Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 9th, 2017: James Madison at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma’am: St. John’s broke open a close game in the third quarter to beat James Madison, 81-64. Akina Wellere led four Johnnies in double figures with 18 points. Kamiah Smalls of James Madison led all scorers with 19 points.

For snow, delays, the real MVP, apple cake, getting the gang back together, partying like it’s your nerdy birthday, ball movement, and three pointers, join your intrepid and chilled blogger after the jump.

I know these people, right? St. John’s has been too long away from home, but the girls are back in town for a match-up against James Madison.

JMU has a very nifty bus. Of course, I can question why they bussed up from Virginia, but hey, y’all do y’all.

Pro tip to public safety: the first snow day of the season is not the day to start setting up security late, dither over the proper placement of bins, and open the doors almost fifteen minutes late. Y’all have done this before, can y’all act like you’ve done this before?

Getting the gang back together: Sky Lindsay (who works for ESPN3 and the BEDN) is chatting away with Da’Shena Stevens and Shenneika Smith over by the St. John’s bench. Pass the ball, Sky.

I’m not sure how I feel about Andrayah Adams in an undershirt. It’s not the most flattering look for her.

I’mma need my band family to get here in a hurry. People are starting to take their seats.

Somebody’s horn just made the most godawful squealing noise, and I’m really glad it’s only warm-ups.

Shenneika, if you’re going to wear suspenders, admit you’re wearing suspenders and don’t leave the loops hanging by your sides like you’re expecting someone to hook something to them. I see you. I SEE EVERYTHING.

I’ve never actually been at a game where someone forgot the words to the anthem before. And it wasn’t like he was doing a great job of it before flubbing the line, either.

I don’t want to say that the cheer clinic kids behind me didn’t care about the game, but they bailed as soon as their performance was done. They didn’t even wait until halftime. Heck, they didn’t even care about the t-shirt toss. I mean, jeez, y’all.

Chuck a duck is back! New charity is Go for the Goal, which probably explains why every spirit group has a junior version and why anyone who could swap out their laces has the gold laces. (I presume the inability to swap shoelaces is why most Johnnies have them tied around their ankles.)

38-30 St. John’s at halftime. Uncharacteristic number of three-pointers. We’ll see if we can sustain it in the second half. JMU relies on good ball movement, and our defense has been able to negate that.

I’m not happy with the minutes the starters put in in the fourth quarter- and for that matter, that goes for both teams. Sixteen points with two minutes to go seems pretty safe, since I don’t think anyone is going to pull one hot minute again, and if they do you have time to sub out the bench players.

(There is a man practicing bagpipes on the platform at 75th Avenue. Why is there a man practicing bagpipes on the platform?)

Either Aneah Young’s shot was really off today, or it's just that bad and she’s convinced herself that it’s good. It wasn’t. I think it was the first shot she took where we left her wide open, she hesitated, then decided to shoot a three and proceeded to slide it down the far side of the backboard. Going from Kamiah Smalls to her was definitely an offensive downgrade, to the point where Coach O’Regan skipped her in the rotation for much of the second half. Tori Harris got the call in that spot in the third quarter (though Young would enter later). My first impression of her boiled down to “long, lanky, and eager”- she seemed to be desperately trying to prove herself on defense. She got her buckets in the fourth quarter, one on a straightaway three and one on an easy lay-up. Logan Reynolds did a lot of running around out there, and made a nice defensive stop to curtail a Red Storm fast break.

Kayla Cooper-Williams is very tall and very slim, looking a little bit fragile and a little bit foldable. She’s very raw, and I seem to remember an ACL in her past; if that’s accurate, that could explain the hint of timidness to her game. She pulls down boards well, and knows how to use her height in that regard- there were two or three that she just pulled out of the hands of shorter Red Storm posts like she was the claw in the toy machine. But wow, was her shot a mess of hot garbage. Someone has to work on that with her quickly. Devon Merritt backed up Kelly Koshuta, and brought a little more low-post physicality than Koshuta did, including a neat seal of Imani Littleton to leave Lexie Barrier open for a midrange shot.

I’m not used to Hailee Barron doing something that isn’t shooting a three. She was such a specialist early on her career, but she’s developed other facets of her game over the last four years, and as a basketball fan, that makes me happy (and makes me take note of Kenny Brooks and Sean O’Regan as coaches). She was scrappy on defense and had a good defensive board. I keep thinking Lexie Barrier should be a defensive stopper because of her name, but she was more offensive-minded in this one, slashing to the basket. If she’s going to take as many threes as she did in this one, though, she’s going to need to practice them a lot more. Kamiah Smalls was the star of the show, stopping and popping and often driving. Ballhandling was a little suspect, but our defense does that to people, so I’d want to see her against a less defensive-minded team than mine before judging her on that. She’s not the scoring superstars of old that JMU once had, but she’s a damn good offensive option.

Kelly Koshuta has a surprisingly nice outside shot for a player of her height and build, but I don’t know that I’d use it as often as she did in this game. Yes, it stretches the defense, but she might have been as or more effective down low, especially with the foul trouble our posts were in. (We’ll get to the foul trouble later.) Tasia Butler barely played, and I don’t know what the story was with that. I’ll have to ask a JMU fan about that.

I liked JMU’s ball movement- yes, we were able to frequently disrupt it, but that’s our specialty. When we weren’t able to disrupt it, it was crisp and effective.

I’m starting to understand why Joe has no confidence in Kayla Charles. I’d really like to see her develop, but she’s got to understand that there are going to be other people her height, and maybe even taller, on the floor. She doesn’t seem comfortable with that, and she doesn’t seem to know how to play them. This is a problem. This is especially going to be a problem if Imani and Maya are going to get in foul trouble every game. Alisha Kebbe brought defense, and briefly joined the three-point party, but was otherwise quiet. (Too quiet.) Andrayah Adams alternated picture-perfect three-pointers with wild drives that ended in wilder shots, the very definition of “no, no, yes!” I’d still like to see more improvement from her on defense, especially if Joe’s going to have to go to crazy four- and five-guard sets, but she’s getting there.

(seriously, Joe, we were up no less than fourteen the entire fourth quarter, you couldn’t have let Sox or Machi give Tiana or Kina a break?)

The more of Maya Singleton I see, the sadder I get... because I would have liked to see a whole lot more, but she’s a junior college transfer so we only get two years, and that makes me sad. I love me some Maya. She rebounds ferociously, she’s not the worst dribbler in the world, and she can score at the basket. Once she got going, she wasn’t going to stop going. Imani Littleton got into early foul trouble, and between that and the one missed chippie, I don’t think she ever really found her rhythm. I get the sense- and it could be completely off base- that Imani spends a lot of time in her own head, and for the next four months or so that’s not a good thing. For the rest of her life, it absolutely is, and I appreciate that sense of deeper self about her.

Rough game for Qadashah Hoppie, the first I’ve seen her have. It wasn’t so much that she was out of sync than it was she didn’t seem to fit in this lineup. She needs to step her defense up, and not just her on-ball defense, if she’s going to fit into our defensive schemes. Tiana England scaled back her “where offense goes to die a strangled death” tendencies- and when she’s zipping the ball around, shock of shocks, the offense actually works. She had a couple of nifty passes to Akina Wellere (and to hear her tell it, there should have been more!) including an early backwards bounce pass that set Kina up for three. It’s really good to see Akina in her offensive flow. When her three is falling, she has much more confidence in the rest of her arsenal, and that’s when the drives start falling, and everything in her game just kicks up another notch. She made some bad decisions that had me going, “Kina, why did you do that?”

I don’t think the three-point shooting is sustainable, but it’s fun to watch.

Officiating. Hoo boy. I’m tired of the multi-body scrums not being called, and the ticky-tack hand check fouls being called. I let them have it a few times, to the point where I think the one guy I liked the least (Farlow, I think?) heard me. (After a whistle finally went our way, I maaaaaay have said something along the lines of “Blessed glory hallelujah, you finally got one right!” And he may have said to one of his colleagues, “That’s what I wanted to hear.”) I think the things they’re being asked to emphasize are not the things that are inherent to the integrity of the game and the safety of the players.

Getting the band back together, the junior edition: after the game, spotted Sandra Udobi and Mallory Jones chatting with Ashley Perez, who’s working at James Madison.

Autograph day! Decided to go for the flag because that was the shorter run and I thought I had a D&D game to go to (turns out our sorceress canceled and I hiked my butt to Sheepshead Bay for no good reason). Complimented Tiana’s passing, and she said thank you, and that’s when she asked Akina why she drove on a particular play. I don’t know the context, but while I was still back in the line, I heard one of them ask, “Did you lose your words?” I heart my team so much.

The Fordham game is going to be more awkward than I thought, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3rd, 2017: Pittsburgh at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Fordham started off strong, weathered a Pittsburgh comeback, and came away with the 58-55 win. Bre Cavanaugh had 21 points, while Mary Goulding notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Kalista Walters had 22 points and 10 rebounds to power Pittsburgh.

For golden Rams, understudies, point guard yelling, redundant raffles, grit, impossible shots, and “thanks, it has chairbacks!” join your intrepid and nostalgic blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, folks! Another day, another game. This time it’s Fordham again, hosting Pittsburgh at Rose Hill.

I put down the wrong game time, so we arrived right at tip off. There seem to be a fair number of Pitt fans in the house.

Fordham’s already starting to advertise the UCLA game, which is fantastic. I’d love to see that be a sellout.

At halftime, it’s 29-27 Fordham, after a run by Pitt. All things considered, this is better than I’d think we’d do if you told me before the game that we wouldn’t have G’mrice Davis. She’s in sweatpants, walking stiffly enough that I’m worried it’s either a knee or a back injury. I don’t know how much of this we can sustain; Mary Goulding has three fouls and Johanna Klug two. If things get bad, it might be Kendell Heremaia at center.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Pitt coaching dynamic with the McConnell sisters. Wouldn’t it be weird for players to have someone on the bench you know you can’t go to with any doubts about the coach, because of blood ties? I don’t know. Seems weird to me.

