Monday, March 20, 2017

March 19th, 2017: Harvard at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Clutch free throws and critical stops helped St. John’s hold off Harvard, 62-57. Aaliyah Lewis of St. John’s posted game-highs of 16 points and eight assists, with Maya Singleton adding 13 points and nine rebounds. Katie Benzan led the Crimson with 13 points and seven rebounds; classmate Jeannie Boehm notched 11 points and seven boards before fouling out.

For tortured puns, alumna assistance, promising underclassmen, an unfortunate silence, going for broke in senior year, and teams not wearing colors they’re named after, join your intrepid and mildly confused blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! We’re coming to you on the usual delay, though hopefully not as protracted a one as last game. It’s the second round of the WNIT, and this time the Red Storm play host to the Crimson of Harvard.

It’s a nice touch that Harvard has their school’s academic motto on the back of their warm-up shirts. Something about the material or the printing is rubbing me the wrong way, though that might just be a Nike thing. Nike’s equipment doesn’t usually match up to Adidas or Under Armour.

Harvard gives off this air of going through the motions, like they don’t want to be in the WNIT but feel honor-bound to represent the Ivy League and their institution.

Hi, Sky! Oooh, that’s a faux pas, you are not supposed to wear team colors if you’re broadcasting the game, and that sleeveless top is perfect Johnny red. Don’t get me wrong, Sky’s making it look good, but I don’t think this is supposed to be a home team broadcast.

So far it appears that Harvard has not brought any spirit groups. Given the propensity for Ivy League bands to gravely offend opponents, I’m not completely sure that this was willingly.

At halftime St. John’s is up 32-26, after Harvard went on a second quarter run. Scoring is fairly balanced on both sides. Lots of people have five points each. Early foul trouble on Maya Singleton and Jade Walker led to a lot of small ball.

I don’t think I like Kendyl Nunn as a first option on offense for four straight possessions. It’s not even like you’re planning for next year doing that. She was channeling Amber Thompson for a while on the inside, though.

Joe. Do not ever wear blue plaid pants again. Burn them or sell them to a vintage store.

Shoutout to Shenneika Smith still helping the squad by trying to sweet-talk the ref into reversing an out-of-bounds call.

I think we’ve got some of Jade’s family behind us. They’ve been on the refs, especially when the First Rule of STJWBB comes into play.

I’m not feeling this remix/cover/mash-up of “It Takes Two”.

That was closer than I felt it needed to be. Every time we made a run, Harvard was ready with a long-range jumper or a good find in the paint. They never gave up. I’d like to appreciate that about them, but I don’t think I like them enough to do that. I think they’ve got a lot of potential for the next couple of years, though; they have some very good freshmen.

Somewhere, there is a joke buried about Taylor Rooks transferring from Stanford to Harvard- wanted to be on the winning side? not challenged enough by the academics?- but I am too tired to find it properly. She gave them some good minutes off the bench. I didn’t even realize Mackenzie Barta played, and now I’m curious if she’s related to the Barta at Gonzaga. Nani Redford was an offensive spark in the first half. I really liked the sophomore guard Sydney Skinner. She might need to trim down a little bit (though she does know how to throw her weight around) but she’s got a really good head for the game, and spent a lot of time being in the right place at the right time. She’s going to be big for them, if this game is anything like her regular play. She put together a nice defensive takeback after Akina Wellere got a rebound, one that led to a trey for the Crimson.

I work in print production, which means I do a lot of work with graphics. Somewhere, there is a convoluted joke involving raster art versus vector art that I could cleverly apply to Madeline Raster. But I can’t quite get there. She set up outside quite a bit. Kirby Porter got on the board early, but she did most of her work in the first quarter. I think she was the player shuffled out to get Skinner and Rooks more minutes, especially in the second half. Katie Benzan is fearless, and tiny. These are not necessarily well combined when a a 5-6 guard attempts to go against post players. She has incredible speed- she was driving our players nuts most of the day. Her release is really fast too, and she showed good range. If this game wasn’t the outlier, she’s going to be something special for them.

Destiny Nunley had a nifty deflection late in the game, and set a good pick to open up Redford for a three. I’m not okay with her taunting after a bad out-of-bounds call went Harvard’s way, though. The petty part of me wants to tell her to pull her shorts down, and the really petty part of me wants to say, “well, she just played her last game, so her shorts don’t matter”, but I recognize that this is exceptionally petty. She’s good, and she was pretty solid for them. Jeannie Boehm has a lot of potential. They posted her up well, and she took advantage of her height. She has better body control than I would expect from a long freshman forward- she contorted her way around the defense multiple times. She was very physical, to the point where our players were getting frustrated at the non-calls.

I’m not sure why Joe has suddenly started trusting Kendyl Nunn in the last few games of the season. Is he making up for lost time or something? I’m happy to see her getting time, I’m just surprised and a little confused. It worked the first two times, and then she started taking jumpers. This did not go well. Jordan Agustus got early runin the first quarter. It was a little awkward, but she looked a lot better going to the basket than she had earlier in the season. She actually passed up a bad shot and fired off a good pass to Aaliyah (who promptly missed the shot). Crystal Simmons brought the defense, and I feel like maybe she’s starting to feel more confident in her offense? That would be cool. I’m worried about Andrayah Adams, though. She looks like she’s taken a step back.

After Jade Walker picked up the second foul in the first quarter, Joe sat her for the rest of the first half. Harvard sent the defense at her and never really let her get comfortable. She had a couple of strong post moves, but this wasn’t her day. It didn’t really need to be, though. Maya Singleton was efficient, though it was painfully clear that she doesn’t have a jump shot. That rather limits her offensive effectiveness if she can’t get at the basket. She makes so many great plays with her strength, though. Do not mess with Miss Maya.

I think I said this on Friday, and I’m going to say it again: Alisha Kebbe’s not going to take your breath away. She’s not going to be the star of the show. But she does everything, and she does it well. I especially love her nose for loose balls. The only thing I really worry about for her is durability- she’s been injured, and she seems to cramp up easily. (Da’Shena Stevens had similar problems, if I recall correctly- maybe now that Day is Coach Stevens, she can provide advice?) Aaliyah Lewis got a little jumper-happy, and I’m not sure how I feel about her becoming a primary offensive option this late in the game. You take what the defense gives you and all that, but I get the sense that she’s trying to go out with a bang. The season is finite; its absolute end is determined, and it can be cut even shorter at a moment’s notice. Akina Wellere has to work on her inside game, and on her handle, but she was great on help defense. That’s good to see out of her; much of her game has been, or at least has seemed to be, focused on the offensive side of the ball. I love when offensive catalysts find that second gear on defense. (See: Crystal Robinson.)

We were just stalwart enough against Harvard. The decision to go small for stretches was interesting. I think it gave Harvard too much momentum at the end of the first half. But Harvard in turn committed a grave error late in the game by having someone with four fouls marking Aaliyah; they lost about twenty seconds because they didn’t dare have Benzan foul and foul out.

Officiating was a pile of hot garbage, though I think Jade’s family might have influenced my perceptions slightly. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain booty-bouncing one’s opponent is supposed to be frowned upon. I was uncomfortable with the type of physicality that was being allowed- trips and elbows are not cool. And I don’t know what Destiny Nunley did that had Aaliyah riled up, but when Aaliyah looks like she’s about to slap the taste out of someone’s mouth, something has gone wrong.

Survive and advance. That’s the name of the game. Survive and advance. On the road we go now, to see familiar faces in unfamiliar places, and thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus I don’t have to choose in person between the team I love and the friends I’ve made. (No, I’m not going to Ann Arbor. Not at this point.)

No comments: