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.

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