Pika Rodriguez got time in the first half, and yes, I did spend a fair amount of time trying not to think of little yellow Pokémon. Since she’s not particularly fast and she’s not particularly electric, it worked out okay. Cassidy Walsh likes to shoot the three. She’s got good length, but I don’t know if she’s really thrilled about being as tall as she is.

Suzie McConnell-Serio changed up the starting lineup in the second half, going with Kauai Bradley and Kyla Nelson. I can’t say as I blame her. Nelson has a nice shot, though she started trying to rush it in the second half, and made some intense defensive plays. I think she has a lot of promise. Bradley had great positioning on the offensive glass, including one that set up a putback by Kalista Walters. She’s got good speed as well; both of her baskets were on very fast dribble drives.

I don’t know why Danielle Garven didn’t play the second half- she didn’t appear to be injured from what I saw of her. She wasn’t impressive, either, but that’s not exactly a reason to go from starting to completely dropped down the memory hole. Yacine Diop and her strangely colored hair got off to a good start with the early three, but then the two charging fouls hit, and she never got into a groove before fouling out. She’s gangly, and I don’t know if she’s completely used to her body. Star of the show for Pitt was undoubtedly Kalista Walters, without whom Pitt would have been utterly screwed. She powered to the basket for lay-ups and floaters, and tore down offensive rebounds. I don’t know if she was already on the ACC’s radar, but if she wasn’t, this game should have put her there.

I wasn’t expecting that pronunciation of Alayna for Alayna Gribble. You’d think I’d remember more than that about someone who played just over half the game, but she didn’t make any mind-meltingly stupid mistakes or any particularly brilliant plays. She just played. Jasmine Whitney hit a couple of shots in the fourth quarter, but was otherwise unremarkable.

(It is at this point that I misplaced my notes, which aren’t always the greatest notes, but do help me highlight particular plays. I am annoyed by this.)

Katie McLoughlin is enthusiastic, and at least has a vague sense of where to be on defense, but offensively, she is not ready for primetime. Give her another year, though, maybe have her catch up to the speed of the college game, and she’ll be very serviceable. Zara Jillings brought the defense, and one of these days she’s going to get called for the blatant foul she seems to commit in every game I see her in; this time it was a hip-check that led to a Pitt turnover. The McConnell-Hyphens were not amused. Somewhat better offense from her than I’ve seen before, but so far it seems clear she’s more of a defensive specialist. And I’m okay with that. Defense is awesome. Everyone should play more defense, except my teams’ opponents.

(Hello, internet. I am a wee tiny bit loopy right now, and I don’t know why. I haven’t been up that long!)

Ladies and gentlemen, playing the role of G’mrice Davis in today’s performance will be Mary Goulding. So gritty. So clutch. Usually her ratio of “YAY!” to “WTF?!” is 2:1, but today it was more like 8:1. She threw up some wild ridiculous shots that had no business going in, but they did, and the crowd went wild. She rebounded hard and made big defensive plays. Some of the fouls were ticky-tack calls, but she does need to be more careful with her fouls and more aware of the foul situation. Johanna Klug does appear to have run headfirst into the freshman wall and begged for more. She was getting called for travels all day, with a three-second violation or two thrown in for good measure. Whoever’s in charge of post player fundamentals needs to get her in the gym and just work with her for a few hours, or days, or however long it takes, until her footwork is up to snuff.

Kendell Heremaia slid into the starting lineup with the injury to G’mrice Davis. Her three and a slick defensive play got her off to a good start, and her help defense was crucial in preserving the fouls on Mary and Johanna. But she was careless with the ball (there was one sequence where she threw it to somewhere she thought Lauren Holden was going to be, and Lauren was not, whereupon Lauren ripped her a new one with emphasis, which is sort of cute coming from a 5-5 guard). Lauren had a couple of bad, bad three-point attempts that airballed, but her drives down the lane made up for them, and she ran the offense well. Clock management could use a little more polish, but that’s been improving. Bre Cavanaugh had ice in her veins, running down the shot clock to the very end on two different occasions, making big hustle plays, and generally being awesome. She’s such a change of pace for this team. She takes a lot of hits but I could do without some of the embellishment. She’s going to get called for simulation one of these days.

Now that cheer and dance are occasionally making noise, the next step is to coordinate them.

Please stop hitting Bre, y’all. And if the officials could call it, that would be great.

That was a huge win. Pitt’s not necessarily a good ACC team, but they’re still an ACC team with ACC size. To get out ahead of them, lose that lead, and come back, and do it all without our star post- that’s big.


December 2nd, 2017: Michigan at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Michigan used a 25-0 run to put away LIU 86-49. Hallie Thome had 19 points to lead Michigan. Drew Winter’s 13 points, all in the second half, led the Blackbirds.

For unexpected ambiguity, onomatopoeia, autocorrect actually being useful, the clank of missed free throws, seeing old friends, Starbursts, and not getting a stiletto through the throat, join your intrepid and torn blogger after the jump.
It is inevitable, when one cheers for multiple teams, for loyalties to come into conflict. It’s usually more apparent in the Big East, with the twice-annual Awkward Bowl between St. John’s and Seton Hall. This is a different kind of awkward, though. Michigan doesn’t come to town very often, and when they do, it’s usually at Rutgers. I think I’ve chronicled the struggle to get to and from Rutgers before; it’s part of how I ended up aligning with St. John’s in the first place. So this visit to LIU is a godsend.

On the other hand, we’ve suffered with these Blackbirds. We know their struggles and their triumphs. I will fight anyone who talks trash about DeAngelique Waithe around me, up to and including Coach. I don’t really know these Wolverines.

On the other other hand, we’ve known Kim’s family for years. We’ve cheered with them from section 2, shared Starbursts with the kidlets, goggled at family photos. And the St. John’s jersey I wear to every Red Storm game? That’s Joy McCorvey’s #25. Literally, unless it was a blood jersey. (For the first ten years of that typeface, she was the only player who wore #25, that’s how I know.) These are our friends. How do you root against your friends?

So here we are at LIU with Michigan shirts and St. John’s accessories, because you have to remember your roots. And I’m not saying I like cheering against LIU. But you have to make choices sometimes, and sometimes they suck as choices.

We’re at half an hour before gametime, and the stands are mostly Michigan fans, or possibly Michigan family. I think I recognize Jillian Dunston’s folks. We’re also not the only St. John’s folks here.

“Respect Above All” would be a winning t-shirt motto if it weren’t still tied to to the Jeter retirement (with the 2 replacing the S). I know he’s from Michigan and all that, but c’mon.

You can lock the doors, but you still can’t keep us out, LIU. (To be fair, I think the keymistress forgot which way the lock was supposed to turn.)

Cecelia got tall! Who told her she could do that? I know it wasn’t me, and I didn’t think it was her mom. (KBA is not exactly tall herself.)

There are a couple of stray TBT stickers on the steps leading to the student section and band area.

We can hear the band practicing from the enclosed room one level up and catty-corner from our section. They might be loud. The soundproofing might be on the wrong side of the wall.

Come to think of it, it’s been years since I sat on this side of the arena. I think the last time I was a true visiting fan at LIU, Sky was still playing. And I’ve always preferred to sit across from the bench instead of behind it. But when you’re supporting the road team, you get behind the visiting bench. Then again, the family/friends/alumni contingent is sitting dead center across from the benches, so I might just be an old-fashioned girl (but I’m not in an old-fashioned hat).

This is about what I expected from a Michigan team that miiiiiight have had some frustrations to work out and an LIU team that I love but isn’t that good. It’s 45-11 Michigan at halftime, including a quarter-length stretch of scoreless play from the Blackbirds. Katelynn Flaherty has 14 points, including four threes; Hallie Thome has 10 points

In the great “what might have been” folder, let’s file the idea of Joy McCorvey- an undersized, defensive-minded, high-rebounding, never-give-up post- coaching DeAngelique Waithe- an undersized, defensive-minded, high-rebounding, never-give-up post. Okay, so Joy’s offense was a bit more polished, but that could have been coached up.

A good chunk of Kim’s family drifted back here, so we’ve got company.

Didn’t Katelynn Flaherty used to be blonde? Or am I just assuming?

Highlight of the game, or at least most impressive moment, might have been Cece Arico utterly destroying the shooting contest, hitting all three of the shots on the first try.

Michigan got to get deep into the bench in the fourth quarter, and even a little bit in the second quarter. LIU’s PA guy was trying so hard to make sure he didn’t say Smeenge wrong that he managed to get his tongue tied around Priscilla. (This is not giving the proper mental image, and I apologize for that.) Definitely not ready for prime time. Samantha Trammel came into the game and almost immediately committed a three-second violation (though in her defense, the officials were being especially persnickety about that in the latter stages of the game). KeAsja Peace had a nice shot in the lane, but still seems to be learning the schemes, which might be a problem for a sophomore.

I like the potential of Akienreh Johnson. She had a nifty putback in the lane off a missed shot from one of her teammates, as well as a nice steal (of course, DeAngelique Waithe promptly smacked the taste out of the ball when she went up at the other end, but that’s life, that’s what they say). She’s got a good nose for the ball. Deja Church made a couple of great defensive plays, but she’s got to be more careful with her fouls. I don’t know if she’s ready to be a starting point guard, but she’s going to have to be after this year. Kayla Robbins has good positioning on the boards but needs to work on her shot.

