Friday, December 13, 2019

December 5th, 2019: Fordham at Manhattan

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fordham held Manhattan to 27.4% shooting from the field in a hard-fought 51-45 win. Bre Cavanaugh had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Rams, with Kaitlyn Downey also notching a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Emily LaPointe had 13 points and Courtney Warley had 11 rebounds for the Jaspers in the loss.

For rivalry renewed, terrible shooting, precise announcements, strangers on a train, donuts, shiny things, and being en garde, join your intrepid and well-traveled blogger after the jump.

Basketball never stops, and neither do rivalries. Your intrepid blogger comes to you live, or at least on indeterminate tape delay, from the boogie down Bronx, where the Fordham Rams are paying a visit to the Manhattan Jaspers in the Battle of the Bronx.

Manhattan's band is getting into the spirit of both the holiday season and the basketball season, wearing festive hats (or antlers) and their “The 6th Borough” shirts.

Look, Mr. DJ, I get that no one cares about the lyrics, but maybe the refrain of “everything's better when I'm drinking” is not an appropriate choice on a college campus?

The Usual Suspects have arrived for Fordham. I'm flying solo today, though; the husband is off at Seton Hall for the UConn game. I expect this one to be more competitive.

15-4 Fordham end Q1. Manhattan is not shooting well and one of their players spiked the ball out of bounds off her teammate. The band is already razzing them. This is so far less competitive than the UConn game.

That is some glitter on the Manhattan cheerleaders' sweatshirts there. Wow.

24-18 Fordham at half. This has been all kinds of ugly. Bre Cavanaugh is already one rebound away from a double-double. No one with more than four points for Manhattan, but shoutout to Courtney Warley's eight rebounds. (Even if I would like her to maybe not roll-block people.)

On the other hand, Lynette Taitt probably wishes people would stop confusing this with dodgeball. She's already had two people spike the ball off her. And one was her own teammate. That is not how that play works, people.

I forgot how much I like Manhattan's band. The sound system s a little overcranked, because it has to be prepared for when Draddy is in use as a track facility, which is a much larger venue. But the band has a nice jazzy rhythm to them. I think one of those dudes is playing an electric clarinet, and I have no idea how that would even work, but it's fun.

The 6th Borough is arguably putting in a better night's work than the team they're rooting for.

There appear to be two different nets on the baskets. The one closer to Manhattan's bench has a traditional long one, while the one by the visiting bench appears shorter and thicker, making the rim look a little like one of those kiddy baskets.

Manhattan's intro video is interesting. I don't think I've ever seen one completely devoid of highlights.

38-36 Fordham end Q3. The refs are starting to call some of the physical play, but not all of it.

I don't know how accurate this claim is, but Manhattan claims to be the place where the seventh inning stretch was created, so we had a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” between the third and fourth quarters.

It's final at Draddy, 51-45 Fordham. Game MVP coming up, and if it's not Bre Cavanaugh I will find a hat and eat it. No, I will willingly be seen in the vicinity of the “Make Christmas Great Again” sweatshirt. Fortunately, Bre is our winner.

I like everything about the experience of a game at Manhattan except the home team's playing style. The people are all really nice, the PA guy is on point (every sub properly announced with name and number), the concessions are reasonably priced even if they're minimal, the student section shows up, the band is really good... but watching that team is painful. I thought Vulin was developing something, but her players have regressed since her first couple of years.

Nyala Pendergrass made a cameo in the second half to shoot a little bit, but the bulk of the bench play went to the trio of Lizahya Morgan, Gabby Cajou, and Pamela Miceus. They entered in the first and third quarters as a unit, but were situationally subbed as necessary throughout the game. Cajou is still lightning fast on the break- she had a beauty of a steal that led to a lay-up for the Jaspers. She also had an amazing o-board where she soared over a forward who had a good eight inches on her. But when she was out of the fast break, her decision-making deteriorated. Morgan provided some outside shooting, though she suffered from the same lack of accuracy most of her teammates did. Miceus brought a midrange game, with mixed results. Her form is terrible, and she's a senior, so it's not likely to get better.

If you leave Julie Høier open for five-six seconds, yes, she's going to hit the shot. That's if you give her enough time to get the ball, consider the shot, double pump herself out of it, and then set back up. I try not to make blonde jokes in the blog, but she was doing her best to live up to them. I mean, I guess she sets okay screens? But I'm about 50% certain she's the one who spiked her own teammate. It was either her or the freshman Emily LaPointe, who does have a respectable shot. She needs a lot of work, being a freshman and all, and in a lot of places I'd say she has time to develop. But I haven't seen a lot of development at Manhattan, so I don't know why she would buck the trend. Courtney Warley has a somewhat more respectable midrange game than her bench counterpart, though today it did not extend out to the three-point line as it has done in the past. She was ferocious on the glass and was able to outrun our guards to pinballing rebounds.

Lynette Taitt will drag this team to at least one victory that they in no other way deserve simply because she's that stubborn, that tough, and that physical. She did her damnedest on Bre Cavanaugh, and the fact that I'm complimenting a defensive performance that allowed 21 points should say something about the night Bre was having. They went at each other all night. Game recognize game. I have no idea why Sydney Watkins is starting. I don't know, maybe Manhattan just had a historically bad shooting night and this isn't really them, but about all she was doing out there was shooting threes on offense and attempting to jiggle distractingly on defense.

Manhattan is unafraid to play physical basketball. They drive headfirst, or at least shoulder-first. There were an awful lot of plays where they went low and suddenly there was a Fordham player lying on the floor wondering where the foul was and maybe what the number of that truck was. I applaud their fight, but at some point, they need to learn a little bit of control. And again, I don't see that happening under Vulin.

Zara Jillings's incredible disappearing act continues. I don't know what's going on with her, but I don't think I like it. Katie McLoughlin was first off the bench to shore up the defense slightly and promptly committed a reach-in foul. She did have a nifty putback lay-up off an offensive rebound. Megan Jonassen looks like she's lost a step- she was having trouble keeping up with Manhattan's movement.

One of these days. I know I've said this before, and since this is the first half of only her junior season I'm sure I'll say it again, but one of these days Kendell Heremaia is going to cause me to facepalm myself right into the concussion protocol. I love her hustle, and I love her rebounding, and I love the heart she has to play above her height. But if she takes one more stupid dipsy-do lay-up when going straight up would be enough, or if she keeps missing easy shots right at the basket, I will not be responsible for my actions. I don't like being this harsh or this frustrated with her, but she just goes from extreme to extreme. Kaitlyn Downey did a nice job on the boards, picking up plays that ricocheted out to the elbows. She looked like the physicality of the game was taking a toll on her by the end- that was one of the highest levels I've ever seen her register on the Kraayeveld-Adubato Scale. We really need another post to help take the load off and maybe allow Kene to actually be a guard one of these days. I thought that player was going to be Vilisi Tavui, but she's had a rough start to the season.

In some ways, it's a bad sign that the freshmen guards looked out of sorts against a team as bad as Manhattan. Anna DeWolfe looked hesitant, and that cost us with turnovers on sloppy or telegraphed passes. Her ability to snipe threes from the corner countered LaPointe's shooting and kept Manhattan's runs from being anything more than brief jogs. Sarah Karpell brought the defense, or at least tried to; there was a sequence where she was on Julie Høier, who was doing everything but waving signal flags to tell her teammates she had a height advantage on the play. She was in over her head, but she did her best. Bre Cavanaugh got off to a little bit of a slow start, but once she got the first make, it was like a match to a pile of dry leaves- she lit up Manhattan beyond the arc, in the paint, and on the offensive glass. She pretty much had her way with Manhattan. I'm a little worried about the amount of contact she was taking (Manhattan's approach to defense can sometimes be categorized as "body slam") but she has parents for that and I need to stop fussing.

Officials let most of the contact go in the first half and tightened up on the hand-checking in the second (but still let the heavy contact keep going) If this rivalry weren't on the right side of the line between heated and competitive, we might have had more issues. But the closest thing we had to a problem was very late in the game, when Kaitlyn Downey accidentally nailed Julie Høier in the face with an elbow on a loose ball scrum. That was reviewed for a hostile act, but the review was very short and nothing came of it.

Manhattan hosted an autograph session after the game, and disorganized doesn't even begin to describe it. The poster is fantastic- a great design printed on thick glossy stock- and the squad even had the metallic Sharpies to sign it. But they needed at least one more table to fit everyone, and there was no sense of order. Imagine me hovering nervously and shyly around the fringes, trying to figure out where to start and where the line is, only to realize there is no line. (And of course, with my Fordham scarf shoved in my coat and my coat zipped all the way up.) It was awkward.

Fordham brought a small student section! Or possibly some of the guys from the band, I don't know. But they were seated in the other endcourt section, across from the 6th Borough, and two of them would fence with drumsticks while Manhattan was shooting free throws. I cannot personally condone disconcerting the home team on the line, but I can appreciate their efforts. Apparently security almost freaked out when one of them successfully got through the other one's guard and poked him in the chest. Lot of mutual respect between them and the Manhattan band after the game.

The trip was chaos and the execution was terrible, but I'm still glad I went. It's good to see Bre looking like Bre again.


December 8th, 2019: Seton Hall at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall came out of the gate strong and never looked back in an 89-37 pounding of Iona. Desiree Elmore had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pirates. Shyan Mwai had 13 to lead the Gaels.

For redecorating, reorienting, reordering, revisiting, and wrecking, join your intrepid and alliterative blogger after the jump.

We're back in the saddle again, apparently determined to take every train in the Bronx at some point this year. Seton Hall visits Iona, and that's a game I wouldn't miss for the world. As the song lyric goes, "we have history, or don't you remember?" That's where we got entangled in this ever-more-complex network of friendships and loyalties, back when Tony Bozzella coached the Gaels and Lauren DeFalco and Marissa Flagg were among his point guards. And that's where we finally gave up one of our core teams, when Alexis Lewis and her classmate Treyanna Clay transferred out and loyalty no longer compelled us to follow a coach we didn't respect.

Rumor has it there will be a slew of alumnae in attendance. I'm looking forward to some high-quality people-watching.

"Oh, you've redecorated," the "I don't like it" edition: Iona has added fancy new modern academic buildings without considering the aesthetic of the existing campus, and it looks like someone with no imagination was playing with Legos in the middle of a Christmas village.

