Monday, November 4, 2019

October 26th, 2019: Rutgers at Fordham

Basketball sort of happens, '80s music is referenced, fans travel, and your intrepid blogger beats the buzzer, more or less.

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen, boys, girls, genderqueer peeps, non-binary folk, and everyone else I might have forgotten! It's a beautiful fall day in New York City, the kind that you take pictures of the campus for admission packets on. So of course, we're in Rose Hill, preparing for Fordham and Rutgers in a previously closed scrimmage. We gave our ten bucks for admission. Clearly the Rutgers folks were used to a more technological setup, because they had to have a sign out indicating that they didn't take credit cards and providing the location of the nearest ATM. Conversely, the young ladies manning the register seemed pleasantly surprised that we not only had cash, we had exact change.

A contingent of Cagers, about 20 strong, has made the trip to the Bronx. They, uh. They might outnumber the Fordham fans, but on the flip side, it's half an hour before tip. We're still ready to get as loud as we need to get.

Vilisi Tavui is in sweats next to Isis Young. We know from the open practice that Ice is hurt, so I'm assuming Vilisi is being held out for the same reason. I hope it's only precautionary. I would like to see her stop being hurt at some point.

Rutgers's practice jerseys are hideous. The font is terrible and the two-tone numbers are worse. I also feel like there should be more red, but this is an ongoing argument i have with teams that have colors in their names.

Really, Cagers? Before a scrimmage on the road, you're singing the fight song? Before a scrimmage? On the road?

18-10 Rutgers end Q1, although it looks like the scores are being reset at the end of each quarter. If the purpose has been to put a winning team on the floor, this ain't it. If the purpose is to figure out our strengths and weaknesses, and to accustom the team to obnoxious traveling fans in advance of the Notre Dame game, then this sort of makes sense.

15-13 Rutgers end Q2. The physicality has picked up. I don't like it. Also, we need to hit free throws. This is a thing that is independent of the quality of our opponent, and we're something like 2-6 for the day. My eye was on the ball, so I idn't see how Maori Davenport got hit in the stomach, but it was bad. I thought she was going to throw up on the court.

Oh, now the PA guy wants to get going.

16-12 Fordham end Q3. Although now the scoreboard reads 51-all, and that's not accurate. If they're picking up the running score, it's 46-39 Rutgers. Tekia Mack's protestations of innocence and horror that she hasn't gotten the call amuse me.

Rutgers won the fourth quarter 27-18. So the final score was either 78-69 or 73-57 in favor of Rutgers. Your mileage may vary.

I was not happy with Rutgers's physicality in the second and third quarters. I understand that part of the goal of a scrimmage like this is to prepare you for the regular season, and we're going to be facing some very tough competition very quickly. But some of it felt unnecessary, and some of it felt retaliatory for plays that were not intentional.

Danielle Migliore brought a little bit of attempted shooting touch, but it often did not go well. She still looks like she's trying to fit into the Rutgers system as a transfer. I don't know if she's anything but a zone-buster off the bench, but maybe that's all they need her to be. Maori Davenport looks... for some reason unfinished is the word that comes to mind. Maybe I'm just getting older, but I swear they look younger every year. Between the nonsense she had to go through with the high school federation and the two bad tumbles she took in this game, I have to wonder what she did or who she angered in her past life. I hope she's okay. They were the only two players who were consistent in coming off the bench in both "halves".

Tekia Mack is probably going to earn herself a lot of fans at Rutgers, not just because of her way to slither into small spaces and hit shots at impossible angles or draw contact, but because she has a very expressive on-court personality- her body language and demeanor remind me a little of Courtney Williams. She's probably also going to make herself fairly unpopular among Big Ten fans and possibly officials, because at least in this scrimmage she was demanding every call in her favor and complaining about every call that went against her (and at least one against Mael Gilles). She's an interesting player, and she's fun to watch. She gave us fits with her height. I just get the feeling that if I were still a Rutgers fan, I'd spend Mack's entire career yelling "TEKIA, YOU'RE NOT GETTING THAT CALL!" She and Khadaizha Sanders got the start in the first half, but not the second half. Sanders got off a couple of nice shots, but I don't think Stringer was happy with her fouls in the third quarter- they were mostly cheap reach-in fouls, and a grad transfer should know better than that. Conversely, Noga Pelag Pelc and Joiya Maddox got the second half start but not the first half start. Neither was particularly impressive, although Maddox might be good for them in a couple of years when she really internalizes the system.

