Friday, January 5, 2018

January 5th, 2018: Creighton at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's found itself once more in overtime, but this time held off Creighton 72-65. Tiana England notched a double-double to lead the Red Storm, with 17 points and 10 assists; Alisha Kebbe matched her with 17 points, including two threes in overtime. Sydney Lamberty had 14 points to lead Creighton.

For adequacy, seniors, a biting cold, the possibility of a gender-swapped Othello, setting screens, and insufficient levels of caffeination and intoxication, join your intrepid and still pessimistic blogger after the jump.

PSA: it is as cold as the deepest levels of Dante's inferno out there. You do not want to be out there unless you have to be.

But since St. John's has a home game and I'm not actually dead, I do have to be out there, so here I am at Carnesecca Arena, watching St. John's and Creighton face off. I would like to not be 0-4 in conference. Let's see if we can manage that.

At halftime, we attempt to be considering the possibility of attempting to win our first conference game of the season. It's 30-29 St. John's behind 10 points each from Tiana England and Qadashah Hoppie. There is an adorable biddy game going on as I write.

The officiating has been pretty terrible, and this is not of the good. I was actually expecting the officiating to get better as we got into conference season, not worse.

I have no idea how we've managed to stay this close. We haven't looked good, but the kids are hitting the right shots at the right time.

Creighton really plays at a difference pace when Agnew's pushing the ball than when anyone else is running point.

At least Akina isn't completely in need of the crutches to get around. But she looks sad and lonely on the bench. The reserves did a better job of keeping her company this time.

I actually am honestly not sure how we won this game. I mean, I know some of the rational reasoning behind it- Alisha Kebbe with two threes in overtime, huge clutch plays from Imani Littleton in the second half- but I still feel like I watched a team that should still not have a conference win. But you better believe I'll take it. We need all the good luck that we can get.

Creighton's bench should maybe consider shutting up and sitting down before the game's over. I think it bit them in the ass a little bit, and I'm okay with that.

I admit that Harvard and the Lynx set certain expectations for me. When I saw Temi Carda on the Creighton roster, I was not expecting a little blonde guard. She did the sorts of things one might expect from a small guard who plays for Creighton, which is to say she hit threes from behind screens. Her drives need work, though- she had a couple of chances close that she wrecked by trying to make it too fancy. Tatum Rembao didn't get heavily involved in the game until the second half, when she started being more able to slide into scrums for loose balls. She insinuates herself into small spaces well. Olivia Elger defends hard, which I appreciate, but demonstrated a propensity for dramatics on the floor that I do not appreciate. You're not going to get the call if you keep flopping like that, sunshine.

Bailey Norby seems to have gotten a bit, ah, heftier since last I saw the Jays. She set a lot of screens, but did not seem to move very well, even considering her size. I seem to remember the same thing happening with Brianna Rollerson, and that might be something to keep an eye on with the Jays. Kylie Brown played briefly in the first half, when Creighton got pretty much everyone into the game at one point or another. Long, tall, and otherwise forgettable. Brooke Kissinger came in to commit a rather unnecessary foul- I think it might have been a shooting foul, possibly even an and-1.

I realize Creighton likes to have flexibility and have everyone able to at least take the three, but it's not Ali Greene's strength if this game is anything to go by. She did much better in the paint, using her height to take advantage of defenders. She also set a lot of the screens that got the Jays' shooters open. They did quite a lot of shooting on us. I am not okay with this. I don't tend to think of Jaylyn Agnew as a forward, because she plays so much point and generally keeps the offense flowing. The uptick in pace when she's running the point is very noticeable- everyone else seems to slow it down somewhat, but she's going full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes. She laid one of the two big blocks in the overtime that turned a St. John's possession into a disaster (Elger had the other one). Quiet game for Audrey Faber, and she wouldn’t' be the first Creighton player to fade out after a hot start to her career. She fits well in their sceme, and she gets to the basket well, but I think she's taken a step back from their tournament run a couple of years ago.

Sydney Lamberty will outwork everyone on the foor, anywhere, any time. Clever little bird made the smart play to give Creighton the best chance to win in regulation- Bluejays were up three, but St. John's had the ball. She gave the fifth team foul in order to prevent the three-point attempt. I don't think she was expecting St. John's to get the offensive rebound off the second free throw and Tiana England to tie the game with that drive. She's a playmaker on both ends of the floor and I will be very glad when we don't have to play against her anymore. Myah Mellman is a steady hand at point, but she was sort of a nonentity on the floor, and a lot of the minutes at her spot went to Elger instead.