"Oh, you've redecorated," the "I love it!" edition: the Hynes Athletic Center has gotten quite the makeover, with a change in orientation, new bleachers, fancy new seats, shiny new scoreboards, and a maroon paint job so fresh I can still smell it. Having but a single entrance for public use, and having that entrance lead directly behind the field of play (to the point where I was stepping around the mop) seems like a bad idea. It's a good thing we get in early. I can't imagine what that's going to look like ten minutes before game time.

There is a woman in the Seton Hall section with a purse made from a Spaulding basketball, and I mentally went full Gollum. We wants it, we wants the preciousssssss.

Iona's band is prepared for war. They have a piper. Yes. Someone just rolled up with a set of bagpipes. And they didn't even play the pipes.

Another member of the Iona-Seton Hall blended family, Aleesha Powell, is currently socializing behind the Pirates' bench.

Today I learned that platinum blonde dye jobs run in families! That is... wow, that's bright. If we stick her behind the basket, we might be able to distract Iona at the line. (I fully expect to be closer to the "Damika's Aunt Helen" end of the scale than the "polite visiting fan" end of the scale today.)

It's 39-17 Seton Hall at halftime, and I still demand more. Officials are letting a lot of contact go, and from the chirping, this is not a good plan, especially when they're calling cheap hand-check fouls. (Lauren Park-Lane is probably especially salty about her third, given that Iona traveled three steps with the ball before she made contact.) Shyan Mwai is the Iona offense, with 13 of their 17 points. Desiree Elmore has 12 for Seton Hall.

I know there are other alumnae here, but I don't recognize them. It's been a long time. And yet being in this building is enough to stir memories of "Let's go Gaels" and "I-O-N-A!" and "go, fight, win".

Not gonna lie, watching Selena Philoxy get her groove thang on to every piece of music she hears, even during timeouts, is a joy and a delight. Even if she probably should be focusing more on the content of the timeout meeting. And I'm also not sure what the protocols are around dancing to the other school's fight song.

That went about how I was expecting, except for our inability to hit free throws and maybe Iona's inability to shoot anything except their own feet. If you can't hit shots, hit the other team.

(New York subway justice: the dude blasting music from his speaker yelling at the dude with the cigarette.)

I shouldn't really be surprised that Jodi-Marie Ramil has fallen as far down the bench as she has. Her hands aren't great, and she missed multiple point-blank shots right at the rim. She slapped the taste out of a couple of weak shots right at the basket. But those shots came from players at the end of the bench, and something tells me most players are going to come at her stronger. De'jah Williams is a bruiser, and admittedly a good first impression is not attempting to put one of my players in a reverse chokehold. She has potential, or at least she would have potential if I thought she had a coach who would help her shore up her weaknesses. She's short for a post, but she's tough. Gabrielle Joseph's communication skills, especially for a sophomore, impressed me; she was out there relaying signals and calling out screens (I think it was her calling out a screen that got the refs to notice Selena Philoxy's screen was not as good as it should have been, resulting in an offensive foul). I'd like for her to pick on someone her own size, though; she put a couple of hits on Lauren Park-Lane that did not please me.

Lucia Becerra Perez popped off the bench and gave the Gaels good minutes at guard- she actually started the second half over Paulla Weekes. If she had better footwork, she'd be a good point guard. But she traveled, and she was careless with the ball. These are habits that can be broken, one presumes. Monica Barefield had a couple of good open looks from the left wing for three very late in the game, when Seton Hall was mostly just trying to avoid fouling. Again, I'm surprised she's slid as far down the rotation as she has, but then again, Billi Chambers's coaching decisions are best epitomized by the shrug emoji.

Juana Camilión has got to stop traveling. She got called for the extra step again and again, and there were at least as many times when she didn't get called for it. If she had a better grasp of the fundamentals, she'd be a star. But she doesn't, so she produces more turnovers than an average bakery instead. Shyan Mwai was the only bright spot for the Gaels in the first half, hitting threes and getting inside for lay-ups. We did a better job on her in the second half, but she also went the bad kind of wild when she had open looks and sent them everywhere but the bottom of the basket.

Tori Lesko is not the player she once was, and it's kind of sad to see. As one of the only players to make it through all four years with Billi Chambers, it seems like she deserves better But the knee injury has robbed her of whatever speed she once possessed, and she either couldn't or wouldn't shoot against our defense. I mean, we did match up well at her position, but still. You genuinely do hate to see it. Morgan Rachu did a good job on the boards, though some of it was as much hockey-style boarding as it was basketball-style boarding. She's not afraid to throw her body around. Her three-point shot was not going down, although her form is decent. Her choice in number pretty much forced that, I'd say. (Yes, I am still annoyed that anyone is wearing #14 for Iona. It's not like Damika Martinez finished among the top scorers in D-I history, after all. It's not like she owns pretty much every record in Iona history and MAAC history OH WAIT.) Paulla Weekes exists. She went out of the game pretty quickly, and I'm not sure she even played in the second half. If you want more than that, play more.

Today I learned that Jocelyn Jones is in fact playing this year for Seton Hall, as she checked in late in garbage time. My understanding is that she was injured, and she looked like a player trying to get herself back into playing shape. That's a whole lot of woman. Whitney Howell came in at the same time, and couldn't quite catch the high pass from McKenna Hofschild. Kailah Harris got some good boards down low. I like her and her stylish goggles. I don't know if the goggles do anything or not, but they look cool. Selena Philoxy brought her usual physicality and multiple moments of "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS". Alexia Allesch got a couple of good looks right at the basket and took advantage of them. I know she likes to take threes, but she really seems to have found a niche in the post, and I hope she becomes more willing to use it next year.

McKenna Hofschild ran a fair amount of point guard in the second half, and made it clear that she was looking to pass first and foremost. She showed off some fancy no-look stuff. Undersized with a penchant for showmanship? I can't imagine how she ended up at Seton Hall. Jasmine Smith shot a lot of threes. She shot a lot of them in the fourth quarter, which I don't think was Coach Bozzella's game plan. He did not look happy about the number of shots she took early in the shot clock, in any case. My Jackson got some good run early, which gave us the luxury of testing out the guards further back in the rotation in the second half. Victoria Keenan was the one everyone on the bench was rooting for, and when the first corner three went in, the regulars went a little nuts.

Lauren Park-Lane got into foul trouble in the second quarter on cheap reach-in fouls, and then the fourth foul in the third quarter got her extremely upset because it was a very cheap call that could have been a no-call or even an out-of-bounds on Iona. She didn't get a chance to prove much, but she doesn't have a lot to prove. Barbara Johnson was just about the only Pirate who had trouble shooting from the field- for whatever reason, even her open looks weren't going down.

Desiree Elmore started the game like a house on fire- in fact, looking back now, thanks to my color-coded score card, her eight points were more than Iona managed as a team for the first quarter. She got putbacks, she hit from the midrange, she drove and scored. Des is the queen of stealing the spotlight, and I mean that as a compliment. Put Shadeen Samuels on the watch lists? Des will put up the big numbers. Homecoming for the Iona exes? Des will steal the show. I don't know if she has a pro game, or if she's going to be stuck in tweener limbo. But she's been so much fun to watch for Seton Hall. Alexis Lewis was definitely too amped for this game in the early going- when she missed, she missed hard and she missed long. She made up for it on the offensive glass and with blocked shots. I recall one sequence where she got the block, the board, and a fantastic save, or something to that effect, and yelling, "Don't you wish you had someone like that? OH WAIT" at the Iona bench. Me? Petty? Whatever gave you that idea? Shadeen Samuels looks like she's still getting back into game shape- once or twice it looked like she wasn't getting as far up as she usually does- but you know, I don't think the kid from Ossining was going to miss the game in Westchester County. Pretty sure there's a bus you can take for that kind of thing. (My great Westchester bus adventure, which had a crucial transfer in Ossining, connected through White Plains, but I think there's an alternate route through New Rochelle.) She did an especially good job reading offensive rebounds.

Adventures with intros! Credit where credit is due, Iona gave a warm welcome back to the two alumnae and former coach on the Seton Hall bench, and gave Lexi Lewis pride of place at the end of intros... which no one seemed to realize, because they announced Des and Lexi came out. Mildly awkward, but I don't think it was intentional.

Iona seems to get frustrated easily, and when they get frustrated, the shoulders go out and the feet slip out a little bit. The discipline is lacking, and that starts at the top. It really seemed like Seton Hall's bench was pushing harder than they had to in the fourth quarter, and I'm reminded of something Geno Auriemma once wrote about the end of the bench in blowouts. I'm doing a lot of paraphrasing here, but basically, he intimated that in a game where the margin needs to be managed, it might be better to have your starters in, because the reserves are out there trying to prove themselves and thus aren't going to let up on the gas, even when they're up obscene amounts.

Officiating was so-so. I thought they let a lot of things go that could have gotten ugly, with the elbows and the shoulders. I suspect Lauren Park-Lane agrees with this assessment.

I'm disappointed in what Iona's become. There's potential there- Chambers does seem to be able to recruit. But she can't retain and she can't coach.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

November 25, 2019: UMass at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's started off strong in both halves to stave off runs from UMass and come away with the 82-71 win. Qadashah Hoppie led four Johnnies in double figures with 22 points. Bre Hampton-Bey had 16 points off the bench to lead the Minutewomen, who won the rebounding battle 33-30.

For crossing the streams, spinning right round like a record, rethinking things, exploring new depths, and traveling, join your intrepid blogger after the jump. There may be cake.

Just in case you weren't sick of me after the massive note dump this past weekend, we're back in the saddle again with a non-conference match-up against UMass. At least with UMass, I know to expect a presence behind the opposing bench, and all I can do is hope to avoid awkwardness. (UMass guard Destiney Philoxy is the younger sister of Seton Hall's Selena Philoxy, and I sorta feel like it might be a bad idea to run into SHU family while in STJ gear.)

More info on Alisha Kebbe: apparently it's her shoulder and she might be out for a while. Yeesh. Adventures in forward play ahead.

The ticket takers were late to the party, which meant a few minutes of drifting around and aimlessly reading plaques. Please tell me I'm not the only one who noticed “Your Are St. John's” on one of the trophies dedicated to Lou Carnesecca and that they're just politely ignoring it or the engraving company went out of business sometime in the last fifteen years. Or something.

Update:oh no, I think Papa Philoxy is the other person in our section. Fortunately, he and the family moved to the other side of the floor. This would have been awkward.

25-17 STJ end Q1. Qadashah Hoppie is doing Q things, with nine points and a pocket-picking of Destiney Philoxy so thorough I'm pretty sure she's now the owner of a UMass student ID. UMass has a big center who si extremely not ready for this jelly.