I like that Hallie Thome’s last name can be an onomatopoeia for the sound of her making a monster block. “THOOOOME!” If she keeps the ball above all the shorter people, she’s in good shape. It’s when she brings it down to where everyone else can get it that the problems start. Her ballhandling isn’t great, and her hands could be better. She could use some work on her free throw shooting, as well, though that’s the story of the average post player’s life. Hailey Brown is still very raw, and I don’t know how I feel about her taking three-pointers. There’s promise, like the resounding block on Drew Winter, but there’s a lot of work to be done with her. We’ll see if she’s up to the task next year, when the big senior class graduates. Jillian Dunston was born a few years too late; if she’d been in the class of 2003 or 2004, she might have gotten a look at the next level. She’s very strong- I’ve never seen a guard with such broad shoulders and upper body strength- but she’s not all that tall, and her game is as stuck between as her size is. She rebounds well, and her passing game was on point, but putting her on the perimeter defensively is a disaster waiting to happen, and her offense is inconsistent.

Katelynn Flaherty put on a show in the first half. I was glad she started sharing the ball more and slowing down the offense in the second half, because I was starting to run out of space to mark down her baskets. Her stroke is just so pretty and so fast. I’d like to see her offense be more diversified, but I think that’s part of why KBA wants her running point. I just don’t see it working. (Also, the deep three attempt up 36 with just over two minutes left? Really?) Nicole Munger was firing off corner threes in the third quarter like they were worth money (but of course they’re not, she’s an NCAA student-athlete and that would be wrong). She had a bit of a shaky start because of the two fouls in the first five minutes, but she came alive in the third quarter.

Senior power will push Michigan through this year, but next year’s going to be rough until this year’s freshmen and sophomores get it together.

I don’t know if I’d call Daisha Davis a center, or if everyone on the floor just looks short after Thome’s been out there. I also don’t know the context of the goggles, only that she’s rocking them. I would appreciate if Destoni Willock would stop doing whatever it is she’s doing to her shorts, whether it’s tucking them or rolling them or whatever. It’s not a good look for her. She’s got good size, and she had a nice block, but I’m not sure what to think of her.

Tia Montagne has flair and style, and made a great defensive play deflecting a would-be fast break. She still has work to do, but I see promise. Ella Vaatanen attempted, and failed, to defend Hallie Thome, and put up dubious threes. One drew no iron and barely drew net. Seneca Richards attempted, and failed, to guard Hallie Thome, but at least showed some midrange offense that I didn’t think she had. I’m used to her just setting up beyond the arc.

It’s a Christmas miracle, come early: DeAngelique Waithe hit a jumper. Granted, she missed a boatload of other shots too, but I think this is the most offense I’ve seen from her in a long time. She brought the best defense against Thome, arms up and giving her as little space as possible. I love her defense, in general. Quiet game for Stylz Sanders, and mostly a defensive one. She was bouncing all over the place on defense.

Drew Winter shone in the second half, whether it was from beyond the arc, driving the lane, or on the fast break. Her ballhandling needs work (she got called for a lot of travels) but she showed out against major competition. Jeydah Johnson had a rough day beyond the arc, and I think it was mostly in the second half, mostly because I don’t clearly remember seeing her take the shots, so that would have been at the other end of the floor. From what I’ve seen of her, I don’t know that that’s her strength. Denisha Petty-Evans had a solid game, though now I’m wondering who the point guard is in that lineup, her or Drew. Denisha tends to bring the ball up more, but Drew seems to be more of the playmaker. I guess it depends on who has the hot hand. If Denisha’s threes had been falling, the game might have been more respectable. (And even on the one she did hit, the announcer credited it to DeAngelique, which is about as likely as being struck by lightning while holding a winning Mega Millions ticket. My dude, these are your own players, you should know who’s who.)

I think we knew going into this game that this was not going to end well for LIU. They’re not tall enough, they’re not fast enough, they don’t shoot well enough. You can go down the list. But I’d like to think they used this game as an opportunity to see where their worst weaknesses are and to work on them.

(For both teams that’s free throw shooting, because holy carp on a stick, 50% should not be the higher free throw percentage on the day.)

For whatever reason, things were unusually restrained at LIU. The spirit squad didn’t make an appearance, the dance team mostly didn’t get involved in the game, and even the band was slow to react when the Blackbirds were shooting free throws. I like the dance team’s new uniforms, though.

Michigan really needs to do this more often, but if they could do it against, I dunno, Columbia or St. Francis, that would be great. I don’t like being stuck between two teams! At least I can come back to LIU next week for the Barclays doubleheader.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 29th, 2017: Fordham at Manhattan

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Both Fordham and Manhattan had second half surges, but the Rams’ third quarter run was enough of a cushion to withstand the Jaspers’ fourth quarter run as Fordham came away with the 54-48 win. G’mrice Davis had 19 points- 11 in the fourth quarter- and 15 rebounds to pace the Rams. Amani Tatum’s 13 points, all in the fourth, led the Jaspers.

For senior power, the 1 train, gold and green, strange layouts, long-distance family, and secret steps, join your intrepid and unrivaled blogger after the jump.

I am a glutton for punishment and a sucker for rivalries, and tonight is the Battle of the Bronx at Manhattan College, where the Jaspers will take on the Fordham Rams for borough supremacy.

I keep forgetting that the best way to get to Draddy is to go through the parking garage. Eh, some stairs are good for me. I did find the second elevator, though.

Came in right behind Kendell Heremaia’s family, in town for the holidays. Her little sister is so cute!

There are free shirts! I love free shirts! They’ve got “Battle of the Bronx” on the front in a graffiti-esque font.

I was expecting the court to be greener, for some reason.

DJ needs to be quicker on the bleeps, or use radio edits.

There is a tiny Manhattan guard who is practically swimming in the Battle of the Bronx shirt. I think they only made it in XL, and she is emphatically not. You can see about an inch of the bottom of her shorts, and everything else is t-shirt. Tiny guard is Gabby Cajou, who looks like Moriah Jefferson shrunk in the wash.

It has not exactly been the most inspiring basketball, but Fordham is up 18-15 at the half. Balanced scoring for both teams. Each team has had a sequence with at least four shots where they came up empty.

Tonight features charities against pediatric cancer, including gold laces on all the players. I should go give people money.

We had a wedgie in this game and none of the players even tried to take it down. I am ashamed of you all.

Huge fourth quarter. Stars step up when their team needs them, and as long as the refs weren’t calling the extra step, G’mrice Davis was going to take the ball. I love it.

Someone remind me next time: parking garage to the quadrangle and across the bridge. Too many stairs, cannot cope.

Short rotation for the Rams in this one- only the Kiwis got off the bench. Zara Jillings brought defense, including a resounding block to end the third quarter- you could hear that ball get the taste smacked out of its metaphorical mouth from four rows away. Kendell Heremaia just couldn’t get the ball into the basket for the longest time, but when that first three fell, we all cheered. (Her family must have been so cold. They had flip-flops. It’s supposed to get into the 30s tonight.) She was active on the glass, deflecting rebounds, even if Manhattan sometimes came up with those tips. Love her heart and hustle.

Bless your heart, Mary Goulding. And I mean it in both the genuine and Southern senses. She’s loveable because she makes all the hustle plays. She goes to the floor for loose balls and scraps for offensive rebounds. She’s excruciatingly frustrating because she can’t hold on to the ball for love nor money, her shot is a mess, and she has hands like stone. I’m not quite sure how to run plus/minus, but I’m pretty sure that she would have the most deceptive zero plus/minus in sports. This wasn’t Johanna Klug’s night. For whatever reason, she was losing passes out of bounds on the baseline and missing badly at the basket. Maybe she’s hit the freshman wall, but I have faith she’ll get over it, or through it, or whatever one does to metaphorical walls. G’mrice Davis couldn’t get off a good shot for most of the game- Manhattan has a lot of height. But in the fourth quarter, she started driving more, and she got the non-calls on the extra step, so she was able to either blast to the basket or stop and pop the free throw line jumper. And, as always, she was dogged on the glass. And her hair looked fabulous.

Lauren Holden was matched up defensively on Kayla Grimme. Kayla Grimme is about a foot taller than Lauren. Lauren arguably had more success against her than she did against players closer to her own size- she was at the perfect height to attack Grimme when Grimme went into the triple threat position. She was a little more hesitant than usual to chuck her long threes, but when they went down, they did so with a splash. Bre Cavanaugh had a fantastic game- she was on fire in the first half, and knocked down her free throws in the second half. She skied for rebounds like I haven’t seen from a guard in I can’t remember when. I’m still not entirely sure if she meshes properly with Fordham’s propensity for slowing the game down whenever possible, but other coaches have made that change-of-pace player work.

Y’all have got to hold on to the ball, Fordham. Ball security matters; if you think the A-10 is going to let you get away with this, y’all have another think coming.

Manhattan’s coach tried a lot of players in the first half, then drastically shortened the rotation in the second half after seeing what worked. I think she thought Alex Smith was going to work, but two quick travels put the kibosh on that, and she was laboring after a very short time. Nyasha Irizarry came in in the second half as either a three-point specialist or as a fresh set of fouls- I’m not entirely sure which. Sini Mäkelä seems to be so new to Manhattan that their PA guy is still getting his mouth around her name. Either that or no one is giving out pronunciation guides. She needs to develop a little more strength to get her shot off.

Gabby Cajou is very tiny (really, if she’s 5-4, I’m Sue Bird), very slight, and very fast. She blazed through the lane for her first two baskets so fast that I don’t think Fordham realized she had checked into the game. She eventually cooled off, and the defense eventually adjusted to her. I don’t like Courtney Warley. It seemed like she took every opportunity she could get to shove someone or raise an elbow, or do something else uncouth. I was surprised she was called for as few fouls as she was.

