Sunday, February 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, February 17, 2018

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

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

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

Awkward Bowl, round 2, FIGHT!

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

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

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

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

Substitute announcer. Maybe this one will announce subs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, February 8, 2018

February 8th, 2018: Fairfield at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Despite a strong fourth-quarter push, the Iona Gaels fell 78-68 to the Fairfield Stags. Khadidiatou Diouf started off strong for Fairfield, with 12 of her 20 points in the first half, but it was Samantha Cooper who led the way and shut the door, leading the Stags with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Alexis Lewis led Iona with 21 points.

For three-point shooting, running low on gas, starting to dislike the county, late arrivals, early departures, the travails of youth, and running out of words, join your intrepid and shell-shocked blogger after the jump.

It's entirely too early for this, but I'm doing it anyway, because despite all their efforts, I still do love Iona. So I'm currently on an uptown 6 train in the Bronx. It's 8:42 AM. I've been up since 6:30 and traveling since 7. This probably means I shouldn't be dealing with small humans, but it's Kids' Day against Fairfield, so dealing with small humans is inevitable. I brought protein bars, though, so I probably won't eat them.

Taking the 6 to Pelham Bay Park to catch the 45 is a constant exercise in counting, balancing the number of stops left with when the bus leaves. Eleven stops in thirty-three minutes seems doable, but those are famous last words.

If they're holding a Kids' Day and only half a dozen schools are coming, I reserve the right to laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. I mean, I don't mind having the elbow room, and I can't do weeknight games, but still. It's just silly.

Welp, not only do I not see Tori Lesko, I don't see Jayden Eggleston. Maybe it's not time to panic yet; Iona can be cagey about injured players sometimes. But it would fit the pattern of this season for Jayden to break out and then either get injured or disappear in a puff of smoke. Okay, there's Tori, but that makes the lack of Jayden even more disturbing.

Things I miss about being in with the in crowd (aka the ops people who get things done): not fighting with the wi-fi because I had the password. But that was a long time ago and probably two computers in the past.

There are not nearly enough Gaels here. At least Jayden is present and accounted for.

At halftime, it's 35-27 Fairfield. It could have been worse, but Jayden had the presence of mind to throw up a three at the buzzer; even though she missed the shot, she drew the foul on Khadidiatou Diouf and got two of the three free throws. Diouf has 12 points for the Stags, 10 in the first quarter; she was pretty much going bucket for bucket with Iona by herself for stretches. Toyosi Abiola has 11 to lead the Gaels. Things might get better when we actually get more than three minutes out of Trey Clay.

We have a dance performance from one of the campus dance groups. It seems like fun. It finally occurred to me sometime in the third quarter that BSU probably stands for Black Student Union and the performance was vaguely related to Black History Month.

Trumpet solo anthem. Started strong, but lost breath in the middle. He got through it, but I think it would have been better with the whole band.

And now one of the school groups is doing a step performance. I don't know how I feel about middle school step teams; good stepping takes a lot of synchronization and a lot of time to learn, but these kids aren't bad.

Okay, putting up with several hundred kids screaming the lyrics to "Let It Go" was worth it for watching Olivia Owens (our freshman with dangerously good taste in numbers) join the singalong, complete with dramatic arm gestures.

Well, I can't say we didn’t have our chances. We had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter and we blew it. We had momentum behind Alexis Lewis and her ridiculous three-point shots, and we couldn't cash in. We ran out of gas. Happens when you don't have a lot of players and a lot of the players you do have are in foul trouble.

For some reason, our PA guy kept pronouncing Kendra Landy's last name like there was an R in it. I understand that Landry is a more common last name, but either that is one funky pronunciation, or our dude didn't get Fairfield's pronunciation guide. She made an impact pretty quickly, laying a block on Toyosi Abiola as one of her first moves. She always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Kristen McLaughlin lists as a guard, but more often than not she was subbing for one of the forwards. She brings a lot of length off the bench. I don't honestly remember much of what Sam Lewis did.

(I'm sorry. I'm not in a good mental place right now, especially in terms of women's basketball and Westchester County. I have a semi-professional obligation, but these are not going to be my finest game notes.)

Macey Hollenshead seemed to get the benefit of the doubt an awful lot of the time from the ref, especially when she hit the floor. That should not have been a charge on Toyosi. Casey Foley argued with a lot of the calls on her. Yes, Casey, sometimes you commit fouls. It happens. Sam Kramer was efficient from the elbow, though full disclosure forces me to admit that I kept getting their Sams and Samanthas mixed up, at least the short ones.

But this game was about the bigs for Fairfield. Khadidiatou Diouf took over in the first half with nice moves in the paint, including a beautiful baby hook that took my breath away. Long-time readers know of my infatuation with Elena Baranova and her hook shot, and that I am always a sucker for hook shots. But the one who stepped up every single time the Gaels got momentum going, the one who shut down every "DE-FENSE!" chant that the crowd tried to start, the one who killed us in the paint and even stepped outside for shots, was Samantha Cooper. She's got touch, she's got toughness, and she's got good size. We couldn't stay on her, even when we had a roving double keying on her. She's a gamer. Not much you can do about that.

You know what happens when you're in the intentional foul derby and four of your top six players have four fouls? Absurdity happens. The final couple of minutes of play-by-play are undoubtedly filled with subs. I think Coach may have waited too long to press the panic button and bring in Tilasha Okey-Williams; T's only job was to make sure that Jayden wasn't on the floor to pick up her fifth foul. We could have used some of her offense. Kristin Mahoney looked tentative on offense, almost like she wanted to call her own number but couldn't quite do it. And then at the end of the game, when it was intentional foul time, she thought it was a good plan to just give a good hard tug on the back of her opponent's jersey. That earned a video review and an unsportsmanlike conduct foul. Admittedly, it was weak, but you have to at least be pretending to go for the ball on that play. If you yank the jersey in front of two refs and a savvy veteran coach like Frager, you're not gonna get the benefit of the doubt.

Amelia Motz showed a whole lot of moxie on the offensive glass, charging in after missed shots like there was no tomorrow. Someone's got to do something with her shooting motion, though, especially on free throws; she puts way too much spin and not enough follow-through on the shot, and it goes wherever it wants, which may or may not be where Amelia wants it to go. She had better luck driving the lane and putting up lay-ups. Alexis Lewis started bombing threes in the second half, including one from the A in the giant Iona logo at center court, so a fair 27 or so feet out. I love to watch her shoot. I think she started running out of gas in the fourth quarter, though- she looked like she wanted a chance to get out of the game and Coach Chambers didn't think she could afford to give it to her.

Rebekah Justice couldn't get going, both in the sense of momentum and in the sense of actual literal motion. We needed her size to counter Diouf and Cooper, but she simply couldn't keep up with them, and they went around her like a stream going around a rock. I don't blame Coach Chambers for not starting her in the second half. She's got nice touch around the basket if she wants to use it, but she's too enamored with her outside shot for my liking. Treyanna Clay doesn't go up as high as her teammates think she does, but she's a fighter in the paint. She was swarmed by the Fairfield defense in the second half, getting doubled and tripled. I think it wore her down in the end. Jayden Eggleston brought rebounding, but a bit of timidity on the offensive end. I'm not thrilled with her taking shots just over the three-point line, either- either step back and take the three, or step forward and take a better-percentage shot. But she's a freshman. She'll learn.

Toyosi Abiola was on fire in the first half, but ran out of gas in the second. You could tell she was leaving shots short and not getting enough elevation. She had a crossover move that backed her opponent up so far that the kids were oohing and aahing. She hasn't put all the pieces together at once yet, but she's a freshman. That's been one of the only things getting me through this season, to be honest. They're so young, and yet next year they'll get Tori back (I'm almost certain she's going to redshirt this year, there's no reason to bring her back and I'm pretty sure she's missed enough games). I think they'll win more than one game next year. Well, if we bring in a point guard. We don't really have anyone on the roster who fits that role well. Adrienne DiGioia's still struggling to find where she fits, and I think Coach Chambers is losing patience with her.