44-37 STJ at half. Q still has 9, but Tiana England has stepped her game up with 13. Paige McCormick has 11 to lead UMass, getting threes on good screens. Our defense loosened up in the second quarter, and I am not okay with this.

Star-watching in the crowd: hi, Jade! Hi, Aliyyah!

Shoutout to the person in the Logowoman hoodie. I love seeing more connections between the W and WCBB among fans. Love all the women's basketball.

There is an adorable tiny future-Johnny in a Red Storm bandanna, and I don't know what to do with this level of cute. (Other than keep it at a safe distance. Kids are cute as long as they're not mine.) (I think that was Sky's mom with the kidlet. Which means that might be Sky's kid. Out Of Cheese Error Please Redo From Start.)

The men's team showed up for a while, but they seem to have bailed.

Huh. I think the dasher boards on the other side of the court actually work. I can see the reflection of statistics in the boards opposite them.

I don't know if I personally would have gone with the sneakers, but Alisha Kebbe's outfit is otherwise pretty sharp.

Never change, Sky. I see you bobbing your head to the arena music during the commercial break.

65-51 STJ end Q3. Qadashah started off hot again and gave us some separation.

Dance team reversed the polarity of the rhythm flow, which is kind of refreshing, because I am not an ass woman.

The steals and turnovers are instructive- most of our turnovers are travels and offensive fouls, while most of their turnovers are on our steals.

UMass is an interesting team. They're technically sound in a lot of ways, although they need to do a better job not telegraphing their passes. They know their strengths, and they know how to play to their strengths. Their coach needs to maybe switch to decaf, and consider the teams I follow when I make this recommendation. I didn't catch his name during intros, so I spent most of the night referring to him as "Captain Stompy" from his sideline demeanor. It seems a little ridiculous to be berating the officials when the foul differential is 5-1 in your favor, for example.

Whether from lack of availability or lack of desire to do so, the Minutewomen did not go very deep. Bre Hampton-Bey provided the reserve guard minutes and got her points with speed and canny changes of direction- when that first step got her an inch of space, she turned it into points. She had a fantastic steal off an inbounds on a free throw- I blinked and suddenly she had the ball for a lay-up. She's got a little bit of a chip on her shoulder, but I'm kind of used to that with undersized guards. Angelique Ngalakulondi was very physical, sometimes to a fault (I realize "over the back" is not the actual name of a type of foul, but the way she had Alissa bent over on one rebound was as close a textbook "over the back" play as you'll ever see). She sets a good screen, and she knows how to use her height, which is definitely an advantage she has over her classmate Maeve Donnelly. She needs to learn to moderate her physicality a little bit, and I don't know if Captain Stompy is the right coach for that.

Maeve Donnelly is tall. Right now, that's about all she's got going for her as a Division I basketball player, at least based on that game. She couldn't hit shots close to the basket, and her attempts at a midrange game were laughable at best. She didn't rebound well. She did okay at getting position, but given that our tallest active player is three inches shorter than she is, that's not as difficult as one might imagine. 6-5 always has the potential to be a game-changer in WCBB, but right now, she's not ready for primetime. Hailey Leidel did a lot of hard, physical work on the boards and laid a smackdown of a block on Q. She's got a good long-range stroke, but I'm more impressed by her physicality.

Vashnie Perry ran point and got yelled at by Captain Stompy at least once. She did all right behind the line when she got an open look, and her teammates were good at creating open looks. Paige McCormick did a better job of taking advantage of them- her release seemed faster than her teammates'. Destiney Philoxy, on the other hand, was much more of a drive-and-sometimes-dish player, using bursts of incredible speed to get to the basket and convert, either by getting the basket or getting to the line. She showed quick hands and a lot of tenacity.

(I, uh. I think she might also have recognized some of the sounds from the audience. It maybe doesn't help our case that we borrowed the four-foul taunt from Seton Hall's band. But the husband swears we actually got a visible reaction from her when we made loud noises while she was at the line. Please don't kill me, Selena.)

I'm not used to this whole rotation concept Joe seems to have adopted. Don't get me wrong, I quite like it. I just find myself nervous that he's going to abandon it at the first sign of trouble and revert to running our starters into the ground. Going eight deep when you're already down a starter? Priceless.

I may have to start learning Swedish between seasons. Between Cecelia Holmberg and Amanda Zahui B, I'm going to have a lot of occasions to yell, "You didn't need to take that shot from Stockholm!" and maybe it'll get through that way. (Also, that way I can learn Swedish geography and make more informed international references.) (Look, at least I'm not making Swedish Chef jokes and I'm trying to discourage others that way as well.) She's going to take some time to develop, but once she figures out how to stay in front of her man, she'll be fine, and she'll bring a dimension we don't fully have yet. Unique Drake showed good driving ability, but needs to work on her decision-making a little bit (although to be fair to her, that was Cecelia's bad pass, not her turnover). Leilani Correa's defense wasn't as solid as it had been through the first few games, but she made up for it at the other end of the floor with backdoor cuts and corner threes.

I feel like Qadashah Hoppie may have been watching tape of Angel McCoughtry. I don't know if that's the comparison I'd personally have chosen for her, but the aggressive, high-risk/high-reward way she played the passing lanes brought McCoughtry to mind. This is the second game this season where she's come on strong early and dialed it back later, although in this game it was more that she started both halves strong and then didn't score in the second and almost didn't score in the fourth. It's sort of like a relay race- yeah, you want a strong runner on the anchor leg, but you also need someone to give you a head start on the first leg. Alissa Alston picked up a technical for taunting on her three-point shot late in the game- I didn't see the exact sequence, but my understanding is that she kept flashing the three signal all the way down the floor and did it in the opponent's face, which would count as taunting (but if Hampton-Bey clapping in the face of a downed opponent doesn't qualify, then I'm not sure we're even calling taunting techs anymore). She's quick and light on her feet, and she's stubborn as all get-out. She had a big offensive rebound that she turned into two free throws. Tiana England ran the show in her usual style- fast when we needed it, but way too slow way too often, and while one of these days I might figure out if the problem is her or Coach Tartamella, this is not that day. She's growing into her number, but those are mighty big shoes to fill, even if they're in different positions.

Kadaja Bailey is very quietly developing into a solid rebounder and starting to develop a little bit on defense, instead of being the offensive powerhouse I think we thought she was going to be. Her man-to-man defense is still a work in progress, but she anchors us very well. She was pretty solid on offense in this game, too. I've been hard on her to start the season; maybe it's time I reexamined her strengths and focused less on her weaknesses. Emma Nolan added another "the arrow is pointing in the wrong direction" jump ball to her growing tally. She put a block on Leidel that might just have hurt the poor Minutewoman's soul. I think she's getting used to the collegiate three-point line (it doesn't help that the men's line and the women's line are both on the floor at all times) and when that happens, her stroke will be even more deadly. Meanwhile, she's been stepping up big time for us to bring some of the interior play and interior defense that we've been missing with Alisha out. Kadaja too, but it's more noticeable with Emma. Maybe we just got a bad scouting report on her.

We got bogged down late in the game too often for my liking. I don't like when we commit shot clock violations. I like when we cause them (and yes, Captain Stompy, we did, that shot only touched glass). We need to stay on the glass harder- we got outrebounded again, despite winning the game. But the depth is real, and it's something we haven't had for a long time. We don't necessarily have height, but we have power. We need to consistently take advantage of that depth to hammer at our foes.

Not the worst crowd we've ever had, but it was hard to get any noise going.

If the dizzy shootout contest doesn't end with someone throwing up on the hype man, I will be very disappointed, because a) it is a stupid contest, b) the hype man is annoying, and c) the rules aren't clearly defined (one contestant only spun around five times before her first attempt from each location, the other spun around before every attempt, and she was still the better shooter).

I like how this team is coming together. Next stop, Vegas! (For them, not me. I have the sinking suspicion my next stop is Hackensack.)

(There is no cake. The cake is a lie.)


Sunday, November 24, 2019

November 22nd, 2019: Wake Forest at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's took control in the second quarter and never fully relinquished the lead in an 82-74 win over Wake Forest. Qadashah Hoppie had 23 points to lead the Red Storm, with Alissa Alston adding 20 points. Gina Conti scored a game-high 25 points before fouling out for Wake Forest.

For getting back on track, rounding up the Usual Suspects, sketchy contests, an insistence on committing unnecessary fouls, loud noises, and pace of play issues, join your intrepid and ever-so-slowly getting it together blogger after the jump.
It's a cold, windy sort of a night here in Queens, and the traffic on Jamaica Avenue is a nightmare. Maybe that's why no one is here to see St. John's take on Wake Forest. Come on, people, it's not like we get Power 5 teams in here every day, even if they're not very good ones.

I salute you, Wake Forest travelers. So long as all y'all stay behind your own bench, we're all good. On the other hand, I would appreciate the Deacs not attempting to pull down our rim. We've only got two, and we kind of need both of them. The sign might be a little overkill too, although nice job matching the gold.

One of the dance team members is walking around in Under Armour gear, and I'm not sure if that's a sign of rebellion or the dance team didn't get included in the Nike deal.

I've just been informed that Alisha Kebbe is not available for this game. I am not okay with this turn of events.

Okay, I am less enthused about the Wake Forest people now that more of them have arrived and there's the distinct possibility that we'll be outnumbered by opposing fans from one of the lowest-tier teams in the ACC. There are high school reinforcements arriving, but I'm not sure whose side they're on. We also seem to have an unexpectedly high student turnout. They must have been storming the dorms for the two games. (Volleyball had Senior Night earlier today and swept Georgetown.) The people in front of us have been warned.

It's 41-28 St. John's at half. Alissa Alston has 16 points to lead the Red Storm. Ivana Raca has 11 to lead the Demon Deacons. When our offense is moving with speed, we're doing well. When we get bogged down by looking like we've never seen a defense before, we run the clock down, take terrible shots, and either hit deep threes or give up rebounds. This does not feel like it should be rocket science.

That got closer than I'd like at the end, and I get the feeling that Coach Tartamella is going to have some long talks with our guard about fouling people in the final minute up three possessions. But our hustle is there. Our hands are there. Our consistency needs some work, but we're a work in progress. I'm okay with that.

Wake Forest used their height well to get rebounds, especially offensive ones. No rebound was safe- if we held it up too long, a Demon Deacon would be there to tip it around. Their execution at the basket needed work, but they were prepared for that eventuality and swarmed the glass.

Ellen Hahne came in at the end of the game when it was pretty much over. Olivia Summiel got similar minutes in the first half, with the addition of a foul. Christina Morra saw spot minutes in the first half as well. I completely failed a perception check and didn't even realize Raegyn Branch checked into the game at any point, so you can tell how much of an impact she made on the game.