Most times I look at college players' listed heights and think, There's no way she's that tall. I looked at Arella Guirantes and thought, There's no way she's only 5-11. Maybe her hair is throwing me off, or maybe it's her build- I could think of no other description for her but "she thick", possibly even "thicc". She plays like a guard but can bang like a forward. She's not as well conditioned as I'd expect a Stringer player to be, though. There was one sequence where she was pulling on her jersey. I'd need a box score to look at minute counts, but she did seem to spend a lot of time on the court. Jordan Wallace got into foul trouble early, but Stringer chose to let her play through the three first-quarter fouls. She seemed more effective in the early going, although I'm not sure if that was because of the fouls or because Guirantes and Mack were carrying the load for the Scarlet Knights. She did do a good job of setting screens for her teammates. Mael Gilles has very quick hands. She deflected a lot of balls, and she's absolutely lethal as part of the infamous press. Her deflection skills did not serve her as well on offense.

Rutgers has a lot more size in the backcourt than I was expecting. Their reserves are kind of small, but I don't know how much they're going to get used. The press is as terrifying as it ever was- they forced at least two 10-second violations out of us, and while I know Coach Gaitley likes to run the shot clock deep even on a good day, I think they had us struggling at the end of the clock more than I'd like.

I like Sarah Karpell's heart. She's very clearly a freshman, though. She needs to work on her defense, but I recognize that attempting to criticize a college freshman on her defense before her first real game of the season is just mean. I'm not a complete jerk, and I think she has the potential to develop the way we need her to develop. Catherine Polisano doesn't seem to have changed much from the spot player she was last year. I'll need to see her in actual game action to have a better idea of who she might be for us this year. I like the height that Eden Johnson brings off the bench, and I think with time she'll know where her teammates are going to be on the glass enough that they all don't get tangled up with each other.

I was, however, disappointed in our returning reserves, and that's a wee tiny bit of a problem when we're relying on them to play the bulk of the minutes off the bench. Zara Jillings, heady as she was calling plays and relaying signals, couldn't keep her hands on the ball. She got deflections on defense that should have been steals and deflections on offense that should have been clean catches. I know Rutgers's defense is a lot tougher than anything we would normally face on this level, but she's got to be better than that. Megan Jonassen really needed to step her game up. She was okay, but not great- there seemed to be stretches where she was missing rebounds and defensive stops she has made in the past. She needs to be more than she was, and she was less.

Speaking of which, oh, dear, Kaitlyn Downey. Of all the returning players we have, she's the one who arguably has the biggest leap to take in her role, and in that scrimmage, she not only did not step up, she took a step back. Her shot's always been a little streaky, but it was especially bad in this scrimmage. She was slow on defense and she was not in position to make the hustle plays she was doing so well last year. She basically has to be Mary Goulding now that Mary's graduated, and this scrimmage made me less certain that she's up to the task. Admittedly, her role in the starting lineup will probably change when we have Vilisi back at center. 6-4 in the middle helps with a lot of things. We ended up more or less running a four-guard set, and while Kendell Heremaia is adorable, I'm not sure the "point guard defending power forwards" thing is a good plan going forward. She's feisty, and of all our top guards she has the most size, but still. I know switching match-ups between offense and defense is a thing, but not quite to this extent. I was pleasantly surprised by how well she's adapted to running the offense; so much of it went through Lauren Holden last year that I wasn't expecting Kene to step into the signal-calling role so smoothly.

I like Katie McLoughlin's hustle on the offensive glass. I don't know what else she has to offer, but I do like that about her. We'll have to see if she develops, or if she stagnates (it's not like we haven't had players stagnate on this team). Bre Cavanaugh finds ways to make offense happen, and she had one or two really nifty drives in the lane, but she was the focus of Rutgers's defense, and I don't think I need to tell anyone what kind of not-fun that is. Against bigger teams, I think she has to rely more on her jumper than on her driving ability, and I don't know if she can make that flip back and forth on a regular basis. Anna DeWolfe had herself a heck of a game, with solid three-point shooting and good court vision. She's certainly picked the right number if she's that kind of player. Also, it looks like I'm going to have Duran Duran stuck in my head for the next four years, and that means you're going to have Duran Duran stuck in your head for the next four years. You're welcome, fam.

Fordham lost a lot with graduation. We've still got Bre Cavanaugh, and that's a very good weapon to have in your arsenal. But our depth took a hit, and I don't know how well it's going to recover. And something tells me that getting cheesed by Notre Dame is not going to answer this question.

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