Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January 10th, 2018: Davidson at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Rams held off a last minute Davidson charge to take the win, 66-58. Bre Cavanaugh led all scorers with 20 points, while G'mrice Davis fought her way to another double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Mackenzie Latt and Justine Lyon each had 13 to lead the Wildcats.

For the non-fuzzy kind of Kiwis, dubious officiating, doing the wrong thing badly, shameless bias, the highs and lows of freshmen, and people who do not understand one does not just walk into a restaurant and try to use the bathroom, join your intrepid and socially confused blogger after the jump.

I think this is the earliest I've ever had a sense of impending doom at a game. I'm not just saying that because of the time of day, though the fact that this is Field Trip Day at Fordham certainly isn't helping soothe my nerves.

You may recall, or know from experience, or have read, that Rose Hill Gymnasium is a very small facility. Therefore, when you're cramming school groups into it, there's less space to put unsupervised adults than there is at Carnesecca or Hynes. Therefore, I am currently in one of the padded seats courtside, being grateful to all my typing practice for letting me type blind so that I can keep a constant eye on the court for stray projectiles. I don't love Manuel like I loved Jocelyn or Kristen, but I'd still rather not replace him due to a runaway basketball.

The sad part is that with all the noise from the kids and from the music, you miss most of the fun nuances of sitting courtside. You can't hear the conversations because there are a few hundred screaming kids chanting along to their hit of choice.

I don't know why Davidson is wearing neon orange t-shirts with their red uniforms. They're plain shirts, no logo or anything, so I'm not sure if they stand for anything or if they stand for "our shooting shirts are in the wash/were stolen/clash horribly with the rest of our gear".

I will say, for the most part, Fordham has done a nice job of getting the kids in early. There are only oen or two large swathes of empty seats- unfortunately, one of them is dead center. It's across from the benches, so maybe it won't be as visible as I fear. And the Davidson pass list seats are clearly marked, though I'd think you'd put them behind their own bench instead of directly behind one of the baskets, but money talks and visitors walk, I guess. And I guess putting unsupervised adults in the courtside seats isn't the worst way to handle things.

Shoutout to the young lady keeping one of the groups in section 109 organized, neat, and grooving.

Wow, you can really feel the footsteps as the players run out onto the court here. Stomping acoustics must be great. Paging Stephanie Del Preore...

Good anthem. Not great, but better than serviceable.

At halftime it's 33-31 Fordham after Bre Cavanaugh basically decided that she had had quite enough of this nonsense and exploded for 10 of her 13 points in the second quarter. Justine Lyon has eight to lead Davidson. The Wildcats have been pressing, which has given Fordham problems and basically consigned Kendell Heremaia to the bench because she has more turnovers than the corner bakery.

Forget breaking her ankles, I think Lauren Holden faked Kianna Speight right out of her knee brace to set up a three.

These kids are fairly easy to lead in cheers. If Fordham had any consistent offensive cheers, we could really get them going.

The disadvantage of putting your field trip game at 12 instead of 11 is that the kids start leaving a lot earlier. The largest groups are already gathering coats and bags and leaving. What exactly was the point?

A young lady with a coffee and a charming accent sat down next to me and turned out to be Mary Goulding's sister. (Which is lousy timing to cross the globe, because Mary's still hurt and we're having a brutal cold snap, which might take one by surprise coming from midsummer in New Zealand.) We've been leading cheers and encouraging noise from the kids behind us. (She's a little more choice in her opinion of calls than I am, but not quite as loud. Which is good, because if you're telling the ref to eff off, you should probably not do it loudly.) I had fun cheering with Georgia, and I hope she had as just as much fun.

It got really rough at the end. I think frustrations were starting to boil over, and people were expressing their feelings through both their words and choice shoves in the back. Davidson was physical all day, but they seemed to step it up in the fourth quarter, and unfortunately we answered in kind at points. We've got to be smarter than that. We can't let the opponent get into our heads like that.

Kelly Fitzgerald can take all the seats, and she can please take them somewhere else. There's no excuse for open-field tackling in basketball, and not even good tackling. I mean, if you're going to blatantly break the rules of the game you're playing, at least be good at it. She's pesky, and she's obnoxious, and she pretty clearly got under Lauren Holden's skin. That's not the hardest thing in the world to do, but she did it effectively enough that Lauren started visibly reacting. Chloe Johnson played in shorter stretches than I realized. I have a dim recollection of a shadowy figure on defense, but not much else.

Kianna Speight's last name is pronounced like spite, as far as I could tell from the PA guy, and it certainly seemed to fit with some of her physical play, riding the ballhandler and hawking the ball. She gambled hard on the ballhandler; when it worked, she was able to disrupt the offense and often ignite the fast break for the Wildcats, but when it didn't work, she got burned so bad that I might have wanted to call for the aloe vera. One sequence, Lauren juked her so hard she knocked herself halfway back down the court and it was 5-on-4 for a good six or seven seconds. That was sort of fun, except I think she was fast enough to still recover from that. Sarah Donovan did most of her work inside, absorbing contact to get to the line and pulling down boards, as well as setting screens in the midrange.