We gave it everything we had to make it a game again. I know I've overplayed the "fight the good fight" line, but that's Iona's motto and it sure seems to be this team's philosophy. Even when they're down big they never give up.

I swear the oldest of the three refs thought the kids were there to see him, the way he was blowing his whistle on even the slightest contact. Dude. Staaaaaaaahp.

I do like how Iona organizes the group exodus, by bringing up one bus at a time.

Admittedly, I'm a little disappointed that this wasn't an autograph day, the way so many Kids' Days are at Iona, but it is what it is. I guess I'll have to wait until next year to ask Rebekah Justice where she stands on the Becky nickname. (It's a Rebecca thing, no matter how we spell it. We all seem to either embrace it or hate it.)


Monday, February 5, 2018

February 4th, 2018: Xavier at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's held Xavier scoreless for ten minutes, and used that run to propel themselves to a 70-36 win. Alisha Kebbe had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead a balanced Red Storm attack. Imani Partlow had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Xavier.

For playing the fight song too often, slick dance moves, fighting too hard for rebounds, runaway ribbons, and laying the smackdown, join your intrepid and pink blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon! It's the second half of the pod today, as St. John's takes on Xavier in our Pink Zone/Play 4 Kay/BHA game.

Unfortunately for the tattered remnants of my sanity, St. John's went all out on the pink, so not only are there heinously pink jerseys in the house, the team colors are reversed. I'm going to spend so much of today so confused. At least Xavier only has the pink outlines. It still doesn't go with their colors, but it's at least subtle.

Well, Xavier at least has more players than Butler.

Ducks have been acquired. I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to BHA- I won't wear pink, but y'all can have my money.

NYCFC has their youth team at Belson, though I don't know if it's a friendly against another developmental squad or a practice. But they have a supporters section with NY flags! I don't know if it's part of the regular supporters section, if they have their own supporters, if the supporters section also has a developmental team, or what. But I drew inspiration off their vibe today. Which is good, because I'm pretty much flying solo.

One of these years, y'all will be getting that post on why y'all can miss me with all pink everything, but today is not that day. I'm too tired and I need to put my thoughts together without swear words.

Well, that escalated quickly. Again. It's 35-14 St. John's at halftime. Alisha Kebbe has a team-high eight points, but the scoring has been very balanced. Xavier's shooting is a hot mess, and I take credit for the 1-of-4 free throw shooting.

Our halftime entertainment, after the dance team put out a fantastically synchronized performance, is a game of two-player Mario Kart- one in real life, one on console. It's an interesting concept.

Moment that might sum up the game for Xavier: A'riana Gray smashing a Machi Duncan shot... right into Brian Neal's head.

Cool pregame ceremony with a group of breast cancer survivors, who got a picture at center court and signed pink sneakers (they had fewer survivors than pairs of sneakers, though, so I don't know what the plan is for the remaining sneakers).

St. John's just came out of the locker room like Joe told them they were down 21. I get not wanting them to be cocky, but c'mon. Meanwhile, we're at 2:30 before the second half and Xavier is just now running out onto the floor.

I think it's safe to say this is a weekend of "well, that escalated quickly" for St. John's. We got lucky in that we faced a good team that was severely undermanned and a bad team that had all their players available. If the situations were reversed, I don't think we'd be coming out of this weekend with a sweep.

I think Deja Ross had the worst day of any Musketeer- not just because of the loss, but it looked like the necklace she was wearing broke while the team was leaving the arena (mom and I passed Xavier on their way out of the building). She's got good size, but I'm not sure she knows how to use it. And I don't know if she's ever going to learn to use it if she's coached by Neal all four of her years. Megan Christopher saw her first minutes in the second half; when the first thing she did was commit a tripping foul on Maya Singleton... let's just say she didn't make a lot of friends at Carnesecca Arena in that moment. We dared her to take midrange shots, and she refused the dare. A'riana Gray (who apparently goes by A'ri, as that was how she was announced by the PA guy) has adorable goggles. I don't know if they're permanent or temporary, but in either case, they're not helping her shooting eye- she had a lot of looks very close to the basket and was consistently off. I like her hustle, though.

Ashley Gomez got her minutes in the first half, turned the ball over, and was pretty much never seen again. Princess Stewart brought a little bit of hustle (though I keep thinking her parents should have aimed higher, because I'm a terrible person). Aaliyah Dunham got her points close to the basket- I think one was on a putback, but don't hold me to that. There were a lot of Xavier players and they don't wear names on their jerseys. Aly Reiff saw her first time in the second half and was grabby inside- first time I noticed she was in the game was when she committed a foul.

Imani Partlow knows how to make space for herself on the inside. She didn't have an easy time of it with our regular defenders inside- about half her points came when she was matched up with Kayla Charles, who she had a size advantage on and more experience than. I think she's the closest thing they've got to a star player, or at least someone who can be relied on for points on a regular basis, and that's not good for them. One of the funniest moments of the game was when she got the ball, either after a defensive rebound or a St. John's basket, and it seemed like her teammates were expecting her to bring the ball up, but she 'noped' her way out of it, standing there with the ball until a guard came to get it from her. Alisha Kebbe seemed amused at how easy it was to defend her that way. Anniina Äijänen likes to shoot threes, and Imani Littleton was not ready for that- she kept leaving her open beyond the arc, and we're luck that Äijänen's shot got worse and worse as the game went on (she had an airball and another that was close to it).

Jada Byrd got off to a hot start, slicing through the lane through a defense that seemed to have forgotten about her very existence. We were able to pressure her more as the game went on, forcing her into travels and bad passes. Kindell Fincher had a quiet game, though she hit a three in the middle of the second half that pulled Xavier close to pulling within 20, and in this game that was a pretty good moral victory. Na'Teshia Owens got to work some of her shot clock magic with a lay-up as the shot clock expired. She's got a lot of fire- I like her.

Xavier needs a shooting coach something fierce. Too many players got opportunities close to the basket and just threw up whatever. I appreciate it as a St. John's fan, but as a basketball fan and a Big East fan, Xavier needs to get their act together.

Well, at least this time Tamesha Alexander took a shot, even if she missed it. Would have loved to get her on the board, but I think she wanted the assist more than she wanted the basket. I love her hustle, even though I know she probably shouldn't be on the floor during any meaningful stretch. Shamachya Duncan continues to be the team's unofficial mascot- the starters got super hyped whenever she put up a shot, and even more excited when she hit. (I'm pretty sure little sister threw up the three-goggles.) Kayla Charles has got to do a better job of holding on to the ball when she grabs it on the boards, and she needs to pay attention on defense. I know she's coming in when we're up big, but she's got to learn good habits for the times when she's playing meaningful minutes.

Qadashah Hoppie forced a little too much offense. I'm going to worry when we have games when we're not clocking the ball. She had quick hands and helped deflect balls. Andrayah Adams has really honed that drive down the lane, taking all contact and bulling through. I'm still not a fan of playing her at the four, but I think Joe's thinking ahead to next year when we don't have Maya and Imani, and someone's got to play in the front court.

Tiana England had some beautiful passes, but was careless with the ball. I think she made Someone upstairs upset for some reason, because her shots keep spinning out. Mom says she's putting too much English on her shots, but if that's her problem I'm afraid it's going to be endemic. (Yes, she gave me the -_- face you're probably giving me right now for the pun, but she gave me the straight line. What else was I supposed to do with it?) Akina Wellere was quietly efficient, using her build effectively to force herself into spaces and then get space for herself on the outside. She's an important part of a balanced diet attack.