Alexandria Scruggs brought size at the guard spot- she was able to body up less substantial defenders to get to the basket. If she could finish when she got there, she'd have been even more effective. Anaia Hoard got her first name pronounced a couple of different ways and launched threes. Pretty stroke, but when the ball came off her hands it was going every which way. Maya Banks has elbows and she's not afraid to use them. She was physical, and she caused us problems with her size. That was sort of a theme of the night.

Ona Udoh plays even taller than she is. Her hands were very busy, especially on the offensive glass. She erased a Leilani Correa shot like it had been retconned out of the timeline. Either I missed some fouls or some got reallocated without an announcement, because she went from two fouls to four fouls without appearing to have been called for a third foul. She eventually fouled out of the game, so that was important, but she didn't seem to object, so I guess she figured she had committed five fouls. Alex Sharp probably had the best dance moves of anyone on Wake Forest, and demonstrated the utility of such with a nifty step-through and turn along the baseline for a basket. Hugging the opposing player during the game crosses the line of acceptable behavior, though. They list her as a guard, but against us she definitely played more like a post. Ivana Raca laid a painful block on Tiana England (that might have been one of the ones at the end of the shot clock, but we'll get to a more detailed discussion of the Red Storm offense later, when I've stopped swearing a little bit) and demonstrated good touch from the midrange and at the basket.

Gina Conti never stopped playing. Even when all seemed lost, she kept driving and drawing fouls. She picked up three cheap points when Alissa Alston inexplicably fouled her on a three-point heave at the end of the shot clock. She made a really great defensive play to save a loose ball (I think that was the one where she whacked it straight off Alissa's chest, which looked painful but was undeniably effective). Kaia Harrison was the crowd favorite of the Wake Forest fans; she's from Long Island and brought a very large contingent that cheered only for her. It was, frankly, offensive; Our Girls Syndrome is one of my least favorite parts of basketball, but I can sort of meet OGS sufferers halfway if they at least pretend to care about their darling's whole team. These folks roared like crazy when Harrison was announced as a starter, then went quiet as church mice the rest of the way. She scored a couple of free throws, but hit no field goals, and there is a very petty part of me that is happy about that. She's got good speed, and if she can get some of the wonkiness out of her shot she'll be good offensively.

When momentum sits on a knife-edge: at the end of the first quarter, Wake Forest was down three, with the ball, and Harrison threw up a heave that bounced twice and didn't go in. If that buzzer-beater had gone in to tie the game and get the Long Island contingent going, I think the game would have gone very differently. We really didn't take control until the fourth quarter, and Wake Forest could have easily seized control in the second if they had that kind of momentum behind them.

Sophia Nolan and Shamachya Duncan picked up a couple of stray minutes in the first half. I'm pleasantly surprised by this, and at Joe's increased use of the bench this year in general. Sometimes mop-up minutes at the end of the first half are even more useful than the ones in the second half. Cecelia Holmberg got to take free throws today, and good grief there is a funkiness to her release that hurts my soul. The 19th century called; they want their set shot back. It's not present in her jumper, from what I saw. Her defense needs work. It needs a lot of work. She'll get there eventually, but she's not there now.

Unique Drake has got to finish at the rim. She wasn't great, but she wasn't as terrible as the non-existent stat line would indicate. She showed off some fancy passing. Leilani Correa's height was useful for us, and she did a good job getting to the line. Her release is slower than I'd like, and it got her shot blocked at least once. I love what she does when the defense presses, although we didn't use it as much as we did against Lafayette, which I think was a mistake. There are a few things I have issues with in this game, despite the victory, but we'll get to that in the wrap-up.

Kadaja Bailey's offense decided to join us this evening, including one spectacular bucket off an alley-oop from Tiana England. Her defense is still lagging, though; she's getting bodied by wider players, run by by quicker players, and losing the ball to taller players. I know she's better than the way she's started this season, but she looks badly lost. We've got you, K, but you've got to step up, especially if Alisha is out for any length of time. Emma Nolan stepped up to the challenge; while I'd still like to see her be less hesitant to shoot, she answered any questions I might have had about her toughness and her ability to use her build. She was aggressive and physical (almost to a fault- there's no tackling in basketball, and we're not even a football school). Her "hurray, I have forced a held ball, but alas, the arrow belongs to the other team" count is now up to at least four, just based on home games. She did a great job of matching Wake Forest's ability to knock the ball away from our rebounders.

Alissa Alston is going to kill me one of these days. Either that or I'm going to jump the rail and dope slap her upside the head, which I realize is not appropriate but at times feels distressingly necessary. I love her willingness to take the charge, but if she's going to do that, she has to get into position earlier and not still be in motion when the offensive player arrives. (I was in the minority regarding the block call. Other St. John's partisans felt it should have been a charge.) And when she committed the foul on the Conti three at the end of the third, I thought my head was going to explode. She's got swagger when she hits the deep threes, and full body sacrifice is a fantastic defensive philosophy I never want her to give up. I just need her to occasionally be more sensible, preferably before she breaks something. Tiana England showed off some flashy passing (I refer the reader back to the alley-oop to Kadaja) and got buckets off steals and fast breaks. But the offense got bogged down late, and once again I'm not sure if the problem is with her or with Joe. Qadashah Hoppie got off to another hot start, driving the lane and getting her points. She picked up the pace again in the fourth to help put the Deacs away. She, like most of the rest of the team, was better offensively when she was playing with a faster pace.

So we have to talk about the stupid fouls, don't we? Because this would have been a double-digit win if we hadn't gifted fouled Wake Forest on three different shots in the final minute and sent them to the line. Common sense, kids. Learn when to back off. Now, Leilani is a freshman, and she gets a partial pass. But Tiana and Alissa have no such excuse.

We also have to talk about the offense. Now, I do appreciate that there are times and reasons to slow down the offense and burn clock. And I understand that it's early in the season and we're incorporating four freshmen and a transfer who hasn't seen Red Storm game action before this year. I do understand these things. But at the same time, it's painfully obvious that when the offense slows down, everything goes horribly wrong. Everyone loses their willingness to shoot, the opposing defense has a chance to get set, and we look like we've never seen a live defense before in our lives. Like, yes, guys, the other team is allowed to play defense while you're running clock.

Officiating was inconsistent, but it was equal, or even in the Red Storm's favor. I can deal with that, I guess.

The kids who won the three-legged race cheated; they were barely tied together at all!

The "Red Storm Warning" klaxon is cute, although maybe we should not activate it while people are standing right next to it. Alex Sharp got an earful of it. But can we please dump the hype man? He doesn't bring anything to the table and is extremely annoying.

There's a lot of potential here, and for the first time in a while, I'm really optimistic about this team. We'll just never have to have a game with a margin between 15 and 30.


November 17th, 2019: Villanova at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Post play fueled Villanova in their 73-66 win over Fordham. Madison Siegrist led the Wildcats with 29 points, with Mary Gedaka hot on her heels at 27 points. Bre Cavanaugh had 23 points to lead Fordham in the loss.

For unstoppable forces, a local inversion of reality, back pain, betting the dogs, a light roast, and dazed confusion, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
One quick change and a scoot down the aisle later, your intrepid blogger is back in her accustomed perch behind the Fordham bench, as the Rams prepare to defend the A-10's honor against the Big East's Villanova Wildcats.

I don't know who this dude in the Penn State sweatshirt is, but I'm pretty sure that by wearing that he has declared himself the sworn enemy of everyone in the building, so well done there.

SHU friends and family have gathered in the corridor to greet their team. We are not over there, obviously, because right now we are Fordham fans.

I'm not sure if the stippling on Fordham's warm-up shirts is intentional or born from laundry, but it looks cool.

A dude in a Phillies cap just plopped himself down behind the Fordham bench, so this is probably going to be fun.

(Sidebar: Ms. Carangi and Ms. Siegrist were announced as “Sam” and “Maddie” respectively, but they're on Villanova's roster as Samantha and Madison, so I'll be referring to them by their full first names.)

20-14 Villanova end Q1. Madison Segrist has A) a lot of friends and family in attendance, B) 15 points. Neither of these sparks joy.

31-21 Villanova at half. Segrist has sat down, but Mary Gedaka picked up the baton with 9 of her 11 points in the second quarter. You know, I could have just had my wisdom teeth extracted.

Shout out to the dude in the student section in the A'ja Wilson jersey.

Two pregame ceremonies today, one honoring Coach Peretta on his upcoming retirement and one for Coach Gaitley's 1000th game.

48-42 Villanova end Q3. We tied it and then Nova remembered what threes are.

I'm not saying that we have issues with consistency, but if we could get maybe three players to play at or above average, we could actually win some of these games that we keep falling apart in. It's frustrating. We don't seem to have finishing ability. And when we pressed, Villanova was able to pass out to the wide open player under the basket. I'm not used to Villanova using the post so effectively and so heavily. Is this Peretta's version of a midlife crisis?

I'm also not used to Villanova not going that deep. Mackenzie Gardler came in briefly in the first half to give the guards a break, but I don't think she played in the second half. She's small but not all that quick, which is not a good combination. Brooke Mullin's first shot was a disaster, but once she got off one with her feet squared and time to set, it was worthy of her last name. She found her stroke in the second half to help Villanova pull away. Samantha Carangi came in to run point for long stretches- she was first off the bench in both halves. She was pretty solid on the intangibles.

I would not have expected an experienced senior like Bridget Herlihy to commit a stupid touch foul while leading in a two-three possession game with somethine like two minutes left to put the opponent in the penalty. She did lay some monster blocks on our guards, though. Made it hard to drive. I don't even remember Madison Segrist picking up the first two fouls, though that would be a reasonable explanation for why she was MIA in the second quarter. That kid is fast, and she's the usual Villanova match-up issue for a big- she can take you outside or inside. So she pretty much got what she wanted, whenever she wanted it, and when she didn't, she got the rebound. We did a not-terrible job of keeping Mary Gedaka off the offensive glass, but she more than made up for it with hard drives and an ability to create space for herself with excellent body control.

Cameron Onken had a really fantastic hustle play in the first quarter to break up a Fordham break. She was pretty good on defense. Raven james drove and dished effectively to set up the bigs (who also did a pretty good job of setting themselves up with dribble drives, to be fair).

I look at this and it looks like I'm short-changing the guards, but honestly, the starting guards for Villanova did not distinguish themselves well. The three-point offense mostly came from the bench or from the posts, which is either a credit to our defense or a credit to Madison Segrist, and I think I know who I'm crediting here.