She didn't play a lot, but Tamesha Alexander made an impact when she did. I love Sox to itty-bitty pieces, and I love it even ore when she makes heady plays like knocking the ball off an opponent to make possession, or comes up with big offensive rebounds down low, or plays that tough St. John's defense. We're going to need everyone to step up, and she's answered the bell. Ditto for Kayla Charles, who I would have liked to see more of tonight- she was rebounding really, really well. She looked like she was understanding her height on the collegiate level for the first time. She's got to do a better job of getting position- so many times it looked like she was just being tall and expecting that to be enough, and she was lucky this crew wasn't calling over the back fouls very often. But I love her tenacity- she's learning some of the right lessons from Maya Singleton in that regard. I don't think I'm a fan of the Andrayah Adams at the four experiment. Yes, she's rebounding very strongly, and I can sort of understand the match-up if I squint and tilt my head, but it seems counterproductive to have a post player and not use her as such, while using one's best three-point shooter as an interior player, which is very much not her strength. (That being said, Andrayah, please feel free to keep tearing down rebounds with the force of the North Wind.)

This was one of the least energetic games I've seen out of Maya Singleton in her St. John's career. I don't know if she wasn't feeling well to start the game or something, but I've never seen her be so passive on defense down low in the paint. She recovered a little bit, and had a strong block in the third quarter, but this wasn't the Maya we've been used to all season, which led to Joe having to juggle the reserves. Fortunately, it also led to Imani Littleton doing the senior step-up thing. I don't know if she's had two bigger offensive rebounds back to back than she did in the overtime to essentially end the game. She hit more lay-ups tonight than I can remember her hitting in a single game ever, while rebounding more fiercely than I've seen since before the knee injury, and dropping blocks like they were hot. I am here all day for this version of Imani and would love to see a lot more of her.

I remember a time not too long ago when Alisha Kebbe was one of our most reliable defenders. Today was not her day in that regard- she got beat bad and she got beat often. The two threes in overtime were huge, and I would love for her offense to make its triumphant permanent return, but maybe not at the expense of that much of her defense. Tiana England started the game off on fire, and I was absolutely in love with the idea of her being more assertive on offense. But a little bit of defensive pressure and a couple of misses later, and she had retreated back into her shell. Play through the mistakes, Tiana! It's all right! We probably won't kill you! (I can't necessarily say the same about Joe, which is probably more her concern.) Qadashah Hoppie was sloppy with the ball- Creighton is opportunistic, you can't dribble casually around them. She came up with some big threes at the right time. Her freshman tendencies are starting to come through more and more, and I don't know if she's in the right place to fix them.

Perhaps this is why I am not a coach, but it seems like if you are doing a thing, and the thing is doing well for you, you should keep doing the thing, instead of going back to the thing you did when you were losing. And yet, after we built the lead, it was back to Maya (even though she wasn't having a good game) and back to Tiana pounding out clock. And hey, guess what? We choked away a 10-point lead. I have problems with this.

I also have problems with an officiating crew that might only recognize a blatant pushoff if it was perpetrated upon their person. There was one play where the ball was clearly off Creighton and everyone could see it- well, everyone except Audrey Faber, whose contact was knocked out by the contact. The refs stopped play so she could once more see things- and then gave the ball to Creighton. Guys. The ball hit her in the face. Literally, this was why there was a stoppage. And somehow it managed to be Creighton ball? C'mon, man. Horribly called game all around. Fortunately I think everything shook out in the end; also fortunately, no one got seriously hurt because of their incompetence.

I don't know if it was the temperature or a coincidence, but the rims did a lot of strange things on both sides of the floor- they were very tight. Something the guys will need to consider tomorrow against DePaul (your intrepid blogger has other plans that may or may not be preceded by smothering her husband).

I still can't believe we won this game. We did just enough to get over the line, and I'm happy with the grit our four-year seniors showed. But I don't think this game was a wake-up call or a turning point for the season. It's a bad loss for Creighton and it's nice to get that first conference win on the board.

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