My hat is very much off to Amani Tatum. She has an enormous attitude, but as the song goes, it ain’t bragging if you back it up, and in the fourth quarter she backed it up to the hilt. She took the “three-and-D” role up to 11, hitting corner threes and making huge defensive plays (she had one steal that was such a pickpocketing that Lauren Holden should be double-checking every set of pants she owns). She stepped up when her team needed her. Lynette Taitt hit a couple of back-to-back jumpers from the free throw line extended, helping Manhattan get off to... okay, it was an 8-5 quarter, so a good start might be an overstatement? I might have kept her in longer if I were Manhattan’s coach, but at the same time, you couldn’t really have both her and Cajou on the floor, and Cajou’s speed was a problem for Fordham. Taylor Williams turned it up in the fourth quarter, though I admit there were occasionally moments when I got her and Warley mixed up because of the hair.

Mikki Guiton lists as a center, but I’m going to call shenanigans on that; most of her shots came from the perimeter. I mean, maybe there are occasions when she plays inside, and yes, positions are becoming more and more fluid these days, and maybe she just gets listed as a center because of her height. But I’m still calling shenanigans on that position listing. Kayla Grimme hit a three, but overall was a more traditional post player, getting inside to pull down boards and make defensive plays. Very solid game for her.

Credit where credit is due: Manhattan got down big in the late third and early fourth, but their seniors never acted like they were out of it. They held their ground, forced turnovers, and hit big shots. If they’re going to have a year, this is going to be that year.

I would like for people to please stop hitting Bre in the face, thank you very much. (On the flip side, Lauren, please stop with the leg whips. Someday someone way bigger than you is going to take major offense.) I mean, it wasn’t the worst-officiated game I’ve seen all season, but that just means there were fewer moments where it could be mistaken for a rugby game. I’m starting to wonder if the referee pool has been depleted, for whatever reason, and if there’s any noticeable difference between mid-major refs and BCS refs.

Have I ever talked about the strange way Draddy Gymnasium is configured for basketball? Because even for a multi-use facility it’s weird. The court is laid out in the middle of the track, with the bleachers on all four sides. It looks rather like a race of basketball-loving aliens dropped it right in the middle. Princeton has a similar facility, but I think they put the court at one end instead of right in the middle.

Seniors, man. Never underestimate them.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November 29th, 2017: Boston College at Columbia

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Rebounding and defense keyed a second half comeback for Columbia in their matinee win against Boston College, 68-60. Camille Zimmerman had 14 points and seven assists in the win for the Lions. Georgia Pineau led all scorers with 22 for Boston College.

For missed chances, going the long way around, a lack of creativity, cranky coaches, undisciplined fouls, showcases, and restraining children, join your intrepid and curious blogger after the jump.

Good morning, folks! Your intrepid blogger, two apple cakes later, is back on the basketball grind, doing the twi-night doubleheader, as you do. First it’s off to Columbia for their game against Boston College.

Note to self: stop trying to walk from the C train, it’s not a good plan. Too many hills and my feet already hurt from being on them so much of the day yesterday. Ended up going around the hilly side of the campus and losing track of avenues. I’ve lived in New York all my life, but named avenues still throw me off when I go uptown.

So far this appears to be one of the better-organized kids’ day games I’ve ever been to. They’re loading the groups efficiently, and there are actually seats reserved for those few adults brave enough to dare the screaming. Also, we have band. I am pleased by this turn of events. Now, if the wi-fi would cooperate, we’d really be on a roll.

There was a pregame presentation to honor Camille Zimmerman becoming Columbia’s all-time leading scorer, which is very cool. Records are made to be broken, after all.

This has not exactly been inspiring basketball. At halftime, BC is up 29-27, and it would be more if they could hit a free throw. It’s a miracle that Columbia is this close, given that Camille Zimmerman got called for three straight fouls in the second quarter, cutting her minutes. But BC has been turning the ball over and not capitalizing when they manage to hold on to it. I don’t know how much longer Columbia’s luck can hold, and I feel like it’s going to depend on when Zimmerman picks up the fourth foul.

There’s being agnostic about ticket sales, and then there’s selling tickets behind the home bench to two vocal BC fans. This is not a good plan.

To the kids behind me: I get what you’re saying, and I’m not saying you’re necessarily wrong, but could you find something more creative than “You suck!” to yell whenever Columbia makes a stupid mistake? Thanks.

I want a drink so badly, but I don’t think daring the concession stand is a good idea, especially since Columbia has apparently switched to being a Pepsi place. Booooooo.

At LIU, before the home team takes free throws, the band yells in chorus, “FREE THROWS WIN BALL GAMES!” I feel like BC’s coach is going to be doing the same thing as soon as they get into the locker room... and on the bus... and off the bus... and back to Chestnut Hill. For most of the game, the Eagles outplayed the Lions- but they choked at the line, and I think that made all the difference.

Katie Quandt is a load down low, not afraid to muscle her way to the basket for offensive rebounds and either putbacks or free throws. I can imagine how she got the injury that led to the facemask. Milan Bolden-Morris wears her shorts just a little bit too tight for my liking- not short like booty shorts, but tight like they look uncomfortable. She had a good fourth quarter- big shots, big defensive plays. They list her as a guard, but she takes on some of the frontcourt duties when she has to. Martina Mosetti was busy on defense.

Sydney Lowery’s a gunner, or at least she was in this game. But I still like her potential. She definitely had her freshman moments, but I think she can learn from those and develop her judgment. That head fake she threw was sweet. Andie Anastos got most of her points driving the lane, with the Columbia defense parting before her. I don’t get that either. Taylor Ortlepp was out there, but she didn’t distinguish herself. I think she might have been the one who committed the lane violation that sealed BC’s fate, but I’m not sure.

Georgia Pineau was big on the inside, barreling into the paint for lay-ups and pulling down boards. She had quite a few blocks, with especially spectacular ones on Josie Little and Maya Sampleton. Her conditioning needs work- there was a point in the third quarter where she was pulling on her jersey in the time-honored signal of “I need a break”. But when she came down the lane, Columbia defenders either got out of the way or fouled her. Emma Guy was equally tough (I suppose a “tough Guy” joke is expected here), with a nice offensive rebound and putback on a missed free throw. I thought the fourth foul call on her was dubious. They aren’t the best, or the most physical, post tandem I’ve ever seen from BC, but bear in mind we used to get the Carolyn Swords/Stefanie Murphy combo visiting St. John’s. That’s a high standard to live up to. She needs to be more careful with her footwork.

Appropriately enough for a hockey school, Boston College used line changes in the final minute or so. I’m used to single-player offense/defense substitution, but BC’s coach was calling on entire three-person units.

It’s a good thing Columbia isn’t one of my usual teams. I’d spend an awful lot of time confused, since the Lions have a guard named Maya Sampleton. She did not get off to an inspiring start (I think she was the player who let a pass hit her in the face and go out of bounds) but came up with some big threes in the third quarter to help Columbia seize the lead. Andrea McCormick saw time very briefly in the second quarter, right around the time when Columbia’s coach was yelling at her bench that someone else had to score and was throwing in pretty much anyone. The three probably calmed the coach’s nerves slightly. Janiya Clemmons was a shot in the arm of offense, hitting floaters in the lane. She played well enough that she got the second half start.

Imani Whittington did not cover herself in glory in her brief time. Ill-advised fouls have a tendency to do that. I barely noticed she was there until she started committing the fouls. Abby Lee was solid rebounding, and hit a three in the second quarter that helped pull Columbia closer. She got the second half start for Madison Pack, but that was due to injury. Not that she didn’t play well, but this was a case where it wasn’t that one player had clearly outplayed another.

Riley Casey started the game, but she was the one benched for Clemmons. I understand the move- she was very hesitant at point guard, holding the ball too long and missing open shooters in the corners. Going to the bench seemed to enliven her, as she scored almost all of her points in the fourth quarter. When her three goes down, it’s a pretty shot, high-arcing. Paige Tippet shut the door with her free throws at the end of the game. Good hustle player.

Why, yes, I did pretty much bury the lede. It’s my standard procedure, build to the good stuff. In this case, the good stuff is Camille Zimmerman, the Lions’ star utility forward. She plays the game at a different level from her teammates. She’s looking for angles they don’t see. She’s making plays before they are. There were at least two occasions where she collided with a teammate on a rebound or a loose ball when her teammate was the one in position to make the play. I recognize that Columbia is a fantastic option for one’s future, but I believe with all my heart that she’d be a far better basketball player at another school, with more talented teammates and a better coach. (And it’s not like there aren’t academic schools out there with strong women’s hoops programs. God, what VanDerveer could do with her.) There are limits to her game- she didn’t seem to have a strong perimeter shot, and she can’t get into foul trouble the way she did in this one. But I love her vision on the floor and her versatility inside the arc. Madison Pack was shot happy from outside, and she rebounded well. I didn’t see the play where she injured her ankle, only that she came off the court limping and didn’t play in the second half (she didn’t even return to the bench until midway through the third quarter). Josie Little was strong on the inside, with a couple of monster blocks, one on Guy, one on Pineau, and she seemed to pick up steam as the game went on. She helped make her team and her teammates better.

Columbia’s coach appears to be very frustrated with her lot in life. She is of the “if I yell at the bench after the players on the floor screw up, magic will happen” school, though slightly less caustic than Coach Del Preore. (Stephanie, if you’re reading this, I really do like you and would love to sit in the stands with you at a game. It’s just that if I played for you I’d try to punch you in the face.)

If Camille Zimmerman’s third foul had been allocated to Madison Pack the way I thought it should have been, this might have been an entirely different game. The officials were lax on three-second calls and got looser on travels as the game went on.

I don’t know if this falls under the referees’ or some other officials’ purview, but there were long delays before tipoff and before the start of the second half. I know the game was on SNY, but the red-hatting seemed excessive.

I expected more out of an Ivy League band. Columbia’s band was very disappointing- competent, but not innovative.