Officiating made themselves heard in the second half, but we got ourselves into as much un-called trouble as we did called un-trouble. I have no right to be upset.

Clever things veteran coaches do: Bre Cavanaugh hits a deep jumper that's called a three on the floor but looks like a long two, putting Fordham within one and extending a Rams run. Peretta calls timeout. It's not just a smart move to curtail the run- I'd bet dollars to donuts he knew that call would be reversed, and made sure to call timeout so that the refs would review right then and there, taking the point off the board and messing up Fordham's momentum just that much more.

I don't know what to do with this Fordham team. It seems like if everyone could maybe get on the same page in the same game, we could make some noise. But right now we're playing like a box of puzzle pieces that's been dropped on the floor and played around with by a hyperactive six-year-old. Sometimes things fit together, but mostly they don't, no matter how hard we hammer at them.

Katie McLoughlin came on for hustle, but the biggest problem with her is that she doesn't bring anything else to the table. She fights for boards, and sometimes she even gets them, but she doesn’t score and her defense has yet to develop. I continue to wonder what's going on with Zara Jillings. Something's not right with her, and it's throwing off all our rotations, because we have very little height and if she's not contributing then we end up with Kendell Heremaia, Power Forward Extrordinaire, and I don't like that plan. Megan Jonassen was physical, but not much else.

Sarah Karpell looked really good- she's developing good defensive instincts quickly and demonstrating good court awareness. She started off the season with a bad game, but she's shaken it off in a hurry. Anna DeWolfe scored most of her points late, and I thought she looked like she was in over her head a little bit. Bre Cavanaugh looked like her old self in the second half, scoring with confidence and getting to the line. It took her a while to get going, and I worry about that still.

Have I mentioned how unenthused I am about the concept of Kendell Heremaia, Power Forward Extrordinaire? Because I love Kene, and all gods know that she tries to match up with the bigs, but she doesn't have the height and she doesn't have the quickness to get into the positions she needs to be in if she's going to make up for that. I do also need Kene to remember who her teammates are, because this is the second time in three games I've seen her take out a teammate in pursuit of a rebound. This time it was Anna. The people in the white jerseys are your friends, Kene. (Unless you're on the road.) Kaitlyn Downey was ineffective and often in foul trouble. We need her to be more consistent. I don't know what else to say.

Time and score awareness: on one possession, Sarah gets the offensive rebounds and keeps feeding Kaitlyn for three-point attempts; on the next possession, Anna gets the offensive rebound and immediately puts it back. IMO, we needed threes more than twos in that stretch, but looking back, I understand Anna's logic too.

I don't know what else to say about Fordham. There were moments when it worked, but then we couldn't execute. It feels like it was forever ago. I can't get a sense of this team and who they are yet.

Someone in the student section brought a drum. I question his reading of the rules on artificial noisemakers, but as long as he doesn't get in trouble, I'm down with it. I hope these heartbreakers don't dissuade the student section from showing up and getting loud- this team needs and deserves that kind of support at every game.

We can beat Northeastern, right? Right?


November 17th: Seton Hall at Saint Joseph's (at Fordham)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: In a low-scoring affair, Seton Hall prevailed over Saint Joseph's, 55-39. Desiree Elmore had 16 points and seven rebounds to lead the Pirates. No Hawk cracked double figures in scoring, with Claire Melia's seven leading the way.

For unaccustomed seating arrangements, terrible shooting, some height issues, and details lost to the fo of time, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, fellow travelers! We come to you from an unaccustomed spot at Rose Hill Gymnasium, as Seton Hall plays St. Joseph's in an A-10/Big East double-header. Since St. Joe's is an A-10 team, they have been extended the courtesy of the home bench, which means we, as Seton Hall fans, are behind the road bench. It's weird. I don't think I like it.

I do, however, want that Mad Magazine jacket one of the Fordham staffers is rocking. I want it very much.

Seton Hall is short-handed today; in addition to the players already injured, Shadeen Samuels tweaked her hamstring in their last game, and is in sweats. This is another thing I'm not thrilled with.

15-10 SHU end Q1, but it should be more. We're missing shots we should be hitting.

37-22 SHU at halftime, thanks to a deep three from Alexis Lewis at the buzzer and St. Joe's forgetting how time works. They went into their offense way too early with 27 seconds left in the half, ceding last shot to Seton Hall. Now, I'm not exactly thrilled with the way SHU ran that possession either- I thought Lauren Park-Lane ran too much time off the clock and Lexi was forced to take that shot too deep, but in this case, it worked.

Fordham is not running stats for this game, so I must rely on my trusty clipboard. It tells me that Lauren Park-Lane is leading the pirates with 10 points, while Claire Melia's six off the bench are a team high for the Hawks.

St. Joe's has size, but not finesse. They're not finishing at the rim, and they don't seem to have outside shooting to complement their bigs.

Yes, the Hawk traveled. Yes, she's flapping her wings. Yes, I know she's female because it was in their game notes. (Said game notes also felt the need to clarify that it's Saint Joseph's or St. Joe's, but you can't abbreviate only one part. I'm now tempted to refer to them as St. Joseph's the entire time, because I'm that kind of petty.)

You know a ref has done a lot of MAAC games when Alexis Lewis commits a foul and the signal goes up as 20. (Lexi wears 10 at SHU, but she wore 20 at Iona.)

Starting lineup shenanigans: so we see the lineup tweeted out as Barbara Johnson, Lauren Park-Lane, Mya Jackson, Alexis Lewis, and Whitney Howell. Everything goes as expected until the last player, at which point Barb gets off the bench and the PA guy announces Desiree Elmore. There is a small discussion among Coach Bozzella and the officials, after which Barb is called back to the bench and Des takes the floor. Since Barb proceeded to come in for Whit about a minute in, it became moot.

45-33 SHU end Q3. The refs seem to think we missed hearing from them.

It's final here at Rose Hill, 55-39 Seton Hall, in a game that probably featured terrible shooting percentages. There were certainly lots of rebound opportunities.

I see why Cindy Griffin is happy with her young posts. They still need some work, especially Gabby Smalls, whose shooting form is... uh... not good, and I say this as someone who loves her some post players with dubious shooting mechanics. She had success with spins and lay-ups, and she thinks she has a hook shot, but her jumper is not there right now. Claire Melia got off to a strong start for the Hawks, which I think is why she started the second half. She's got good touch inside and out and pretty good range and power. She's got to be better with her footwork, but as a freshman, she's starting off with a good toolbox. Katie Mayock started the game and moved to the bench for the second half. She's got size, and she sets good screens, but her teammates need to be better at using them.

On the other hand, their guards are a work in progress. Devyne Newman got run in both halves, second more than the first, I think. She and Lauren Ross did not impress terribly much.

I liked Mary Sheehan's hustle- she notched a couple of blocks and some good loose ball recoveries. Nailah Delinois used her bulk to push defenders around and get into the paint. Katie Jekot drove the lane and couldn't hit. Lula Roig got into foul trouble which took her out of rhythm and never allowed her to get started. I think that helped us get on top of them early and stay on top. There was a definite lack of discipline with St. Joe's that got them rung up for charges on a regular basis, usually at the most inconvenient times.

I love Selena Philoxy dearly, but one of these days you're going to find me in a corner with concussion symptoms and heavy bruising on my forehead, and this will be because I have facepalmed at her too hard. I love her energy. I love her hustle. I love when she's able to safely bring the ball in to her teammates. But she commits a ridiculous number of fouls and half the time when she grabs the ball on the glass she ends up tipping it out of bounds instead. Jasmine Smith extended the offense, but unsuccessfully. Victoria Keenan will get her basket someday. Alexia Allesch is tall. I think I'd like to see more of Kailah Harris to see if she can produce.

Come to think of it, I might just have rolled with Whitney Howell as a starter and seen what she could do against the Hawks' posts. In the worst case scenario, you'd bench her and proceed with the plan Seton Hall eventually went with. She managed a couple of rebounds in her brief minutes. Barbara Johnson got physical and got tough. She set up Desiree Elmore on a play beautifully. Des had herself a day. She plays so much longer than her height. I don't know if it's vertical or long arms or what, but she gets way more rebounds than it seems she should.

I love Alexis Lewis, but sometimes I forget just how streaky she can be, and how determined she is to live by the adage that "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take". When she's on, she's a one-woman wrecking crew, but when she's off, she just keeps on going. She was off in this one, and it was painful to watch. Mya Jackson had a nifty steal that she turned into a fast break lay-up. Lauren Park-Lane's passing vision continues to amaze me for her age. I know she's from Delaware, but if you told me she was kin to either Didi or Daisha Simmons, I would absolutely believe it. I know those are names one does not bandy about lightly at Seton Hall.

This was an offensively challenged game, to say the least, perhaps even in honor of our hosts. It's hard to find a lot to say about it, especially at this point. Our execution needs to be better, but at least our defense did enough to keep St. Joe's from scoring. We also need reliable size, because Alexis Lewis, Center At Not Particularly Large, does not spark joy. Yes, I know Shadeen Samuels was out, and that does terrible things to our post play, but we still need some height.


November 13th, 2019: Lafayette at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's started strong and kept the lead up in a 76-44 win against Lafayette to open the home schedule. Qadashah Hoppie led all scorers with 22 points. Alexis Santarelli led Lafayette with 14 points and five rebounds.

For trying to get back in the groove, physical posts, and the fly in the ointment, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good evening! We come to you on an entirely too-cold night from the cozy confines of the redecorated Carnesecca Arena, as St. John's opens the season against Lafayette.

Men's soccer is in the Big East tournament against Providence (and has scored at least one goal) so attendance is scanty, to say the least. Most of the Usual Suspects, SJU Edition, are passionate enough about all Red Storm sports that they're at the soccer game and will be coming sometime after that finishes. So band appears to consist of one guy with a drumset, cheer appears to consist of four people, and dance has, like, two representatives. Well, guess we're going to have to work a little harder. Okay. Emergency reserve band has been revealed.

The new banners are very modern. The place still has that new vinyl smell. I don't know if I like them yet. Something rubs me the wrong way about having the Final Four banners and the NIT banners center-hung, but I realize I'm being irrational about this.

Magnetic schedules are pretty sharp. Already grabbed one for the door. The posters also look good, though that gets grabbed on autograph day and no sooner. I like that they're not the same design as the men, although a running motif with a coach that likes to slow down the offense is either misleading or indicates that Joe has maybe stopped playing scared.

