Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 6th, 2018: Quinnipiac at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Quinnipiac started strong and was never challenged in their 74-38 win at Iona. Taylor Herd had a team-high 16 points, 12 in the first quarter, to lead four Bobcats in double figures. Alexis Lewis had 13 points off the bench to lead Iona.

For injuries, a leadership void, dubious handling of players, a persistent source of positive energy, and train wreck jokes, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

The recurring theme of the GNoD, until such time as polar vortexes and bomb cyclones release their cruel hold upon us, is that it is too damn cold for any of this. And yet, here we are at the Hynes Athletic Center, about to discover for ourselves just how bad Iona has gotten this season, as they take on Quinnipiac.

I do not understand why Quinnipiac has blue plaid on the shoulders of their warm-up shirts. It is not a good look for them. The academic font and colors clash too badly with their athletic colors and font.

I don’t see Treyanna Clay out there for warmups with the rest of the team. I'm not panicking, you're panicking.

I will try to keep the "soulless ginger" remarks to a minimum, but Quinnipiac has two redheads now, so this is going to be difficult.

Well, I'm starting to understand some of Iona's problems right now. Tori Lesko's on crutches, Treyanna Clay looks like she's fighting through a bad hamstring, and arguably the team's most vocal leader isn't actually on the roster.

(Side note: in about twenty seasons of college basketball, there have been three, maybe four players for whom as people I would ride or die, whose enemies are my enemies and whose team is my team: Joy McCorvey at St. John's, Janee Johnson at Seton Hall, and Philecia Atkins-Gilmore at Iona, and if you talk trash about DeAngelique Waithe at LIU Imma fight you, but Angel is not quite on the same level as Joy, JJ, or Phee. So, no, Billi Chambers is not my favorite person this year.)

It's 33-22 Quinnipiac at halftime, which is actually about as good as I could have expected, all things considered. Taylor Herd hit four threes in the first quarter to get the Bobcats off to a hot start. Toyosi Abiola has nine, mostly in a late second-quarter flurry, and Alexis Lewis is doing Lex things with nine.

Y'all probably think I'm exaggerating aobut the leadership in the stands versus the leadership on the bench, but if I had to go to war with a couple of Iona guards at my side, I could do a lot worse than Philecia Atkins-Gilmore and Shonice Hawkins. (Shonice is helpfully wearing her road jersey for identification.)

Cheerleader didn't have quite the voice to do the anthem she was trying to do, but it could be worse. Yesterday's anthem singer managed to gum the word "spangled" near the end of the song. Yes, the word that is a quarter of the title.

Poor Adrienne DiGioia. I swear Coach practically dislocated her wrist yanking her back after she came back to the bench.

We're having a bit of trouble finding the Quinnipiac shooters. This is, granted, exacerbated by pretty much everyone on Quinnipiac's roster being a shooter, but perhaps the people who have multiple threes should be watched somewhat more closely than the others.

I reiterate and elaborate on my previous point: the most vocal player on this team isn't on the team, the second most vocal is injured, and the third most is a freshman who hasn't played. There sure as hell seems to be a giant leadership void in the heart of this team that no one seems inclined to step up into, and someone's going to need to do that if this team has any intentions of doing anything other than going down in the failboat.

Apologies for any typoes I miss- my fingers are still numb. Iona game times and the Bee-Line bus schedule don't play nice together and the first few stops of the downtown 6 are outdoor stops; I can still see my breath on the train.

Quinnipiac works together really well, which is perhaps more evident when playing a team that seems to have communication issues. Their doubles on the ballhandler were quick and crisp, they set screens well for each other, and they ran good fast breaks (and all gods knew we gave them plenty of opportunities to run fast breaks.

By the end of the game, it looked like Quinnipiac was just trying to light the tree, which is the only good reason for Danielle Bradley to be chucking threes up 30 in the final two minutes. She's got some touch for a big girl. Chiara Bacchini is quick- got to the basket for a lay-up off a steal. (Also, I am strangely fascinated by a redheaded Italian. I know it happens, but it's still unexpected.) Katie Grant is a big body in the middle, and I think she might be the heir apparent to othe role of "screen setter and maker of misery for opposing defenders" that Paula Strautmane fills so well right now.

I honestly didn't realize Jaden Ward played in the first half until I was told she was coming back into the game. She provided some interior defense that was more apparent in the second half than in the first. Paige Warfel had some strong rebounds in the middle, but there were a couple of plays where her mistakes almost cost Quinnipiac. (One of the many differences btween these two teams: Quinnipac mostly recovered from their mistakes, while Iona either compounded their mistakes or squandered their opportunities.) Edel Thornton has a very pretty shot. We let her get entirely too many open looks. I should not be this aware of how pretty a single reserve's shot is. Brittany Martin was able to take advantage of the foul count and get to the line. She's long, and uses her length well defensively.

There is no excuse for anyone to be able to hit four threes in a quarter, I don't care how good you are, I don't care how good your team is, I don't care how bad the defense is. Don't give me any of those excuses or reasons or whatever you want to call them. What Taylor Herd did in the first quarter to the Iona defense is inexcusable. At least her threes went cold in the second half, though that just meant she moved closer to the basket to score. Carly Fabbri did most of her damage in the fourth quarter- for long stretches Coach Fabbri used her bench instead of her starters, because that's how Quinnipiac rolls. It felt a little like she was kicking us while we were down, but, well, what are you going to do, stop playing?