I understand why Columbia scheduled up this year- Camille Zimmerman deserves a showcase. But I don’t think the rest of this team, including its staff, is on the same level. And I don’t know how much room for improvement there is.


Monday, November 27, 2017

November 27th, 2017: Toledo at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Rockets took off in the fourth quarter to beat Iona, 74-57. Mikaela Boyd had 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead Toledo. Treyanna Clay had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Iona in the loss.

For transportation issues, a little help from my friends, the final countdown, point guard comparisons, being distracted by shiny objects, and the perils of being a fan, join your intrepid and detoured blogger after the jump.

It’s almost over now, almost over now...

Iona doesn’t seem to like me, but tough. I like them well enough, so it’s off to New Rochelle for their early game against the Toledo Rockets. It helps that I like Toledo, too.

“This is 14th Street-Union Square.” No. No, it is not. It’s 3rd Avenue-138th Street. I think our conductor has had a long morning. Or possibly a very interesting weekend. (Also, it is 10:10 and I am at Brook Avenue. I don’t think I’m going to make the 10:20 bus at Pelham Bay Park, which is... um, a lot of stops away.)

Spoiler alert: I did not make the 10:20. And then the 11:20 broke down about four stops into New Rochelle. The two-kilometer walk was good for my cardiovascular health, and I was able to find a cab to shoot me up North Avenue, but I still missed all the pregame and the first four minutes of game time. Fortunately, the stat board and some statistical anomalies helped me catch up to the stats. But I didn’t get to see the anthem.

I walked in when it was 14-4 Toledo. It’s halftime and the score is 33-30. You’re welcome, Gaels. If we could rebound, we’d really be in this game. Mikaela Boyd is out there for Toledo like she’s Brittany Boyd, with seven points and six rebounds- for a while she was outrebounding our whole team. Alexis Lewis has 12 points for Iona, but it’s on volume.

I do not envy the person whose job it is to take care of the jerseys, especially when bodily fluids are involved. Treyanna Clay got blood on her jersey and spent the rest of the second quarter wearing #11. Poor staffer was scrubbing that jersey like she was Lady Macbeth.

Guys. It’s halftime and this is the third time you’ve played “Jumpman” already. For the love of God, play literally anything else.

Have I mentioned that I love Toledo’s “Embrace Diversity” shirts? Because those shirts are amazing and we have a request out to Toledo to see if we can acquire one. This is another time I want to yell at a school “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY” like I did with the St. John’s skyline socks.

(These kids on the bus have been seriously debating what happens to characters’ hair in Dragonball Z when they go Super Saiyan, and they are so deadly serious about it. What decade am I in?)

I’m starting to think Iona might not be a good team. I love them, but they are so very much a work in progress at best.

Toledo’s fun. They rolled fairly deep in the first half, though I didn’t even realize Michaela Rasmussen played until I looked at the box score. Sara Rokkanen hit a three in the first half just when Iona looked like they might really get back into it. I remember hearing Tatyana Davis’s name when she subbed in, but not anything she did on the floor.

Tanaya Beachem brought size on defense, bouncing Iona players off her and bringing the pain. Jada Woody was an immediate offensive spark when she came in- I think I had just collapsed on my spot in the bleachers when she hit a three, and her buckets in the second half were also right after she came in. Olivia Cunningham had a hot fourth quarter, hitting on a couple of shots, including a nice lay-up on a sweet feed from Mariella Santucci. She started the second half, which does not seem to have been the case for the first half, if Iona’s box score is to be believed.

Once again according to that box score, Santucci got the start. There were some rough patches where it looked like she and her teammates were having some communication issues. (With all the international guards I’ve been seeing recently, I’m starting to recognize the gesture of arms outspread wide and a facial expression of utter WTF.) She had some slick passes out there. Late in the second quarter, it looked like Sarah St-Fort had momentarily forgotten what sport she was playing and was trying to live out some lifelong dream of playing for les Canadiens by body-checking people. Spoiler alert: this does not usually fly in basketball. Mikaela Boyd was fantastic for the Rockets- I made the Brittany Boyd reference in the first half and I’m going to do it again here. She scrapped for offensive rebounds, she hustled into tables (and was polite enough to at least try to put the rolling board back into place on her way back), she drove the lane (though her drives are somewhat less pell-mell than the Liberty’s Boyd), and she was even inconsistent at the line like my favorite Boyd. (Heck, her coach even just calls her by her last name, same as Bill did with the Liberty’s Boyd.)

Kaayla McIntyre hit back to back buckets as I was buying my ticket and racing up the stairs, and set herself up for another bucket on a solid rebound. She’s very strong. That sometimes worked against her, as she picked up a couple of fouls in the second quarter. Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott is an interesting sort of hybrid player, with the build of a post player but the instincts, or at least desires, of a small forward. In this one, her success at that was mixed at best. But I can imagine her leveraging that size on a good shooting day into becoming a match-up nightmare.

I was impressed with Toledo’s ball movement, especially against the press. Iona tried to rattle them, and it didn’t work all that well. The turnovers were mostly procedural and on fouls- Iona had a few steals, but they were mostly when Toledo was setting up the offense.

Rebekah Justice was on the floor when I arrived. I figured that was probably a sign of desperation, or of size. I may have to move my seat as long as she’s at Iona; otherwise these are going to be four confusing years wherein I keep thinking Coach is calling my name (even though I know the odds of that are slim).. I figured Kristin Mahoney was the white flag when she came in. She hasn’t played much. Coach seems to have lost some of the faith she had in Adrienne DiGioia earlier in the season, since Adrienne got benched. I think I understand why, though; while she did have the one jumper, she looked out of place on both ends of the floor. I think she’ll settle into a steady point guard, but she’s not there yet.

But I’m impressed with how Amelia Motz has stepped up as a playmaker, or at least a play initiator. She brought the ball up a lot, and while she sometimes ran into trouble, she was able to get the offense started. She did her scoring at the rim, and she played hard on both ends of the floor. I was not expecting such extensive run for Tilasha Okey-Williams. I think this is the longest look I’ve ever gotten at her. I didn’t realize just how much spin there was on her shot- it looks almost like she’s firing a knuckleball when that three goes up from the corner. She brings a different look at forward- one more offensive-minded- and I think we can develop her into a good change of pace player. (Video from this game might help with that. Woody’s offensive surge is a good example to follow.)

I do not know why Jayden Eggleston started, though I can make a couple of guesses: she might have been trying to get more size into the starting lineup, because Treyanna Clay at center is not going to work, or she might have thought she matched up better with Toledo’s front line. I don’t know. Whatever she was trying to do, I don’t think it worked. Jayden didn’t even start the second half. Treyanna Clay is already starting to look worn out, and it’s November. That’s not a good sign. Trey plays a lot of minutes, and we need her to play a lot of minutes, but at the same time, Coach needs to rest her at some point, even if it’s just for a minute here or there. Take her out to end the first or third quarter, the way Laimbeer used to do with Tina Charles. She’s starting to look slow on defense, and it’s not of the good. I do like her leadership on the floor, too. She’s very vocal. Alexis Lewis scored a lot, but her three-ball was all over the place. I like that she’s taking it to the rack when her jumper isn’t going down, but I’d like to see better form on those floaters. If her inside game can be more consistent, and if she can bring the rebounding like I saw earlier in the year, she can be something special.

Toyosi Abiola has to speed up her decision-making. She was scared to shoot today, and that’s a problem when you have open looks. Those moments of hesitation allowed the defense to collapse on her, and caused turnovers, whether they were lost balls,travels, or steals. I get that she’s a freshman and rapid decision-making is not yet a thing, and I think she has the potential to grow, but the early going has been a little bit rough. I like Tori Lesko’s hustle, and I love that she’s vocal on the bench, trying to keep her team’s spirits up. She brought a lot of grit to the floor, but she couldn’t keep up with Toledo’s talent.

While I’m not normally a fan of coaches changing things up without an apparent rhyme or reason, I like that Coach Chambers is willing to experiment with her lineups and try new things. I’ve been hard on her in the past for not adapting, so I should give her credit for trying to.

Officiating was unremarkable, except the fourth quarter was dragged out longer than it had to be because there were issues with both the shot and game clocks- they just wouldn’t stop running.

I’m amused that the blood jersey is #11, but you’ll have to go back into the Iona archives to understand why.

There are pieces, but I’m not sure we know how to make them fit. And meanwhile I think the losing is starting to get to the kids. The energy level on the bench was much lower than it was against Temple. I like them. I don’t want to see any of them leave.


November 26th, 2017: East Carolina at Rider (Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma’am: In a tightly contested game, it was East Carolina that came out on top, 66-63. Dominique Claytor and Thais Oliveira each had 14 points to lead the Pirates. Kamila Hoskova had 18 points in the loss.

For driving, tripping, so many games, local flavor, and things I’ve forgotten, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Sleep is of the weak. Basketball is of the strong.

Turnarounds don’t get much tighter than this; finished the notes on Seton Hall from yesterday and I’m already on my way out there again for the concluding games of the Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic.

What is it about religion that makes people overshare in ways that would otherwise be considered socially unacceptable? There’s a woman singing hymns on this train and she’s been singing the same song for something like three stops. At least she’s singing along to her headphones instead of talking to people who seriously don’t exist, but if I wanted to listen to music on the train, I would have brought my headphones and my iPod.

It’s half an hour before the consolation game, which will feature Rider and East Carolina, and there are eight people in the stands. And I’m pretty sure two of them are school employees of some school or another. I don’t think anyone knows who’s got which bench, though we got to see East Carolina warming up, so we know they’re using the visiting bench, while Rider is using the home bench. Sometimes I wonder how those things are decided. Sometimes I’m too tired to care.

Someone here has a taste for country music, and I’m not sure if it’s one of the facilities guys or someone on East Carolina. I’m not saying I mind, I’m just surprised by the selection.