At the end of the first, it's 22-14 St. John's. Qadashah Hoppie has gone nuts with 11 already. Defense looks good early. Yeah, the field goal percentage doesn't show it because when Lafayette has the ball long enough to get a shot, they can get a good shot. But we're doing work making sure they don't have the ball in the first place.

It's 39-25 Johnnies at the half. The freshmen need work, which makes sense this early in the season. Alexis Santarelli of Lafayette is probably not going to have a lot of friends in Queens by the end of the night.

So if a St. John's alumna who works for another Big East team shows up to a St. John's game, is she doing it in a personal or a professional capacity? Asking for a friend, or at least someone who says hi at games. (Meanwhile, I almost swallowed my Tootsie Roll whole {this is not a euphemism, it's medicinal} when I saw Curteeona Brelove approaching the bench with a warm-up shirt on, but it was one of last year's shirts and she kept going.

The rec life halftime game was plagued with turnovers, but hey, there were dunks, so there are people who almost certainly think it's inherently better than D-1 action.

I'm not sure what to make of Lafayette, except that they seem to know that they have tall, physical post players and want to use that to their advantage. Against a team that doesn't run a trap, or against teams that aren't as good defensively, they might be able to get their pick and roll action going on a more regular basis, and they might be able to use those screens to get their three-point shooters open more often. We are not that team.

Makaila Wilson was able to take advantage of her size in the post and put in some buckets- either she had a shorter defender on her or she had Kadaja Bailey, who couldn't make the turn with her in the paint. Jiselle Havas didn’t see a long stretch of time in one shot until the second half, at which point she and Tiana England seemed to be having some polite disagreements. Sydney Sabino saw time in the second and fourth quarters, though it was hard to tell sometimes (our PA guy needs to step up his game on substitution announcements). Tasha Vipond picked up mop-up minutes.

The stats aren’t great for her, and admittedly she got wrecked by the press, but I thought Sarah Agnello actually played pretty well. She looked the most in control of any of Lafayette's guards. The others were not particularly notable, especially at this late stage. (The catching up has been a nightmare.)

Alexis Santarelli definitely threw her weight around down low. She was able to get baskets close to the rim on offense and make space for her teammates with screens, some rather harder than others. Same deal with Natalie Kucowski, with somewhat less success. They brought a level of physicality to the floor that we couldn't match, even as we outplayed them on the rest of the floor.

So we got to see some of the deep bench in the fourth quarter, and the freshmen definitely need some work. Cecelia Holmberg doesn't have a sense where she needs to be on defense. Sophia Nolan made no impact. Emma Nolan got some good run, but she needs to be less scared to shoot. I don't know how many times we were yelling for her to shoot the ball. She forced three jump balls, and Lafayette had the arrow every time. Points for hustle, but a little help from the universe would be nice.

Unique Drake looks like she's fitting in pretty well. She wasn't spectacular, but I like her driving ability, and she didn't seem to be making too many mistakes. Honestly, sometimes that's what you want to see out of a freshman. I love the energy Leilani Correa brought on defense. She and Alissa Alston ran the backcourt trap and press to perfection. It gave me warm and fuzzy flashbacks of our old defenses. Shamachya Duncan hit a three and the squad rejoiced. Mascot is too strong and too dismissive a word for who she is to this team, but it's clear that she's their favorite.

There is a large part of me that loves Alissa Alston's policy of full body sacrifice, of going hard for loose balls and taking every possible charge. There is another large part of me that wants to scream, "Please stop breaking yourself, Alissa!" every time she measures her length on the hardwood. She's reckless and sometimes a little bit stupid, but I'm pretty sure I'll get used to it. So she'll be the Johnnies' entry in the "most likely to concuss your intrepid blogger via facepalm" contest. Tiana England had a nifty steal that she turned into a fast break lay-up, which makes me wonder why she doesn't do this more often. We keep blaming Joe for the team's tendency to slow things up, but there are times when I think it really is T's problem. Faster is better with this squad. Qadashah Hoppie bombed threes all night and kept the pressure on Lafayette. When she's on, she's so much fun to watch.

Alisha Kebbe continues to be rock solid and an all-around star. I love what she brings to the floor. Kadaja Bailey was the only real disappointment to me in this game. She was consistently a step slow on defense, she took bad shots, she couldn't get a hold of rebounds- basically, it seemed like wherever something went wrong, she was there. I know that sounds like a terrible thing to say, and I'm probably exaggerating. But she did not look good, and that worries me. She's a stud, or at least she has the potential to be one, if she uses it properly.

We've got to be better at dealing with physical contact. We have size, and we have players who are physical, but the Venn diagram of those two characteristics is a pair of non-congruent circles at the moment. Lafayette took advantage of that with their posts, and if a middling Patriot team can do that, then I don't know how we're going to deal with Mary Baskerville or Mary Gedaka.

That all being said, we have a lot of firepower if we just use it, and we have a level of depth we haven't had in years. I'm looking forward to seeing how this team develops.


Saturday, November 16, 2019

November 10th, 2019: Fordham at Columbia

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Columbia took second-quarter momentum with them to the second half and dominated Fordham 70-51. Abbey Hsu had 15 points to lead the Lions, with Kaitlyn Davis adding 14 off the bench. Kaitlyn Downey had 19 points to lead Fordham before fouling out.

For bewilderment, confusion, a lack of effort on so many people's parts, exhaustion, and an inability to can even, join your intrepid and repetitive blogger after the jump.

They say there's no rest for the weary, and there's also no rest for the nerdy, as your intrepid blogger heads uptown to watch Fordham take on Columbia at Levien Gymnasium.

Whoever put the "Espresso Patronum!" sign up on the coffee stand, I appreciate your geekiness and your flair for puns, but your grasp of Latin needs some work.

I don't see Isis Young on the Fordham bench, so I don't think she's playing. I'm not even sure if she traveled.

Well, this is not what I was expecting after the fight we gave Notre Dame. Columbia is up one at the half, 32-31. Madison Hardy made a splash with five points in the last couple of minutes, while program-featured player Kaitlyn Davis is carrying the load with 10 points. Kaitlyn Downey has 14 to power Fordham, but no one else seems to be able to hit shots.

I would have expected more originality from an Ivy League school than the Imperial March for opposing introductions.

The PA guy is terrible. So terrible. He doesn't seem to have read the Fordham pronunciation guide, he seems to think the women's game is played in halves, he's inconsistent about announcing subs, he takes forever to announce fouls, and forget knowing the opposing roster- he doesn't even seem sure who Columbia's players are. This is a problem when you're the Columbia announcer, I'm just saying.

For the love of all that is sweet and holy, please turn down the sound system slightly. The music is ridiculously loud.

Allow me to sum up my feelings about this game in one quote from in-game commentary: Sarah Karpell, for reasons beyond human imagining, decided to go one-on-three and ballhog in a way that would have made Cappie Pondexter say, "Nah, you should have passed that ball." My reaction, literally: "I- I- I- I- that was so bad my inability to can can't even." I'm very glad Kaitlyn Downey decided to show up for this game. I just wish the rest of her teammates had bothered to join her. This wasn't even a hangover game, this was a "woke up in a tub of ice with a kidney missing" game.

I will give all the credit in the world to Columbia's ball movement on offense and the way they extended their defense. They forced us into very uncomfortable positions, and we weren't ready for it. I can understand the freshmen not being prepared. The returning players have far less of an excuse.

I would desperately like to know what is up with Zara Jillings. She's gone from one of our top reserves last year to not even getting off the bench in the first half and ending up a billionaire in the second half. I realize Sarah Karpell is doing a lot of the same things on defense, but Zara has the advantages of height and a year of experience. Something seems extremely off here. Katie McLoughlin saw some time in the second half to try and start something with hustle, but it didn't work. Nothing worked and I am so very tired. Catherine Polisano saw some garbage time at the end of the game, when Coach Gaitley finally threw in the towel (more or less). Megan Jonassen got maybe two stretches of play, if that, and was ineffective.

I'm going to break my usual rhythm here, because the minute splits were just that pronounced. Sarah Karpell brought the defense, but her offense is definitely a work in progress, and that one-on-three possession broke my brain. I have never so thoroughly lost my ability to can even before. She played heavy minutes, for reasons I don't completely understand. Vilisi Tavui got the start, but she didn't play a lot, between foul trouble and what appeared to be straight-up fear. She's a weapon, but she's a weapon we can't use until she figures out how to be used, and that's a problem.

Something is deeply wrong with Bre Cavanaugh's shot, at least through these first couple of games. Her floaters/lay-ups don't look good coming off her hand, and her jumper hasn't been consistent enough to make up for that. She was at least able to force a little action from the Columbia defense, but she's not playing like someone who can command the opposing defense's respect. Anna DeWolfe did not know how to deal with the defense Columbia was throwing at her. They extended the defense almost all the way to the halfcourt line and put a lot of pressure on the ballhandler. Some handled it better than others. Anna did not handle it well.

Oh, Kene. I love Kendell Heremaia dearly, but one of these days she's going to be the death of me. Squashing Bre on a loose ball like she had momentarily forgotten she was not playing rugby is pretty close. She and most of the rest of the guards had this bizarre fixation on trying to force the ball inside. I have no idea why. I just don't. I don't know what the thought process was there. I don't know if there even was a thought process there. Kaitlyn Downey was the only bright spot in this game, hitting her corner threes, nailing her midrange jumpers, and getting open on backdoor cuts. I know I've come down hard on Kaitlyn to start the season, but she made up for being overwhelmed against Notre Dame. I just wish the rest of the team had come along for the ride.

Madison Hardy certainly knows how to make a splash. Her two buckets at the end of the second quarter gave Columbia huge momentum going into the half with the lead, and she added one during the fourth quarter to help put the game away. Most of the rest of the bench didn't play much: Carly Rivera saw a little time in the first half, Madison Pack hit a three as part of our continuing fourth-quarter humiliation, and Stephanie Flynn saw spot minutes in both halves. The only other bench player to see heavy time was Kaitlyn Davis, who demonstrated a marvelous ability to draw fouls and get to the line. She shot as many free throws by herself as Fordham did as a team.

What first drew my attention about Mikayla Markham was her vocal communication on the court- she was calling signals quickly. She picked up her offense in the second half. Janiya Clemmons drove hard and didn't make a lot of her shots, but her penetration helped set up her teammates. Abbey Hsu's three-point ability is extremely useful for Columbia, and every one of her shots seemed to bury us a little deeper emotionally, like we had failed in our plan on top of failing everything else.

