got me was when Ka-Deidre Simmons was hit in the head with no call. I was disappointed and distressed. Don't ignore headshots!

We managed to wangle a ride back to our hotel from Aleesha Powell's family (Aleesha must wonder why her dad likes the crazy people who can't shut up). So we were hanging out a little after the game. Jordan Mosley's family was there (which did neatly explain why someone was hanging out at a Nova game in Temple gear; my understanding is that that is frowned upon in that establishment). Tab still doesn't seem to like me, but y'know what? I was a Johnnie long before Tab was a Pirate, and I'll be a Johnnie long after she graduates. I like Seton Hall, and I love what they're building there, but my team is my team.

Villanova band is very solid. I prefer DePaul's arrangement of "All of the Lights", but Nova sells the song better, and they bring in the cymbals to end each phrase, in a wonderfully dramatic fashion. It took a while for the Nova crowd to get started, but I think we shamed them into it.

Their cheer team pulled off what was essentially a non-ice version of the Death Spiral, only with two female cheerleaders per dude cheerleader, and it was amazing. SHU cheer was professionally impressed.

That was an emotionally satisfying experience, and not just because we won. Being part of something bigger is always special.

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