Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 2nd, 2018: Providence at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: IN a low-scoring game, it was Providence that came away victorious, 49-44. Maddie Jolin had 14 points to lead the Friars. Maya Singleton posted team-highs of 13 points and 18 rebounds for St. John's.

For frustration, injury, religious regalia, a continuing cold snap, the flaws in the plan, and not nearly enough rum in this Diet Coke, join your intrepid and actually teetotal blogger after the jump.

Happy New Year, fellow travelers! Are you ready for conference season? I'm not sure I'm ready for conference season, but here we are.

I am immensely jealous of that thing Imani Littleton is getting buffed with. My right shoulder is killing me so hard you have no idea.

Whoever managed to sneak "Lightning Crashes" into the pregame music mix, thank you. That was a pleasant surprise.

It's early enough that everyone's still setting up. One of the ticket takers wasn't even in position yet and the band is still gearing up.

It's so cold outside there's a cheerleader wearing sweatpants and another one wearing a jacket.

Providence has a nice bus. I don't know if it's a wrap or a paint job, but it looks good.

At halftime, it's 23-22 St. John's. It has not been a good game, and it has not been a well-called game. Qadashah Hoppie has 10 points to lead all scorers, while Maddie Jolin has three threes for Providence.

Now I know why they were playing "Lightning Crashes" during the pregame- it's the music for the dance team's routine. The new routine needs a lot of of work, especially on the synchronization. But the costumes are nice. Then again, I'm a sucker for purple.

Providence has an actual-facts, literal Friar on their bench, full robe and cloak and hood and all. He is quite majestic, even if he is simultaneously a weedy-looking dude with glasses and a feeble excuse of a beard.

We've had a couple of disconcerting injuries in this game, Akina Wellere's ankle and Ny'Dajah Jackson's elbow. Jackson seems to be fine, but Akina is nowhere in sight.

Ny-Asia Franklin is not Jamaica's favorite person right now. Too many trips, too many elbows, too many travels that went uncalled.

Well, I think it's safe to say that game was a flaming dumpster fire that was on fire. Our offense ground to an absolute halt, our defense couldn't keep up, and we once again demonstrated the clock management skills of a slightly concussed puppy. It's not like we were an offensive juggernaut with Akina and Andrayah, but without them there's almost no one on this roster who's actually willing to shoot on a regular basis. Our flaws were even more obvious without a shooter to paper over the lack of offense and with a lack of depth to show the flaws in our defense.

I feel like I shouldn't be taking anything away from Providence- after all, they had their own injuries to deal with, with Ny'Dajah Jackson unavailable for the second half and without Maddie Jolin's shooting in the fourth quarter (I don't know what happened, but we looked over and she was holding both hands over her face, and she spent the rest of the game with either a towel over her nose or with two rolls of tissue stuffed up her nostrils). But I don't think they did anything particularly well, and there were a lot of things they got away with that made me angry. I think Jim Crowley buttering up the officials before the game (while Joe was hanging out by the Providence bench to the point where one guy in our section thought we had a new coach because he wasn't in the usual spot) helped them get the benefit of the doubt on a lot of travels and elbows, and I have a problem with trying to influence the officials that way, along with officials who give the impression of being able to be influenced in that way.

I do hope Ny'Dajah Jackson's all right after that fall she took in the first half. She came down really hard on her elbow, and it looked like it wasn't just a funny bone stinger, because she was able to use the arm a little bit in the lay-up line, but not enough to be available for the second half. She relieved Chantell Williams when Williams got rest in the first half. Kyra Spiwak has to learn the college distance- there were to shots of hers that were such long twos I initially thought they were threes. Don't start getting influenced by the Sparks, not that way. She's a real spitfire- I admire her chutzpah trying to defend Maya Singleton, as a slightly built freshman guard going against a physical senior forward. Clara Che was part of the offense-defense switch in the final minutes, and couldn't buy a bucket close to the basket. Small mercies, right?

Brianna Frias played a lot in the first half, and almost no minutes at all in the second half (if any- our guy isn't so good at listing subs). She brought screesn outside. Ny-Asia Franklin gave them the bulk of the minutes off the bench in the post, and man do I not like her. It's not even that she's physical, it's that she slides her feet out to trip people and has her elbows up at every opportunity. Her foodwork is abominable, and she couldn't finish through contact. I respect her rebounding ability, but I don't like her style of play, not one iota.

Maddie Jolin has a very pretty stroke and we should have done a better job of guarding it. She was also not afraid to get inside and pull down boards, which I think might have been where she got her nose hit. But I didn't see the play, so I can't be certain. Olivia Orlando is a big beefy guard, to the point where I'm not sure listing her as a guard is fair or accurate. She wasn't afraid to use her build to her advantage (Crowley had her in late to take up space).

To be fair to our defense, Jovana Nogic has been having herself a year for Providence, and we keyed on her down low to shut her down. So there's that. I am also not terribly fond of her elbows and her traveling. Chanell Williams is very fast- she blew throught he lane and threw up high floaters that kissed the glass and fell in. I guess there are advantages to having a friar in full regalia on your bench. You get a direct channel to the Big Guy upstairs. There's a swagger about her that I respect even if I don't love. Allegra Botteghi is tall for her position, but she didn't play a lot in this one despite starting. I think Crowley wanted to try other match-ups.

And this is "I hate the way they eat crackers" petty at this point, but what the heck, I'm as salty as the aforementioned crackers, so let's go. If you're a coach who doesn't believe in last names on jerseys, first off screw you. Second of all, don't use a template that has a slot for a nameplate and then fill it with something twee. In this case, everyone's got "Friars" as their "last name" and it makes me just a little bit twitchy.