I don't know what else to say about this game. It's been a few days, frankly because I don't want to write about it. We gave up. We gave up threes and we gave up drives and we gave up on offense. I don't understand how a team that took Notre Dame to the final minute could fall apart so badly against Columbia. I respect what the Lions did, and how they executed their game plan, but we went toe-to-toe with a bigger and more talented team than them. I don't understand any of this.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

November 9th, 2019: Fairfield at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall withstood a midgame run from Fairfield and reestablished control in the second half to run away with a 74-44 win. Desiree Elmore led the Pirates with 18 points and 14 rebounds, one of five Seton Hall players to score in double figures. Katie Armstrong and Rachel Hakes each had nine points to lead the Stags.

For all the trains, taking small ball to extremes, saying hello to old friends, fighting for the blue and white, and the hope of the future, join your intrepid and restless blogger after the jump.

Good morning! Okay, I'm lying, it's never a good morning when I have to set the alarm on a weekend. Okay, I'm also lying; it's always a good morning when there's basketball, even when it takes three hours to get out to Seton Hall for a morning tip. I am not a morning person. I'm not sure how the Hall is managing, although we suspect highly caffeinated drinks are involved somehow.

We come to you starting at the end of the first quarter, where Seton Hall leads Fairfield 24-9. Desiree Elmore has gotten off to a hot stat for the Pirates, with buckets and good passing. Katie Armstrong for the Stags seems to like the glass.

Fairfield seems to have traveled a decent amount of family.

Beautiful anthem to start the game.

(Part of) why Selena Philoxy is my favorite Pirate: her energy and enthusiasm in the pregame. Which is to say, she has better dance moves than some of the Saphs.

The importance of passing on traditions to the next generation: watching one of the assistants teach Mya Jackson the choreography to “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

33-21 Seton Hall at halftime, so if you're doing the math at home, that means Fairfield won the second quarter. I can't imagine Coach Bozzella is happy with this. This game may well be decided by the reserves; Shadeen Samuels has three fouls for the Hall and both Lou Lopez-Senechal and Katie Armstrong have three fouls for the Stags. (The third came on an offensive foul where she acted very indignant about the audacity of the officials for calling her hitting Shadeen in the face. DO NOT HIT SHADEEN IN THE FACE.)

There was a teddy bear toss at halftime. It was exactly as cute as you imagined it. Kiabear has found a new home.

We're good at getting out of trouble- finding shots when the dribble has been picked up, scrambling for loose balls, recovering errant passes. The problem is that we're awfully good at getting into trouble in the first place. Fairfield is starting to exploit that, and using Molly Bauer's height to take advantage of our lack thereof. In that regard, the big guns' foul trouble might be a blessing in disguise for the Stags.

(Wait, shouldn't they be the Does? Because aren't Stags male? If you're going to use gendered names, go all the way.)

I forgot just how hard these bleachers are. Ow.

57-37 SHU at the end of the third quarter, which is somewhat of a relief. The quarter break shooting contest is actually pretty neat- instead of dress-and-dribble, this time it was “stand behind the prize and win it if you hit the shot”. So you still get the gear but you get to choose and have more chances.

I don't understand why we're throwing passes over Lauren Park-Lane's head. It's not like we're particularly used to having tall guards. For some reason- I can't quite put my finger on it- Tony has a thing for small guards.

Fairfield is not a particularly talented team, from what I saw of this game. But they're well coached and know how to exploit weaknesses. Team comes at them with small posts? Run screens with your big combo forwards to create brutal mismatches and use your taller reserves. Clog the paint to take away drives. That kind of thing.

Andrea Hernangomez has rather more confidence in her shot than I would in her shoes, based on today's game. I thought she might have done better getting closer to the basket than she did cranking threes. Mackenzie Martin saw time in the fourth quarter- her teammates were very excited when she got a layup near the end of the game. I wasn't sure why her face was so flushed, but it was startling, to say the least. Eden Nibbelink got the short end of the stick on at least one call, where it looked like she took a hit to the face and ended up having the foul called on her. She seemed inoffensive out there.

Molly Bauer was a game-changer, and I suspect that's why she started the second half in place of Callie Cavanaugh. She took a couple of possessions to find her footing, but once she did, she hit the glass and freed up Fairfield's offense. I know it doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but she had a major impact on the game when Fairfield made their run. Ciara Bracken's shot releases pretty quickly, but I'm not sure about her range. It seemed like she was taking shots she couldn't hit.

Callie Cavanaugh showed a propensity for taking perimeter shots and admiring them. They were not worth the admiration. She was more successful when she got closer to the basket, and when she was not committing push-off fouls against smaller defenders. (Seriously, guys. How did Lauren end up stuck on her?) She was the player who came off the bench in the second half when Bauer moved into the starting lineup. Katie Armstrong's fondness for the glass extended throughout the game and throughout her entire shooting range- she seemed to be trying to use it both on her drives and her jumpers. I did not like her tendency to extend the forearm, nor did I appreciate her protestations of innocence when the refs caught her. For a senior, she didn't demonstrate a good ability to play through foul trouble. Lou Lopez-Senechal got into foul trouble very early on, and I think it threw her off her rhythm. She never seemed to get going. She did face some defensive pressure, but I don't think that was as much of a factor.

Around the second elbow Rachel Hakes threw, I decided I didn't like her. Her driving ability is good, and she had good hands on defense, but either she's careless or she's dirty, and I don't have to like either of those things. Sam Kramer took threes and missed threes. She had some very nice steals, though. She played hard on the ball.

I don't think this is the best team Fairfield's ever had, but I'd say they'll beat at least two teams they have no right on paper to beat, just from execution and game-planning. The runs in the second and third quarter demonstrated that, when the Stags had the deficit down to single digits.

Everyone wearing blue in the building wanted Victoria Keenan to hit that three near the end of the game, and it was a good look. Alexia Allesch, to my surprise, came up with a resounding block in her brief time at the end of the game. If she's decided to use her height this year, I'm intrigued. (My impression of her from the scouting report was that she was one of those tall players who likes to park on the perimeter. They're more common these days, and I know it's an important change in the game, but like many things in this life, that doesn't mean I have to like it.) Kailah Harris's goggles are at least interesting, even if she doesn't seem to be ready for rotation minutes just yet.

Selena Philoxy brings a lot of energy to the floor. I know that's a cliché, but Selena has done the impossible and made Tony Bozzella no longer the most animated person on his own team. When that kind of energy is successful, she's grabbing or causing rebounds for her team and making defensive stops. When it isn't successful, she racks up fouls like they were on sale and ends up taking the ball out of bounds. She's frenetic, and sometimes she's frustrating, but she's still my current fave. Mya Jackson found her shooting touch in the second half, swishing threes with the greatest of ease. Freshman fouls were a theme in this game, and she was guilty of a couple of those. She'll learn, though. I think. Jasmine Smith, on the other hand, is a junior college transfer from a notable program. I expect her not to be committing blatant touch fouls. It seemed like she got going more in the second half too, but I'm not sure if that was a function of minute allocation, Fairfield's defense starting to suffer, or her making adjustments. More study will be required.

I have very much missed cheering Alexis Lewis's three-point shots and tough rebounding. I didn't miss watching her line up at the four against much more physical players. I certainly think having her line up at five on defense is an even terribler idea. It is, in fact, such a terrible idea that it breaks the laws of grammar. We'll get into the particulars of the undersized lineup later. Shadeen Samuels picked up three fouls in the first half, which was sort of a blessing because it reduced her minute load. (I'm still not sure about that charge.) Her shots were not going down in this game, and I don't know if it was a problem with her mechanics or Fairfield's defense or just dumb luck. Sometimes the ball be that way. Desiree Elmore started the game on fire and kept it up pretty much throughout. Her midrange game was a thing of beauty, and she brought a combination of force and finesse to the three that Fairfield really couldn't counter unless they were just throwing bodies at her.

I was not enthused with Barbara Johnson's shot selection, or the quantity thereof. It seemed like she was taking a lot of stupid threes, but the box score is telling me otherwise. I'm not sure what to make of that. Maybe she just had a bad game. I think I need to see more of her to get a better handle on who she is as a player. I love how Lauren Park-Lane handles herself on the floor. There are certain names you don't bandy about lightly as comparisons at Seton Hall, and she definitely has to be more of a scoring threat before we can really have this conversation, but yes, I'm going to say it: she does remind me of Didi Simmons. For a more down-to-earth but probably also more contentious comparison, she also reminds me of Aaliyah Lewis from St. John's. She doesn't quite have the full air of command yet, but she's also a freshman, and she's most of the way there. I need her to not commit stupid fouls on three-point shots that have already been released, and I'm going to need her shooting to be better. Those are things that can be fixed, and fortuitously, Didi herself is on our bench these days. If anyone can unlock that sort of potential in Lauren, it would be her.

So, the undersized lineup. We have height. It's just on the bench for various and sundry reasons. Femi Funeus is still recovering from her season-ending injury last year and was in sweats. Whitney Howell was inconsistent as all getout last year and was a DNP-CD in this game. Kailah Harris saw only garbage time and needs time to adjust to the college game. Selena Philoxy is way too foul-prone to be a starter. So we end up running a front line of 5-10/5-10/6-0, and anyone with size is going to take advantage of that. I don't have an issue with Shadeen taking the opening tip. I do have an issue with either her or Lexi guarding the other team's center. If we're gambling on Femi being ready to hit the ground running, that's a heck of a gamble. I'd rather see improvement come from our other posts. The bigs need to get their act together, or Coach Bozzella needs to trust them to play through their mistakes in non-conference games against lower-level opponents. If it means only beating Fairfield by 20 instead of 30, so be it.

Officiating was mostly inoffensive. They called most of the elbows and only really inserted themselves into the action in the third quarter with a flurry of touch fouls and the occasional strict travel. I thought we got away with some stuff; I thought Fairfield got away with slightly less stuff.

I don't know if Whitney Howell grabbed the "Morning Madness" shirt by accident or as commentary on the 11AM tip time, but I feel you, Whit. I feel you. So do the circles under my eyes.

It sounded like cheer was working in some new chants. I don't like them. If you want the crowd to get involved, you have to keep them simple and easy to follow. (On the other hand, don't be Fordham and just not bother.)

There are a couple of pieces missing to this Pirate puzzle. We'll have to see how it all comes together as the season progresses.


Friday, November 8, 2019

November 5th, 2019: Notre Dame at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Notre Dame used size, speed, and a 33-2 free throw differential to pull out a 60-55 win over Fordham. Sam Brunelle and Katlyn Gilbert each had 14 points to pace the Irish, with Destinee Walker adding 10 points and 10 boards. Bre Cavanaugh and Kendell Heremaia each had 14 points to lead Fordham in the loss.