Alisha Kebbe would have gotten that double-double if Maya Singleton hadn't flat-out stolen a rebound from her. She was throwing her body all over the floor to get the ball. No loose ball was safe from her. I love that she's cranked up this part of her game, and is still scoring on top of it; usually when you see a change of emphasis like that from a player, she's sacrificing another part of her game. I don't know if this is sustainable or if she's going to burn out, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can. Maya Singleton fought for every rebound, even the ones her teammates had already claimed, which was occasionally funny but sometimes painful. There was one board where she knocked Alisha pretty hard to the floor to get it, and something tells me Alisha wasn't thrilled about the hit. But Maya took a couple of hard hits herself, with minimal calls in her favor. That makes me angry. Treat Maya right, y'all. Imani Littleton's trouble with lay-ups continues to be a problem, though at least she was over fifty percent on them in this one. She gets knocked down a lot, and she has more trouble getting up than the rest of the team. I love what she brings defensively, but I do worry about her durability. I worry about these kids a lot, period, because they're stuck with me and they're kind of adorable.

I think we did a little better job of managing tempo in this one than we did against Butler, though that might have to do with having less of a lead to manage. Xavier made a little bit of a run in the third quarter, which brought a sense of urgency back to our offense. We weren't doing as much forced slowdown and instead kept it within the flow of the game.

(As an aside, I watched That Game Against UConn afterwards instead of the Super Bowl, and it highlighted the importance of having a commanding point guard, not just for her passing game and defensive prowess, but for her control of the game. I miss you, Nadirah.)

The team looked like a nice combination of loose and focused, like they knew they couldn't look past Xavier no matter how much they wanted to.

Officiating wasn't the worst, though there were a couple of spills that looked like they could have been called contact fouls. I can live with it, though. It wasn't the most embarrassing ref crew I've ever seen. Yes, the bar is low.

There was a large group behind the bench, and they cheered loudest when Tiana was introduced, so I'm assuming they know her somehow.

Someday Sox and I are going to have to exchange sock collection notes.

Also, Sox and Maya should do all the "Name That Tune" contests.

Also, Andrayah, coffee is still not a breakfast food.

Next up: Awkward Bowl, Round 2: The Grudge Match. I think I might actually have company for that one, though!


Saturday, February 3, 2018

February 2nd, 2018: Butler at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's raced out to an early lead and never looked back in their 76-38 trouncing of Butler. Qadashah Hoppie had 16 points off the bench to lead a balanced St. John's attack in which every active player scored at least two points. Kristen Spolyar had 12 points to lead Butler.

For reimagined pronunciations, bitter cold, the Union Turnpike Block Party, baby guards, calling glass, free pretzels, and getting off the schneid, join your intrepid and slightly insomniac blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and well-mannered non-binary folk! It's game day! Are you ready? Please be ready if you're St. John's. Losing to Providence was humiliating enough. Butler's good this year, and Tori Schickel seems to be on a mission, but we should still be beating Butler.

I wish to inform you that it is excruciatingly cold outside, and the wind is biting. This is probably not the night to be persnickety about opening an hour before, and no earlier. My knuckles are starting to look weird, and I haven't even had any interesting drugs.

Either Butler is really short-handed, or they've got half the team in bubble wrap back in the locker room. Neither would surprise me.

I swear, a woman could live a very happy life solo with a couple of massagers, one of them being the one that looks like a mini buffing machine that the trainer has been using on half the squad. I don't think I should describe the other one here. This is a family show!

I think there's some kind of giveaway for the students. They're coming out of the room with food and shirts. The shirts look moderately interesting, but they probably don't come in my size.

Alisha Kebbe's trying to make a break for it! Well, no, she's stretching herself up against the side wall that holds up the "student section", but it looks like she's trying to go over the wall.

Someone on Butler is wearing extremely pink sneakers. You're a little early, hon.

Well, that escalated quickly. It's 45-15 St. John's at the half. We were one shot and 1.5 seconds away from holding Butler without a field goal in the first quarter. I don't think we're going to keep shooting 56% from the field, but I'm not sure Butler's not going to keep shooting 23%. Alisha Kebbe has 12 to lead St. John's. Tori Schickel has six for Butler, which is actually fairly impressive, given the defense she's been facing.

Well. That escalated even more quickly. I honestly wasn't expecting this, though I also didn't realize that Butler was quite so short-handed. I think everyone realized that the slide could not continue, and boy howdy did we bring it to a crashing halt. It was ridiculous by the end.

I don't know the story with Iman Lathan- didn't play the entire first half, then started the second half. She was the one with the pink sneakers. I don't know if she's a point guard or a shooting guard. There were times when I wasn't entirely sure she knew what position she was supposed to be playing and where she was supposed to be on the floor. She has a high-arcing shot, but like many players with high-arcing shots, she doesn’t always know where it's going to land. Sydney Buck gave good effort, scrapping on the floor.

I keep wanting to pronounce Kristen Spolyar's last name like "spoiler", because it would be interesting and open up lots of puns, but it's "spol-yar" and so all you get are a lot of contested shots. Butler looks to her to shoot, or at least she thinks Butler looks to her to shoot, and she put it up often. She was able to draw free throws on contact in the lane (but more on that later). Whitney Jennings is very tiny and very blonde, and if she were just a little bit taller, she could probably have stayed at Iowa without a problem. But her drives in the lane had bad angles and were easily blocked, both from in front and behind. She's got to realize she isn't going to get the call all the time. Michelle Weaver is impressively tenacious on defense- there was a sequence where Maya Singleton had a fast break opportunity and Weaver got back and shut it down hard. She never gives up, and I think that says a lot about both her and her team. (Also, if she and Kaela Hilaire match up on Sunday, there will be scrums, or hair-pulling. They have very similar philosophies.)

I keep wanting to pronounce Shae Brey's last name like it rhymes with her first name, because that would sound really cool, but it sounds like the first half of Breyers instead. I think she was the one benched for Lathan in the second half, but given how few players Butler had on hand, everyone played a big chunk of minutes. She's tall, I guess? I'm trying to remember if she's the one with the funky free throw wind-up, or if that was Spolyar. Tori Schickel, once she has a little bit of space to operate, is money down low. But if you take away her space and deny her the ball, either she's going to push off to get that space or she's going to be completely neutralized. We keyed on her, and Butler's response was to have everyone else on the floor shoot contested shots and get blocked. It would be interesting to see her against a team that doesn't have defensive specialists holding down the fort in the middle. Oh, dear. Seton Hall's defensive strength isn't in the post, is it?

I'll say this for Butler- they never gave up. Even down at the end, Weaver was still hunting down loose balls and everyone was still rebounding hard. They're a good team that got a bad hand. If they get healthy, they're dangerous.

Our mascot is Johnny Thunderbird. This is known. But I'm pretty sure the actual chosen mascot of the squad is Shamachya Duncan. She's adorable, and the team's reaction whenever she makes a shot is even more adorable- they go off. And when she hit the three at the shot clock buzzer, off the window, I thought we were going to get a bench warning for players coming onto the court. (For the record, Machi said that she did call glass on that shot.) We kept yelling for Tamesha Alexander to shoot whenever she got the ball, because while she had her two free throws, she didn't hit a shot. But she kept passing off. I think she values the assist more than the bucket, and that's a good mindset to have when you're at the back of the rotation. (But at the same time, we wanted to give her the big call the way everyone else got the big call.)

