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.)

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