For loud noises, belated election advice, mixed messages, and starting off the season with a bang, join your intrepid and enthusiastic blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow basketball travelers! You know what today is, right? It's Election Day! So if you didn't already get out to the polls... well, it'll probably be too late by the time I get these notes posted. But just assume I'm very disappointed in you if you didn't exercise your right and privilege as an American citizen. (If you aren't an American citizen, or are under the age of 18, or can't vote for some other reason, ignore this part.)

But more relevant to the interests of this blog, it's opening day for college basketball! Your intrepid blogger is typing blindly away on a D train headed to the Bronx, as the Fordham Rams open their season with a bang against the ACC powerhouse Notre Dame. I get the feeling my smooth transfers from train to train are about to be the highlight of the night, but who knows? Stranger things have happened, and CPTV has proof.

Our ace reporter on the scene tells me that the legendary Drums of Thunder are in the building. Given how small Rose Hill Gym is, that might be quite a sound. I'm expecting a packed house. Notre Dame alumni are everywhere, they travel well, and I believe there's a NY-area kid on the Irish roster as well. I'm not looking forward to this part. Notre Dame fans can make UConn fans look like choir members with their attitude.

End of the first quarter, and Notre Dame is up 16-14. We're playing reasonably smart basketball, but can't finish a lot of the plays. Two fouls on Anaya Peoples is a problem for Notre Dame early, but two fouls on Anna DeWolff might be a bigger one for Fordham. Even if we get cheesed later, I like what I'm seeing out of our freshmen guards.

At halftime, Notr Dame is up 36-24. All things considered, this isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be when we were scoreless for the first five or so minutes of the quarter. Sam Brunelle is putting on a show with 12 points. The freshmen guards are stealing the show for Fordham; Anna DeWolff is getting looks even if she isn't, and Sarah Karpell is making some astonishingly heady defensive plays for her first real game.

Drums of Thunder is about to get underway. Bring the noise, y'all.

There are a surprising number of split fans- Fordham jackets with Notre Dame hats, that kind of thing. I'm pleasantly surprised by how not-green it is in here, especially since the doubleheader is separate admission- in other words, it's not like people are here for the men's game and sitting on their hands.

Notre Dame's heralded freshmen are very good offensively, but they don't have the defense yet. I mean, it's their first game. I'm realistic here.

In tonight's edition of “counting is hard”: Vilisi Tavui is our starting center and wears 14. Ralene Kwiatkowski is a little-used reserve guard who wears 15. Guess what number the ref flashed when Vilisi committed her third foul (which was, IMO, a borderline call)?

47-35 Notre Dame at the end of the third. The foul differential has been instructive, to say the least. It's not a pretty game, but it was never going to be a pretty game if Fordham was going to have any chance. There have been a lot of “counting is hard”moments in this quarter, with some unusual foul calls and disagreements on who the foul should be called on. Mikayla Vaughn went down hard and stayed down for a while early in the quarter, giving us all a scare, but she was able to put weight on the ankle and came back into the game briefly. She got pulled again, though I think that might have been for blood, or possibly an illegal substitution. Come to think of it, I'm not sure she returned after that.

60-55 Notre Dame final, but honestly, I think there are a lot of positives to take away from this game for Fordham. We came back and stuck with a team that's bigger, faster, and more skilled than we are, and we took them to the last possession. A little more depth, a few less bad calls to have personnel available, and we might just have done it.

Kaitlin Cole played briefly for the Fighting Irish in the second quarter. I don't see a statistical impact for her. Danielle Cosgrove brought good height off the bench when Brunelle was in foul trouble and Vaughn was out of the game, but she's got to hit her shots close to the rim. At her height, with our relative lack of height, she should have been a more dominant force. Katlyn Gilbert impressed me more with her defense than her offense, but then I looked at the box score, and she tied for the lead in scoring. I was impressed with how closely she marked her assignment. And yes, that's it for the Notre Dame bench. McGraw didn't have the chance to go as deep into her bench as she might have liked early in the season.

I like Marta Sniezek's quick hands and her communication on the court. She was quick to call the plays and call out her assignment. I think I expected her to be more of a factor in the scorebook than she was, but maybe that's by design. When this lineup has its act together, it's going to be very offensively potent, and maybe they need her to be a facilitator rather than a scorer. Destinee Walker kept Notre Dame in the game with drives and a midrange game, and kept Fordham in the game with appalling free throw shooting. And it's not like she didn't have a chance to practice, but we'll get to that later, once I figure out how not to swear about it. Anaya Peoples has some sweet moves, but her defense needs a lot of work. She's a freshman, though. That happens with freshmen.

Sam Brunelle has a sweet stroke, especially for a big. She needs to work on her footwork, though. She got dinged for at least two travels in the second half. I can see why she's on the national watch lists, even this early. She's got an amazing amount of potential. I can see her fitting anywhere in a frontcourt and giving McGraw a lot of flexibility with her lineups. Mikayla Vaughn used her length well in the post to get rebounds and putbacks. I'm glad she was able to put weight on the ankle. When she went down I was worried it was an Achilles.

Notre Dame had more size and speed than we did, and there were a lot of plays that we might have been able to make against a typical A-10 team that got shut down against Notre Dame's size. Idon't think McGraw haqs her defense installed yet (note that the best defensive plays were mostly coming from the returning sophomore Gilbert; Sniezek made good individual plays, but not systemic plays).

I was surprised that we didn't give Zara Jillings a lot of run. I guess she falls into the undersized tweener trap against a team like Notre Dame, but she's a heady player and there were times when we could have used her communication skills on the floor, when passes went awry or players were out of position. Megan Jonassen was physical in the post, both on the glass and on putbacks. I like how she's shaping up. Sarah Karpell put in big minutes and made a lot of hustle defensive plays, getting back to stop breaks and getting in for loose balls. Her nose for the ball was fantastic. Katie McLoughlin saw time in the fourth quarter as foul trouble and long minutes took their toll on the starters, and she put up a couple of threes (I think one of them was one of the many Fordham shots that the rim rejected).

(Seriously, at one point my husband said of our shooting, "God hates us." My response, given who we were playing, was "No, God's mom hates us.")

I'm not sure how I feel about Kaitlyn Downey's love of the lookaway pass. On one hand, it's really cool when it works. On the other hand, when it doesn't work, we look stupid. There were stretches when it seemed like she had forgotten how tall she is and was leaving the heavy carrying down low to her teammates (which was not necessarily a great plan given Vilisi's foul trouble). But she had a couple of good blocks. I'd just like to see a lot less of her on the perimeter. (Somehow she snuck up on all the categories in the scoresheet. I don't know how either. I do remember the steals, though- she got into the passing lane and stepped in front of passes. She got by with a little help from her friends- those steals were usually off double or triple teams.) Vilisi Tavui shows some promise, and if nothing else, it's nice to have an actual tall post player to go up against everyone else's tall post player. She's a little more tentative than I'd like her to be, but I get it; this is really her first big action since the injury, and she's suddenly gone from the end of the bench to the starting lineup. That's a big adjustment for a kid who flat out admitted Fordham was her only recruiting opportunity.

Kendell Heremaia is rapidly taking that spot in my heart where I'm willing to fight anyone who makes a bad call against her. She's such a sweetheart. We've already had two games where the Law of Verticality was not only violated but subverted in her case (the Law of Verticality being that if a player falls down, a foul is called on the player who did not fall down, and poor Kene keeps getting the call against her, and it just doesn't seem fair). She's stepping up big for us, and I'm so proud of her. I love watching her on defense, even if it doesn't seem fair that she has to defend other teams' power forwards. I love seeing her run the offense and step into that role so easily. I love her hustle. I keep thinking she should not be taking threes that far back, and then they go in and I shut up for a while. Bre Cavanaugh was missing shots in the first half that it seemed like she should be making- and that she did, in fact, make in the second half. I'm now not sure whether she's actually more potent when she's not the first option or not; on one hand, she can explode in a good way, but on the other hand, it seems like she has her best performances when she doesn't have to be the superstar. It takes the pressure off and lets her play a more complete game. I'm sure Anna DeWolff is going to hit the freshman wall at some point, and I admit I'm worried about the length of time it takes for her to get off good shots sometimes. But until such time as she hits that wall and the shots really stop going down, I'll join the folks in the band who had the DeWolff Pack sign up. She hits shots and she plays without fear. She and Bre have a lot of the same instincts for the ball. Right now, that's a problem because they both try to be in the same place at the same time, and they end up getting in each other's way, which means we lose the possession as often as we gain it. But once they get a better sense of where each of them is on the floor, and they learn to trust each other to get the ball, our rebounding from the backcourt is going to be ridiculous.

I can't overstate the heart of this team. They gave it everything they thought they had, and then they dug deeper and gave some more. Kene was pulling the jersey with three minutes to go, and that was about a minute and a half of game time before she hit the big three. Kaitlyn was starting to register on the Kraayeveld scale. Anna's mask was slipping because of the sweat. But the team just kept coming. If we can take an ACC team to the wire like this, with one of the most lopsided free throw differentials I've ever seen working against them, I look forward to seeing what they can do against teams in their own weight class.

So, about that free throw differential, because we were going to get there eventually. I didn't really think anything of it when Sarah went to the line in the first quarter and split a pair of free throws. It's a thing that happens. We were annoyed that she didn't hit the first, but that's how life is. And then we started racking up fouls, and Notre Dame... did not. I thought there was an imbalance in how the physicality of the game was called, and I certainly objected to the allocation of some of the fouls that did seem legitimate. It just didn't hit me until I was on the train looking at the box score, and the differentials were there in black and white- 27-9 Fordham on fouls, 33-2 Notre Dame on free throws. (And really, if I'm Notre Dame, I'm not happy with my FT%, given that many cracks at it.) It gets frustrating when touch fouls are called at one end and hands to the face aren't called on the other.

I loved how raucous thecrowd was. To my surprise, the Notre Dame fans were fairly quiet during the game. They cheered during intros, but that was about it. Maybe it's different when it's non-conference? Because the ones who showed up to games at Carnesecca before the Big East imploded were real jerks, and that did a lot to color my impression of the fan base. (The Internet has done the rest.) I would like for the Fordham fans to bring this energy for the rest of the season, because these kids deserve it. I know it's not going to happen, but your intrepid blogger would like to dream.

On to the next one. Basketball never stops, and I'm going to have to type faster if I want to stay caught up.