Big game today for Kayla Charles, who looks like she's been improving with every game she plays. She's got to do a better job of holding on to the rebound instead of trying to bat it around, but I love her aggression on the glass. I think she's been learning from Maya, and there are definitely worse people she could be learning how to rebound from. She's a little over-ambitious on defense, but she's also a freshman. Andrayah Adams has really cranked up the defense down low, though I'm still leery about lineups that have her in the frontcourt for any length of time. She was sinking threes and hitting from the elbow. I love how well-rounded her game is becoming. (I'm also easily amused by her reactions after foul calls. Andrayah is one of those people who believes that every call against her is a scurrilous lie, if I'm reading her body language correctly.) Qadashah Hoppie seems a little too willing to call her own number sometimes, though that does make a nice contrast to our other point guard. Lead guard. Whatever. We were starting to run clock in the second quarter, and usually the ball ended up in her hands at the end of the clock. I don't know how much of that was by her design and how much of it was from the playbook. She digs the long ball, almost to a fault. She's got to do a little bit of a better job of sticking to her man, especially when the defensive assignment in question is the other team's top scorer (who has an even more blatant dye job than Q does, which is pretty impressive considering Q has red hair).

Oh my gosh, I cannot say enough about the work Maya Singleton did defensively on Tori Schickel. She took away every inch of the space that Schickel wanted to use down low. She forced her into bad shots, into bad passes, into travels- it was amazing to watch. She hit a couple of shots herself, usually from around the free throw line, but for the most part, her energy was devoted to shutting down Schickel. I'm okay with that. Imani Littleton also played a key role in the defensive scheme- I saw her slide over to help a couple of times, especially in the first half; with Butler's personnel, that was a risk that we could take. Statistically she was quiet, but she helped out in all the little ways, and there were a couple of plays that might have been given to her as rebounds by other scorers. As I'll get into later, I have my reasons to doubt this scorer's abilities.

Alisha Kebbe made so many possessions happen, or continue, by diving for loose balls on the baseline and sideline. Full body sacrifice is the best sacrifice. She got hot early, and that was a big help in building that insurmountable lead. When she's on, she brings so much on both ends of the floor. Tiana England showed commendable poise today, and did a good job of running the slow-down offense we needed to run somewhere around the 25-point margin. At times it was too slow, which was usually when Q ended up chucking something right at the end of the clock. She had some slick passes on the break, and to set up those shots at the end of the shot clock. I worry about her ability to change gears, though. She still hasn't mastered that, though I should recognize that she's only a freshman and these things take time. (I keep thinking of Tiana as more experienced because she's a redshirt, but that doesn't mean a thing when it comes to actual game experience.) Akina Wellere was efficient, which was pretty much all we needed anyone to be in this game. She seemed looser and more relaxed than she's been most of the season. I keep saying she's better as a sidekick than as the star of the show, but no one ever listens to me.

The block party was on in full effect tonight, and pretty much everyone was invited. Thanks to tiny Whitney Jennings, even the guards got in on the action. Butler took too much time to get their shots off, and our defense was ready to pounce. It was glorious.

There were times when it felt like the officials were making mercy calls just to keep Butler in the game. I know that's petty, since we did kind of beat them to the point of abuse, but there were times Imani Littleton couldn't possibly have been any straighter up and they called the foul on her. By the end, the refs were letting a lot of things slide. I think they wanted to go home too.

My biggest issue with the game officials in this one was actually with the official scorer. For those of you who've seen me at games, I bring my own score cards to track points, fouls, and other stats. During the fourth quarter, I noticed my numbers didn't match up with the ones on the scoreboard. I thought that was strange, but I've been wrong before. I didn't think I'd been so wrapped up in the game that I'd missed fouls, but again, I could be wrong. It's been known to happen. But I got home, and I looked at the play by play, and I realized that the official scorer never reset the team foul count after the third quarter, which meant that on the scoreboard, and in the play by play, St. John's started the fourth quarter with two team fouls and Butler started with three. I think that might have given Butler two extra free throws, but I'm not sure- I don't remember if that foul was in the act of shooting or not. Going back into the play by play, I saw that the same thing happened after the first quarter, but it looks like the foul count never got to the point where it would have become relevant. Either that, or the refs had it right the whole time... why do I have my doubts about that?

Dance team showed why they're national champions in one discipline and came second in another. Whoo-ee, they're bringing the fire this year.

All in all, a very satisfying win. If we can do half as well against Xavier, we should be fine. Famous last words, I know, given how much of a fight Xavier put up at Seton Hall, but I think we've got things back on track here.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 29th, 2018: Fairleigh Dickinson at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: FDU used a strong third quarter to take control of a close game and win 61-49. Madelynn Comly led three Knights in double figures with 13, while Lauren Francillon had 11 rebounds. DeAngelique Waithe had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the losing cause for LIU.

For travel difficulties, awaiting the snow, overpassing, the discourager of hesitancy, cough drops, death glares, and not finding the open shooter, join your intrepid and blurry blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow travelers! It's game night in Brooklyn, as the Blackbirds take on the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson.

I would have sworn FDU was wearing blue earlier in the season. Maybe that was the men. It would be interesting if they actually wore different colors, though perhaps not the greatest sign for intra-departmental solidarity. (See: UConn.)

Stephanie, you really need to work on your communication skills. There's a difference between all set for two games for two people and all set for one game for one person. I think by the end of the season I'm going to have to become an LIU booster to make up for this. And I don't wanna be a booster. NCAA regulations are a headache.

(We got the ticket thing worked out. Also, if Stephanie wants any of my cough drops she's welcome to them.)

At halftime, FDU is up 25-24, in a game that's been closely contested and defensive-minded. DeAngelique Waithe has 10 to lead the Blackbirds. Peniel M'Bikata and her flaming orange hair have seven points for the Knights.

Rousing anthem by the band, and I'm always here for their rendition of "Poison".

As you can imagine, attendance is sparse. Even Denisha's contingent is down to about half strength. But they bring enough noise, and we work together well, or at least I like to think so.

I think of everyone currently active on the roster, Destoni Willock would be my last choice to take the last shot of the half. Our Canadian needs to work on her ballhandling skills.

FDU came out of the locker room super late- they had one player run out of the corridor about thirty seconds before the buzzer, waving her teammates along after her; the Knights' coaching staff didn't actually emerge until after the buzzer, and I'm surprised they didn't get dinged for a delay of game. Whatever they said in there, whatever adjustments they made, whatever change of plans they had- boy howdy, did they ever work.

Once again, our PA guy was slacking on announcing opposing subs coming out of stoppages of play, so I'm not as clear as I'd like to be on rotations. I didn't even know Madison Stanley came into the game until I checked the box score. I'm going to guess that was at the very end of the game, for the final possession or two. Elise Graham gave the Knights an alternate ballhandling option in the open floor- she had a nice transition lay-up amd set up Kamrin Weimer for a three with a nice pass. Weimer didn't leave much of an impression, and most of what I dimly remember from her was more rebounding-related than offense-related.

Natalie Zamora tried to defend people who were bigger than she was. It usually didn't end well for her- she really racked up the fouls in the third quarter. Courtney Blankenship set screens (she had one particularly solid one that impressed me with both its solidity and its legality- you know how hard it is to find a legal screen in the lower echelons of D-I?!), got boards, hit free throws, and had trouble holding on to the ball.

Lauren Francillon gave up her body on the glass, and picked up steam as the game went on- balls she was losing in the first quarter, she was winning the fights for in the fourth quarter. Good interior toughness. Amina Markovic went on a scoring run in the third quarter, hitting from the outside and at the rim. I don't think she was on our original scouting report, because we sagged off her a lot. Then again, we had a lot of trouble hanging with shooters on the wing, so maybe that was the bigger issue. (Also, I think I may have annoyed her when I was questioning a foul call, but it was a bad call and the ref should have felt bad for making it, so there.)

How exactly were we losing track of Peniel M'Bikata? I mean, I don't know if they noticed, but her hair is flaming orange. It's not literally on fire, but it is pretty close to the color of an open flame, and does stand out rather spectacularly. She shook loose for three-point shots and drives in the lane. I like her style. Lucia Serrano-Ranz was a three-point specialist with moments of defensive prowess. Madelynn Comly got to take most of the free throws at the end of the game. Her passing game needs work.

