Monday, January 23, 2017

January 22nd, 2017: Providence at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Akina Wellere poured in 20 points, and Aaliyah Lewis scored eight of her ten in the fourth quarter, to power St. John's to a 60-50 win over Providence. Sarah Beal of Providence led all scorers with 21 points, adding a team-high seven rebounds.

For headaches, Girl Scouts, key shots, the end of the sophomore slump, rolled shorts, and sweeeeet passes, join your intrepid and achey blogger after the jump.

There's no rest for the weary and none for the wicked either, which explains why I'm on my third game in three days. Creighton on Friday means Providence on Sunday for St. John's, so here we are in or usual perch at Carnesecca Arena.

Maya Singleton appears to have found her hair. (The... commercial nature... of it becomes rather obvious when one goes from about seven inches of straight-up fluff to a straight, mid-back ponytail in two days.)

Looks like our bench is going to be a bit short today- both Sandra Udobi and Tamesha Alexander are sitting out of warmups. I'm a little worried about Aaliyah Lewis, since she had to get checked out by the trainer during stretching.

Attention to the Providence guard with her shorts rolled up: you look like you're wearing a diaper. It's not a good look for you. I like how the Providence assistants are going from player to player during stretching, encouraging them and giving them what appears to be advice before the game. It's a nice human touch. They were also doing an interesting drive and dish drill that might come back to haunt us.

Violin anthems are pretty much always the best anthems.

At halftime, St. John's is up 29-23 on the strength of a late push capped by Aaliyah Lewis going coast to coast. Sarah Beal has been getting buckets for Providence- she's at 12 points. Good balance for St. John's, but we're getting a little lackadaisical.

I'm not a fan of dunk contests, but ending it with one that knocks the rim down on the baby basket is pretty fun. Send it in, Sebastian!

You'll have to pardon me if these notes get short and snippy at any point. I'm dealing with a raging headache that sends pulses of pain through my temples whenever I speak at anything above a normal volume. Cheering has been less than fun.

Shoutout to whoever that is on Providence's bench with the snazzy bowtie.

There's someone hauntingly familiar sitting across the court, near the midline, but I can't put my finger on who. She looks a bit like Essence Carson, and we already know that E's been to at least one game, but the body language is all wrong.

That was way closer than it had any right to be, but am I ever glad that we came out with the win. We needed a good win, and this was good without giving us a chance to get complacent. Providence isn't where they want to be yet, but I think they're a couple of years and the right recruits away from making a comeback- I don't think Crowley has a feel for Fruchtl's players.

For playing as little as she did, Alise Parker had a solid impact on the defensive end, changing a couple of shots, but also picking up a couple of quick fouls. She wasn't afraid to mix it up. Brianna Frias got her run in the second half, but didn't make much of an impact. Erica Meyer brought physicality, sometimes to extremes- I don't know how she didn't get called for a foul on pushing Akina out of bounds. She works hard defensively, and she set good screens, but she still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Ny'Dajah Jackson was the guard substitute, with good speed on defense and a lot to learn as a freshman. I think she's going to be pretty good for them.

Aliyah Miller tried to make some noise in the fourth quarter, but I think she might have been compensating for being benched to start the second half, as Crowley opted to go with Meyer. She tried to create mismatches in the midrange and beyond the arc, but she lost her nerve to shoot those shots and passed out of them. That might be why she played less. Allegra Botteghi had a really nifty deflection of a sure St. John's rebound that resulted in a trey for Sarah Beal. She did a lot of her work in the lane, some of it more successful than other attempts.

Clara Che started off slow, airballing a free throw and coming up way short on a three. In the second half, she was able to more accurately calibrate that high-arcing three. It's impossible to figure out the angle on that shot; you don't know where it's going to land from its trajectory until it's either in the basket or it comes right off the rim. I maintain that Yoyo Nogic's banked three shouldn't count unless she called glass on the floor. Everyone knows it doesn't count unless you call bank, amirite? We left her open, and she made us pay. Sarah Beal was the star of the show for Providence, going to the lane with floaters and hitting jumpers. I wanted to smack the smirk off her face, but that was because she was kicking ass.

Short bench today, with Andrayah Adams as the wing sub and Maya Singleton as the post sub. Andrayah showed a lot of hustle going after loose balls and rebounds. I'm still a bit worried about her shot, but that can be fixed. She's only a freshman. Maya was more efficient at the rim than she was on Friday, and added stronger interior defense and rebounding. Using her head to attempt to rebound was not the smartest of moves, however. (Fortunately, the ball went off Meyer's hands and to St. John's.) Jordan Agustus got a few minutes in the first half, but unmemorable would be a charitable description of them.

Crystal Simmons got the start today for Alisha Kebbe (who is in a boot after last game's injury, and doesn't seem optimistic about returning any time soon). She brought the defense, swinging onto whichever perimeter player was more dangerous at the moment for Providence. She was still scared to shoot at times, though I recognize now that part of it is how slow her wind-up is, and passed out of a lot of situations where she should have been shooting. I think something might be up with Aaliyah Lewis. She was holding her right side like either her ribs or her back bothered her, and until the fourth quarter she didn't seem as explosive as usual. She did a lot more dribbling, like she thought she needed extra evasive maneuvers to get free. Her passing was crisp, with an assist to Akina Wellere early on being especially slick and sick. She took over in the fourth with the key shots to put Providence away. I'm still worried about her, though. If Sox isn't available, she really doesn't have a sub who matches her stylistically.

So you now how I said Akina Wellere was in a sophomore slump? She went out there and proved me wrong, which is the kind of thing I like being proven wrong about. Her aggressiveness on offense is back, and her shot is back, and she's moving better on defense. I'm really happy she's found her groove again. Imani Littleton seems to have also found her groove. She scored beautifully on backdoor cuts, and had a monster block on Sarah Beal that got the house rocking. Imani is an enigma sometimes, and while she can be frustrating, she's so good when she's on. I love her work anchoring the interior of the defense. This was actually a fairly quiet game for Jade Walker, and mostly a perimeter game- after one long, contested jumper, Joe wore the expression many coaches wear over the years: "That was nice, don't ever do it again." She didn't seem mobile on defense, but I think that might have been part of the defensive scheme, having her anchor the middle, even when the forwards wandered around outside.

Other than dubious decisions along the baseline, I can't really fault the officials; if anything, Fatou Cissoko-Stephens has gone from "Oh, God, it's her, this game is going to be a bloodbath" to a ref who keeps tight control of the game.

Today was an autograph session, and though we didn't get anything autographed, we said hi to the team. Jordan needled the significant other about his choice in apparel at Walsh, which gave us a chance to explain the Chicago Incident to the disbelieving kids. (I know, I know, they're in college, and calling them kids certainly won't dispel the whole "she must be somebody's mom!" air I apparently give strangers, but I can't help it. Runs in the family.)

Next weekend is full of traps- and the Garden! Sort of looking forward to seeing the guys, but only a little. It's a morbid curiosity thing.

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