East Carolina’s warm-up shirts are even worse up close. Like, what are you supposed to do with that diagonal zipper? And why is the purple not quite right?

At halftime it’s 30-26 ECU. East Carolina has controlled most of the way, but Rider’s hanging tough. Foul differential is not helping the other Pirates.

There are a few of our Pirates in the stands. I am digging Shadeen Samuels’s jacket. She carries herself like she knows she’s got swag.

It’s nice to get external validation of my sense that the officiating is getting worse, not better.

Guys. Y’all really have to review whether a ball went out of bounds before the end of the half when the result is 0.2 going back on the clock? You can barely even do anything with that much time. It took longer to review it than it did to play it out (though not by much, since the initial inbounds pass actually hit the rim).

Well, that was an adventure. It was a close game, and it was certainly closely contested all the way through. I admire the guts of both teams, but there were a lot of times it bore more resemblance to amateur wrestling than basketball out there, and I have a problem with the officials letting that happen. We’re lucky none of the injuries in this game were serious.

Once again, Desiree Corbin: if you’re going to foul the shooter, make sure she doesn’t hit the shot. Cheap stupid fouls after the shot has been released don’t help anyone. She had to play some extra minutes with the injury to Dominique Claytor, and I don’t think that was the plan ECU’s coach wanted to go with. Tania Pierre-Emile got a couple of minutes and a nice backdoor lay-up with them. I’d have to check the box Score, but I think Destiny Campbell’s minutes tracked pretty closely with Desiree Corbin’s, though they were more effective (at least I will take a basket over a dumb foul). Mickayla Sanders was less physical than she was yesterday; she seemed to be backing off more plays and letting her teammates handle the rebounding. (And no, it wasn’t boxing out. I like boxing out.)

Raven Johnson was first off the bench in this one, sometimes very early. She had to sub that early in one half because of injury, but I’m not sure which one it was. Justice Gee did not have a good day- too many bad fouls, nto enough ball security. I can understand why she was benched from yesterday. Lashonda Monk is kind of tiny- for some reason, it didn’t seem so obvious yesterday. She was tenacious on defense, which sometimes worked out for her and usually ended in her getting called for a foul. There were a lot of fouls. SO many fouls. All the fouls on everyone.

I’m surprised Necole Hope’s mother (or other female relative who was on the floor yesterday when she was injured) didn’t get herself thrown out yelling at the refs. I know, I am the world’s biggest hypocrite in this regard, but I don’t stand up and yell at specific officials. The foul trouble really cut into her minutes, as did her inability to hit a basket. Yesterday’s game earned Ariyana Williams the start, and she definitely had the green light to shoot. She got off to a very strong start, with eight points in the first quarter, but outside shooters can be streaky, and there were times when her shots didn’t fall. There’s definitely something I like about Alex Frazier- she came up with big plays when her team needed them in the second half, whether it was the basket or the pass. She’s a strong leader for them.

Dominique Claytor bounced back from her injury in a hurry. She went down hard and spent a good chunk of time away from the bench (unfortunately, in double-headers like this, locker room facilities are not always fully available, so you get teams having to do medical stuff in the lobby). She really stepped her game up in this one, hitting the glass hard and intercepting passes. Her fourth quarter was huge in the win, and is probably what got her on the all-tournament team. Thais Oliveira had a good defensive game, blocking shots and getting perimeter steals. I didn’t think she had a jumper, but surprise, there it was from just past the three-point line. She occasionally needs to be yelled at to move into position, but that happens to a lot of players.

The Pirates really cranked up the defense when they needed to. They like to press, and they like to scramble, so they were able to force steals. Their style did come with disadvantages, like being over the foul limit in every quarter.

Rider tightened up their rotation somewhat in this one. I don’t think they subbed beyond Jaiden Morris in the second half at all. So let’s see if we can squeeze everyone into one paragraph. Taylour Jones showed some nice ballhandling moves on the crossover. Tracey Goodman had a nice steal and a block on Oliveira in the first quarter, though I can understand Rider going smaller in order to counter East Carolina’s all-guard sets. Daija Moses sneaked into the game sometime in the first half (the PA guy wasn’t as on the ball with sub announcements as he was yesterday, and I am also immensely more tired than I was four games ago) and did some work on the block. Bright-haired Jaiden Morris was an offensive spark off the bench for the Broncs, but more of her shots were contested than they were yesterday, and she couldn’t adjust her game plan. I think she’s got a lot of potential, though she’s got to learn shot selection.

Once Stella Johnson managed to keep out of foul trouble, she was pretty dang good. She threw up pretty shots in the lane and was able to draw contact. She had a nice steal and fast-break lay-up in the third quarter. I can see her value to Rider now that she’s not sitting on the bench with early fouls. Kamila Hoskova was able to consistently draw fouls and get to the line- her ability to penetrate and hit both shots and free throws fueled the Rider run in the third quarter that gave them the lead at the quarter break. She hit the floor a lot on those drives and going after loose balls on defense. Lexi Posset spent enough time falling dramatically on minimal contact that I think she actually got a formal warning from the official. She got enough of those calls that the East Carolina fans were up in arms.

Lea Favre did a good job of making the baseline cut and score. Rider was able to use her size more effectively than they did yesterday, using her (or at least the threat of her) to make space in the lane. Aubre Johnson started racking up the fouls early on, and ended up fouling out of the game, so Rider wasn’t really able to use her effectively.

Enough with the tripping, guys. Both teams were physical, but Rider was more dangerous. I’m not looking forward to them playing Iona.

And the officials let a lot of it happen. Again. We are so lucky that no one was seriously injured. I don’t know how long we’re going to be this lucky.

Surprisingly fun game. I thought Rider might pull it out at one point, but East Carolina did just enough to win.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

November 26th, 2017: Jacksonville State at Seton Hall (Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Seton Hall used a big third quarter to pull away from Jacksonville State, 73-54. Taylor Brown had a team-high 19 points, with JaQuan Jackson and Shadeen Samuels each adding 18. Rayven Pearson had 13 points and eight rebounds to lead Jacksonville State.

For physicality, flying forwards, a three-headed monster, small trophies, coaches who need throat lozenges, and banging the bleachers, join your intrepid and slightly demented blogger after the jump.

On to the next one! This one’s for the hardware, such as it is (the trophies have been sitting on a table by the doors since before the first game, and I’m underwhelmed). Jacksonville State will take on the hosts, Seton Hall.

Jacksonville State’s guards look smaller today than they did yesterday. I guess that’s just in comparison to Seton Hall.

Watch out for the speed bump! The plastic covering for the media table’s cords almost took out a passing pedestrian.

Small correction from yesterday’s notes: the name and number tees don’t belong to the team, but to Nicole Jimenez’s family. They’re clustered over by the tunnel. I feel bad for the kid with the broken leg having to navigate the tight bleachers here at Walsh.

Someone on Jacksonville State is from Baltimore. Someone on Jacksonville State also has a proud relative taking pictures.

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 32-28. Shadeen Samuels has 10. Taylor Brown got off to a good start, but got sidelined by fouls. Holy crap on a cracker, the officiating is bad. So bad. I can’t believe Tony’s jacket is still on, that’s how bad it's been. And the coat is coming off for the second half. THIS R SRS GME NAO.

Big third quarter for the Pirates, and that was the difference. Jacksonville State was extremely physical, and there were a couple of moments when I thought there was going to be some vigilante justice meted out, because heaven knows the officials weren’t actually going to do anything to earn their pay.

The Gamecocks went to their deep bench late in the game, which allowed Jayla Walker to get a three-pointer. (Our Jayla’s better.) Kiana Johnson has pretty hair, though I’m surprised she wears it loose like that- doesn’t it get in her face and impede her vision? I like McKenna Lawrence’s dye-job, too; it’s almost perfect team colors. She got some extended run today that she didn’t get yesterday, and took full advantage of it by getting to the rack. I was surprised Leah Strain didn’t play more; I’d have thought she’d be a good match-up with Seton Hall’s tiny guards, but I guess their coach figured they’d cancel each other out too much for her size to be anything but a liability.

Poor Chloe Long. The calls in the paint were not kind to her, though the counterargument would be that she needs to learn the new location of the charge circle. There was one play where I thought she was set, outside the paint, and toppled over like a sapling in slow-motion... and then got called for the block. She’s very bendy, and used that to her advantage on the glass. Morgan Towells had opportunities early on, but got her shot blocked. You’d think I’d remember more about someone with a bright blonde mini-Afro, but at this point I’m having trouble remembering social niceties, so I apologize. Taylor Hawks was out there and playing hard, but I’m drawing a blank on anything else she did, and I am so sorry. Rayven Pearson was extremely physical, and took advantage of her size; when she had shorter defenders on her she shot over them, and when she had slighter defenders on her she pushed them around. She was able to muscle offensive rebounds at the basket and put them back up. I’d like her to be more careful with her feet, especially if she’s playing teams that I like, but I have to say I think I’d like her if she played for one of my teams.

Tasha Magruder did not make herself popular in South Orange in the early going. I think she was the one who caused Donnaizha to be hurt, and whether it was intentional or not it wasn’t very nice. She was extremely casual with her elbows, and I have a problem with that. When she got called for back to back fouls in the third quarter, it was immensely satisfying. I still don’t know the story behind “Coco” Phelion, though it might be on their website. At some point when I actually have time, I should probably look that up. I don’t remember her taking threes yesterday, but she was lining them up today, and they actually looked pretty good. There’s something I can’t put my finger on that I think I like about her, though it’s probably not her propensity to trip opponents. I get using your whole body, but there have to be limits somewhere, right?