So due to various injuries Joe actually had to dig deep into the bench. This is why you recruit deep and play deep, Joe. Y'all know my feelings about running your starters into the ground, and I think I've also made my feelings about St. John's carrying the minimum clear. And with all due respect to Machi, I'm no longer actually sure we recruited Shamachya Duncan because of her basketball talent. We've tried using the "offer older sister to get more talented younger sister" gambit before. (It failed spectacularly with the Sidney sisters, but I'm not entirely sure they all had their act together anyway.) You can see the similarities in body type and playing style when Machi and Q are on the floor and playing defense at the same time. It's a striking resemblance. But six minutes of sweet Fanny Adams isn't going to cut it when we're short-handed. And while Qadashah Hoppie's shots were great when they went down, and it's nice to have someone on the floor who isn't petrified to shoot, she took a lot of bad shots as well- quick ones with no rebounders in place, contested ones, wrong shot at the wrong time. I realize she's a freshman and she'll learn these things with time, but I'm worried she's not going to get the coaching that will help her hone her judgment.

I love Tamesha Alexander to itty-bitty pieces as a person- she's one of my favorite people on the team and she's a good clubhouse guy from everything I can tell. But having to play her extended minutes highlights our lack of depth and how much she hasn't advanced since freshman year. She was slow and tentative on the floor. I love her moxie on defense, but I'd like to see more out of a senior. Kayla Charles rebounded well, and her rebounding seemed to get stronger as the game went on. She's got to move faster on defense, though. I don't know if she didn't know the scheme or didn't know the signals, but she looked out of place and disinterested even when she was in place. (If that's her problem, then maybe Joe's got reason not to play her.)

Akina Wellere hit a three from the corner, then came down sort of funny a couple of possessions later and couldn't put any weight on her left leg. She eventually came back out in a boot and still couldn't put any weight on it- Andrayah Adams and one of the other staffers had to help haul her around, and by the end of the game no one was helping her over to the huddle. She was sitting there on the bench all alone, and I wanted to hug her, or at least keep her company. Tiana England needs to stop passing to that patch of air on the far sideline where she seems to think someone is going to be and no one ever is. One of these days Joe is just going to terrify the ability to shoot right out of her. She's reticent enough as it is, but the one time she put up what you might consider a bad shot- a three early in the shot clock with no rebounders in position- Joe took the next opportunity to rip her a new one like she had personally scored in the Providence basket. She was a little more hesitant to shoot after that, and shooting is already not exactly Tiana's favorite thing to do on the floor. I'm watching a player who could be dynamic slowly being worn down into plodding mediocrity and I hate every second of it. Alisha Kebbe got into early foul trouble, and any trust Joe had in her evaporated. Being unable to hit shots on offensive rebounds certainly didn't help, but having her on the bench for most of the first half was problematic.

I've said it before and even though it's the final semester of her final season I'm probably still going to end up saying it again before March: I love Imani Littleton, and I think she's a very interesting person, but if she can't hit lay-ups in the paint we're going to have problems. She boxe dout well,a nd made smart plays on deflections and blocks, but her offensive ineptitude and/or fear is a liability that we can't afford in the starting lineup. Except that we have to afford it because we have almost no post players because Joe has this thing for fast guards who he proceedstot hammer into playing a slow game. *takes a deep breath* I may have some unexplored issues here. Maya Singleton took a lot of contact down low, and I think that affected her ability to make shots. I love her rebounding, and there were stretches when it seemed like she ws the only person on the floor who wanted to rebound. That is also a problem. She's been the star of the show so much that defenses are starting to key on her, and her offense is suffering somewhat as a result of it.

Also, free throws win ball games. It's an LIU thing, but it has universal applicability. Yes, Maya, I am looking at you and that abominable 3-9 line.

I don't necessarily think it changed the outcome of the game, but good Lord this was one of the worst crews I've seen in a long time. They couldn't call a travel if their lives depended on it, they were consistently missing elbows and pushes and trips by both teams. (I swear, we are so lucky that we weren't called for contact after the shot on multiple three-pointers.) They allowed the game to degenerate into a hotter mess than it already was, and it was already a pretty hot mess.

Even when we were ahead, I thought we looked like a team that was about to be 0-3 in conference, and sometimes I really hate being proven right. Our lack of depth was showcased, our lack of offensive firepower was laid bare, and all the flaws in our endgame management were made abundantly clear. You have to know time and score. And if the players on the floor aren't aware of it because they're mostly freshmen, then it's the responsibility of someone with more experience in game management- like, say, a head coach- to let them know that, no, going for a contested two when you're down five is a bad idea. Too many of our shooters are too passive in all the wrong moments. Having Akina and Andrayah would have helped with that, but next man up, and no one stepped up.

I was not a fan of hiring Joe in the first place- I thought it smacked of laziness on the part of whatever search committee we were using- and though he's had moments where I thought he could grow into a good head coach, I don't think he's ever going to get out of hts habits. And if he wants to run a halfcourt offense, that's one thing- but then why are you recruiting players who would work better in a fast-paced offense? And it's not like he's working with other people's recruits at this point. He's been here long enough that these are his recruits and his choice of players. He doesn't have improvisational players who can get him out of trouble anymore. And this is what we get.

We had a few alumnae in the house, and honestly, I was having more fun watching Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker watch the game and cheer for their former teammates than I was watching the game itself. At least Jade and Aaliyah were excited (when Sox hit the shot a the endo fthe third quarter, they went nuts, and I can't blame them).

This is going to be a long conference season if we don't have Akina for any length of time.

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