As long as Jen Fay hits big threes in the most obnoxious way possible, and deflects anything she can get her hands on, and is generally both annoyingly good and good at being annoying, I'm going to continue referring to her as the soulless ginger. Consider it a mark of respect, in a twisted way. She's relentless on the ball, and spearheads so much of what Quinnipiac does on both sides of the court. I'll be immensely glad when we don't have to play against her anymore. Aryn McClure is disruptive, especially on the glass, but also on defense. She cuts well, even if she doesn't always finish well. She's ridiculously tough. Paula Strautmane has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. She passes well for a big. She needs to leave Toyosi alone, though.

I've already touched on Quinnipiac's teamwork, and on the double-teams they were able to bring. There are a lot of interchangeable parts, and there are a lot of direct substitutions (Thornton and Herd come immediately to mind).

Oh, my Gaels. Oh, my dear sweet summer children. I don't know what you've gotten yourself into, but I'm pretty sure it's not going well for you.

Tilasha Okey-Williams was given the green light in the fourth quarter to start shooting, and she was streaky, but not too terrible when she got going. I don't know what else we were expecting from her, which is good, because other than a boatload of turnovers, we didn't get much else. Ball security was bad for most of the squad, but it was especially bad for her. Adrienne DiGioia is not ready for prime time, though I felt really bad for her when Coach yanked on her wrist like that to get her attention. That was uncalled for. She's got to be a better passer, both in terms of throwing the pass and knowing what pass to throw to whom when.

I love the hustle Amelia Motz brings to the floor. She's undersized for the work she does, but somehow she makes it happen. I'd like to see her work with a shooting coach, but I'd like to see a lot of Gaels work with a shooting coach. We'll get more into that later on. She's scrappy on the offensive glass, and I love that about her. Alexis Lewis runs hot and cold, but when she's on, no one's going to stop her. Even when she's not on, she gets into the middle of the paint and either pulls down rebounds or deflects them to her teammates, or she's able to scoop up her teammates' deflections. She scored her 1000th point in this game, and I couldn't be prouder of her- at least we got something good out of this flaming dumpster fire of a game, and at least there's something to celebrate in this dumpster fire of a season.

Something's not right with Treyanna Clay. She didn't come out for warm-ups with the rest of the team. When she did come out for the lay-up line, she was on the bike to nowhere. She's moving stiffly, and slowly, and with all the mobility of my mother during her rehab from various joint replacement surgeries. (Hi, mom!) This is not the Trey I remember from her first two seasons in New Rochelle. To turn a phrase from the Lobo era, she was never that fast but she was never this slow. If she's trying to power through an injury, I admire her heart but not her good sense; if Coach is trying to make her play through an injury, me and her are going to fight; if it's a conditioning issue or an undiagnosed injury that the training staff has somehow missed even though it's obvious to people in the stands, then someone on the training staff is stealing money from the institution. There is a lot I am not okay with here. If someone can work with Rebekah Justice on her shot, and on her conditioning, and on her positioning, she could be a very good MAAC center. But right now she's throwing the ball too hard off the glass and the rim, and she's about as fast as a glacier with all the turning grace of a Sherman tank, and she has no idea where she's supposed to be when she's rebounding. She's a freshman, and I acknowledge her youth and inexperience. But I have no faith that she's going to get better with this staff, and I have no faith she's going to seek out enough help outside this group to get better by herself. (Also, gesundheit. She went into a bit of a sneezing fit on the bench at one point.)

After four years, Kristin Mahoney looks no readier for Division I play than she did when she arrived in New Rochelle as a freshman. We called her "deer in the headlights" for a reason, and she hasn't stopped looking scared yet. She freezes when the double comes at her. She doesn't, or can't, or won't, shoot. She doesn't, or can't, or won't, pass out of the double-team or the trap or the press. She went from back of the rotation to starting lineup in the space of two months and I have no idea why, other than her senior status. And I guess if everything's on fire, it doesn't matter who's starting, so you might as well give it to the senior. Toyosi Abiola had the green light for much of the game, which is a problem for a freshman who is all speed and gangly limbs and not nearly enough fundamentals on her jump shot. I think she has the potential to be a game-changing type of player, but someone needs to work with her on her fundamentals, and I don't know if this staff is willing to put in that kind of work on players. I haven't seen any evidence of it yet. Don't get me wrong, I love when she cuts to the basket and scoops it in, or when that hiiiigh-arcing jumper goes down, but the awkward way she lands gives me nightmares. Jayden Eggleston rebounds well, but she's a liability on offense.

I don't understand these lineups. I don't understand the lack of fundamentals from players who did actually have fundamentals once upon a time. I don't understand how a coach can be so calm under these circumstances. I don’t understand a lot of things about Iona, and frankly, one of the things I don't understand is why I still want this to be one of my teams. But damn it, Phee still believes in them, and I believe in Phee, so I spent most of the game banging my clipboard and screaming at the top of my lungs to support this team, whether they want me around or not.

Officiating was tolerably mediocre, and if there was any favoritism it mostly went towards Iona. (Though that does not mean arguing with the ref when you're up 30 is reasonable, Coach Fabbri.) We did almost get jobbed out of free throws because the ref couldn't count to five. That was a fun stretch.

Shoutout to the kid who won the shootout, and did it in style.

This game was such a train wreck it had memetic effects on the MTA. We've been in transit since 3:30 and I'm still not home yet. The dude next to my husband has been snoring since Long Island City. This is ridiculous and I'm tired.

We got a t-shirt! There weren't a lot of options to throw it to, so I'm not surprised, but it fits!

(Also, that official attendance is laughable.)

So that was a thing that happened. I understand now why Iona's such a disaster this season. There are enough bad teams in the MAAC that we might yet steal a win, but hell, if you're going to be this bad, you might as well drop the table and have done with it. Go big or go home.

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