Gretchen Morrison got off one of those corner threes she was hitting with such timing yesterday, but otherwise couldn’t buy a bucket. Her height was an advantage, though Coach Bozzella game-planned for that as well. Ki-Ki Patterson had a quiet offensive game, but was active on defense. There was a sequence where JSU’s coach was yelling at her to switch, but I’m not sure if it was because the other player was getting badly burned, or because she was out of position. I think it was the former, because I seem to recall a really nice offensive play by Seton Hall on the prior possession. Brianna Perry is tiny and fierce, and seemed to have the green light to drive whenever and wherever she wanted. Driving into a packed paint when you’re five-foot-tiny is not always a good idea, though there were a fair number of times it drew a foul.

We didn’t have to start the chants to get the deep bench into the game- Tony put everyone in at the end. Heck, Tyeisha Smith even got minutes in the first half, which is a thing I’ve never seen before and may never see again. (They were not good minutes. She’s not ready for primetime.) I feel like we could have gotten some more minutes out of Jayla Jones-Pack, though. Kimi Evans had a good defensive game, though I’d like to see her hit a free throw at some time in the near future. She’ll get there, I’m sure. Selena Philoxy got pushed around underneath by Pearson. You could see her trying to hold her ground and failing. Miserably. She tracked offensive rebounds well, though.

Quiet game for Deja Winters, though she got into it earlier than she did yesterday. There was a sequence where she scrambled for a steal and then promptly threw the ball to Jacksonville State. I think I said something along the lines of “Good steal Deja WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” all in one breath on that play. I love her motor. Coach seemed to be experimenting with Nicole Jimenez playing a little bit of two, but I don’t think he knows what he wants to do with her at this point. Some of those lineups were very strange. Kaela Hilaire stole the show at point guard, with a pass so pretty Imma link the video Read More...

November 25th, 2017: Rider at Seton Hall (Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Seton Hall controlled the game from start to finish in a 85-49 blitzing of Rider. Donnaizha Fountain had 20 points in 19 minutes to lead the Pirates’ attack. Jaiden Morris had 17 points to lead Rider, but she was the only Bronc in double figures.

For hard bleachers, snazzy passing, learning the hard way, playing all the players, and passing the mojo ball around, join your intrepid and time-pressed blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen, and well-mannered non-binary folk! We’re coming to you live and in surround sound from historic Walsh Gymnasium on the campus of Seton Hall University, where the Pirates are playing host to their Thanksgiving tournament. First up, the home team takes on the Broncs of Rider.

Of course. Of course the day I wear the “We’ve got a cure for red and white” shirt is the day Sky Lindsay is working the game with John Fanta. Granted, the red and white the shirt references is supposed to be Rutgers, not St. John’s, but it’s still awkward. Maybe if I stay quiet she won’t notice... gentle readers, I see you’ve already spotted the flaw in that plan.

Spoon is in the house! Our guess is that she’s scouting Donnaizha Fountain, but she might just be chilling. Wherever Spoon is, the crowd will automatically be. She just has a way of attracting people to her. (Postgame hugs reminded us that JaQuan Jackson transferred from Louisiana Tech and thus probably either played for or was recruited by Spoon.)

At halftime, Seton Hall is up 42-24. If Tony were playing a more competitive rotation, it would probably be more, but he seems to be using this game to experiment with lineups- we’ve already gone 12 deep, with Donnaizha playing every position from 2 to 5. (Which might be deliberate, come to think of it. If you have a pro scout in the audience, you want to show off your top notch player’s versatility, right?) And she’s got 18, so unlike some Pirates I can name she doesn’t crack under pressure.

I think one of my favorite plays of the game is Deja Winters chasing a loose ball on the sideline, vaulting the courtside seats, and landing in the second row of the bleachers without managing to hit anyone. Love that hustle (even if we didn’t get the ball out of it).

I’m really worried about the officiating, though. It’s getting rough out there, and the refs aren’t picking up all of it. They’re calling ticky-tack hand-check fouls and enough travels that Bonita Spence is smiling down from heaven, but the elbows and forearms are flying and we’ve already seen a mild exchange of hostilities, albeit one within the constraints of the game.

Is that woman wearing a Juventus jersey dress? I think I want one. (I don’t always follow men’s soccer, but when I do, I go with my dad’s teams of choice and back Juve and the Azzurri.)

That fourth quarter wasn’t exactly what one would call a thing of beauty for the Pirates, but when the team’s up 30 or 40 most of the way, the let-up is understandable, if not necessarily forgiveable. I worry about communication problems, but you know me, I always find something to worry about, even in a win.

The Broncs didn’t go very deep into their bench until the fourth quarter. Watching the paint battle between Asyana’e Muwwakkil and Jayla Jones-Pack was sort of akin to watching a small and not terribly serious slap fight, at least at Rider’s end. Seems like a senior should be playing with a little more confidence; she was very tentative. Tracey Goodman fancied herself a three-point shooter. Either her shot was not falling or the belief that she should be taking three-pointers is a mistaken one. Daija Moses brought physical defense down low in her minutes; she was the one banging bodies while Muwwakkil engaged in the gentle art of keepaway. I think she might have potential.

Jaiden Morris was a spark off the bench for the Broncs, and a bright one at that, with a flaming orange ponytail that made her instantly visible whenever she was on the floor. By the end of the game, it looked like she was calling her own number a lot, but I don’t know if that was a freshman getting greedy, or if Milligan wanted to see what she had in the kid. She actually got the second half start because she was getting buckets in the first. She’s aggressive and quick. She had a nice block on Kaela Hilaire as well, though duty- if not not self-preservation- compels me to point out that KK is best-described as fun-size. Taylour Jones ran a pretty decent point, though it seems like the ballhandling should be better for a junior.

If the Swiss are supposed to be non-combatants, how come Lea Favre was hitting people so hard? She was a physical rebounder and an even harder screen-setter. I think Rider was expecting her to be a better counter for the Hall’s interior play. Our size is weird and definitely more of a mean than a median. She was benched in the second half in favor of Morris, both to ride the hot hand and because she was a better match-up. Aubre Johnson got in foul trouble early and never seemed to find her footing after getting pulled early in both halves.

Lexi Posset hit the floor a lot. A good deal of it appeared to be of her own volition. She was not afraid to make the officials aware that she had suffered contact and would very much appreciate a whistle in response to such audacious behavior by the offense. I can barely put up with floppers when they play for my team; you can imagine how I feel when they’re playing against my team. I liked Stella Johnson’s hair (and yes, when she went to the line, I did my best Marlon Brando impression to try and disconcert her, but it didn’t work). She had trouble wrangling the ball on the baseline (and I think she was the one who stepped carelessly out of bounds on the sideline as well). Kamila Hoskova... Seton Hall’s box score doesn’t track blocked attempts, but I counted at least four blocks on her by various and sundry Pirates. I mean, you can’t fault the aggression, and heaven knows it’s sometimes difficult to get people to go into the painted area, but eventually, after the third or fourth block, perhaps driving pell-mell into the teeth of a prepared defense eventually stops being a good plan.

Rider played rough. Tripping is not cool, people. There are certain physical differences between men and women that making tripping a lot more dangerous in the women’s game than the men’s game. I’ve seen too many knee and ankle injuries in my career as a fan. Do not want.

Everyone got to play! Yay! Everyone got pretty good minutes. Oh, God.

It looked like the team was looking to feed Tyeisha Smith at the end of the game. Makes sense; she plays the least of any Pirate except maybe Jayla Jones-Pack, and Jayla’s usually too banged up to get extended minutes. Kaity Healy is a good breather guard- she plays god defense and she’s not going to screw things up. She won’t extend a lead, but you won’t lose it with her, either. Inja Butina looked more for her shot than I saw in the last game, which I think is a good sign, and decided to throw some fancy passes when the lead ballooned in the third quarter. She had an especially nice one through the legs to Deja Winters. I think Coach might still be questioning her clock management, though. Kaela Hilaire also got in on the fancy passing, and played her usual “personal space is for suckers” defense. I’d have liked to see some of her shots go down, but if she’s prioritizing passing over scoring, that’s a change I can believe in.

Jayla Jones-Pack was dropping blocks all over the place. She had a nice one on a Goodman three attempt, but the general gist was that shooting in front of her was a bad idea. Her rebounding was also very solid. Kimi Evans needs to get the schemes down, but she’s a little quicker on her feet and quicker to react than I thought. She’s got a lot of promise. I love Selena Philoxy’s rebounding. She’s really tough inside. I can see her and Kimi as a very imposing front line a couple of years down the road, with Jayla as a change-of-pace player. Deja Winters picked up the mojo ball from JaQuan Jackson in the third quarter and hit back-to-back threes to help really break the game open.

I love watching Shadeen Samuels rebound. If there were a way to run a rebounding contest, I’d want to see her, Fordham’s G’mrice Davis, and Maya Singleton from St. John’s go at it, because they all have the same terrifying tenacity. She’s got to finish a little better at the rim, but she’s improving that on a regular basis. I think she’s my favorite Pirate right now. Donnaizha Fountain had herself a day, scoring efficiently from beyond the arc, in the paint, and at the line. She rebounded well and played solid defense. If she was looking to show herself off, she did a fantastic job of it. Taylor Brown was solid inside, but turnovers were a problem- she couldn’t hang on to the ball.

I’m a little worried about the communication breakdown between Nicole Jimenez and Selena Philoxy in the second half- it was so bad that Tony had to call timeout to have a Teaching Moment with them... whereupon Nicole promptly threw the ball out of bounds in the general direction of Selena. Her shots were consistently short, and that’s a problem. I like how she can control the tempo, and if Tony wants her to be more of a facilitating point, that’s fine; while I like a point guard that can score in a pinch, I’d rather have a distributing point than one who calls her own number. That being said, that means you have to take care of the ball and pass wisely. JaQuan Jackson was quiet in the first half, almost too quiet. Then the third quarter hit and we found out where Quanny’s mojo had been hiding- I’d have to look at the play-by-play, but I think she actually went 3-6-9 on them. I didn’t think she had it in her to not insist on being first fiddle, but she seems to have adjusted to having another scoring option next to her. She’s got to keep her head in the game on defense; that always seems to get her offense going.