FDU fought for possessions, and collectively boxed out really well- it seemed like there were always three burgundy jerseys going to the ball once it came off the rim, especially if it was LIU putting up the shot. Following your shot is a thing, people. I'm pulling my hair out over here.

I'm not sure who's a stronger indication of "welp, here goes nothing", Paris Jones or Destoni Willock. Paris tries, and she had a nice defensive stand that her teammates helped her finish, but I don't think she's gotten all the rust off yet. She doesn't seem to fit into the current schemes. Destoni tries hard, but if the ball is being passed to her on the inside, disaster is inevitable- either she's going to fumble or the ball's never going to get to her in the first place (probably because she's out of position or hasn't done enough to get into position). I'm really starting to wonder what Daisha Davis has done, or hasn't done, to be so far out of the rotation.

Ella Vaatanen gave not-terrible minutes off the bench in the post. She's still a little more tentative than I'd like, but she's learning, and she seems willing to learn. Tia Montagne carried the bulk of the load for the reserves. While I'm not sure how she's picking up the various code-named defensive schemes, she's got great instincts on the ball defensively, taking advantage of opponents' miscues. Her shot needs work, both when she takes it and when she doesn’t take it, but I like watching her play.

Follow your shot, Denisha. Follow your shot, Drew. This isn't a recording, but I'm starting to think it needs to be one, and broadcast everywhere they go like a somewhat more specific version of the Shame Nun. Denisha Petty-Evans shot three-for-eleventy billion and somehow still looked like she was avoiding shooting the ball. It looked like she was passing up too many good shots to end up taking desperation shots near the end of the shot clock. She had a nice steal, though, and another good attempt at one. Drew Winter does fancy ballhandling tricks, and then she slows down the offense. She looked scared to shoot today, and when she did finally put the ball in the general vicinity of the basket, "general vicinity" was a generous definition of where the ball ended up. It seems fitting that the one shot that went in was the twisting lay-up she practically shot over her own head. She racked up the assists, but I don't know how many of them were actually the best looks for the squad.

At least Seneca Richards had some awareness of time and score in the fourth quarter, putting up quick threes and draining a surprising number of them. I didn't realize she had that much legitimate range. She was looking a little like she had Katie Douglas eyes out there, so I hope she's okay and she hasn't been staying up too late. (Says the woman who's typing Game Notes of Doom at quarter past one in the morning. For reasons.) She's a shooter and not much else, but she tries and she's got height and our options are somewhat limited as long as Jeydah's out, so it is what it is. Stylz Sanders was consistently getting out-sized out there, but she made a lot of smart plays on the baseline and kept loose balls alive. She's making a strong run at trying to be my favorite, but it's too late for that. DeAngelique Waithe played like she was the only one on the floor trying to win the game for LIU. (I looked at my clipboard at one point and realized she was the only Blackbird to score in the third quarter. This is a problem.) She had her moments where she looked like she wasn't sure where to be on defense, and she's got to watch that first step when she gathers for the jumper at the top of the key. But she went hard at the basket, and she hunted down loose balls like there was a bounty of their heads. She was looking for opportunities and she took them. I unabashedly love to watch her work- she has such a nice combination of strength and flexibility that results in her showing up very quickly in very small spaces.

Way too much hesitation on offense. I get trying to find a teammate with a better shot, but sometimes the best shot is the one you have, instead of the one your teammate is forced to take because the shot clock's running down and she's got two defenders in her face. There was one sequence at least, possibly more, where pretty much the only people in the building who didn't realize Denisha Petty-Evans was open were the people who were supposed to be defending her... and Drew Winter with the ball. By the end of the game, we were joking that Drew was clearly a Jets fan, because she seemed to believe in the Herman Edwards school of clock management.

Officiating was the usual NEC trainwreck. No one wanted to call travels or major contact, but minor hand-checks were another story entirely. I think I did most of the gasket-blowing that Stephanie secretly wanted to do. (I consider that part of my responsibilities as a fan. There are things fans can get away with that coaches can't.)

We got pretty dinged up in this one. Stylz took a couple of hits, Tia was slow getting up after a collision, and I thought Angel was going to throw up during some FDU free throws. This might be part of why I'm a little annoyed at the officials.

There's something missing for this team, and I can't put my finger on it. It might be as simple as getting Jeydah and her offense back. It might go deeper. I don't know. But we've got good senior leaders, so there's that in our favor.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

January 28th, 2018: St. Peter's at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Iona got off the schneid, breaking their 20-game losing streak with a 52-42 win over St. Peter's. Treyanna Clay and Alexis Lewis each had 12 points to lead a balanced Gael attack, with Lewis adding 10 rebounds. Zoe Pero led the Peacocks with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

For sweet release, being back in the New York groove, bad coaches, senior guards, and letting out one's inner Daniel Bryan, join your intrepid and relieved blogger after the jump.

How best to wash the taste of failure out of one's mouth than to head to a game where the two teams have four wins between them? And one team has all the wins? But always and forever, to heck with Patty Coyle. Iona should probably be able to beat St. Peter's. I certainly hope we are.

It's raining.

I swear St. Peter's actually changed the shade of their blue warm-ups between November and now.

I think that might be Talah Hughes in a boot for St. Peter's. Hey, we might actually have a chance.

I realize that we're the home team, but it still seems kind of rude to hop on the visiting team's bike to nowhere.

Tori Lesko is still in a boot for the Gaels. I'm sad.

It's halftime and we're leading and the world hasn't ended. It's only 25-23, so I should probably still be expecting us to screw it up somehow. Alexis Lewis has seven points and six boards to pace iona, while a whole flock of Peacocks have notched five points each. I'm worried about passing- theirs is better than ours. But I think we're shooting better. And if you put a gun to my head and told me I had to have either Billi Chambers or Patty Coyle as my team's coach, I'd take Chambers.

Pretty solid anthem. She hit her stride right at the end.

St. Peter's did not appear to realize there were two doors to enter the court from the locker room. The dance team did not appreciate having their tunnel crashed. It appears words may have been exchanged, and cheer seems unusually vindictive today. (I'm okay with that, especially the one cheerleader whose ululations drew a missed free throw from St. Peter's.) We're not sure if it was deliberate gamesmanship or if Coyle was in fact too stupid to realize there was another door. I'm a Liberty fan. I remember.

It's happening! It happened! We are no longer winless! Alert the media! Fire the party cannon! Release the hounds! Wait, don't release the hounds, that's a different meme.

I should not have been surprised that we beat a team coached by Coyle. Let's be honest, the nicest thing I can say about her is that she's had some phenomenal coaching support around her. She didn't quite ice her own shooter this time, but she was about two possessions late on doing the endgame things a coach should do, like timeout to advance the ball or foul to extend the game. (C'mon. It's 1.9 seconds left and you're down 10, make like Elsa and LET IT GO.)

You could tell it was "I'm frustrated, time to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks" time near the end of the third quarter when Coyle abruptly went to Anna Maguire and Precious Featherston. Featherston got tagged with a foul on a rebound. Maguire needs to either bulk up or tone up. One of those. She's very skinny. Samantha Meier brought physicality in her brief minutes, and I might have used her more if I were St. Peter's. She's reasonably good at setting screens, so maybe she could have done something to set up one of their shooters.

Much as I don't always understand the logic of bringing Alexis Lewis off the bench, I really do not understand the logic of bringing Sajanna Bethea off the bench. Does this mean St. Peter's has written off this season and is just trying to see what the freshmen have? Or is this some strategy I am just not elite enough to see? Her passing eye has gotten sharper- she seems to be looking for angles for her teammates more than for herself. Her shot seems to have somehow gotten slower, or the MAAC's gotten faster around her. A lot of things are possible. I think she was not well used in this game, though I don't think that's the only reason we won. Sammy Lochner does not believe the opponent should be accorded personal space, especially around the midline, although KK does it better. Haley Dalonzo was aggressive driving the lane, sometimes to her detriment- there was a very late charge call against her that helped seal the deal for the Gaels. She did not take well to being called for fouls, even less than most players do. She's got potential, though.

