I love a good home opener, don't you? I definitely liked this better than last year's game against Hofstra. Now with 95% less food poisoning!
Military appreciation day, in honor of Veterans' Day at the beginning of the week. We went in before they had the tank simulator set up, which is one of the only regrets I have about going into the game early. Big ROTC contingent in the center court sections, but their noise was not necessary this time around. There was also a contingent from one of the NYS veteran's homes, and words cannot express how much we appreciate their service. St. John's had military-themed warm-up shirts; last year's jackets were cooler, but apparently the NCAA made them not be so awesome. It's nice to have the names on the back of the shirts, even if the freshmen are fairly easy to tell apart (Ced's tiny, Sandie's a post, Ashley's Latina, and Aliyyah is, well, the one left over).
Ced Gibson and Keylantra Langley are still hurt. I've heard foot injuries for both of them. Ced's was a bit more obvious when she was wearing the giant foot brace.
Live anthem and color guard in honor of the military. Band's a little rusty, but I love them anyway.
Hofstra seems uncommonly fond of the hook shot. Both Sydni Epps and Shante Evans hit one. We got to see a bit of Dee Thomas-Palmer after Evans fouled out, as she was being used heavily in the post. Anma Onyeuku did a nice job of getting offensive rebounds with effective positioning and good boxing out. I wasn't impressed with the rest of the Hofstra bench.
Andreana Thomas shot well in the first half, but she got into foul trouble and became less of a factor in the second half. Candace Bond, who is now my last favorite left on this Hofstra team, had a disappointing game, but one nice block worth noting. Annie Payton picked up a lot of the garbage and made things happen on the second and third chances that Hofstra got. Shante Evans had her usual power, and when she didn't have a guard poking the ball out of her hands, she was able to get to the basket mostly unimpeded. But she was harassed and bothered for most of the game, and I think it got to her when she was on defense. Asia Jackson's not bad for a freshman, but you could tell that she was a freshman and she was getting nervous when faced with more experienced players.
I don't know why Amber Thompson isn't starting. It annoys me that she's not, because I thought at the beginning of the year that she was going to be the crucial player, the difference maker, the one whose play would determine how things went. It's easy to say that about Shenneika Smith or Nadirah McKenith, but Shenneika and Nadirah will pretty much always be awesome. Amber is inconsistent, but has strengths that can buttress our play and weaknesses that can undermine it. She ripped down three rebounds in rapid succession when she first got into the game, but cooled off after a little bit. She needs to be more careful with her shots and put a little more oomph into them. We also got to see Ashley Perez a little bit, more near the end of the game (though the first time she came in, in the first half, was kind of funny- it came right after they did a timeout feature on her). She's got to learn to watch her feet when she's shooting- putting her feet on the line is not a good plan. Sandra Udobi got a fair stretch of time in the second half, and while her shoting touch could use a little work, I love her physicality. I love a big post who's not afraid to be big. But we all know this. Aliyyah Handford saw a fair amount of time at the point, backing up Nadirah, and I like her. Her vision will develop, and I'd like to see some development on her shooting motion- she throws it up there too hard, though that did result in one very cool shot that spiraled into the basket. Jennifer Blanding and Mallory Jones, the last two off the bench, got in at the end of the game- Jennifer played surprisingly good defense and forced turnovers from the Pride players, while Mallory snagged herself a steal.
Mary Nwachukwu got the unenviable task of having to defend Shante Evans at the start of the game, and she was not up to the challenge. She's not physical enough to challenge someone who actually plays as a center. She had good moments of boxing out and getting long-range boards, but she needs to use her frame properly if we're going to get anywhere, especially if Amber's not going to be the impact player I expected her to be. Eugeneia McPherson seemed to be trying her three-point shot on for size. It's not a good look for her at this point in the season, but she did what we needed her to do. Briana Brown has been playing out of her mind to start the season, and I love it. She was fearless, she was physical, she was hitting shots from all over the floor, she was bringing the defense, she was banging with Evans- I'm so glad to see her come out like this, you have no idea. Shenneika Smith was all over the boards and hitting all kinds of interesting shots from inside the paint. Her hands were exceptionally quick. She deflected a lot of passes in addition to coming up with the steals and the block. And Nadirah McKenith did that thing where she's awesome and runs the team and hits all the shots and sacrifices her body whenever necessary.
I like that Coach Tartamella has cranked up the defense and has high expectations for them as a defensive team. I don't like Coach's unwillingness to substitute in the first half. He didn't have Amber ready in the bullpen until about the 10:30 mark, and by the time she actually went into the game, just over half the half was over. The starters barely got any rest at all in that first half. As they opened up the lead in the second half, we got to see more of the bench, but it still bothered me that Coach T was running them so hard in the first half, and then yelling at them for not chasing loose balls. You're playing a high-speed running game and not resting your players, and you wonder why they're not chasing loose balls? But maybe he was just nervous and wanted to make sure that we put on a good show in the home opener.
Officiating was frustrating, especially with Denise Brooks as crew chief. I expect better of one of her crews than to miss two blatant push-outs. I mean, no one got badly injured, so you can't say the officiating was too bad, but it annoyed the daylights out of me.
The banner wasn't completely raised, merely unveiled and left to hang behind the basket on the far side. I don't know if it was a psychological tactic to throw Hofstra off their stride, or they don't know where to put it, but it sat there all day. They gave out miniature replicas of the banner as well. THEY ARE SO CUTE! Little tiny baby banners!
Coach Tartamella also got a celebratory game ball for his first win as a head coach, against UCF. His kid seemed fascinated by it.
I'm going to miss the next game, and that makes me sad. Go Storm!