To my great relief, it appears that they did after all disallow the halfcourt hurl by Katie Turner. It was really freaking cool, but I thought it was late (neither the officials nor the PA guy made it clear whether the shot was disallowed), I think at the time I said something along the lines of "That was late, but it was awesome!" She's got long range, or at least she fancies she does, but she takes shots from a ridiculous distance with so much confidence that she has to have hit them at some point in her life. Justine Lyon did a nice job of getting into the paint, but I think we did an equally nice job of keying on her. It came back to haunt us with some bad mismatches down low (there's no way Lauren or Bre should be trying to single cover a post player). Saadia Timpton sneaked inside for lay-ups and was a big part of that Davidson defense.

I'm actually not sure which of their post players I like less. Neither Ally Welling nor Mackenzie Latt seemed to know how to set a legal screen, and both seemed inclined to throw their weight around without regard to the rules of the game. Latt did a good job of scoring inside, fighting through contact to get baskets off offensive rebounds. I guess I can respect that. Welling was more of a screen-setter, and less of an offensive threat, and less versatile as one as well. Latt at least stepped outside for a three-pointer.

I think Davidson has to figure out the difference between playing harder and playing dirty. When they knuckled down, they got much more physical, perhaps encouraged by the lack of calls. There are ways to play physical without resorting to tripping and to shoves in the back. That being said, if they can sustain that defense for longer stretches without losing control of it, they'll be a hard team to beat.

This was probably the best game I've seen Halei Gillis have all year. I know, small sample size, but Halei put in a lot of work on defense that might go unnoticed in the box score. She was tough, and she was physical, and she was just what we needed to counter Davidson inside. That monster block on Lyon was immensely satisfying. For the first time, I think I saw Halei as the defensive force she can be down low, the anchor who pulls down the boards, and the immovable object who makes opponents pay the price to get around her screens. So happy for her. Zara Jillings stabilized the playmaking when Kendell was having trouble getting the ball over and Lauren was in foul trouble. Sometimes size does matter, and her height gave her angles that Lauren might not have been able to see. She had some gorgeous passes from deep inside the paint (usually the assist woud be registered right around the time I was wondering why she didn't just shoot the damn ball). Both of them more than deserved the second half start.

Oh, Kenny. I love me some Kendell Heremaia, but she was not ready for this jelly. She got into trouble in the backcourt frequently, and either she would turn the ball over directly or have to be bailed out by someone who would turn the ball over in the aftermath. She's got to follow her shot on those three-pointers, too. That's a pet peeve I have all over the place. I don't blame Coach Gaitley one bit for sitting her early in the first half and not bringing her back in until deep in the fourth quarter. Lauren Holden is very lucky she didn't pick up the third foul earlier than she did, because there was a play where she clearly sawhorsed someone and the refs missed it. I think that, and the resulting time off the floor, would have changed the complexion of the second quarter run. Those long three-pointers were working today, even with the extra distance she was taking them from, and they were all huge for momentum. Frustration was starting to get to her by the end of the game, I think. She's never exactly been the rah-rah kind of leader on the floor, but she seemed more snappish than usual with her teammates and quicker to exchange pleasantries with her opposite number. Bre Cavanaugh has ice water in her veins. She drove hard to the lane to take heavy contact and finished more often than she didn't (and did her best to get free throws when she didn't finish). I love her heart and I love her hustle. My heart leaps into my throat every time I see her head snap back on a play, though. She's just such a take-charge player. I can't believe she's only a freshman, even a redshirt freshman with that extra year of experience and poise attached. She's going to be amazing. She's already amazing.

Johanna Klug wasn't keeping up with the pace of the game in the first half, and I think going to Halei to start the second half was the right move. Once Davidson started to slow down and we were able to get more favorable match-ups and positioning, she was able to cut inside more and get position for easy feeds. The problem with her is that she's not necessarily good at creating offense for herself- she makes a good target, and she's good at making herself a good target, but that also makes her easy to defend. A stationary target is easier to handle than a moving one, after all. G'mrice Davis fought and grinded the entire game. Nothing came easy, and she still managed to grit out that double-double. Having her bring the ball up was not my favorite plan, although I fully admit we were down to Plan C on bringing the ball up much of the time. She makes so much happen with her rebounding and her tenacity inside, whether it's extending Fordham possessions or disrupting opposing ones with deflections. I love it. I think she has a chance to be good on the next level, and I hope to God you guys get to see her for yourselves one of these days.

Sometimes I'm not sure if this whole slowing the offense down thing is a Coach Gaitley thing or a Lauren thing, but it's not a plan I'm always okay with. There are times when it's appropriate, but I think Lauren thinks it's appropriate more often than Coach does. But unlike other slowdown teams, we have that extra gear to speed up to- her name is Bre.

Officiating was a hot mess in this game, and we are so, so lucky that no one got seriously hurt. There were a lot of shoves, a lot of trips, and a lot of people who hit the deck for no discernible reason and for no call. I don't say that Fordham was blameless- y'all know I'm willing to hold my teams accountable, and Lauren and Zara especially got down in the muck with Davidson. But there were an awful lot more white jerseys on the floor than red ones. Coach Gaitley wasn't happy with the officials, and Davidson's coach certainly worked them enough.

I don't know how long we can rely on G'mrice, Bre, and Lauren passing the Superman cape around. We need Mary back, because I don't believe Halei and Johanna can be consistent yet, and Kendell is out of her depth at this point in her career. A win is a win and there was a lot of good progress. I'm just not sure if it's enough to prepare us for Dayton or Duquesne.

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