Zoe Pero has some nice moves inside, but someone has to teach her how to use the backboard more consistently. She had more weird bounces off the inside of the rim, both in her favor and not, than anyone I've ever seen. She did a great jbo cleaning up both her misses and her teammates' misses close to the rim. With some coaching, she could be very good. But, well. She picked St. Peter's, didn't she? Maybe Phyllis can step in. I think Daijah Martin might be being groomed to replace Bethea, at least positionally, but she's not nearly as good, or as assertive. She's got the body type to do some damage inside, but couldn't get going.

Brianna Tarabocchia got a lot of cheers when she was introduced and there was a lot of heat from the corner behind the St. Peter's bench when she fouled out during the foul derby, so I think her family came over from Jersey. She's not afraid to take them from deep- maybe a little too deep sometimes. Aggressive on defense, too. She's a nice piece for the Peacocks. Alyssa Velles started the game on fire, and I thought that was going to be how we got blackjacked, since we weren't able to find her out on the wing. But she cooled off and the defense tightened up, and once you take away her shot, she's not all that useful. D'Aviyon Magazine looked to penetrate and found few openings. Most of her shots were contested and off.

Someone really needs to get St. Peter's a shooting coach. With just a little fine-tuning, they'd probably average another eight to ten points a game. Then again, I'm okay with them being a mess of a team as long as I have a team in their conference.

Amelia Motz drove the lane for two quick points, then picked up two quick fouls and that was the last we saw of her for this game. Gotta be smarter than that, Amelia. Kristin Mahoney had one of the most confident games I've ever seen out of her and I'm just so proud of her right now! It turns out all along her bread and butter shot wasn't the three-pointer, like we were trying to make happen- it's the finger roll down the lane from the left side. If after three and a half years, either Kristin or Coach Chambers has figured out that she's not a pure distributor- well, I'm just glad she's finally finding her footing. Alexis Lewis, sporting brighter, bigger hair, was all over the glass. She plays bigger than she is sometimes, using every inch of her build (possibly including the hair) to get boards. This time, she was able to rein in some of her ballhog tendencies and not just chuck the first shot that came to mind.

Adrienne DiGioia wasn't quite ready for this. I feel like this is not the first time I've said this this season. She has her days when she looks like a good distributor, but she's not reacting fast enough to even mediocre college defenses. Fortunately for us, today Kristin was up to the challenge. Toyosi Abiola still has to work on her ball control, and on her accuracy. These are not new complaints. But she dove all out into the passing lanes (I think she was the one who ended up draped over the scorer's table at one point- she and Alexis both wear a lot of leggings and were diving into the passing lanes) and was disruptive on defense.

Rebekah Justice was not nearly as effective as she could have been on the inside. She's got to use her body more. I swear to the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus, if she launches one more three with that awful release, I may have to make her change her name. We have standards here in the sisterhood. She had chances to back down Pero- who's tall and not a twig but a lot smaller than Rebekah- and couldn't get through her. I have a problem with this from a 6-5 player. I understand why she didn't get a lot of minutes. Treyanna Clay took a lot of contested shots in the lane, and for some reason thought a straightaway three from the top of the key was a brilliant plan. No one asked you to unleash the dragon, Trey. Jayden Eggleston seemed to get stronger on the glass as the game went on, pulling down huge offensive rebounds to extend our possessions. I think I could live with this being the role she plays for us. She's got to be a little more accurate on her shot, especially since most of her shots are coming fairly close to the basket, but that should come with time.

I also can't say enough about the positive energy the crew on the bench has been bringing. Olivia Owens may already be on the all-time list of great dancers my teams have ever had, to the point where if you told me she won the rights to #14 off Damika Martinez in a dance-off, I might actually believe you. (And then demand video footage, for great justice, or at least lulz.) She and Shayla Middlebrooks have kept the mood light through stoppages and way up during big runs. And Tori Lesko's been continuing to be a leader in the huddle. I love Tori and I'm really bummed she's been hurt for so long.

Officiating wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great. I thought we got the benefit of a couple of dodgy calls, but on the other hand, I don't think Coyle even got warned for being out of the box when she was up to the midcourt line, so there's that. They were unusually attentive to three-second calls.

Our PA guy got a little enthusiastic about a couple of long jumpers and thought they were threes when they were actually twos. I mean, really, Rich. Kristin was practically in the key.

Dance team did some pretty ambitious routines, and I couldn't help but wonder how St. John's would have pulled them off.

Shoutout to cheer and band for bringing the noise. We did what we could. I should probably pop a cough drop at some point.

Oh, and the rain had stopped by the time we got out of the arena.

We did it! We did it! We did it! Now let's do it again!


Saturday, January 27, 2018

January 27th, 2018: Sacred Heart at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Sacred Heart rode a strong second quarter to a 50-46 win. Candice Leatherwood led the Pioneers with a game-high 21 points, while Abigail Kangudie had 15 rebounds. Denisha Petty-Evans led LIU with 10 points.

For minor injury concerns, youth cheerleaders, terrible passing, and other embarrassments, join your intrepid blogger after the jump, as long as you remembered to bring a bottle of Lethe.

Note to self: always lie to mom about tip-off time. We just barely made it in the door in time.

It's halftime of LIU-Sacred Heart as I type, and the Pioneers are up 30-21. The Blackbirds are taking some of the dumbest shots I've ever seen (and I've seen this team take a lot of dumb shots in their time, believe you me). I think having the two seniors, Stylz Sanders and DeAngelique Waithe, off the floor with foul trouble hasn't helped- they really don't have anyone to bail them out. And Angel took that second foul badly- she got stompy, and then there was a water bottle on the floor and everyone but her cleaning it up. Be an adult. Seneca shouldn't have to literally clean up your mess.

We had two youth groups cheering at half. Unfortunately, I went for soda and missed the Diamonds but saw the younger, less talented group.

Jeydah Johnson hasn't played. I wonder if she's still in concussion protocol. At least she seems to have lost the light/noise sensitivity.

Denisha Petty-Evans's family, or at least the people who cheered loudest when she was introduced, is out in force and making noise. That's good, because I'm still getting over crud and can't sustain my usual noise levels.

That was not good. That was, in fact, very bad. I don't think either team could have been happy with that performance, though I suspect Coach Del Preore was far more vocal and more profane in her opinion than Sacred Heart's coach was. There was no sustained energy, no real desire to fight back against the brief pushes of momentum that Sacred Heart occasionally, somehow, managed to put together. It seemed like we were going through the motions, and that's not really something you can get away with when you're a middling to bad team in a bad conference. The one thing we have going for us is our hustle. When we don't that, hoo boy are we going to have a bad time.

I can't tell you as much as I'd like about Sacred Heart's substitution patterns, because our PA guy was asleep at the wheel and could barely be bothered to announce when people were coming in. Since the Pioneers don't have names on their jerseys, half the time I only noticed someone new was in because she scored or committed a foul. Y'all. This is not acceptable, I don't care if this is "only" the NEC. Either get better PA guys or put names on your jerseys, okay?

In any case, sorry about the disgression. Olivia Dabney was part of Sacred Heart's constant trapping and pressing, a defense that kept LIU on their heelsl and never let them get into a rhythm. Jayla Davis gave the Pioneers a quick spurt of offense when she first came into the game in the first half. Asia McCray got inside a bit to help deflect rebounds.

Erin Storck has a strange looking shot. I'm not surprised that it often took strange angles off the heel of the rim. She wasn't afraid to put it up, even when she was contested. Sacred Heart as a team was prone to travels, but she was especially guilty with shuffling the extra step on the drive to the lane. Tykera Carter was quick, and came up with a couple of baskets late in the game to help the Pioneers put it away. Candice Leatherwood is a little bit scary on defense- she's got a very effective mean mug. We kept fouling her at the end of the game, and she kept hitting free throws. (I may be a tiny bit salty that she took more free throws than my entire team did. But we'll cover that more later.) The Sacred Heart fans behind us kept calling her Candy, and it just doesn't seem to fit her. Maybe she's one of those people who looks tough but she's really a sweetheart.

I'm really trying to get a clear picture of Adrianne Hagood out there, and I'm failing miserably, though part of it is most likely my desire to burn all the tapes of this game, even the ones inside my head. Abigail Kangudie did a really nice job of keeping DeAngelique Waithe off her game. She might not have had much of an impact on the score line, but she killed it on the glass, and she made sure that LIU couldn't get too much going off rebounds.I don't know if defense is usually her role, but she did yeoman's work bodying up on Angel.

If Tia Montagne doesn't figure out what's wrong with her shot, someone's hair is getting torn out, and I don't know if it's going to be mine, Coach's, or hers. She's both too hesitant and too willing to shoot, which is paradoxical and probably indicates just how much is wrong with this team. I do like her heart, but she just didn't have it today. Paris Jones gave spot minutes at point, but she didn't seem to be meshing with the other personnel on the floor. I think she was expecting something from them, and none of them knew what she wanted of them. That's actually pretty close to how everyone was behaving towards everyone, but Paris was especially spanner-in-the-works like there.

Destoni Willock was actually pretty solid on the boards. I'm surprised Coach didn't go back to her more in the second half, given the foul trouble on everyone whose number ended in 0 and happened to be sort of tall. She scrambled for balls on the baseline and came up with a lay-up off a steal. Ella Vaatanen looked a little lost, and still seems to be ranging her shot, but for the first time I saw this season seemed more confident in her height and her body, using them both to her advantage defensively on the perimeter.

I don't normally ask this about my favorite, but I found myself wondering by the end of the game exactly how DeAngelique Waithe had gotten that stick wedged in such an uncomfortable position, and just how long it was going to take her to dislodge it. She spent most of the day looking like she had run out of damns to give. There were flashes of her usual self, especially in the third quarter, when she flashed into the lane for boards or shots, and she kept her shot-blocking game on point. But her usual energy was missing, and that makes me sad. Stylz Sanders picked up the slack in the first half, which is a refreshing sort of look, but couldn't keep up the energy level through the fouls. Y'all know Stylz can't defend everyone at once, right? I still maintain she's going to end up a coach one of these days. She just seems to have that awareness of all the things. Seneca Richards got the start for Jeydah Johnson, and while she's still much more perimeter-oriented than I usually like my players, she's at least trying to be more of a forward inside on defense. Her teammates need to understand what her angles are, though. She's usually better from the corner than from the middle of the floor.

Drew Winter does fancy tricks with the ball, but breaking the opponent's ankles does no good if you can't hit the shot. And I love her offensive rebounding, but it doesn't help if no one can hit the shot. She's got to be smarter with the ball. If Denisha Petty-Evans doesn't stop launching threes from somewhere in the vicinity of Bridgewater Commons, and if she doesn’t start following those shots in the event of her taking them, someone's going to lose their mind and it might not even be me. As it turns out, her family has opinions about as strong as mine regarding the importance of offensive rebounding, especially on long shots. I like them.

Coach Del Preore spent most of the game looking like she was in desperate need of a strong drink. I don't really blame her. I don't know if the team just didn't care, or if they were engaged in the fine art of Not Running The Expletive Deleted Play (a well-known St. John's Strategy) or what. But there were a lot of teaching moments called for. That being said, Coach, if one of your players goes down in front of you, can't get back on defense, and is visibly limping when she does get up? It may be time to call for the deliberate foul or call a time out. Just saying.

(By the way, Sacred Heart did not score 5-on-4.)

The officiating was a terrible hot mess. Lots of contact that went uncalled, with bodies sprawled all around. I'm pretty sure one ref actually mistook the ball for someone's head. Pretty much no part of the NEC covered itself in glory in this game.

They must have been expecting quite the crowd for the double-header- LIU actually set up a souvenir stand and an orderly queue for the concession stand.

We didn't stay for the men's game. I was unprepared (I thought they were playing Sacred Heart as well) and wanted to get the taste of failure out of my mouth. (As it turned out, the men beat Central Connecticut in OT.)

Besides, a tall, handsome gentleman wants to take me on a date to Iona tomorrow! How can I possibly resist?


Sunday, January 21, 2018

January 21st, 2018: St. John's at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall came out energized and scrappy, and defended home court against St. John's, 62-57. Inja Butina had a team-high 15 points for the Pirates, while JaQuan Jackson added 14 points and eight rebounds. Alisha Kebbe had 15 to lead St. John's.

For the return of the awkward (you know what it is, what it does, what it is, what it isn't), parenthetical asides, hugging, not listening, oblique references to foul language, SERIOUSLY JUST LISTEN ALREADY, and showing the colors, join your intrepid and somewhat frustrated blogger after the jump.

And here we go. It's the most awkward time of the year, the one that happens twice a year: the Awkward Bowl, where I sit behind the St. John's bench and make as much noise as Joe will let me, and my husband sits across from the Seton Hall bench and makes as much noise as is humanly possible.

Why, yes, this is around the time of year when I really don't like Tony Bozzella all that much. He's gotten us into some fine messes indeed.

Looking at schedules, I've finally figured out why the trip to Seton Hall is so complicated- the MTA doesn't play nice with PATH, and PATH doesn't play nice with the 31 bus. None of them interact properly!

Well, we are here. Seton Hall is either hiding half the team or they're short-handed. I've heard rumors but I'll wait for the game to start before attempting to confirm them. But Taylor Brown is in a t-shirt and sweatpants, and I've heard that she's injured. And I don't think Donnaizha Fountain is available.

The dreadlocks really work for Kaela Hilaire when they're down. I'm so used to seeing them tied up.

I don't care who you're with or who you know, you lose the moral high ground on sartorial choices when you show up to a Seton Hall-St. John's game in a Rutgers shirt.

Seton Hall certainly seems to have turned out the youth teams.

Seton Hall's band is better than the one at St. John's. I'm willing to admit that. Now I have to go find a marching band version of "Confident" to add to my music collection.

Alumnae everywhere. Seton Hall did a ceremony for theirs, though the only ones I recognized were Chizoba Ekedigwe and Shakena Richardson (and welcoming Kena is a bit disingenuous, since she works for the team). Lubirdia Gordon's in the stands as well, though I don't know why she didn't want to be acknowledged as an alumna. Maybe it was a classwork thing? Kendyl Nunn and Danaejah Grant are behind the bench for the Johnnnies. I didn't recognize Danaejah with the new do.

Alisha Kebbe's family is also in the house, and I'm pretty certain Q and Machi's family turned out. Staten Island's not that far, after all.

I would love to give you juicy tidbits from behind the bench, but Joe swears more than I do. I recognize this is a statement of dubious value to the average GNoD reader, as I make a point of not using foul language here, but if you know me on Twitter, or on Reb's, or have heard me talk in real life, you know I swear like a sailor. The prevailing theme of his commentary is that the team needs to run plays instead of doing their own thing. I'm not quite sure why he's emphasizing this so thoroughly to Sox, but I understand his frustration. Seton Hall likes to live in your head, and if you're taking stupid shots, they've done their job.

All right, fine, the halftime score is 24-21 Seton Hall, are you happy now? Because I'm not. We're taking stupid shots and not capitalizing on Seton Hall's mistakes.

