Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 27th, 2017: Butler at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Big defensive plays and balanced scoring helped St. John's fend off Butler 62-55. Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker each had 16 points to lead St. John's. Tori Schickel had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Butler.

For big blocks, feelings getting in the way, nifty socks, hot-shot sophomores, friendly new neighbors, and a dash of worry, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

It's yet another jam-packed weekend of college basketball coming to you in surround sound and smell-o-vision from the Game Notes of Doom. The schools of the Old Northwest come to the tri-state this weekend. Tonight it's Butler at St. John's.

St. John's is promoting their mental health awareness initiative tonight, with giveaway infuser bottles and special warmup shirts.

Butler appears to be short-handed. I think their injured players are actually in street clothes. Someone is rocking the heck out of a little black dress, and someone else looks ready to start interviewing for assistant jobs in her black pantsuit.

I refuse to be outnumbered by the fans of a team from another entire time zone. You're better than this, Johnnies. Get on in here. I mean, okay, it's half an hour before the game, but STILL.

Poor Sandie appears to be in street clothes again. I hope she's at least healthy enough to start on Senior Day.

Oh, gods, Senior Days are coming. So many of them. All of them. Feelings. Feelings everywhere. Inability to can rising rapidly.

Not only is Alisha Kebbe out of the boot, she's dressed to play and rocking incredibly awesome Superman socks. The funny thing is she's not even the one with a sock-related nickname. We appear to have misplaced Shamachya Duncan, though. Joe, don't tell me you scared Machi off already. (No, there she is. That's a relief. Misplacing freshmen is just careless.)

This is the third time the team has had to stop and pose for pictures during warm-ups, and I'm not sure if this is going to mess with everyone's rhythm or not.

Coach Tartamella got his 100th win in the Providence game, so he gets a commemorative ball. Call me when he passes Kim Barnes Arico, though.

At halftime, St. John's is up 31-25. Balanced scoring for the Johnnies, while Tori Schickel and Sydney Shelton have carried the load for Butler.

I think Coach is going to do something drastic to Jordan Agustus by the end of the game. A play shouldn't be so bad that it makes the coach register on the Adubato scale, and she made two or three.

You know, I'd think the star intramural players representing the frats and sororities of St. John's would be taking this game a little more seriously. The boys are clowning around and the girls are taking it rather more seriously.

This game should not have been as close as it was. Butler isn't that good. Sorry, Indianapolis, but I try to speak only the truth. The Bulldogs have a couple of really solid pieces in Tori Schickel and Sydney Shelton, but they're still a year or two away from the next big step.

I so badly wanted to pronounce Shae Brey's last name "breigh", but it's "braigh", so her name doesn't rhyme. She was the post sub for Butler, a long forward, who pulled down a lot of rebounds in the lane. She's a very good stylistic match for Schickel. Sydney Buck reminds me distressingly of a bully from my elementary school (just around the face), so I may be unreasonably prejudiced against her. It would have been easier to laugh at the three she airballed if Schickel hadn't scored off the rebound. She hawked the ball a lot on defense.

Taylor Buford carries herself like she's been watching a lot of Skylar Diggins, but she hasn't taken the game lessons to heart. Michelle Weaver drove the lane and accepted a lot of contact (especially late in the game, but that's a topic for another paragraph). Alexa Bailey didn't play a lot- most of her relevance was in helping to keep the foul derby going, and going, and going.

Sydney Shelton has one of the strangest shots I've ever seen, and bear in mind one of my players breaks physics for her shot to go down. She just sort of flings it up there from the general vicinity of Fort Wayne, and it goes down somehow. If anything, she can't get too close, because the shot goes off the back of the rim too strongly, and then it's pell-mell pandemonium time for the rebound. Tori Schickel is the real deal- she's efficient at the basket, and she rips down boards with ferocity. It's hard to believe she's a sophomore. As a fan of basketball, I look forward to seeing her- as a fan of another Big East team, not so much. Everything around the rim is hers, and she claims her territory with authority.

Butler does nothing remarkably. But they don't necessarily do anything badly, either. They're average personified.

I love Maya Singleton's hustle, and I love her strength, but this not finishing through contact and not finishing at the rim thing needs to stop. Someone needs to get her drilling on how to finish through contact. She laid a glorious smackdown on a Brey shot that went rapidly outward in a straight line. Andrayah Adams continues to improve on defense, and her timing on the shots she hits is very, very nice. As far as I'm concerned, someone who can hit shots at the end of the clock is always welcome. Come to think of it, Keylantra Langley's been hanging around lately, and that was her claim to fame. Crystal Simmons does so much for us on defense. It's amazing how much she makes happen with quick hands and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. If she had an offensive game of any sort, she'd be a prospect; as it is, as a European with top-notch defense, she'll find herself a good gig if she wants one after she graduates. Jordan Agustus made me want to tear my hair out, and made Joe register higher on the Adubato Scale than I've ever seen him. I don't know which play infuriated him more: the forced jumper near the end of the second quarter when he was signaling for the ball to come back out, the blown coast-to-coast lay-up (fun fact: Jordan has no handle), or the way she knocked Akina off the rebound on the sideline. Unsurprisingly, Jordan didn't play in the second half.

I keep saying this, and maybe someone else will say it, and maybe that someone else will have the power and the phrasing to get it through to her. Jade Walker has got to get the hell out of her feelings on the court. Fouls happen. No-calls happen. Welcome to women's basketball. She's got to stop letting it get to her. A call happens, or doesn't happen, and mentally she's out of it for the next play. I love her jumper. I love when she goes hard to the rim. I love when she makes a big defensive stand. But she's got to keep her head in the game. Imani Littleton got in foul trouble for being in the way of driving players. She was solid on defense, with a couple of absolutely vicious blocks down low. I'm almost envious of her sheer cool.

I'm almost as envious of Alisha Kebbe's socks. I'm glad to see her back in action. She was still a little stiff, and Joe was using her rather more judiciously than he usually does, but she brought the hustle and the grit in the paint. Aaliyah Lewis picked her moments carefully, exploiting the Butler defense with her speed to drive the lane. She is the maestra of the offense, and she looked like she got a good rest in to ease whatever was bothering her last game. Akina Wellere hit a couple of huge threes in the third quarter to give St. John's a bit of a cushion into the fourth quarter.

Kids, we need to talk about clock management. More importantly, we need to talk about not fouling to stop the clock when you're up under a minute to go. Three straight possessions, Butler drove and St. John's fouled. Joe was not amused, to put it mildly.

Joe was also not amused at Schickel swinging the off arm into Jade repeatedly. Jade also did not approve, but Jade disapproves of many things. I feel like the officials felt the burning need to add points to the game by making sure everyone would be in the penalty fairly quickly. A low-scoring game is still a low scoring game, guys.

We need to play a lot better against Xavier on Sunday. Xavier's just a little bit better, and we have people to try to impress at the Garden.

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