Second game will be starting in a few minutes. UCLA is still in their road blue, while St. John's has busted out the black jerseys. They know this is serious business.
Mallory Jones is still AWOL. If she transfers, I wouldn't be surprised. She's got good academics; St. John's might not be the right place for her.
Aww, Eugeneia McPherson on crutches and still working with the kids. :( for Gina. Why are you making a woman on crutches climb stairs? Come on, man! (Okay, it was to get to the bleachers and get some space for her, but still.)
The Conn-tingent appears to have been evicted from their normal seats. Will have to be careful how I criticize Key and Bri today. Good thing they've both matured so much this year. It's harder to yell at them. (Conn-tingent=Connecticut Contingent, the families of Keylantra Langley and Briana Brown; Ashley Perez's family sits elsewhere or would also be included in the Conn-tingent)
At half, UCLA is up 22-17, and it was a lot worse- it was 22-6 at one point. Then they got angry. I do have to mention that I am not thrilled with Jasmine Dixon checking Aliyyah Handford into the boards, since we don't have boards. We can't shoot for beans. The good news is that Mary Nwachukwu is having the game of the season for her. The bad news is that equals four points and two rebounds. And she starts. :/ We're letting UCLA control the pace of the game. We need to speed it up and make those big posts with bad knees run. But I am loving Briana Brown's valiant defense on Markel Walker. She's out of her weight class, but she's putting up a fight.
All-tournament team: Markel Walker, Jasmine Dixon, Aliyyah Handford, Shenneika Smith, Danielle Mauldin, with Alyssia Brewer as MVP. No love for Jala Harris, huh? Unsurprisingly, there was little applause for the UCLA players from the St. John's fans, and less applause for the St. John's players from the UCLA fans. (Which doesn't surprise me. You sing your fight song on the road, I don't expect you to be polite to the home team.)
Cori Close tightened up her rotation for this game. Kari Korver got some brief minutes when Thea Lemberger got in foul trouble. Mariah Williams came in for defense, and her quick hands got in the way of a lot of passes. That more than made up for her lack of height, which was something that we didn't take nearly enough advantage of. Seriously, she's shorter than everyone on the roster, including the coaches, we should have posted her up repeatedly. Jasmine Dixon, who claimed the game-winning shot, banged in the post on both ends of the floor. She got a little too physical for my liking a couple of times; see above regarding Aliyyah's reintroduction to the bench for more on that. I think her knee's still bothering her, but I'm not sure. There are flashes of the player she was before the injury, but I don't know if she'll be that player again.
Nirra Fields was good in regulation. Solid, good- not unimpressive, not outstanding. Atonye Nyingifa had some trouble holding on to the ball, but got in great position on the boards. Her timing on her leaps was good. Thea Lemberger had issues with her shot, but they didn't really need her to be a shooter, and the one field goal she had was at a crucial time (part of the Conn-tingent was screaming about it because Keylantra Langley, our defensive specialist, had just come out of the game and they felt she would have stopped it). Markel Walker had the shots, and they went awry. Not all of them were contested, but some of them were. She used her height to her advantage to get the boards and make the good passes. She has all the tools. I'm still not sold on her as the fourth pick, if only because she seems more like a tweener than a swingman, and I think she has to sort that out if she's going to be a serious WNBA player. Alyssia Brewer bodied up strong in the paint and was a crucial part of what got UCLA going at the start of the game and at the end of the game.
Sandra Udobi actually saw a fair stretch of time in the first half. She wasn't spectacular, but she didn't look too much like a freshman. Depressingly, she might have been one of our better posts today, because Amber Thompson could barely catch anything. She even fumbled the towel she was supposed to catch at one point. She got a little better in the second half, but then fell apart in the OT. Keylantra Langley played less than I'm used to- maybe Coach T didn't like the way she drove the lane, maybe he was trying too hard to play UCLA's game, maybe he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but I think the Conn-tingent might have been on to something.
Aliyyah Handford has matured light years over the last two days. She looked really good today, except when she was on the free throw line. She was making plays at both ends of the floor and driving hard to the basket, taking a lot of contact. I've been wondering why she starts; now I understand. Something was off about Nadirah McKenith's shot for most of the day, though she got her feet under her in the second half. She worked the boards hard and had some ups on her. So did Briana Brown, who was brutalized by the rim. She should have had at least two shots go in. What impressed me most about her today was her defense. She kept ending up on Markel Walker, who's five inches taller than her and long-limbed to boot, and worked her over hard on D. As always, if there was a loose ball, she was on it like white on rice. Shenneika Smith had an uneven game- some flashes of brilliance and huge shots and big swats, some floaters that she left short a lot and fumbles she should have caught. I think she won the head-to-head with Walker, for what that's worth, but I didn't see any scouts, either. (Then again, I think there's a total of 2 scouts employed on the eastern seaboard right now, so that doesn't prove much.) Mary Nwachukwu got her blocks, and had that not-awful first half. And then she decided to stop playing post defense, which is a bit of a problem when you are a team's only starting post, and even more of a problem when you back off coverage on the GAME-WINNING SHOT. She backed off Brewer repeatedly in the second half when Brewer had four fouls; Mary had three at the time and acted like the situation was reversed. It sickened me. Now, one of the girls in the band wondered if she was nursing a hip injury, so if that's the case, I'm sort of sorry.
There was a point in the game where Shenneika drove the lane and hit a bucket, and Dee Kantner looked exceedingly irked. She made a signal I don't recognize a couple of times- it looked like a football ref's call of a juggled ball, no catch- and looked to be arguing with Bonita Spence as UCLA came back down the floor. Briana ended up getting hammered with no call about three whistles later; I assumed that was a make-up call. We got to the line plenty, but there were about five calls in the lane I think got missed. The previously mentioned shot on Aliyyah was the worst.
Part of me appreciates the passion of the UCLA fans as the game got tight, especially as it spurred section 2 to get louder. And we get pretty loud, if I do say so myself. I think my husband and I went through two bottles of soda when we got back. On the other hand, I think it's a bit less than classy to sing the fight song on the road. Or to clap your hands to disconcert the shooter, Cori Close. It's one thing for fans, but I'm pretty sure the coach is not allowed to do that nonsense.
We played fourteen minutes of mind-numbingly awful basketball. We played thirty-one minutes of good basketball. It bums me out that playing two seconds of lousy defense made the difference.