Well, that was also a thing that happened. Having freshmen guards in key positions can come back to bite you sometimes. We were not ready and we were not up, and Seton Hall played like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. I don't think we were expecting them to be quite so carefree and loose, especially without an offensively dominant player like Fountain. Their freshmen shone, and ours didn't. Emphatically.

Kayla Charles came in, dropped a monster block, made a mistake, crushed a player, and that was the last we saw of her. I might have gone with her more in the second half; at least she'd have an excuse to make the mistakes we were getting out of the post. It's not like anything much worse could have happened. Akina Wellere was full of boneheaded mistakes, whether they were stupid fouls or not knowing the position of her feet relative to the endline (yes, we had a fabulous rebounding chance lost because her heel was on the line, and I just slapped a metal pillar at rage in the memory, and now my palm stings as much as my pride). She was hesitant at the wrong times and rushing headlong at the wrong times, and I expect better from her in the second semester of junior year. Andrayah Adams hit some nice shots in the lane, and I like how tight her defense has become, but she's got to exercise better judgment. Recognize how the game is being called, especially when you're the player being fouled; when KK is getting called for reaching on you, you're going to get called for reaching on her.

(It's postgame. Shadeen Samuels is rocking a Pirate blue tie like the Sorting Hat just put her in Ravenclaw. She makes the expensive preppy look work.)

Imani Littleton does not have the excuses of youth that Kayla Charles would have had. You've got to hit those open lay-ups, and you've got to be more cautious with the ball if you're a four-year senior. She had trouble hanging on to the ball, especially against Seton Hall's quick hands. Maya Singleton tried to force too much in double and triple-teams. I think she came in expecting one defense, got another one, and was ready neither for the size of Kimi Evans or the quick hands of Selena Philoxy. And once those first couple of shots didn't fall, she was trying way, way too hard to make something happen. You've got to go with the flow sometimes, and chucking the first shot that comes to mind is not always a good plan.

Coach was extremely unhappy with the guards today. Tiana England was especially good at drawing f-bombs out of him, because she was pretty much doing whatever she felt was appropriate out there, instead of following the plays that were being called (there was at least one possession where Joe muttered something along the lines of "I was trying to call a play," only with a colorful adjective inserted in front of "play"). I think Seton Hall got into her head early and she had no way to play her way out of it, and she fell into old habits to try and get out of it. Qadashah Hoppie drew the first shot at the unenviable task of guarding JaQuan Jackson. It went about as well as you would expect the match-up of a crafty redshirt senior and an erratic freshman to go. We tried a lot of different looks on Quanny. Most of them were less than effective. I think Q showed better awareness of time and score than T did, but both of them have got to learn to listen and run the play instead of freelancing. Alisha Kebbe was up and down- she hit big threes in the second half to keep us in the game (and I still think the shot they called a two was a three, don't @-me) and made a lot of hustle plays, but was occasionally careless with the ball. That being said, she probably had the best game for any St. John's player out there. That's not saying much.

Sometimes improvising is the right move. But you should at least try to run the play instead of chucking the first shot that comes available. Qadashah, Tiana, and Maya all fell into that trap. You have to know time and score, and most of the team had a problem with that (except Q, to some degree). Stop, collaborate, and listen!

(Why do I always end up in the same train car as the jerk who can't figure out what the little "no smoking" pictogram means?)

Kaity Healy was used to give someone a breather near the end of the quarter, not for any meaningful strategic purpose. Nicole Jimenez was one of the few gun-shy Pirates in this one, and I think her hesitation cost her. Given what they were getting from KK and Lena, I'm not surprised that neither 'Cole nor Jayla Jones-Pack got a lot of playing time. Jayla brought height, but not much else, and getting caught on a moving screen sealed her fate for the rest of the day, which sounds ominous when I put it like that. Let me rephrase it this way, then: both teams felt it was advantageous to go smaller, and for those times when they didn't, Seton Hall got what they needed from Kimi Evans.

Kaela Hilaire was up in everyone's business, as she does. I think I've discussed her distaste for the concept of the opponent having personal space before. The officials were calling it pretty tight on touch fouls, much to her dismay. I'm pretty sure KK believes she's never committed a foul in her life. She was full speed ahead at all times, and that led to both a lot of steals and a lot of turnovers when she lost control of the ball. Sometimes these happened in the same sequence. She took the ball to the rack and got free throws or put up floaters. She had a beautiful no-look pass to Jayla that Jayla blew the lay-up on, and I mean, come on, even I wanted that to go down, because you can't waste a pass like that. Selena Philoxy was one of the biggest keys to Seton Hall's victory. She's faster than her build makes her look, and her hands were everywhere. She forced steals out on the perimeter, where I don't think St. John's was expecting her to be, and went after every loose ball. She jolted rebounds loose and took them herself. This was probably the best game I've seen her have so far in her career, and even though I was rooting for St. John's today, I'm still so happy for her. Queens girls gotta stick together, you know? And so do public school kids.

(This is probably why I also have a soft spot for KK.)

Kimi Evans was big defensively, and I don't mean that just because of her build. She slapped down shots and protected the rim. She kept Maya from doing the things Maya wanted to do on offense, and that did wonders for stymieing the Red Storm's attack. She needs to work on her screen setting, because she got caught moving once or twice. But having an active, reasonably mobile, center who's wiling to do the little things to facilitate an offense does wonders for the rest of the team. Spaces open up and second chance opportunities appear. Shadeen Samuels attacked the basket aggressively- a little too aggressively for stretches, as she got called for multiple charges. When she did get the shot off at the basket, it went in. But I think Tony was questioning the three-point attempt almost as much as I was. When she's on, she's so much fun to watch.

All non-conference season, Inja Butina didn't want to shoot the ball. Of course today is the day she decides that she's going to be a three-point assassin and have a big offensive outing. I think the original defensive plan for St. John's was to sag off her and double on other people, and we stuck to that plan even when she got hot. Sure, that's when y'all want to stick to the game plan. She was extremely careless with the ball, which negated a surprising amount of the good she did on offense; the slightest bit of pressure was almost always enough to make her cough it up, which is probably part of why Joe was so irate we weren't doing even that consistently. She was more than willing to return the favor on Tiana, though. Deja Winters had a rough shooting day. Having Qadashah Hoppie rotated onto her after trying and failing to contain JaQuan Jackson didn't help her case. She stayed active on defense, though, with one especially beautiful steal off Qadashah as she came up behind her to help. I think Quanny was the defender Q had her hands full with at the time, but don't hold me to it. JaQuan Jackson looked like her old self from last year, dominant and assertive on offense, and that renewed confidence flowed into the rest of her game. One of the biggest knocks I've always had on Quanny is that if her offense isn't working, nothing else about her game is working- but when she's confident in her slashing ability, and she's able to create space with the dribble, then she becomes more active in the passing lanes and more of an effective defender. Her energy was through the roof.

Some really egregious non-calls in this one. Akina, I respect the hustle, but you don't play for the Blackhawks, please stop trying to check people into the boards. There was a lot of gross contact being ignored while hand-checks were being called. One of the refs seemed to have a rather large chip on her shoulder, like she didn't want to be doing this game. I don't know what her deal was, but she needs to get over it.

The Seton Hall crowd got into it. I should be happy about that, as a fan who wants the game to grow, but I would have been happier if the St. John's contingent had at least made some attempt to answer. I miss the Jersey girls.

Has anyone else noticed more hugging in women's basketball? I'm a little weirded out by the hugging thing. I'm not the world's biggest hug person, but I'm not exactly going to turn down the companionable "thanks for supporting the squad" hug, no matter how "um, okay, I guess?" I am on the inside.

Brooklyn needs to not claim people who are Queens. Queens is Queens. (And we're also queens, but that's neither here nor there.)

We'll see how things go on the road for these two squads, but it looks like Seton Hall just demonstrated how the addition by subtraction thing works, and St. John's has got to straighten out the communication issues.