Bending But Not Breaking the Key for St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It was tight at the end, but St. John's came out as champions of their holiday tournament with a 64-60 win over Memphis. Shenneika Smith had 18 points for the Red Storm, while Brittany Carter had 23 for the Tigers.

For jackets, the incandescent rage of Kim Barnes Arico, Panthers (or possibly Seawolves), and the show-the-ball trick, join your intrepid and decorated blogger after the jump.

Finally, after entirely too long, it was time for the second game, and nothing says "pressed for time" like the team going straight from the stands to the court. I think the long delay due to both the foul issues and the, y'know, triple freakin' overtime left both teams a little out of sorts.

Big games mean tight rotations. Ann Jones was the reserve post, coming mostly to shift the forwards and set screens. Danay Collier was the reserve guard, mostly there to give the guards a break. She was a little bit of a threat from the outside, but not much else.

I love the way Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir runs the offense. She's going to keep Memphis fun to watch for a couple of years; if she's this fast a year off a torn ACL, I wish I could have seen her at full speed. Jasmine Lee was shut down- she was able to get position often, but she wasn't able to get the ball and move on the smaller posts. Unfortunately for us, that meant letting Brittany Carter get loose and shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. She's got a pretty stroke. I like her hustle and her work in the lanes. Nicole Dickson also had a good game. Fouls got her in the second half. Ramses Lonlack is very much a loose cannon, and there are times when I like a player like that, but this wasn't one of those days. Well, as a St. John's fan, it was, but as a basketball fan, it wasn't.

Memphis stays on you. You can't show them weakness. I look forward to their matchups with UAB. They're similar enough in attitude that those games are doing to be interesting, to say the least.

Da'Shena Stevens is back. Be afraid, Big East. Be very, very afraid. By the time she gets to you, her shot is going to be all the way back, and her defense is already on point. She's still getting used to her teammates again, but when she's got Nadirah spearheading the break... this is going to be good. Tesia Harris's on-ball defense could use some work, but she had a good stretch in the middle of the game where she was contesting shots and pulling down rebounds like nobody's business. She's going to be one of those players we don't necessarily expect a lot from, but expect a steady stream of something from.

If I had a wee bit more of an ego, I'd think Shenneika Smith read the GNoD this morning and decided that she didn't like being called out for being less active than usual in the last couple of games. She was much more assertive today, coming up with the big shots in the first half. She had a couple of boneheaded passing plays that she knew were bad, but you live with those with her. Keylantra Langley got entirely too cute with her ballhandling, which is not the greatest of plans when facing an opponent with very quick hands (nine turnovers, Jesus Christ, you know Kim Barnes Arico tore her a new one for that). She's a good substitute, but she's not a point guard. Amber Thompson had a rough start shooting, but was able to get herself in better position in the second half and hit some shots inside. I love how she works, I really do. Eugeneia McPherson put up some wild and ridiculous shots that had no business going up. At leats she got free throws for some of them in the first half, but I'm going to lay off my usual soapboxing vis a vis the focus on drawing the foul first instead of attempting to hit the shot. I'm tired and you've heard it all before. Which is also why I'm going to lay off Mary Nwachukwu; she didn't do anything she hasn't been doing all season, and by 2012 she's going to be coming off the bench anyway, so I'm going to do a little work for my blood pressure and let go of my frustrations about her inability and/or unwillingness to use her size.

I was waiting for Kim to kill someone. There was a point in the game where (I think) Keylantra was pinned against the sideline by a Memphis trap and about to be forced out of bounds or into a five-seconds-stationary call. Kim was screaming for a timeout loudly enough for those of us in the tenth row to hear... somehow, Bonita Spence and the crew managed to miss it. Kim was... incensed. To put it mildly. The same situation happened a couple of possessions later, and Kim called the timeout with such an exaggerated gesture that we nearly died of laughter. And then they missed it again. Combine that with some sketchy block/charge calls, and I was pretty sure that one of those stiletto heels was going to be turned into a weapon.

Memphis brought a very loud contingent for both games, including one lost lady who persisted in sitting in our section for the first half. Ma'am, if you have been informed that you're sitting directly behind the opposing coach's family, you might want to move, as if sitting next to the band and behind the cheerleaders wasn't enough of a hint.

Football is stupid.

I can't say I'm overjoyed with this result, but a win is a win.

All-tournament team: Jasmine Bendolph of Louisiana Tech, Brittany Carter and Jasmine Lee of Memphis, and Shenneika Smith and Da'Shena Stevens of St. John's, with Eugeneia McPherson as MVP.

My picks: Carter, Smith, Shantale Bramble-Donaldson of Louisiana Tech, Kiara Etienne of Prairie View, and Nicole Dickson of Memphis (or Kiara Young of Louisiana Tech), with McPherson as MVP. Etienne got screwed.

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