The lack of focus in the fourth quarter was a problem, and one that I know Tony would have let them have it about. It’s understandable with the reserves in, but inexcusable. In general, it seemed like Seton Hall was experimenting with lineups, playing a lot of players at odd positions, and making sure that everyone was well rested. That’s a refreshing change from a lot of the teams I watch. (Joe. Billi. You can assume this disapproving look has been sent in your direction.)

Do I have to downgrade my already low expectations for NCAA officiating from “at least be consistent with your incompetence” to “at least let’s make sure the game doesn’t turn into a rugby scrum”? Because while I have nothing against rugby scrums, they don’t belong in basketball. I’m tired of Kaela getting hit with no call. I’m tired of wondering what’s going to happen when a player goes to the bench after an injury. Player safety should be the primary concern on the floor.

I expected Rider to bring more people, and the fans they did bring were pretty quiet. I guess that happens in blowouts. Their bench stayed pretty involved, even through the worst of the deficit.

Good win for Seton Hall- good minutes for everyone, and both strengths and weaknesses showcased to work on.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

November 25th, 2017: Jacksonville State at East Carolina (Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma’am: In a fast-paced, defensive-minded game, Jacksonville State came away with a balanced 82-73 win over East Carolina. Taylor Hawks and Ki-Ki Patterson each had 13 points to pace the Gamecocks. Ariyana Williams notched 15 off the bench to lead the Pirates.

For names being the same, purple, passionate family, stomping the bleachers, doppelgangers, consistent inconsistency, and surprises, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Every Thanksgiving tournament with a hosting team must, perforce, have a truly neutral game. People are starting to stream out as Jacksonville State takes the court to stretch. Theoretically East Carolina should be here as well, but I don’t see them. I see their support staff and commentator types, but no basketball players.

I do like East Carolina’s purple. It is to my everlasting sorrow that I follow so very many teams and none of them wear my favorite color.

No, Quanny, you can’t play two. Jacksonville State has too many players on their roster to add you on anyway.

Remind me to bring the seat cushions for next game. My ass hurts so much. These bleachers are the world’s hardest wood.

East Carolina has arrived. I’m not entirely certain what they’re wearing, but it looks like a hoodie and a t-shirt had a baby and then neither of them actually wanted to claim it. I think one of the purple Pirates actually cut the hood off hers.

Oh, cool. Seton Hall has the name and number t-shirts/warm-up shirts, for even easier identification of your favorite Pirate.

Rider’s staying to scout. Looks like Seton Hall is relying on the coaches for that. They bailed at halftime.

Speaking of halftime, Jacksonville State is up 44-35 in what’s been an entertaining game. A lot of shots are falling short, but the defensive intensity is fun on both sides. The Gamecocks are getting key baskets from Ki-Ki Patterson, who leads the way with nine, and Brianna Perry. East Carolina hasn’t had anyone particularly stand out, but they seem to really need to go to the strong side to hit their lay-ups.

A small group of ECU fans has discovered the remarkable resonance of the bleachers at Walsh and is happily stomping on them at every appropriate occasion.

There’s a white tape X on one of the chairs on the Pirates’ bench and a smaller one on another. I’m not sure what the deal with that is. (Yes, at least in this game, ECU is using Seton Hall’s bench, making it doubly the Pirates’ bench.)

Well, I’m not going to say this was the greatest game ever played, but it was certainly fun to watch. Both teams got up and down the floor in a hurry, and both teams played high-pressure defense. Jacksonville State came up with the big plays more consistently, and that gave them the win.

(That being said, JSU’s coach needs to switch to decaf. I speak as an expert witness.)

Leah Strain has one of the stranger shots I’ve seen, and she shoots her free throw the exact same way she shoots her jump shot. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a free throw taken as a jumper before. She’s feisty on defense, though, and wouldn’t let up on the ballhandler. Taylor Hawks kind of sneaked up on the game, coming up big in the fourth quarter. Morgan Towells was one of two players on the court today who wore #1 and had a small-to-medium-sized Afro with a blonde tint; just to make life that much more confusing for your intrepid blogger, she was matched up with her counterpart, Alex Frazier, on both ends of the floor. She took a lot of hard hits- the Gamecocks were, as a team, extremely willing to take charges (they were somewhat less thrilled about getting called for blocks).

Chloe Long, in terms of build, reminds me a little of DeWanna Bonner, in the sense that it’s hard to believe a human can be that skinny and still be a top-tier athlete. She’s not Bonner, not by a long shot, but her length at guard gives the Gamecocks options- given how ECU was playing, she saw a lot of minutes at forward. Rayven Pearson is a whole lot of woman. She’s a very solid option down low on both ends of the floor, and East Carolina didn’t really have anyone who could match up with her; their post players were more the long, lanky type that could keep up with the fast-break offense, and the one bulky player in their frontcourt was a good bit shorter. Her ability to get to the basket and to clear the offensive glass is going to be a problem for anyone who doesn’t have a bruiser to counter her.

Gretchen Morrison’s foul trouble on defense kept her out of the game for long stretches, but JSU’s coach was able to insert her at opportune times when the Gamecocks had the ball, and she answered with timely corner threes. She and Strain sort of platooned. Ki-Ki Patterson got off to a strong start to get the Gamecocks rolling, and had a knack for quieting East Carolina. She was far better penetrating the paint than she was from beyond the arc. Brianna Perry had a nice little game- quick hands on defense and big shots on offense. I feel like I’m repeating myself a lot, but Jacksonville State was very balanced, and everyone really stepped up who played substantial minutes.

I’m not entirely sure how or why the player named on Jacksonville State’s roster as Tyler Phelion spent the day being called Coco, but, hey, I spent four years watching Centhya Hart for St. John’s, so I really can’t argue with a college kid choosing to go by the nickname Coco. She started off on fire, hitting their first two baskets, and did a good job of getting to the line. There’s something about her that suggested that if her team needed someone to step up and have a big game, she could be that someone. Tasha Magruder made defensive plays in the second half, deflecting passes and grabbing rebounds.

The Ohio Valley might be very interesting this year, if a team that hasn’t traditionally been one of the ones we hear about all the time is building something like this. I like their balance, I like their heart, and I like that they have a post player like Pearson that they can go to in order to disrupt the opponent. I’m trying to imagine an eeny-weeny guard like the ones UT-Martin used to have running headlong into Rayven Pearson. It doesn’t end well for the imaginary guard.

Necole Hope was the one who had the enthusiastic fans in the bleachers behind the Pirates’ bench (at least, I assume that was why one of them was allowed down on the court after she took a hard hit and hit her head- don’t worry, she shook it off, went back into the game, and made some big defensive plays). She’s got to be more careful with her fouls, but I like her defense. Ariyana Williams hit a couple of threes in the fourth to keep the game close, and was the recipient of many fouls (and thus many free throws). Lashonda Monk was busy on defense, which got her into foul trouble.

Tania Pierre-Emile saw a little time in the first half and more in the second, and set the nice screen that opened up Williams for her first three. I’m not sure if they normally use her more, or if there are reasons she wasn’t playing as much, but I think she could be good for them, to facilitate their shooters. Mickayla Sanders was really the only one out there with bulk, but given ECU’s style, that wasn’t terribly helpful. Destiny Campbell and Desiree Corbin each saw a few spot minutes that were mostly unremarkable, except when Corbin committed an incredibly stupid foul after a shot by Phelion. She got pulled shortly after that for a Teaching Moment.

Thais Oliveira would be so much better if she could do anything with her left hand. In the first half, she kept going to the right side, even if it meant crossing the basket through the defense. In the second half, she at least realized she had to try to shoot from the left side, whereupon we discovered why she doesn’t do that. It was bad. I sort of think I like her midrange pull-up, but I don’t know how I feel about centers having midrange pull-ups. She helps them keep the game moving, which helps. Dominique Claytor brings size as a guard, though ECU claims to run a four-guard set. She’s the closest thing they have to another forward, I guess. She had a nifty steal in the third quarter, and brought toughness to the floor.

Justice Gee has a pretty bad-ass name. She fueled the speed of the Pirates’ attack- they pressed, and they ran, and they kept the game very high-octane. It did not help the tattered remnants of my exhausted sanity that she matched up with her fellow #0, Taylor Hawks, whenever Hawks was on the floor. Too many players. Not enough nameplates. Please, coaches, put names on your jerseys. Alex Frazier played at full speed ahead at all times. It bit her in the ass a couple of times when she got called for really blatant charges- in case you were ever wondering why they call it a player control foul in college, you can pull up footage of her third and fourth fouls. I’m pretty sure at least one of them would qualify. Raven Johnson had a nice fast break play in the second quarter, with the steal and the lay-up, but otherwise I remember nothing about her.

East Carolina is certainly scrappy, and that’s the kind of team that at least manages to inexplicably cover against UConn, even if they can’t quite beat them. That’s the standard you’re going to be held to in the AAC if you haven’t proven you can do anything else, sorry to say.

Dear officials: can we please call fewer hand-checks and more hands to the face? Before someone gets seriously hurt? At least in this one they did eventually start calling much of the contact after two straight possessions where an East Carolina player smacked the back of her head on the floor. (Oliveira hit her head right before Hope hit hers.)

It was sort of fun to get distracted by spotting Seton Hall players in street clothes as they wandered in and out of the scene. The coaches tended to stay put more.

I’m intrigued by both of these teams, and I’m looking forward to their contrast of styles with their appropriate opponents. Rider’s physicality will probably not be welcomed, appreciated, or tolerated by East Carolina.